Timber houses repairs or renovations
Timber houses repairs or renovations
D.I.Y. house repairs
Welcome to our article, D.I.Y. house repairs and alterations.
Timber houses repairs or renovations
In this article we would like to talk about house repairs and renovations. Since we have already written other articles about houses buildings, now, the main trades that we have been talking about in our latest articles has been about brickwork, concrete work and block work, but today we are going to change and it will be a mix up of trades including timber work. You see, if you want to do any job on old houses, generally you need to know how to do a bit of this and a bit of that, so you don’t need to be a carpenter to cut a few pieces of timber, or drive a few nails, and at this same time you don’t need to be a qualified tradesman for any other trades as well, because it is your house and you are going to do the job yourself, as long as you feel confident that you can do it, just go ahead and do it.
Therefore, in this case we are going to talk about what we can do ourselves, or mostly ourselves if we own a timber house say in Queensland; we want to talk about Queensland houses, because that is the place I have been living for many years and I am writing from, and therefore I know most about what could be done here legally, in other parts of the world there might be laws that could forbid some building repair and alterations, unless they are done from the experts, at the same time, there might be in some part of the world where you are allowed to do whatever you want.
Now let us talk about the timber houses, the timber houses in general need a lot more maintenance than the brick and masonry buildings, because they need to be painted regularly, otherwise the exposed timber outside could easily rot and then you need major repairs, but not everything affects these timber houses in a negative way, because they are easier to fix and to do alterations, compared to bricks and mortar buildings, so let us see what most people could and would do, if they own a timber house and want to repair or do some renovation or alterations, so let us talk about the latest work I have done, which was replacing some flooring on the veranda and then replace a set of old timber stairs with concrete treads. To replace the timber flooring was very easy, because you just need to pull the old rotten board out and replace them with new ones, to replace the stairs was a lot harder, because first of all I had to decide what I wanted to use, as the existing stairs were rotten beyond repair, but let us see what I did.
Repair or replace stairs
I am writing this article now because lately after fixing the patio floor I had to replace the front stairs of the house as well, where I am living now; I had known it for a while that the stairs were rotting away and soon or later we had to replace them, but I was trying to delay it as much as I could, because stairs are not easy to build and anyone that attempts to fix or replace them will find it hard to do unless he knows about how to build them.
So, even though I could say that I knew what to do, because of the several set of brick stairs that I have built during my life as a bricklayer, I did not like to do this job, as they are hard even for somebody that knows what to do, however one day I saw that the timber stairs were becoming dangerous, because the timer stringers were rotting away and some of the treads were just about to fall out or break if a heavy person or weight would get on them, so this job that I was trying to delay suddenly became urgent, it became urgent faster than I thought because this steel brace that was holding them tight together had rusted so much that it suddenly broke.
I did not want to replace this set of timber stairs with brick stairs, because brick stairs are very expensive, because they take a lot of bricks, a lot of concrete and a long time to build, you see brick stairs are only build where a building is made of bricks and it would look odd if you put a different type of material, in fact we could say that they are the most expansive to build using just simple building materials. Now at the same time I did not want to get somebody to make new timber stairs because today they are very expensive and also the timber is not of that grade that lasts as it used to be. You see this has been the problem why they were not being repaired or replaced; I was always debating how or with what material we should build them, but then suddenly the job became urgent and I had to think quickly how to solve this stairs problem.
The story of this set of old timber stairs is thus; I have been living in this house for a long time, and over twenty years ago I fixed this same set of stairs that were rotting at the bottom by cutting a few treads at the bottom and then building a concrete pathway higher than the existing ground, this was easy to do because of the sloping ground, in fact it worked out really well because it was a sort of bonus, as we did not have to walk first downhill and then walk up the stairs, I hope you can see the picture here, even if I am not supplying one. And now let us see how I solved this present stairs problem.
Building the new stairs
So the problem here is that we want a new set of stairs that are not very expensive, they last a long time, they are almost maintenance free, so how we can achieve that one might ask?
After thinking it over we decided to build a new set of stairs using concrete treads on a pair of galvanized steel stringers; you see these two types of material last a long time as they don’t rot and because of that they are mostly maintenance free; they are ready made and available if you shop around a bit. I remember that a few years ago I lot of suppliers had them in stock, today you have to look for them, but most of the larger hardware’s stocks them, anyhow sometimes it pays to look at direct supplies, with the internet that is easy to do and that is what I did, and I saved some money. I bought my concrete treads from a concrete product supplier; this is their link if you happen to live in Brisbane you can buy direct from them;
Anyhow, I went there and picked them up and saved some money, you see it pays to shop around and see what your best deal is.
Buying galvanized steel stringers
Next I bought a pair of galvanized steel stringers from Scott Metal, here I did not save a lot but they were the closest with a reasonable price, so I went there and picked them up.
This is their web address; www.scottmetals.com.au/, Scott Metals, Woolloongabba Brisbane - Metal Manufacturers
I visited the closest hardware to buy some bags of concrete, these bags of ready to mix concrete costed more than is used to cost when we could buy some concrete bland and a bag of Portland cement, but this is what is readily available today, so it has got to do; I also bought a couple of galvanized brackets that I would lay in the concrete to hold the hand rail firmly up and some screws. These are the main materials that I needed to do the job, as for the hand rail I would use the old hand rail, and somehow fix that to the timber post that would be fixed to the galvanized brackets at the bottom of the stairs, any other adjustment would be done while working on site.
Step by step procedure
Now that we have bought most or perhaps all the materials that we need to replace this set of stairs, we are going to show you how we did this job, so that if you have something similar to do you could have a good idea how to go about.
First of all you need to remove the old set of stairs; but before you do that you need to know if there is anything that you can save, in my case I decided that I could save the old hand rail, as long as I could keep it attached to the house and so I did, so I cut all connection between the hand rail and the rest of the stairs that had to be demolished. After doing that I started to remove the old timber treads one by one, you see you need to be careful here, because they are heavy and it is easy to get hurt. Anyhow you might need to use a sledgehammer to knock the treads out of there housing, because some of them may still have some old nails holding them in place. After you have removed all the treads you remove the old timber strings, here again one needs to be careful specially if they are long and heavy.
Next step insure that the part of the house that you are attaching the new stringers is solid and if it is not fix or replace whatever it is needed. Now you can take one of the steel stringers and lift in position to see if it fits and where it ends, because there you may have to dig a hole in the ground if your stringer have an in ground leg, so that you to get your stairs approximately in the right position, once you have done that, you need to work out the height of the top step; because the top step needs to be the same height of the rest of the steps, so this is one of the critical measurement, the other one is the distance between the two stringers, as we will explain soon.
Now, mark the centre of the stairs and sit the two stringers at the same distance, generally the top flange of the stringers would be level or one inch below the existing floor, which will be your last step. Temporary fix the two stringer with a small coach screw each at the distance that you have worked out, these screws are only temporary but they should be strong enough to hold the weight of the stringers easily; now if you are using concrete treads you virtually need to fit the top tread on the two stringer, you need to do this because the holes for the bolts of the concrete treads most time are not in line with the holes on the flange that holds the treads, then fit also your bottom tread on the stringers. If everything has been marked right the treads should be level both ways (level the full length and level across) and the top tread should be the same height as the rest of the stairs, if they don’t work out the first time make any adjustment necessary. Once you have achieved that you can fix the top flange properly with larger coach screws or bolts.
Now that we have fixed the top of the stairs to the existing building, we need to fix the bottom with bolts or concrete. So let us assume that we have to concrete the two legs of the steel stringers; here we need to make sure that we have dug deep enough and there will be about 6 inches of concrete under the stringer leg and also that the holes we have dug allows about 4 inches of concrete around the legs. Here we need to say that if the bottom treads that you have placed at the beginning to get the right distance between the stringers is in the way, you need to change it one step higher, but keep it as close as possible at the bottom, just because the stringers might move and then you will not be able to fit the rest of the concrete treads, in fact if it is possible and you can think of something that can temporary hold the weight of the entire set of stairs, then you may as well place all the treads on except the bottom one and then concrete, after concreting you can also fit the last tread and the job is done.