Walking through this old ‘balloon-frame’ shotgun house in Walnut Hills from 1900, you felt as if a good breeze could carry it away.

Balloon framing is a style of house-framing that uses long, vertical 2×4’s for the exterior walls that extend from the sill plate to the roof. This style of framing harkens from a time when we had such an abundance of huge, old-growth trees in the United States that it was common to build homes with 20 or even 30-foot long 2×4’s.

While the term ‘balloon framing’ comes from people’s belief at the time that these lightweight structures could easily be carried away by the wind. In truth, a great many of them have survived over a century. Including this one which has in fact; survived against all odds. Beyond just decades of neglect, it also has a (likely unpermitted) structure built right next to it that allows stormwater to run right into the side wall. For years, water pelted away at this wall of the home. Rotting the wood, and causing instability in the foundation.



Due to neglect and water damage: sill plates and other pieces of the framework had rotted. And the foundation was out of square in just about any direction. Most people would have knocked it down, but this homeowner wanted to save the 123-year-old home. So, they hired Hughes Construction to install the designs and recommendations of engineer Mike Montgomery of Buyers Protection Group.

old 1900 shotgun house, leaning and in disrepair


Upon arriving on site, we first turned our attention to the addition/back room. Since it would be too costly to save, unfortunately it had to go. As you can see below, in leu of a foundation this room was built over a well or a cistern. Leaving a large hole for us to fill in.



Once this spooky hole was filled in, it was time to shore everything up so we could begin our repairs. In order to square up the foundation walls, we had to lift the whole home about 6 inches.





After carefully jacking the home up to the necessary height, we had our mason fill in the top of the foundation wall. We also added steel to brace the interior foundation walls. Finally, the foundation is square and level, a solid surface for the home’s old bones to rest upon.

We then removed and replaced the back wall and other rotted wood throughout the home with new lumber. We had to do something about the issue with the neighbor’s porch as well, so we made the wall facing it a little more durable using concrete block.





It took over a month to complete our portion of the restoration alone. This old house has many months of work ahead of it, and hopefully many more decades of life left to live. I can’t wait to see it completed.

Are you in over your head with a remodel like this? First, call an engineer, then contact us!