Hurricane Ike and a Bathroom Subfloor Repair

“You know, the bathroom floor feels a little squishy.”

Dad said something along those lines the third weekend of work on the rental remodel.

I wanted to scream… another subfloor problem. This time it was a necessary bathroom subfloor repair which quickly spiraled into more floor joist repairs.

Let’s recap where we are in the remodel process.

My first week and adjacent weekends of home ownership passed and my husband, dad, mom, brother and brother-in-law had already:

I flew out two weekends later for what was supposed to be my first solo weekend. Instead, Hurricane Ike cancelled the baseball series in Austin and my parents were in a holding pattern until the storm passed to help with any recovery efforts for family in the Houston area. It was one of the few good outcomes from the hurricane–I was overjoyed and thankful at the unexpected help!

I was prepping the kitchen floor for tile by installing Hardibacker on the beautiful subfloor Dad, Brian and Konrad lovingly installed. It was my main focus for the weekend when Dad came in with those dreadful words.

He was looking for a job and this is what he found.*

Required bathroom subfloor repair and rotten floor joists.

The ensuing bathroom subfloor repair…

A couple hours later, there was no longer a toilet (attached to plumbing) and there was a gaping hole in the bathroom floor. There were, however, some very sturdy new floor joists–the bathroom was already better even without a floor!!! Another subfloor repair and floor joist project was well underway.

Measuring off the new plywood subfloor across the new floor joists.

What could possibly be wrong with the supporting structure?

Rotten subfloor, one rotten floor joists, unnecessary scrap lumber, notched and not supporting by anything like a girder beam.

Well, if one floor joist was good, tacking on another would be better right? Don’t bother extending it between the two main beams of the house, just tack it on. Then add another! And another?!?

Make sure it is notched to make sure it is weaker, too?!?!

It was all rotting away. At some point, there was a leak and none of the “joists” around the toilet were doing much anymore. As for the sistered pieces of wood–none of them reached the beam on either side of the toilet. The following is a picture of the tacked on wood going the opposite direction:

Junk wood added to floor joist. It doesn't even touch the girder beam. What's the point?

Why tack a piece of wood on if it doesn’t even reach the supporting beam below?!?

Are you an undercover inspector? Did you notice how there are two different colors of wood? Translation: this is not the first leak and “repair” job. Gold star for you if you caught it!

In Dad’s own words…

“I’d never changed a toilet and was concerned about separating the toilet from its lead drain connection and couldn’t imagine how to get replacement joists under the floor without screwing up something else.

All the while out the little stem wall access hole, I could see Hurricane Ike screaming, raining and bending your trees nearly horizontal.

You showed me the 20 ton screw/floor jack. I STILL couldn’t imagine that jack raising the floor, but crawled through that muddy access hole and and across the muddy crawl space dirt over to the bathroom floor, dragging all those tools and jack. I put the jack on a solid base, started to wrench it up and viola, the floor moved easy as could be. Color me shocked. I didn’t jack up it much more than half an inch as that’s all the space I needed at that point.

A 20 ton bottle jack is your answer to subfloor and floor joist repairs on a pier and beam house.

The next step was removing that worthless lumber previous knuckle heads had nailed onto the rotten joist. With the jack doing the heavy lifting, there was no problem levering the junk wood off the totally missing joist. That done, it was a routine task to notch and sledge hammer the three new joists into place. I was concerned about leaving a gap between the new subfloor and the remainder of the original subfloor under the wet wall base plate so I tried to leave it half and half.

The crawl space seems only 18″ high, so all that work [installing the new floor joists] until the rotten subfloor was out was a pretty tight fit.”

I think he did an amazing job!

Gorgeous new floor joists spanning both girder beams.

Gorgeous new floor joists spanning both girder beams.

Just as pretty and, more importantly, SOLID 9 years later as the day it was put in!

Notice how the three new sistered beams cross BOTH of the main girders/beams? There is a Home Depot AND a Lowe’s within three miles of the house along with a couple local shops too. If we did not have enough lumber on hand I guarantee they will sell some to ANYONE. They even have lumber in different widths too–so that the joist actually goes the entire distance horizontal from the beam to the subfloor! What a novel idea?!?!

After he removed the rotten subfloor he measured off the gaping hole and cut a piece of plywood down to size.

Cutting the new plywood subfloor down to size.

Bathroom subfloor repair complete! A beautiful, new, solid plywood subfloor.

I can’t say I was thrilled with more subfloor problems. Even worse, I lost the ability to use THE ONLY TOILET IN THE HOUSE. I was, however, very thankful Dad found this problem and solved it. He was pretty proud of his find. I can only imagine my horror on finding it on my own on a subsequent weekend when I was working solo.

Rockstar Dad!


*This was another hard lesson on why I said, go inspect all areas of your home yourself. Go under your house yourself. Do not rely on the home inspector to say something about a shoddy past bathroom subfloor repair. If you poke around yourself, see some sketchy “repair” and notice the real joist is totally rotten just by trying to push your fingernail into–you are on to something! Believe in yourself. Does the necessary repair scare you away from buying the house? If not, make the needed repair help you bargain with the asking price for the house.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Thomas A Richey says:

    Mixed emotions about that job. Glad it turned out as well as it did with no more problems than we had. I forgot how cramped it was under there with the jack on one side, PEX, drain and LONG 2x6s to notch and rock onto the beams before hammering them up into place. My good friend, the 3# sledge hammer. Looking back, I wish I’d trimmed off more of that rotten joist if for no better reason than aesthetics. AND, I wish I’d taken the opportunity to add a couple more joists, even if just sistering them to the ones we got in. There just wasn’t much room to work in and I guess we WERE under a time crunch of sorts. Still….

    • Margaret says:

      The aesthetics are awesome! It leaves no doubt that the old floor joist is rotten and the beautiful one next to it is solid. I like the gnarly look.

      Dragging the new floor joists through the scuttle hole and under the house *and* installing them while the subfloor was still in was a terrible job. I can’t say thank you enough.