I started on the cabin renovation today, and I think I got most of the nasty stuff taken care of. The cabin was moved onto the site many years ago and was either built or transported in two pieces. The blue colored section in the image above (containing the bedroom and the living room) is fused with the light colored section that houses the kitchen, breakfast nook, entry area and bathroom. Before we bought the place we noticed a strange lumpiness at the intersection between the two structures, and we were a little apprehensive over what we’d find when we peeled back the carpeting. As it turns out, the gap between the buildings is actually quite close to being level and secure—it’s the section of floor between the kitchen and the gap that’s a problem. This is the dark colored (very dirty plywood and tar paper…) flooring section in the image above.
Underneath the first layer of carpeting was a 54" wide section of plywood that had been ineffectually shimmed in an attempt to make the transition from the carpeted living room to the kitchen approximately level. You can see the lath that formed the shims in the image above. The consequence of this was that the transition to the kitchen was more or less even, but the gap between structures wasn’t. I also discovered that the hearth under the wood stove was built right on top of the existing carpet, and once I removed that, I found two more layers of carpeting buried under the top layer. The back bedroom was thankfully uneventful, beyond the usual unpleasantness of pulling up decades-old carpeting and releasing the foreign, dried fluids and solids contained within.
The plan from here is to re-shim the space between the gap and the kitchen with tapered shims cut from 2x4 material such that when a new layer of ½” plywood 5/8” OSB is laid down over the entire cabin interior, the floor will be reasonably even. An alternative to shimming would be to use a floor leveling compound, but this would require approximately 42 gallons of material (15’ x 54” x 1” average height difference = 9,720 cubic inches = 42 gallons). That’d be expensive, and might also put more load on the edge of the building than what it was designed for.
One continuing debate is whether we should plywood over the gap between structures, making the connection more secure, or leave a split in the subfloor such that if the two buildings move, there’s a place to accept the changes. I’m leaning toward leaving a saw kerfs width along the gap, since the cabin is build on permafrost and we’re in earthquake country. A cut would allow movement where there might otherwise be greater damage if such shifting was restricted.
Adding a completely new subfloor will be expensive, but it also means we don’t have to be very particular about cleaning the existing flooring, and we don’t need to scrape up the vinyl flooring that covers the kitchen, entry area and bathroom. At this point, time is money. Once the subfloor is in, we’ll build a short pony wall along the right (entry) side of the gap to reduce the length of the gap that needs to stay even, replace the hearth and re-install the wood stove, patch the drywall, and paint. Finally, install laminate flooring in the bedroom, living room, and possibly the breakfast nook. The kitchen, entry, and bathroom will get new vinyl flooring.
It’s going to be a lot of work, but it is satisfying to have finally started and gotten a better idea of what the challenges are.