Careful, That’s A Load-Bearing Chessboard

Brooke here:

While working in the Labyrinth, Elizabeth and I explored the future wine cellar.  Brown and I had done little more than glance in and shiver, but there was some interesting stuff in there.  We were, for example, especially interested in preventing an impending ceiling collapse (For the record, we’re almost positive the concrete part of the ceiling is reinforced with rebar and is in great condition. The wood understructure, however, might bonk us on our fragile noggins at any moment.).

The wine cellar, before.

Try to see past the grime and take a good look at the shelving system in the image.  The rear right-hand leg of the shelves?  The one that runs from the ceiling to the floor?  That single piece of lumber is supposed to serve as the support structure for the ceiling in this section of the Labyrinth.  Then, whoever built the shelves used that 2×4 as one of the legs and built outwards to make some shelves and a table.

Sadly, as happened with many of the other old 2×4 supports in the Labyrinth, the bottom of the original support had rotted away.  So did the bottom of the left rear leg, along with much of the right front leg.  Which meant…  Hang on, I made a diagram.

Click for a user's handy guide to capricious weight distribution.

As best as we could tell, the weight of the ceiling in this section of the Labyrinth was being supported by the left front leg of the table, as this was the only remaining piece of wood which actually touched the floor.  Condition-wise, it was in no fair shape, either.  Would it surprise anyone that we’ve got a sneaking suspicion the basement and Labyrinth were prone to flooding before the previous owners installed some French drains?

I love how each individual square is disintegrating at different rates. Someone assembled this piece by piece.

At the very top of this mess, someone had added a chessboard (not over the table, but over the shelves… I don’t understand the ergonomics of any of this…).  I’m going to do some wild speculation here and suggest that the chessboard predates the people who sold us the house; water damage and exposure to a dank cellar environment ages objects, but I’d bet a big fat dollar that this chessboard was put here before they moved in back in 1995.  I’ve got to read up on Randall Jarrell and see if he or his wife were big into chess and, if so, find out why they were terrified of playing chess in the light.*

At the end of our impromptu science project, Elizabeth grabbed a 2×4, cut it to size, and stuck it up as a temporary fix.  She then broke down the shelves and cleaned out the wine cellar.  Tomorrow, I’ll seal the corners and throw up a couple of coats of waterblock sealant to prevent moisture or water damage, and we’ll figure out what should be done with this space.

The wine cellar, after. Isn't it nice when these "after" pictures are still terrifying?

*Working title of biography project – Randall Jarrell, Space Vampire Poet.  I’ll find a way to cram “Space” in there, somehow.

4 thoughts on “Careful, That’s A Load-Bearing Chessboard

  1. With this sort of building being allowed it amazes me any type of American house remains upright… What does the pipe transport again? I forget.

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