D.I.Y. house repairs
Brisbane typical old timber houses
Timber houses repairs or renovations
Welcome to our article, (43), D.I.Y. house repairs.
Timber houses repairs or renovations
Dear readers, in our DIY articles we have talked about, how to lay bricks in, DIY brickwork , and other articles about building, the last one, Bricklaying needs to be competitive. In this article, we want to talk about house repairs and renovations. Since we have talked about brickwork, concrete work and block work, but today we are going to change, it will be a mix up of trades including timber work.
You see, if you want to do any job on old houses, 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, drive a few nails, paint the house or build a wall.
Because, if the work is for your house, you do not need to be a tradesman, except for those trades that are forbidden from bylaws, since it is dangerous if you make mistakes; like electrical work or plumbing work. So, don’t do electrical work, except changing a light bulb, and plugging in any electrical devices; plumbing work you can change a tap washer valve, or unblock the kitchen sink drain, if you have the right tools, and that’s all. Other trades you can do it ourselves.
Anyhow, let us talk about what we can do 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, therefore, I know most about what can be done here legally, in other parts of the world it can be different.
Now let us talk about the timber houses, the timber houses need a lot more maintenance than the brick and masonry buildings, because they need to be painted regularly, otherwise the exposed timber outside can 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 can do, if they own a timber house and they want to repair it, or do renovation and alterations. Now, 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 easy, because you need to pull the old rotten board out and replace them with new ones, to replace the stairs was a lot harder, because first I had to decide what I wanted to use, as the existing stairs were rotten beyond repair, but let us see what I did.
New concrete treads and stringer have replaced the old timber one
Repair or replace stairs
I am writing this article now, because after fixing the patio floor I had to replace the front stairs where I am living now; I knew 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 how to build them. But since I am a bricklayer, I knew what to do.
But even though I knew what to do, because of the several set of brick stairs that I have built as a bricklayer, I did not like to do this job. 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 weight got on them, so, this job that I was trying to delay suddenly became urgent, because this steel brace that was holding them tight together suddenly broke.
I did not want to replace this set of timber stairs with brick stairs, because brick stairs are very expensive, they take a lot of bricks, a lot of concrete and a long time to build, you see, brick stairs are build where a building is made of bricks. We can say that they are the most expensive 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 the timber is not of that grade that lasts a long time, as it used to be.
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 well because we did not have to walk first downhill and then walk up the stairs.
Replacing stairs with concrete treads
Replacing stairs with concrete treads
Now the problem is different because we need to replace all the steps. So, we want a new set of stairs that are not expensive, they must last a long time, they are almost maintenance free, so, how we can achieve that?
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 in Brisbane QLD. Anyhow, I remember that a few years ago, I lot of suppliers had them in stock, today you must look for them.
Anyhow, it pays to look at direct supplies, because they may have a larger stock to choose from, so, I did, and I saved money as well. I bought my concrete treads from a concrete product supplier; this is their link;
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.
Crosby concrete products
A pair of tipycal steel stringers
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 cost more than is used to cost, but this is what is readily available today; I bought also a couple of galvanized brackets that I could 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 handrail, I was using the old handrail. All I had to do is to fix the handrail 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. So, let us replace this set of stairs.
One of the Scott Metal signs
Building new set of stairs
Describing our step by step procedure
Now that we have bought the materials that we need to replace this set of stairs, we are going to show you, how we did this job.
First, 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 handrail, if I could keep it attached to the house and so I did. To do that, I cut all connection between the handrail 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 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 you need to be careful specially if they are long and heavy.
Next step you make sure 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. Then take one of the steel stringers and lift in position to see if it fits and where it ends, because you may have to dig a hole in the ground if your stringers have an in-ground leg. To do that, you should 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.
Other repairs or renovations
For instance here in Queensland most houses have a roof over their patio (veranda) most houses have too much space for verandas, (these are spaces that have a roof on them but they are open and have a handrail around for safety reasons if the building if off the ground) so, if an owner feels like that he is short of space in the house and he needs a small room for the kids or a study, he can enclose some of the veranda space and have an additional room at this house, because there is no structural alterations and the roof is already there, this can be a D.I.Y. job, as long as you know enough how to do it. Anyhow, this is just an example how easy it is to do some repairs or small alterations to these timber houses.
This is all for this time. See you next time with our article, house renovating.
Other DIY building links
- House brick base continues
DIY brickwork, will show you how a brick base is built step by step by professional bricklayers, in the hope that this article may help some one that is interested in doing some brickwork themselves.
- Building a brick base
Building with bricks, let me show you how we bricklayers set up a brick base from scratch. Setting a brick base on a sloping site is not easy, so let me show you how it is done step by step.
- DIY Retaining walls
We are going to show you several types of retaining walls and how to build them, some of them briefly and other step by step, so that you could be able to do it yourself, if you like.
- DIY brickwork
Thinking of laying bricks yourself, then read this hub it could help. DIY brickwork; Getting ready to lay bricks; making sure that we start the brickwork level, and Laying bricks on a sloping site.