Slow and Steady: Real Life Jenga for Keeps.

This week on the homestead we made some slow and steady progress on the mother-in-law house. For part of the project, it almost felt like we were playing Jenga on a large scale with much higher stakes. Pull one board out, put another one in, wait to make sure nothing goes wrong… But, it feels like the project may be wrapping up soon. We also made an unexpected discovery about some of our animals that made Sarah’s day!

An Unexpected Discovery

Amongst the critters that make up our homestead is a small waddling of ducks. The ducks joined our homestead in December so are still somewhat new to us. We have done some research about how to care for ducks and what they need. We built them a home, including nesting boxes for when they started laying eggs, got a trough for them to swim in, and fenced them off a piece of the yard to call home. Then we settled into the routine of feeding and watering them eagerly looking forward to duck eggs in the spring.

Our ducks on a brisk winter morning.
Our ducks enjoying the Brisk February air.

However, it turns out we had made some assumptions about our ducks. I discovered our oversight while feeding them on morning. Passing by the door to their home I thought I saw an egg in the house. “Drat, those chickens!” I thought to myself “they must have found a way into the duck house to lay their eggs.” So I went into the duck house to retrieve the errant egg.

To my surprise, and Sarah’s delight, it was not a chicken egg! Our ducks were laying! For some reason our ducks decided to start laying eggs during one of the coldest weeks we have gone through this year. Looking around I soon spotted many more eggs! I pulled aside some bedding and found even more. All in all I found 26 eggs in the duck house that first day.

A Refreshing Breeze Before the Slow and Steady Return

Progress on the mother-in-law house has been slow. The project that was supposed to take a week is now almost a month old! Tearing out and replacing floor joists from below the floor has been slow and hard work. Comparatively the task we faced first this week was smooth sailing in comparison, replacing the last few joists while standing up! With Forests’ help, we managed to get all but one of them done in about 2 hours! (The last one had to wait for the temporary ceiling shim to come out).

When we pulled out an old shim to try place the last joist in place we confirmed what I had long suspected. The corner of the house was basically floating. The wooden rim joists and sill plates that formed the corner were so rotten and loose that they weren’t even holding weight!

The rotten boards that formed the corner of the house.
The rotten boards that formed the corner of the house.

On the plus side that made tearing that section of rim joist out. On the downside it was time to return to the slow and steady work.

Slow and Steady Progress

At this point, Abby decided to pitch in and help as well. We started with the rim joist and sill plate that ran perpendicular to the floor joists. First, we would pull out the old rotten wood. Then we put in a new rim joist, lined it up with the floor joists, and nailed them together. Finally, we used hydraulic jacks to hoist up that section of the house and slip the sill plate under the joists.

We could only do around five feet of the joist at a time. However, after a slow and steady day of work, we had replaced the entire 28-foot section of the sill plate and rim joist and had lifted that side of the house by about an inch. We lost two cinder blocks, they crumbled beneath the weight toward the end of the day, but thankfully no harm came from the mishaps. We were so excited and I felt like we might just be able to replace the remaining rim joists and sill plates (the ones that run parallel to the floor joists) if we put in a full day on Saturday.

Some Tricky Maneuvers

Sadly, my hopes quickly vanished the next day. It turns out that having the floor joists to use while lifting the house makes a huge difference. For the joists that ran parallel to the we had to resort to an even slower method of raising the wall enough to replace the joists.

First we had to put in a new piece of plywood, the old OSB board had rotted out with the rim joists. Then the sill plate was put into place. Then we had to use the hydraulic jack to lift the wall beneath each stud. We then placed in a temporary shim. When the entire section had been raised we would pound the new joist into place.

Often we had to use the hydraulic jack to lift the floor further in places where the new joist would not fit in the gap created by the shims. The work was slow and frustrating. By lunch, we had only covered three feet of wall. When nighttime fell we had just barely finished the first 12 foot section.

On the plus side the house could now hold it’s own weight! Before calling it a night we pulled our temporary roof shim out. We also placed in an additional piece of plywood flooring and some cross braces between the joists to make it easier to traverse the former gap in the floor. We still have another 24 feet of rim joists to replace and at least 12 feet of sill plate. But at least we made a good start. All in all it was a good weekend. Even if we fell short of the finish line.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Spencer, Here is something to try if you still have sections of the wall to replace the seal plate. Take a two by eight or larger and 10 to 12 feet long. Or longer if you have them. Lag screw it to the outside wall into each stud. Then jack the board up. You will need several jacks but you should be able to jack up a section of the wall instead of one stud at a time. Dad

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