Jack it up
Once we got the kitchen ready for the cabinets, we turned our attention to the Great Room and Dave and Daniel noticed that the header over the huge sliding door consisted of a single long 2×4. Even if you don’t know much about structures, you can probably tell that a 2×4 is insufficient. It wasn’t even doubled up like it is over a regular window or door. All the weight of the upper story side wall was resting on one very tired, very bowed piece of wood. So that really had to be addressed before we finished putting the walls up in the Great Room.
Daniel took the lead on putting in the new header. We knew we were going to have to jack up the wall (literally, we rented jacks) and build a temporary wall to hold the load while he cut out the studs to make room for the properly sized header.
He did lots of research over the weekend figuring out what size it needed to be. Ideally, an 12×4 engineered joist was recommended, but those are hundreds of dollars and are special order, which would have really messed up our schedule. So, Daniel, being a thrifty and creative person, made his own with two 12×2 (really 1 1/2) pieces of lumber with 1/2″ ply sandwiched between them nailed together with special structural nails.
Once that was made, the jacks lifted the wall just enough to transfer the load to the temporary wall so that the old studs could be cut away to make room for it. It was pretty creepy hearing how the house creaked when the jacks were turned. I think we were all half holding our breath all day, since this was the most structural work we’ve done this whole endeavor, but no windows popped out!
There was once casualty: Daniel’s 7 year old reciprocating saws all finally met its match. RIP
With all of the load on the temporary wall and the studs cut out, the new header was lifted, tapped, and then nailed into place.
Then came the moment of truth — the temporary wall was knocked back down and the load transferred back to the new header. It did not creak this time. The sliding door slides much more smoothly and the upstairs is a lot less bouncy. Everything is doing its job.
The amazing this is, this was not the only thing going on these two days. Tom the cabinetmaker and Ryan, his assistant (and a good friend and frequent coworker of D&D) were installing the cabinets and Dave and I were putting up walls while this was going on, so Daniel was pretty much just engrossed in this project for two days with one of us jumping in whenever he needed a second person.