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Rebuilding window and door openings in a ballon framed house

Greetings. We have a 1914 four square that I am going to do a complete top to bottom, interior and exterior, and clear to the studs/sheathing renovation. Because of some structural issues in the main carrying wall in the basement as well as some inferior framing in the first and second floor central load bearing wall, it is easier to just get it back to the shell and replace all of the mechanicals (Plumbing, Elec, HVAC).

Because I am completely gutting the house, I have a chance to remove the old lathe and install fire stop in all of the walls and bring up the structure to (or in most cases exceed) modern fire and building code. Also, due to the extreme rot and/or poor condition of all of the windows will be replaced and each of the exterior doors carefully restored. This is where my question lies.

How does (or should) one rebuild the framing structure around exterior doors and windows to support a properly dimensioned header, king studs, jack studs, and sill plate? Because the house is balloon framed, the exterior wall studs extend all the way down to the sill plate on the top of the foundation.

Thanks and Best Regards

Re: Rebuilding window and door openings in a ballon framed house

You could create sill headers for the doorways- just like a window header but reaching from sill plate to the bottom of the sub-floor, then frame normally above these. At windows I'd follow the original idea with the jacks extending down to the sill holding a normal header above, cripples and a double-sill plate will do the bottom of the opening.

You seem to be on the right track with the rest of the job- especially the fire-blocking, which is balloon framing's main downfall today. Only thing I can offer there is to add more outlets while it's easy- there's never enough of them these days!

Kind of funny but down south here where it gets hot in the summers, the natural convection of balloon framing coupled with keeping the windows open at night to cool the plaster made for much cooler housing long before A/C became common. Add some proper shade trees and you can do without AC comfortably for most of the summer, and it's free! No help in the winter though....


Re: Rebuilding window and door openings in a ballon framed house

Thanks for confirming what I thought I needed to do (i.e. going to the foundation sill plate and building upward through the structure). That makes it kind of difficult on the second floor windows but I understand the structural reasons why. Because of the height of the second floor, can I just sister on multiple 2x4's onto the original 2x4's to reach to the proper height? For example if the top of the windows on the second floor are at 18'3" from the top of the sill plate on the foundation, can I use one 2x4x10' from the sill and then one 2x4x8'3" on top of the first? Both would be nailed into the original 2x4 frame member. That would provide a continuous path for the load to be carried all the way down from the header to the foundation. The fire stopping would prevent the new members from buckling away (under a load) from the original 2x4 framing they are sistered on to.

As far as the new electrical installation. Yes, I do plan on going above the code in terms of more outlets and fewer circuits. I am a semi-retired network engineer, so I plan on designing (and completely documenting) each of the circuits so that there are more of them with one less outlet than the maximum set by code. That allows for some expansion without compromising future safety. Also, I plan on putting circuit identification labels in each box and a consistent wiring standard in terms of where the circuit source enters outlet boxes and where the downstream circuit line leaves the outlet box. That creates a consistent and predictable wiring scheme that allows for a more efficient troubleshooting.

The house is located in southern Indiana in the Ohio Valley. We get those same types of summers. Thank goodness for air-conditioning because I would rather trade off fire safety for being cool;-) Several years ago, I saw an episode of TOH where they highlighted a southern home that had a natural gas driven venture dome in the ceiling of the main foyer. When lit, it would cause the hot air to rise out of the vent at the top pulling cooler air close to the ground through the windows. I think it was a late 1700's house. Pretty neat!!

Re: Rebuilding window and door openings in a ballon framed house

Sistering studs for vertical support only is acceptable practice as long as everything is fitted tightly. Of course keep the number of sisters to a minimum (they tend to get jealous of one another if there are too many involved :p ) Sounds like you have things well under control.

Cupolas, transom windows, operable attic windows, and sleeping porches were all great passive comfort solutions in their time, but these days folks want what they think is 'a better way' and keep paying for it. Sometimes there are very valid reasons to not use the old methods but that doesn't mean they don't work for what they were intended to do. Regardless, one should keep the character of an old house even if it's prudent to negate, alter, or change some of the old methods and approaches. Save what character you can for it will not be seen again, it is from a different time and that is what gives it it's charm and appeal. Nobody but you will know what lies under the skin.

Post some links to pics when you're done (or as you go) as we appreciate and enjoy the old houses ourselves here- we'd really enjoy your sharing them.


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