Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dodging Rain Drops

We were forecast for a few days of dry weather so I decided to get the door to the side yard hung. This proved to be a little bit more of a challenge than I thought. As I’ve said repeatedly and often, I removed a 2 story addition to the house (Yes Greg, we all know about the Damn addition you took down. Just get on with the story) Ok, but it’s an important part of the problem. The door to the side yard that I’m working on used to go to the rental kitchen. The rental kitchen was in the addition (Yes, yes, we get it!)

Now, if you close your eyes and picture a doorway that leads, say, from the kitchen to the dining room there is no change in the floor elevation, right. The floor is flat most of the time and this is how the door to the rental kitchen was. Flat as a pancake. However, when you have an exterior door there is always a slight change in elevation. The exterior side of the doorway is lower than the interior side. There is usually a large and imposing hunk of wood that makes up the threshold for the doorway. This threshold is usually notched in to the floor in the doorway so it is almost level with the interior floor on one side and sort of rests on top of the porch floor on the exterior side. I forgot about this when I removed the addition and put in the temporary door.

In a very recent post I think I said it was last year I removed the addition but it was in fact 2 years ago. I remember that I finished up in November and it was raining a lot and I made a few short cuts because I was really sick of working in the rain, and, to be honest, it was a lot of work dismantling that thing and after 3 months of working on it by myself I was really ready for it to be over. Anyway, when I put up the temporary door I swiped the old threshold from the back door on the addition and just shuved it under the new side door that I had just slapped up and called it a day.

Now fast forward 2 years to yesterday. I pulled off the temporary door and realized I needed to notch the threshold in to the floor so it would look right. If I didn’t, the top of the threshold would be 2-inches higher than the interior floor. Two inches doesn’t sound like a lot but believe me it makes a difference. Nobody expects the threshold to stick up like that and everyone would trip over it and I would be sued for millions and lose my house and probably end up destitute and living on the streets. You can see why I needed to fix it. Here’s where the story gets strange.

I took out the threshold, which was easy because I never nailed it in to place. I started to look at the floor to try and decided where exactly I should cut. I always get a little nervous when I cut in to original 1895 parts to the house. You can’t un-cut wood. The more I looked it the more I realized this was a patch job. This floor had already been cut and the joists had already been notched for a threshold. This didn’t make sense. It was another Old House Conundrum. I know for a fact that this was a window and there was a sink in front of the window. I won’t go in to how I know, but trust me, I know. So when was this a door? I haven’t a clue but it was obviously a door at some point in it’s life. Windows, as a general rule, don’t have thresholds.

It took all of about 30-seconds to remove the piece of floor and the shims that were covering the notch for the threshold. I then took the - what I thought was a 1926 threshold from the addition – and fit it into the notch. It was a perfect fit. A threshold is a threshold and the odds are just about any threshold for a 32-inch door would fit in this notch, but I think I’m putting back an 1895 threshold that was removed and used on the addition back in 1926. Very strange.

(I want to take a moment to say that this is why I love old-growth wood. This will be the third life for a threshold on a south facing door.)

Unfortunately, because I had removed some floor and lowered the threshold, the door jamb was now hanging in mid air. Here’s what it looked like.

I had two choices. Remove the jamb and re-build it (Ugh!), or extend it down a few inches. I decided to extend it. I didn’t feel real good about this. I thought it would be kind of a hack job, but the clouds were looking ominous and I was in no mood to build a door jamb from scratch, so extend I did. As it turns out it came out fine and I went ahead and drove in a few more nails here and there and the door jamb is probably more sturdy than it has been in 50 years.

After I extended the jamb I then had to replace the outside casing which was also hanging in mid air now. It was lucky that I ran out of nails because when I went to the hardware store it started raining hard. I mean really hard. We’re talking a serious gully-washer here. Buckets of liquid sunshine fell from the sky for a good hour and a half. When it was all over I was able to go back outside and finish nailing up the trim and caulking the whole thing to within an inch of it’s life. The casing came from in interior door from some place (some place in the addition, no doubt), but you can’t beat old-growth wood for a south facing door. (I think I said that, didn’t I) Of course, this means the casing was coated in numerous layers of that delicious and wholesome lead paint. Umm, umm good. This means, of course, I got to strip more paint. Yea! I was just finishing up the fronts when it started to rain again so I called it a night.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, more stripping. Hmmm, outdoor stripping. A little treat for the neighbors.

If I had been standing in this spot two years ago I would have been in a kitchen sink. The little porch I built meets code by about 1-inch. Any taller and railing would have been required.

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