In a previous post I began the story of our ski cabin renovation with tales of cumbersome bank processes, inspections, and demolition. For the next several months, little else happened — areas were gutted one-by-one, stripped back to the original structure, and dump trips were made. Hidden doors were uncovered, and more than a century of grime removed.
In the midst of all that, we found the remnants of a newspaper from 1901 in what we believe was the earliest-built part. This cabin was almost 20 years older than the records stated. The records themselves were only an inventory of previously-existing structures at the time of starting in 1919.
Further supporting that finding, a friend of ours in town in his 80s gave us a photo of his own grandmother in the house from 1910.
The Plan – Revised
Our plan is to turn this one bed/one bath 800 sq ft house into two bed/two bath by moving one interior wall to form the second bedroom and building on a 6×14′ bathroom off the master bedroom for the second. The kitchen will be expanded by enclosing part of the covered porch, and the wall separating it from the living room will be replaced with a beam to open it up and offer an eating bar.
Since the original post, only two changes were made: a switch from a peninsula kitchen to an island layout and deferring the second bathroom.
The two changes to the kitchen both required replacement of a wall with a beam. We started with the central one separating the kitchen and living room areas.
A temporary beam using timbers and jacks was set up to hold the roof above. The wall was then removed, this one being part of the original structure and made of overlapping layers 1×12 rough-sawn shiplap. Next, holes were cut into the floor where new footings were needed and the footings were poured.
Once the central beam was in place and the point load connected all the way down to the new footings, the temporary brace was removed. We moved on to the second beam, and the process here was much the same. Because the existing kitchen itself was added later, its framing style allowed us to forego the temporary beam.
In parallel with the wall -> beam replacement was the enclosure of the porch itself. The entire thing was rotten after decades of moisture, the decking was a springy web of 2x4s, and none of the original support posts contacted the foundation anymore. All had to be replaced.
After removing as many of the large rocks as possible, we started building the new decking (this time with adequate boards).
The walls went up after the original rotten pony walls were removed.
Siding and windows were installed just in time for the first snow of the season.
Squaring The Insides
Over the course of that winter we worked on the interior. The existing bathroom, being added in the most recent of the previous remodels, was 2×6 framing with full insulation. We were able to keep that room mostly the same and only that room (we did remove one of the two doors to make more room for the washer and dryer). The others all needed help. Each section had a very different framing style depending on its age:
- Guest Bedroom/Living Room: layered shiplap, no insulation possible with existing structure
- Kitchen (original): flat-framed 2x4s, unable to adequately insulate with existing structure
- Master Bedroom: modern-style framed 2x4s, able to at least insulate to R-15
- Bathroom: modern-style framed 2x6s, already insulated to R-20
- Kitchen (new): modern-style framed 2x6s, able to insulate to R-20
A house of this age has also settled some, roughly 2″ per 10 ft along the direction of the valley it’s built in. We opted not to re-level it due to the expense and difficulty of dealing with the doors. The bathroom area is level, but its door is at the low point of the settling, so attempting to raise the low point would interfere with that transition. It wasn’t worth it.
We began by smoothing out the various transitions in slope as much as possible. In the living room, the floor itself was bowed more than leveling compound could handle, so we cut shims and laid a new subfloor surface. For the transition between living room and kitchen we were able to use a trowelable compound named Fix-it-All to distribute the slope change over a longer span and avoid a sharp drop in slope.
With the floor fixed up as much as possible, the solution to the insulation problem that we came up with was to frame a new plumb and square wall inside the existing structure. We lost an inch or two of floor area here and there, but we avoided the extra difficulty of doing finish work on non-square walls.