The smallest detail can hold up the whole structure

Our story so far: We crossed a number of items off the “proceed with caution” list as we demolished the interior of the old Methodist church we were planning to turn into a home.

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saggy center
You want Oreos to be soft in the center. Not houses.

Early on, Tyler suspected the opening between the sanctuary and the overflow area might need shoring up. The archway looked as if it bowed a bit, and not in a quaint or historical way. Further evidence that something was awry: The second floor wasn’t level.


Tyler had installed headers in the past so this discovery didn’t alarm him but I, trained by HGTV remodeling shows, saw dollar signs. Many an open-floor plan had been scuttled by expensive header requirements.

Initially, we believed we could figure out how to design the interior of the church by ourselves. Before we’d closed, we played around with various layouts using freehand drawings and software programs. And we figured people like plumbers and building inspectors would prevent us from doing anything stupid like installing a toilet too close to a vanity or building a hallway too narrow.

But Tyler knew a lot about construction, including what he didn’t know, so he elected to hire an architect with structural engineering knowledge to help him determine precisely where the structural issues were and how to resolve them. We also needed to know how to safely construct the balcony, which hung off this same opening. (When the architect paid us a visit, he also climbed up into the belfry to give it the once over and prescribed new pilings.) After much measuring and calculations and consultation, the architect recommended a new header and a bunch of other technical stuff I didn’t understand. But Tyler did, and we got the design plans to help him carry it out.

After Tyler ordered the specified header, I figured out why they’re costly: It’s not the header itself, it’s the engineering required to prescribe it.

In any case, the header arrived in three parts along with a thousand other pieces of lumber (you think I’m kidding).

Reroofer, the guru who repaired our belfry roof, agreed to help Tyler install the new header. As Reroofer walked into the sanctuary one Friday afternoon, all smiles because he was going to help build something, I think, or maybe he was just happy that day, he pointed up and asked, “What is that?”

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Tomorrow: “That” could be a sign. Read about it here.

3 thoughts on “The smallest detail can hold up the whole structure

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