She’s Got the Jack

detail1…is a funny AC/DC song that keeps going through my head this week. Because this week is Jack the Cottage week. We’re pulling the rotting bits out of our little house, and to do that, we basically have to jack the building off of the foundation. Check out the sketch: this house is built with platform framing, meaning that the walls sit upon the floor which sits upon the foundation. Very typical in houses made after the mid-20th century. In our case, moisture had entered the wall, and soaked through to the plywood, causing it to rot. The hard part about removing it is that it’s pinched between the wall and floor framing by the entire weight of the building.

Enter: 20-ton hydraulic jack. One of our farmer buddies had one on hand (no family should be without one) and we set to work attaching temporary beams to the walls. These are 2x12s that are screwed into every stud. Then, we pass needle beams through the walls, and block them up with 4x4s. Patiently, carefully, we go back and forth between each end of the beam, jacking it up a bit, inserting a longer 4×4 under the end, and letting it down a bit to remove the jack. The end result is a building lifted an inch or so in the air! Luckily, that is all you need to get in there with a sawsall, cut the nail, and pull out the rotting plywood. Easy!


Working our way around the building, eight feet at a time, is time consuming but not too hard now that we have a hang of the system. Once we have the wood out and surrounding framing clean, we insert a new sheet of stronger 3/4″ subfloor, lower the house, and beat it with a sledge a few times until it’s plumb. Some new plywood on the side will keep it from blowing away in the next windstorm.

jacked2SMThis has been made easier with the aid of yet more friends. Adam is down for the week, helping me out in a work-trade program (I helped him build his new sound recording studio in his basement last month). And Sleep continues to lend a hand, which is really helpful. I get WAY more work done with extra people on  site. Part of that is motivational, but it’s also a truism that two people get about three times as much work done as one, becuase of the efficiency of helping you carry things and hold them in place while you conncet them.

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