Leading up to the first day of stabilization, Bob & Bill had several calls, meetings and emails over several weeks. We even met at the house back in October to discuss exactly what we were going to do. The meeting lasted about 90 minutes and we went through multiple different ideas before finalizing the plan.
Bill's main concern was safety and not allowing anyone to cross the threshold because the roof might collapse. Another factor was cost and what could be accomplished within our limited budget. Then came the issue of bracing complications. Normally when bracing is put up, the boards outside get bolted through the wall. This requires someone to be inside to put the bolts on – this was not possible since no one can go inside.
After much discussion, it was determined that taking the roof off or attempting a controlled demolition were not options. Renting a lift would be expensive and it would be difficult to control any type of demolition. (My mom always talks about the "painted nail". This is the one nail that holds the entire house together. So you could say we were afraid of finding the painted nail in the Horner House.) The question became what can they do to give the roof some support. They discussed using a front-end loader, pulling it up to the building & extending the arm inside until the roof beams rested on it. Again, this was not a cheap solution because the loader would need to sit there for several days. And we didn’t know how stable the cellar walls were; there was a chance that the shift in weight could damage the cellar walls. The idea of using the loader was discarded as too costly.
Then, Bob suggested using an epoxy adhesive instead of bolts, so no one needed to be inside. This will damage the bricks that the bolt holes are drilled through, since the epoxy will be stronger than the brick. This was an "out of the box" idea, it's not standardly used in buildings but is more often used in road construction. We all decided that the loss of 15 or 20 bricks was better than someone getting hurt or losing the entire wing.
After that, they discussed simply jacking the beam up into place without something to support the roof. The biggest concern at that point wasn't that the walls would fall inwards, but the pressure and roof would force them outward.
Finally, a plan began to form for bracing the north & south walls and the 2 pieces of the west wall that were still standing. Then they would jack up a beam into the opening (the collapsed area) to make a new lintel. The posts would remain permanently, and the space between would be framed in like a modern house. The beam would be "cheated", or set slightly inside of instead of being centered over the foundation, to allow one course of brick to be erected so that from the outside it will match the rest of the brick exterior.
At that point, Bob asked for an elevation or vertical survey (a map of the walls) before finalizing the plan. Fast forward - as discussed in previous blogs, the ivy had to be removed to do the survey and the removal of the ivy led to Eric’s accident and subsequent delays. To add to the worries, during the time when Eric was out of commission, Eric & Amanda noticed that the west face of the West Wing’s mansard roof was buckling inward.
This picture shows the rotation of the back roof as well as some of the debris that was removed prior to work.
A few weeks ago, Bob & Bill met Amanda & Eric on site again. After looking things over, they determined that the roof was not really buckling. The north portion of the west wall was leaned out significantly enough that it caused the northwest window on the back wall to twist. The southwest line of the wall was still in place giving the optical illusion that the roof was buckled. The decision was made to move forward with the plan with one exception. A specialty lift called a "Lull" was to be rented and used to straighten the roof. It would be used to pull the bottom edge of the southwest lower portion of the Mansard outward to match the leaned out roof line on the northwest edge of the west wall. This added more complications. When they started to move the roofline, everything could collapse or worse, there might not be enough good wood for the beam to catch on.
We spent the next few days moving forward with this final plan. While it was still the best plan, the risk was higher that the roof would collapse before the structure was complete. We finished the ivy removal & gave ILB the survey. Bob provided Bill with the necessary specs for the beam & other items that needed to be purchased.
On November 10th, we were finally ready to get started. The first day on site, Bill & his crew cleared all debris lying outside the west wall. While this may sound simple, it took half the day. They salvaged about half of the old bricks and filled in an old well with the damaged ones. The well was in the construction area and had been a safety concern.
Some of the original brick that was salvaged. Hopefully, it will all be usable.
They finally dug 4 of the holes for the foundations for the posts. It may not sound like a lot but it was a pretty full day's worth of work. Next, Stabilization of the West Wing – Day 2.
Two of the holes, filled with concrete & "nails". These will be used with the supports.