Archie by Jughead(s)

Down and Dirty ... Another arch needed to be removed (there were 7 in the house when we bought it) and this one, on the stairs to the third floor, is really wearing out my patience.

Ahh ... foamy. Since I neglected to take a real before shot of the arch, here's a photo early in the process of replacing this arch. You can see about half of the curve of the arch with all that gloppy slathered on cool-whip-like spackle.

Arches here at the JS house were put in to replace the wood framed doorways that were original to the house. This one is no exception. Most of the arches were installed using a purchased metal framing kit, made up of three pieces of metal that, when fit together into the doorway, transformed beautiful wood framed openings, into "seductive, curvaceous, sirens, leaving all who look upon them wide-eyed and frightened that anything so horrific could be done to an old home. And yes, the original wood door frames were pitched out.

OK, that's just my opinion. Arches have their place, some are rennaissance-like in their scientific order, others romantically tudor or buxom-and-romanesque. These were weak ill-placed and out of proportion with the rest of the house. Somehow they make the ceilings lower and rooms smaller than their angular wooden counterparts. This one, on the stairway to the third floor, was a DIY nightmare.

Some Background

Each set of stairs in the house (there are 2 remaining of 3 original, not counting the basement) ascends up about half way, turns back on itself at a landing, then continues its ascent to the next floor. From the second to the third floor the landing also contains a door. Because of the slope of the roof and stairs, the door was not full height, causing the entrant to stoop a bit.

And Then ...

At some point, I think recently, the door was removed and a DIY arch "created," mimicing others in the house and, seemingly, to increase head room. Curiously, the head room was added by cutting out one of the support beams for the roof (stupid, stupid, stupid ...). The crafty person next wadded up some fiberglass window screen and, with the help of spray-foam insulation, filled the square corners of the doorway to create a sort-of-arched shape. Next, spray-foam insulation was heavily applied to further "shape" and "refine" the lob-sided arch, followed by a thick layer of ceiling texture stuff was wadded over that to "finish" the shape.

Imagine my surprise when I walked up the stairs the first time to start deconstructing the arch. I whacked the curved corners with a hammer, expecting it to crack open the plaster, only to have the hammer "sucked" into the spray-foam insulation. I just stood there, hammer stuck in the "plaster," wondering what the heck ... ?? ...

Another corner, some of the gloppy spackle removed so you can see the lovely spray foam insulation going on
foam insulation removed. now you can see the old door header, cut at an angle for that dang-blasted arch, painted white, in the lower third of the photo. below it is a scraped clean piece of the door jamb, immediately above the header stump is some lathe from the other side (this side of the wall is drywall.)

Yep that's right, it's not a power tool. Using a classic saw was the easiest, fastest, and most precise way to trim the old header flush with the wall so I can extend the jamb upwards.

Now, the funny thing (as if this whole thing isn't just a hilarious joy) about this doorway is that, while the person installing the other arches removed all original wood door trim and framing, this one left the trim and framing in place. Well, except the header, which was hacked out, I guess, because they didn't want to stoop to get into the third floor anymore. So the door opening was made-up of two sides of wood framing and trim, with a curved, rough-textured, windowscreen-and-foam-framed, arch top - UGH. (sad little side-note, there is another door on the third floor similar to this that has a funky panel hinged to the top of the door and if you aren't careful, it can slip and bash you in the head when you go through the door. I bet the same person did both.)

After hours of digging the tenacious spray-foam out, I found the old framing. As you can see in the following diagram, a header and two cripple studs should be above the door opening. Thos are what were cut out on this door frame. I put in a new header, situated a few inches higher than the original to gain some head room. There is no door so the slope of the roof can be ignored for door swing, which is why the door was short in the first place.

Arch gone. The header for the original door frame was cut back to square and the stumps can be seen immediately below the hollows int he wall on either side of this photo. The white, arched kind-of-shapes at the top of the wall are the remains of the 2 cripple studs that secured the header in place. Reusing the location of the original header wont work since we have furniture in the third floor that is bigger than that opening would be, so Ill need to build up the sides and increase the height of the header for the re-do.

Heres a very primary build up of a few inches to raise the header for the new doorway. The wood that you can see,where the 4 screws are visible, is actually 3 chunks of 2x4s: Two laid horizontally into the hollow of the wall, and a third vertically so the structure is stronger. This kind of structure was repeated on both sides and the new header is visible at the top of the photo.
Next Ill need to frame in the jambs, matching the existing jambs on the sides with some pieces cut to fit at the top, add some trim to both sides of the wall and fill in the missing wall (plaster/drywall) at the top. I'll post more once I get that stuff done.

Stay tuned ...

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