Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The south end wall

Today we kicked in with the south end gable wall and made excellent progress. With only a whisper of rain the weather was chilly, but good. Word is there was snow at Stowe and thought maybe I saw some coming down up around Mount Ellen, thought its hard to say. Flurries are in the forecast for tonight and we just lit our first woodstove fire of the season.

To cut the notches on the end rafters Joe pulled out his 16" (415mm) Makita timber saw. Impressive machine, huh?

Tomorrow we put on the clapboard and stand 'er up.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Gable-End Wall

Today the gable-end wall on the north end of the house went up. There's a lot that needs to be done before lifting can happen, which we've been doing over the last couple of days. The rafters were shaped and installed, the sheathing was completed, and the furring strips installed. Additionally, we installed the frieze board and some of the clapboard siding at the peak, since this stuff will be hard to access once the wall is up.

Tomorrow we start on the south end.


Yesterday Joe and I shaped the gable end rafters and then installed them in the gable end wall in preparation for lifting the wall, probably today. There are some fussy details that have to do with the way the roof sheathing will meet, so it took some time and careful planning to make sure we were on the right track.

Before we finish off the wall we'll be installing trim and some of the clapboard siding up at the peak of the wall since this stuff is so much easier to do while the wall is laying down then it is at the top of a ladder some 25-30 feet up in the air.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


After we finished up on Friday, I hauled an Adirondack chair, a beer, and a pair of binoculars up to the second floor to enjoy the view and watch the sun set. We've been a bit surprised and pleased at the view's we'll have from up there. We knew it'd be good, but seeing it is really satisfying.

The roof you see at the bottom of the south view is the existing garage and breezeway, which we will be taking down as soon as makes sense, maybe late winter. We'll then have to re-grade and work out the landscaping on this side of the house.

(Remember you can click on the photos for a larger view!)

Bringing Coal to Newcastle

Here Joe is rolling on wood sealer since the floor is going to be exposed to the weather for a while. If you look below him you can see what we'll see when we look up in the kitchen.

Last week saw the arrival of our large rough-sawn lumber delivery from Heath Lumber. They supply a mixture of native spruce and hemlock. The conventional stuff we be using thus far is primarily Canadian eastern spruce with engineered lumber and plywood from god-knows-where, so it is great to have this next portion of our house being built out of lumber with this integrity. I see our house as sort of a hybrid of standard lumber yard stuff with locally milled and supplied material. To do it again, I'd probably up the percentage even more towards the local stuff, but I'm good with the decisions so far; the I-joists are strong without the use of a lot of material (they span 22' unsupported in our house) and they provide an efficient use of poor-quality wood.

The delivery of the rough sawn allowed us to get busy again on the second floor, leading to work on the roof starting this week. To complete the second floor, Joe and I built the floor over the kitchen. This framing will be exposed when the house is done, so you'll look up and see the floor joists and the 2x6 tongue-and-groove flooring overhead. The lumber was really nice to work with and we had a good time finishing off that little project on Friday.

Over the weekend Nancy and I started priming and painting lumber that will be used in building the roof. The more we can paint now while its on the ground the better. It'll take way more time to do the same work once it's in place.

The weather has been so good for so long its been just a godsend. As I write this on Sunday evening it is raining steadily and the week ahead looks a little dicey. I hope we'll be able to navigate through it and still accomplish what we need to do. Nance and I have come up with a "bad weather" plan in case we need to divert from roof work.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

House plans

In talking to friends and family, it occurred to me that it might be worth posting some images of the site plan and some of the house plans. Click on the photos for the expanded view.

The site plan:

The first floor plan:

The south elevation:

The east elevation:

The typical wall section:

The porch deck

Joe has pretty much been managing building the porch deck, which leads into the mudroom/kitchen area. I've been off painting and taking care of other little projects while we wait for the rough sawn order to show up, which it did today.

The deck: We set the concrete footings and hung the ledger on the wall at the end of last week. This week Joe put the support beam in place, and then moved onto building some nice flashing that goes over the ledger. After that he placed the joists, installed the metal cross bracing between the joists and then laid in the tight-knot red cedar decking. Eventually there will be finished trim that will cover the exposed pressure treated under structure.

With the decking in place, Joe routed a nice rounded bevel around the perimeter and then we gave it a coat of clear deck sealant. It looks great. Sometime in the near future we'll install the posts and build the roof, but not until the main house roof is done. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Week in Review

With good weather continuing, Joe and I completed building and sheathing the second floor deck of the main part of the house. We haven't built the floor over the kitchen yet because we decided to build it a bit differently then originally conceived which requires delivery of a bunch of rough sawn lumber. So, we're building up to the point that we can until that delivery happens and then we'll build the rest of the second floor.

In the mean time, we spent time laying out the gable end walls on the deck full size with chalk lines. In other words, we drew the gable walls on the floor as a means of determining our stud lengths where they meet the roof rafters.

We then cut all our wall parts for both walls, north and south. We can't complete these walls until the rough sawn lumber order shows up, so we moved onto other projects.

To keep busy we installed an important structural steel post in the basement, finished building the stairs down the hatch to the basement, and installed the Bilco bulkhead hatch that goes over the stairs. With these complete we started on the porch, located off the kitchen end of the house. We dug, set, and poured the concrete piers and then installed the ledger that will carry the joists.

It was a productive week and we are well positioned to put up the roof efficiently once the rest of our materials are on hand.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekend homework

Today I decided to build a set of stairs that will lead down the hatch to the basement at the rear of the house. I've built stairs before with others having done the calculations, but never built stairs from start to finish myself. I though tackling a low profile set would be a good place to start.

I spent a little time this afternoon doing the calculations for the rise and run and then checked the numbers on a story stick at the location in the stairwell and it came within an 1/8", so I was pretty pleased. Math can be very cool.

I then laid out the cuts with a framing square with square gauges attached at points of rise and run I'd calculated. The framing square is then laid against the edge of the 2x12 and each step is marked.

Having cut the first stringer I tried it out and, to my satisfaction, it fit. I cut the other two and called it quits for the afternoon, since cutting the stringers was the aspect I was most concerned about. I'll finish the assembly tomorrow morning and we'll have our first set of stairs in the house.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Da me los clavos!"

Yesterday morning:


Joe and I managed to get the framing for the second floor complete by this afternoon. As always, things go a little slower than I might guess, and we worked a slightly shorter day than usual today.

The LVL beams were complete yesterday and we managed to get a few I-Joists in place before calling it quits. Today we completed the I-Joists, and then added squash blocks around the perimeter to transfer load down through the framing. More on this in an upcoming post.

So, the news is that the weather continues to be our friend and we keep plugging away.

I've become accustomed to listening to "the point", a pop radio station in the area. Typically, without others to consider, I'll have NPR on all day, but Joe's not such a fan of talk radio so we go with music. Sometimes I put on the I-Pod which breaks it up a little. Its good for me to break out of my habits a little. To my surprise this music station seems to have delved into my brain and delivers music that I really dig a large proportion of the time. Hats off to any commercial radio station that I feel even marginally complimentary of.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The second floor

Today we got a start on the second floor, beginning with some adjustments to the first floor walls to make sure everything is plumb and square. We then installed the first structural beam and by the end of the day had the secondary beam in place. More to follow tomorrow with the floor joists to follow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Floor Complete

Monday Joe and I raised the last wall of the first floor and today we buttoned up the loose ends, including blocking in the basement, completing the wall sheathing, and taping the remaining zip seams.

Tomorrow morning we start on the second floor, first with the LVL beam and then hanging floor joists, just as we did on the first floor deck.

This photo shows the completed walls, insofar as I can capture it from the garage roof.

This shows the view over the house. Joe and I will get to experience this as we start work on the second floor.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Week in Review

The last few days have been all about continuing building the first floor walls. We've honed the process down to a routine and they happen pretty quickly. The walls weigh a lot by the time they are ready to go up; thanks to Joe's wall jacks the two of us are able to winch the walls up with only a rhythmic work song and some even cranking. Because the plywood runs past the end of the framing to cover the end of the previous wall, we need to build each successive wall out about a foot laterally from its final placement. This means we have to move the wall along the edge of the floor deck to get it in place.

To achieve this we are using some 1" wooden dowels that we place periodically under the wall with the assistance of a hefty crow bar. The elevated wall gets the pressure off the rubber sill gasket and allows us to roll the wall into place.