Sixth in the “Building Strange Weather Blog”series by producer/engineer and studio owner Marc Alan Goodman. Click to start at Step 1: Finding A New Home; Step 2: Design; Step 3: Waiting For Permits (Part 1) and Step 4: (Part 2); and Step 5: Stops & Starts.
On tax day 2010, Strange Weather purchased a new home. On tax day 2011, construction finally started.
I was in the woodshop at 3rd Ward working on some furniture for the new place. It wasn’t until I got home in the evening and called Nick, my contractor, to see what was happening that he told me demolition had started that day. After a year’s wait it was a tad anti-climactic, but then again… it’s not a studio yet.
The early demolition went pretty quickly. It only took a day for all the walls to come down and the whole place to turn into a collection of garbage piles. For the first time I got a look at the whole thing. Rooms always seem smaller when you see them empty, but somehow this one still felt enormous.
A couple days later, the place was stripped bare and I finally got a good look at the carcass of the building which I’d only been able to speculate about to this point. With all the drywall down it turned back into a factory from 1919. The brick walls are in miraculously good shape for their age – they must have been built by a real craftsman. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the cinderblock addition in the back.
The back wall is crumbling away in the corner where rainwater has been washing down without a gutter for the last hundred years, and the southern wall has two huge cracks in it (one of which is big enough to see light through!). Nick called our engineer Bruce over to check it out. After smacking the hell out of the wall with a hammer he determined that it was fit for patching, so that’s the way we’re going. This saves me the trouble and expense of building a new wall, and – after all – I hired Bruce so that I could defer to him on things of this nature.
The floors are level, but the subflooring is rotting in spots. Luckily, it was covered by a layer of linoleum, which – in turn – was covered by parquet flooring. It’s going to be replaced by two layers of cement block, a layer of warmboard radiant plywood flooring and then a layer of engineered hardwood. The joists seem sturdy and more than up to the task.
I’ve certainly saved the best for last: the ceiling. If you can picture what it’s like being on that Universal Studios tour ride when the simulated earthquake sets in, that’s what the ceiling looks like. It curves and bows in ways difficult to describe. And for the first time I can not only see it clearly, but can also see why it is in this condition.
In the front of the building someone had decided to just cut the middle of the joists up in order to fit the bathtub on the second floor. It must have worked for a minute but eventually the tenants downstairs decided to take out the supposedly non-weight-bearing middle wall and cut the joists at the other end to add a second stairwell. And there’s one joist that isn’t securely attached on either side! Plus a few that are only attached on one side.
As you look further into the back of the space there are a number of what were probably skylights in the original factory. They’ve been built over and around but were never supposed to hold any weight so it’s buckled all around them. To top it all off there are a number of double joists at unnecessary points. That means that they were most likely already repaired at some point, but none of us could imagine what they could have been repairing since they add absolutely no stability to the structure.
Now that the demo is out of the way, Phase One starts with sistering steel C beams onto all of the ceiling joists. That means just doubling all of the joists with them in order to improve rigidity. I’m starting to imagine that when they do this the floors upstairs will level themselves out a little but nobody seems to be sure how the building will react. That’s why we’re putting in larger beams than the existing ones so we can level both the ceiling and floor of the apartment above at the same time.