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Whats a Square?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by deck2, Mar 18, 2010.

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  1. deck2

    deck2 Burning Hunk

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    We are in the process of a bathroom remodel and have discovered that the people that built our 50 yr old 1800sq ft ranch did not know what a square, level or a plumb were used for! I would sure like to meet these guys and teach them how to build a wall. Anyways after two new walls our new tub now sits in its own little acove :) If I ever meet this contractor on the "other side" there will be a lot of questions regarding his thoughts and practices regarding his profession here on earth. Just hope It doesn't happen during this project because this bathroom may just kill me.


    Thanks for giving me a place to vent my frustrations. LOL

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  2. woodsman23

    woodsman23 Minister of Fire

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    I agree with you some contractors are in a hurry for almighty dollar and quality is just a passing thought.
  3. jklingel

    jklingel Feeling the Heat

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    Easy. All are tools of the Devil. Building is much faster w/out them.
  4. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    When remodeling a 50YO house did you really expect things to be plumb and square? I have a similar house built in 1963 and just did a bathroom remodel with new walls and all. The ceiling was saggy and the rafters weren't evenly spaced. Time is not kind to any house. Perhaps it was built properly and has just been squashed over time by gravity?
  5. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    That's what I was gonna say. It might have been square when it was built. My house has parts that are from ~120 years old to 18 years old and I have learned that levels and squares are only to be used as reference, but are not the final word. When I was rebuilding my ~100 year old barn I had to be even more flexible.
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Lived in old house most of my life. Never had one totally square and true. Next time I get back east I'll have to take a shot or two of the relative's house north of Boston. First floor looks pretty normal. Second floor looks like the homeowner decided to finish it off and was butt-faced when they did it. It's amazing they got a door to fit the jamb.
  7. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    When my parents and I came to Canada we bought a very old homestead from Finnish settlers. The buildings were all made with hand hewn dovetailed logs and there wasn't a level or plumb surface anywhere to be found.

    Anyway, shortly after we moved in we started renovation the barn and the old owner came by to see what we were up to. He was laughing so hard I thought he was going to keel over. He took great humor in the fact we were using a measure tape and a level. When he finally regained his composure and could speak, he said "You use a level and a tape to build a barn? I never used a level to build the house!". The upside was I always knew which corner of the room to find my marbles.
  8. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    i've worked in brand new houses, and houses that were 350 year old, and every age in between and never found any of them level or square.
  9. StackedLumber

    StackedLumber New Member

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    many houses of that age in rural areas have homemade rafters/trusses anyways made out of rough lumber. In our 30 yr old house, the floor joists are all rough sawn timbers that are a full 2 1/4" thick, but grossly uneven. add to that settling, wood shrinkage, poor mortar joints, and so on, our house, or any house of age will be a bit cockeyed in a variety of ways. It makes reflooring, putting in new windows or redoing a bathroom an adventure.
  10. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    on top of it all, they must of had good beer back then. i've worked in houses that as you worked your way down the wall or ceiling the first joist is 14 inch center from the first the next 16 inches the next 20 the next 18. it was whatever back then. but you look at a house 200 years old, they used 4 inch trees with a flat cut to lay the 12 inch wide by 1 inch or 1 1/4 inch floor. it may sag a bit or tilt big time, but you could still park a car inside that house. one house i worked in was built in 1805. the plack on the house said it was capt cooke's house. i went in to install recessed lights in a second floor room, the ceiling was horse hair plaster on rough lumber not strapping or lath. it was thicker than the wood lath we know today. and the kicker was the main support in that room was 14 by 14 inch running diagonal corner to corner put together with 1.5 to 2 inch dowels in the center of the room. no strapping to run wires. what a headache
  11. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Rough cut lumber . . . lack of knowledge or tools . . . normal settlement over time . . . all reasons for a room/building to be out of square/plumb/not level.
  12. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    My last house was built in 1924 out of rough hewn lumber and although shimmed to make up for the differences in lumber dimensions it was very plumb and level.
    My current house is supposedly built of old wooden railroad cars ( the floors look they were made of the doors with all the z braces intact) and it is level and square. Rather odd build, though and small.
    My father's house was built by his father(his first build). Replacing a window we took a wall apart and found he had used his level in lieu of a 2x4. Guess he didn't use it much, either. Nothing in that house is square level nor plumb. He built almost all the houses in the neighborhood and his skills improved remarkably. Money and time must have been influences. :)
  13. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    Totally know what you're up against. My house is 1910, and not square anywhere. No 2 joists are the same distance apart, sometimes a difference of 2-3 inches. I'm pretty sure everything was done by eye. When I remodeled my bathroom, I had a hell of a time at the corners where 2 sheets of drywall meet. I also discovered that the bathroom was conversion from a linen closest, and the original plumbers had randomly cut through floor joists, directly under the cast iron tub of course. In the end, I felt like even if I didn't do the best job, I significantly improved the quality of the work. Thanks, lazy previous owners!
  14. emurphy@eclumber.com

    emurphy@eclumber.com New Member

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    If you think about it makes perfect sense. The Idea of 16" on center was developed only because it works out for 4' x 8' plywood / sheetrock etc. There wasn't any reason to make something 16" on center. The better builders would put the next joist in a convenient location for the the next butt joint. My Mothers house was balloon framed. Which is of course is not leagal now (for fire safety). But the entire second story then the roof was held in place by the shear strength of nails. And it been there for better than 100 years.
  15. Dakotas Dad

    Dakotas Dad Minister of Fire

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    When you work with older houses this is just how it is. They didn't use kiln dried lumber. 2x4's where, well, sometimes 2x4. after they got older, they were not. There were no standard "sizes" for materials. No-to-few building codes.

    Actually, even with the help of standard materials and practices, most homes are not square and plumb. The standard measuring tape is graduated in 16th's, but in the hundred's of measurements made to build a house even a little "slop" can add up by compounding to be measurable or even visable. Using a 48" level to plumb a door frame is almost impossible to get truly plumb, and bobs are slow. And even if you get it right, the house WILL settle. and that changes every angle in it.
  16. hossthehermit

    hossthehermit Minister of Fire

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    Working on an old house, the first question that needs to be answered is, "Do you want this level,or plumb, or square, or do ya want to make it fit so it looks right?" My $0.02 based on 59 years of old houses.
  17. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Yeah Hoss, his frustrations are not really caused by a contractor from 50 years ago.
    He needs to understand the real cause/s and he can enjoy it.
  18. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    how true.
  19. woodsmaster

    woodsmaster Minister of Fire

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    Once I put a door in 3" out of plumb becouse the wall leaned in that much ! Would look kind of funny if the door was plumb and the walls not. Old houses were built of green lumber so even if built perfect
    It all changes as the wood dries. I built house trailers for a while and we NEVER used levels, plumb bobs or squares.
  20. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    Nice! It's interesting the difference between some old houses. My house goes every which way, and the floors crown ridiculously. Everything rolls to a wall, no matter where dropped. A friend's house is 20 years older, but amazingly well constructed. Everything there is as square as can be expected, probably because there's 2 or 3 times as much lumber in it's construction. My wife's family had a 1906 Sears house in TN that was crumbling away at the perimeter, but had a beautiful staircase that was absolutely silent when used.
  21. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Three inches?
    Swinging one way it would hit the floor.
    Swinging the other way, it would swing up and hit you in the shins. :lol:
  22. Rustaholic

    Rustaholic New Member

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    They still do those houses here.
    Several years ago I was working for a friend finishing a beautiful log home.
    On a diagonally attached lot this crew came in to build a Slash & Hacket slum house.
    One of them came over to see our house and was bragging that they put up 50 houses already that year.
    Well, They were putting in eight hour days and we were working four tens so the next day when we were done they were all gone.
    We headed over there and I picked up a square and level.
    Half way there I leaned them against a tree and one of the guys asked me why.
    I said just line up the left edge of the side entry door with that bedroom door then line up the right hand side of the entry door with the wall at the end of the hallway.
    The bedroom door was out of plumb by 3 1/2 inches one way and the hallway was out of plumb about two inches the other way.
    I knew the entry door was right because of the T-111 on the wall.

    Inside we saw one nail in the center of every jack stud.
    It was all framed. The next day it was wired, plumbed, inspected and insulated.
    The next day it was drywalled.
    On Friday we were not there but Monday morning it was painted and the interior was finished.
    Someone must have been there all weekend.
    It was still just as out of wack.
  23. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    those are the guys that change the name of the company every 2 weeks
  24. Rustaholic

    Rustaholic New Member

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    Actually NO.
    The company they worked for had been building houses for 25 years at least.
    There were other crews building high end houses at the same time these guys were building slum shacks.
    The crawl space/foundation wasn't even square and level on that shack.
    Since I didn't carry mine all the way over there I doubt a square or lever ever was on that property.
  25. woodsmaster

    woodsmaster Minister of Fire

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    Luckly the floor saged enough to allow this to swing in. You did have to hang on to the door or the Knob would slam into the cast iron radiator
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