The Wall – Part 2

There’s been a lot of activity in the new homestead during the past week with the wall removal project.  I took delivery of about 300 lbs of milled southern yellow ‘heart’ pine  on Monday, February 12.  The biggest piece pictured below is the beam, which measures 6″ X 10″ by 11 feet long and weighed about 200 lbs.  It took 3 of us to carry it in.  The black plastic piece at the end is a handle that was attached with several long screws to help with lifting.


Southern yellow pine is also referred to as longleaf pine.  On wikipedia I learned this pine is native to the Southeastern US, and found from Texas to Virginia, extending into Florida.  It reaches a height of more than 100 ft. with a diameter of 28 in. In the past, before extensive logging, they reportedly grew to more than 150 ft with a diameter of about 4 ft!  In the late 1800’s, these virgin timber stands were prized for their strength and sadly as a result of clear cutting, they have been reduced to less than 5% of their presettlement range.  Below is a photo of one of the few longleaf pine forests in existence.


Above is a photo of the piece cut from the end of the beam.  It is hard to say how old this tree was.  The rings of this partial cross-section shows about 75 years of growth, but it seems clear that the tree’s diameter exceeded the visible rings.

I learned from Nate at the sawmill that this wood was recently reclaimed from the McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, which was built in 1892.  McLean was the first psychiatric hospital to establish basic and clinical laboratories to study biological factors in mental illness.   It is gratifying to know that this wood has been reclaimed to be reused in a meaningful way.



Jim spent the first 2 days of the week constructing staging on either side of the existing wall.  The purpose of this is twofold: to hold up the second floor while the existing wall is removed and to support the beam that will be hoisted up in place of the wall.  In the pic below, note the darker wood is the original wall and the lighter wood is the staging.  Jim used a hydraulic jack to make sure each vertical post of the staging was completely engaged in supporting the second floor.


On Wednesday after the original wall was removed and after an electrician moved all the wires, the beam was slowly raised into position. Jim and Doug used the staging to support the beam as it was raised about 18 inches at a time.  In the pic below, the beam is about 3 feet high.


In the photo below the beam is now head high, about 4 inches below the ceiling joists.  The hydraulic jack was then put to use to jack the beam up the rest of the way.


In this view, the beam has been fully raised and is flush against the second floor joists.  It is supported by two vertical 2 X 4’s and 2 horizontal 2 X 4’s held up by the staging.


The raising of the posts came next, which was the most fascinating part of the project for me.  The posts were milled to be 5 1/2 inches X 5 1/2 inches by 8 ft long.  The posts were cut to the exact length they needed to be and then inserted partially into holes cut into the floor.  I say partially, because they could not be inserted completely into position due to angle of the posts and the presence of the beam.

The hydraulic jack was then used to jack the second floor of the house up between 1/2″ and 3/4″ of an inch, to allow the post to slip into place under the beam.  The jack was then used to gently lower the beam on to the post.  This process was done for each post.  Here is a photo of the right post after it slipped into position.


And here are a few shots of the newly raised posts and beam.



Next part: installing the threshold and the fireplace mantel, both made out of the same southern yellow pine.





A Renovation


I just moved into a new home, which is 100 miles from my previous home, so I know I will want to reflect about this experience from time to time.  The biggest thing happening at the moment is a renovation.  This renovation involves removing a wall between the kitchen and living area to create a more open floor plan.  Although I expect to do future renovations myself, this one is way beyond my skill level because it involves removing a support wall, so I have hired several excellent craftsmen to make this happen. However, I will be paying attention to every detail and helping out whenever possible to learn as much as I can from the process.

Below left is a photo of the wall that will be removed as seen from the kitchen.  On the right is the view from the living room.  The wall on the kitchen side looks unfinished because I already removed 2 floor-to-ceiling maple cabinets.

Last week, the drywall was removed by Jim and Doug in very short order, which exposed the lumber supporting the second floor.  The short ‘stub’ wall on the right side of the left photo was also removed.


Early on someone suggested I visit the Cataumet Sawmill in Falmouth to see what they do with antique southern yellow pine, also referred to as heart pine.  I visited their website and lumber yard and became enamored with the beauty of this very special wood.  They reclaim this wood from very old structures, such as mills and factories where the lumber was used to hold up huge floors of heavy machinery.  Their wood is often hundreds of years old because it was generally harvested from large old growth trees that were already hundreds of years old at the time.  Check them out at .

The process of selecting the heart pine and determining the dimensions required to support a 10 foot space involving getting input from 4 people: Jim, my contractor, Nate at the sawmill, Lars, my structural engineer and of course, the Sandwich building inspector.  After a consensus was reached, the order was put in and the lumber was cut and milled by the team at the sawmill.  The finished product is shown below, where it sits in a heated warehouse at the sawmill, until it’s ready for delivery.  In the photo below you can see the finished lumber in the foreground.  In the background is a stack of lumber in it’s unfinished state.


To be continued…