Our winter was not a winter and I couldn’t be happier! Still, we had to take a break from working on the cabin as the rains and soccer interrupted our schedule for most of January. This weekend was free and absolutely beautiful so we got back to work! Both of the kids came up on Saturday and explored the woods a good bunch with the girl down the road. Emily and I discovered just how out of shape our ladder climbing legs had become. We also discovered just how pasty white our skin had become. I ended up getting another ridiculous basball cap ring from the sun this weekend…geez.
Anyhow, we got the soffit and fascia up on the back end of the house a few weeks ago. This weekend we got it up on both sides of the cabin so now there are no places for critters to get inside. Spring is apparently here and the birds will soon be looking for nesting spots and the open eaves would have been prime real estate. Crisis averted! The drag is, installing soffit goes up 12 inches at a time so getting both sides installed took a million trips up and down the ladder. I just cannot manage more than one piece at a time while trying to hold on to the ladder and the hammer. Maybe I will end up with a yoga booty when this is all done!
Finishing the ends/corners of the soffit and fascia can be done several different ways. I guess everyone has a preference without knowing it…the only thing is, when you see what you don’t like, it stands out like crazy…I think. Maybe I am crazy. Anyhow, we did it the right way so I am pretty pleased with the end result.
Soccer is about to start up again (we play fall, winter and spring leagues…gee whiz…too much soccer) so I am not sure what the coming weeks look like for progress but we will add the ledger boards for the deck (the board that hooks to the house) and then get siding up. Siding should go up fast since we can cover large areas in short time with the long pieces. We have already started to see the effects of UV on the weather guard. The orange plastic caps on the nails we used to hang the house wrap are faded to nearly white on the two sides that get the most sun (the picture right above is a good example…compare the white nail caps with the orange caps in the picture right below). Siding is UV resistant and is critical before summer gets here.
I can tell by the look on your face that you are not nearly as excited as I am to see the soffit and fascia in place, but just you wait until I get my yoga booty going! Maybe I can work on a soffit and fascia work-out tape! Call me the next Richard Simmons!
Is it January? It was beautiful today. The building fates have been with us indeed. We finally made it back to the property today and made some more progress on the deluxe shed…I mean deer stand…I mean the cabin. The weather man assured us it was supposed to be sunny and 60 so we headed out early…way before it was either sunny or 60. It still wasn’t January cold but I could have stayed in bed pretty easily. Anyhow, we drove out in the woods and there were icicles on the trees and everywhere else too. We had planned to install soffit and fascia on the sides of the cabin because the wind runs right up under the eaves and gives me the heebie geebies…like it could rip the roof right off and send it down over the hill. I haven’t hugged a ladder so many times as I have this winter as we work in the wind. It is always windy on top of our ridge but I think winter wind is the wildest.
So we pulled up and saw all sorts of icicles starting to melt and drip right down the fascia board where we had planned to work. Time to change plans. I guess it worked out better because dripping water running down my back would be high on the crap-I-don’t-want-to-do list. We cut a several pieces of soffit at a time but I could only work with two pieces at a time up on the ladder. So, every two pieces I had to climb up and down the ladder. That makes for a slow and tiring day.
Emily and I decided to take a short walk in the woods since we were just so doggone efficient at getting work done. It sounded like it was raining with all of the ice melting off of the trees. It was so cool. The only sounds we could hear were from the forest. I love being out there because it always seems to amaze me. At least as many water drops ran down my back as would have if we had worked on the soffit and fascia on the side of the house. I didn’t mind the water in the woods though. Perspective is sort of funny, isn’t it?
A few folks have asked recently why we built our deluxe shed up in the air on piers. You see houses on piers near the ocean often enough but West-by-God-Virginia is not terribly near the ocean (really, check a map….) Near an ocean, it makes sense to raise your house in the air for when hurricanes blow through or when gators need to mate (more for my bayou friends than my ocean friends).
The first problem we had in building this house is that we had absolutely no facilities to make building a house in the least bit easy. We had no water, no power and no flat land. I studied A LOT before charging head-long into house building and among foundations, it seemed that the post and pier foundation required the least amount of concrete to be mixed and would be the most straightforward for a building neophyte to pull together. All of the concrete for this place had to be hand mixed as there is no driveway or road for a mix truck to deliver concrete.
I figured that pouring one pier at a time would be slow enough to do (unlike dealing with an entire load of concrete on a truck) that I could take the time to make sure that stuff was plumb and level and fixable if I screwed up. It turns out that it is a slow process but definitely not simple. I learned how to tie rebar and how to mix concrete that was not too wet and not too dry and I learned how to keep a sonotube (cylindrical concrete form) plumb even when pouring shovels full of concrete into them.
Our soil is red sticky clay with very little rock. I read a lot about soil types and found that if there isn’t a sufficient base under a pier, the cylinder that is the pier will push down into the soft clay like a pin through butter when the weight of the house is added. Most recommendations suggest that a larger footprint cylinder will prevent the sinking. They make a flared base that expands the footprint of a typical 8 inch sonotube to prevent sinking but I didn’t have those handy. The other option is to use a bigger tube. Twelve inch piers seemed to be the consensus for size and they were readily for sale. Let me tell you, for simple cardboard tubes, the folks that make the forms are pretty proud of their product. Anyhow, in addition to the size of the base, the depth is important. In addition to needing to dig the piers deeper than the frost line, deeper piers provide more contact between concrete and soil. That friction also prevents sinking as well.
Anyone still with me? Yeah Mom, you don’t really count here. Anyone else? Ok, well just in case…we connected 6x6s to the pier with a metal post base which was bolted to a J-bolt embedded in the concrete. In some ways, I would have preferred to pour taller concrete piers rather than add a wooden post but my back wouldn’t take it. I also did not know if I could lift that much concrete over my head to pour it into the forms. Anyhow, the only reason it matters is that the joint between the concrete and wood is a hinge point…a point of weakness. Solid concrete to the base of the house would have eliminated that hinge point.
My goal is to minimize hinging by making good connections, by making things plumb/level/square and by using geometry. I connected 2×6 boards from the top of one pier to the bottom of adjacent piers. By making triangles with the boards, the weaker tops of the 6x6s are connected to the more stable lower portions preventing movement.
So, once all of that is done, I have a pretty stable base on which to build everything else. I am not sure that I made a compelling case for building a post and pier foundation but I have no regrets and it definitely raises eyebrows. Initially, I had hoped to be able to ignore the space underneath but I will definitely have to do something to protect the area beneath our deluxe shed. The wind really howls up there and I have no interest in a Dorothy/Kansas/Toto deal where my house gets carried away by the wind!
Time has sort of flown with the holidays and everything. We worked on the deluxe shed around Christmas vacation, again on New Year’s vacation and then again this weekend. It’s been pretty warm as Januaries go so we plan to just keep on working until the caulking won’t stick any longer or until we freeze our hind-ends off (which is a real danger as we rough it in the woods if you catch my drift). Anyhow, the last time we reported in, we were still working on getting house wrap up to protect the cabin in case we finally do get into winter.
Just this weekend we finished the last of the housewrap. The peak at the back of the cabin is around 30 feet in the air. I have a 24 foot ladder so I have a problem that requires creative bending of the laws of gravity. It’s done now so, honestly, I am relieved. We also got 4 windows and a door installed which leaves 2 windows and a door left to go. The best part about having a door installed is that we can leave a few things in the cabin. But shhhhh…don’t tell anyone. I don’t expect any trouble and there really isn’t anything of value there but I am glad to not having to load and unload goofy stuff each trip.
There is a good tale of danger and daring that I need to tell you for my ego’s sake. Last weekend we had 40 mph wind gusts so it seemed like the perfect time to install the window in the high peak in the back of the cabin. The real problem was the window was open and unprotected from the weather so we felt like we had to get that area weathered in since the wind clearly blows against that area. Honest to goodness, the gusts would blow us back a few steps (luckily into the house, not out) which made installation interesting. The wind rattled everything and sounded like a freight train rolling through the uninsulated house. At one point, we thought the roof was going to come off. We went out to look and it was, in fact, about to come off. The guys I hired to install the roof had forgotten to install one screw (I really have no complaints…it was an easy thing to miss). The wind got under that spot and was wreaking havoc. That leaves my butt holding on to the ladder for dear life to add one screw. I got about half way up on the first attempt and it started to blow me and the ladder over. Emily caught the ladder in motion and prevented its continued slide but without her I would have been in a bad way. Huh…when I write it out, it seems much less dramatic that when we were doing the work. Trust me, it was nuts!
We found pretty quickly that the slowest part about installing the windows is installing the adhesive-backed flashing that should water-proof the window/door opening and further prevent water from entering the building. It is slow and tedious but super important so we have been taking our time to do it right. I know, it seems like a pretty big change for us, but we do try to do the important stuff right.
I think the best part about going up to our place is that we are always greeted by something beautiful. Sometimes it is rosy cheeks and sometimes it is a beautiful full moon on the horizon…that’s the important stuff and it always seems to be done right!
It’s been hectic. I mean it is always hectic at Christmas time but it seems like my work and the kids’ activities are much more wild than normal. We have been fortunate with our weather though and that means we have been working on the cabin the last two weekends. So, in the last episode, we left our heroes working on the cabin, hoping to get the gable ends framed in and covered with sheathing.
The dastardly weatherman called for snow and rain to thwart the attempts of our heroes to get the place weathered in before the snow ruined all of the hard work and industrial glue used to hold together the over-priced plywood and OSB used throughout. Ok, I can’t stand the wait…no cliff-hanger here. We got the sheathing up and put house wrap up on about half of the place the last two weekends!
House wrap, it turns out, is some weird stuff. It blocks water from the outside. Water vapor can freely escape the other direction though so moisture from inside the house can get out. The problem is that if larger water particles get behind the wrap, they are held in place…only water vapor can escape. Sometimes that makes things rot as water usually does. I read a bunch of stuff on the internets about whether house wrap was a good idea or whether old fashioned tar paper was better. It seemed like I found a pretty mixed story about it. Most people said tar paper was really good and that it lasted forever and has been used successfully for a long time. House wrap is only popular because it goes up fast which is important to home builder. That fact is also popular with my wife so we (she) finally decided to use house wrap.
We have about 4 months to get the house wrap covered with siding before UV rays from the sun start to ruin it. If anyone remembers my other remodeling experiences, you will recall that a 4 month deadline is pretty tight for me! The kids have really enjoyed hanging out with their great-grandparents as we do this final push to get things done though. Another few months would suit them just fine I think. Great-grandparents, it turns out, really like to spoil great-grandkids. Apparently it is in the Constitution or something. Anyhow, as this year (and probably the nice weather) wraps up, I really owe a lot to all of the family and friends who have helped in various ways to get this place under cover! I am so tired of wrapping so your Christmas presents are in the mail!
This entry was posted in Cabin, Family, Land, Technology, WV and tagged Cabin, Land, WV by warren
I set the alarm for 5am today and drug my weary bones from the warm covers to join the teeming horde. Well, I thought there would be a ton of people out. I was out of the house by 5:15 and out to one of the home improvement stores by 5:30. There were people out but not bad at all. It seemed like the people were centered around a few stores. Luckily, my stores were not involved. So, anyhow, Black Friday and shopping in general are not usually high on my list but I decided to participate this year to get…a new trailer!
Tractor Supply had an ad for $200 off of a 5×8 trailer so I figured I would try at the local big home improvement stores before I made the trip out to Tractor Supply, 40 minutes away. So, the big local stores had nothing comparable, so I hit the road and got to Tractor Supply by 6:15. They opened at 6 supposedly but the lines were already to the back of the stores when I got there. Anyhow, I waited in line for 30 minutes and walked out with my new trailer and a 25 million candle power light. Yeah, the light was an impulse buy but for $20 I couldn’t pass it up. I hauled trailer back to Charleston so we could go back to the lumber yard to get wood for the deluxe shed.
We made it up to the place around 10 and hung the second ridge board and started on the remaining rafters. My buddy came to help and we made great progress again. We should finish the rafters tomorrow and hopefully hang some/all of the sheathing. The only other thing I got on Black Friday was a nasty scrape on my head. I tested and sure enough, my head is weaker than the wooden rafters. My scrape happened early so the band-aid also left a cool little tanline too!
So, my first (and likely last) Black Friday was a huge success. We’ll head back to the place tomorrow and try to get the place under roof before we get snowed under! Wish me luck!
This entry was posted in Cabin, Land and tagged Cabin, Land by warren
I grew up in the country and it was just a natural thing then I guess. People always waved to each other and talked as you passed and left extra zucchini on your porch and helped out when you needed it. It’s been 20+ years since I lived in the country though and my city life has sort of become ingrained. We moved to Nashville and it was a huge culture shock to me…from a town of 600 or so people to a town of a million and a half. I remember as we drove in to Nashville on one of our first visits, there was a guy in a car ramming another guy in a car going full speed down the interstate among how-ever-many lanes of traffic there were then. It wasn’t a wreck…yet. They were road-raging and ramming each other. I knew this wasn’t quite like where I grew up.
The ridge board that supports the rafters at the top end
So, I became a city boy and all that friendly stuff had to be put on the back burner. It’s not that people in a city aren’t friendly once you get to know them… it’s just that you have to find a way to get to know them first and sometimes even neighbors aren’t interested in getting to know one another.
So, fast forward a bit. The folks from whom we bought the property still live on the land they retained the next hillside over. Larry, Granny Sue’s husband, delivered some scaffolding he had over at his place a few weeks back. He showed us how to set it up and use it and has let us keep it up there as long as we need it. And then last weekend as we were working on setting up our rafters. One of the boys (they are grown men but we call the brothers that live near us, “the boys” and I think they would be ok with that) came by on his 4-wheeler to ask if he could hunt on our property. I told him that any of the boys and their family could hunt but I didn’t want anyone else who didn’t live up there hunting. I would have never known whether they hunted or not during the week but I am really glad he asked.
Anyhow, we agreed that he could hunt so I figured he would go on to do other things with his day. Instead, to our surprise, he asked if we needed help. I was thrilled because Emily and I were trying to maneuver 16 foot long 2×8 boards around by ourselves on the second story of the deluxe shed. It was going to end up with a bout of intense negotiation. So, our friend climbed up and we started to work. We worked an hour or so before we had to head home.
That’s about half of the rafters done!
Now that’s one thing, helping a guy for an hour, but the next day we got up there and my friend came over and brought his brother with him! We worked together all day long and got half of the faters in place and secured! They were a huge help and I was delighted to get to know them a little better. We had met on other occasions, but we hadn’t really talked or goofed around before. Aside from their tremendous help, I absolutely loved the sense of community and belonging that we have felt up on the ridge. The neighbors across the way (she’s a sister to the brothers) came to visit the first day we showed up. Our kids have played with their kids every time we are up there. They invited us to a potluck dinner one night where we talked about all sorts of things and may have solved the world’s problems. The brothers who helped with the rafters along with Larry and Granny Sue have been so kind and helpful as we work on the new place. With the utmost respect I say that I am so glad to have country neighbors!
This entry was posted in Awesome, Cabin, Family, Land, Thoughts, WV and tagged Awesome, Cabin, Land by warren
Well, we can’t really go up stairs at the cabin yet, but this weekend we finished the flooring in the upstairs! We finished all of the first floor interior walls which allowed us to then install the floor-of-the-sleeping-loft/ceiling-of-the-first-floor. I had really hoped to start hanging rafters but we had 20 mile/hour winds both Saturday and Sunday. Besides that, we had to fix a problem with the second story floor.
Early on when we we installing the beams, we discovered that the wood we were using was not all cut the same length. Ten foot boards are supposed to be 10 feet long, end of story. We got burned on one of the beams, the hard way. I hate the thought of having to measure every board I use but it almost seems necessary after we discovered another board-length issue this weekend. These “shortages” are not obvious until something farther down the line just doesn’t work out.
So, we had to rip up some stuff and make it right which slowed our roofing progress. Our goal this year is to get the roof up to keep the snow out so any screw-ups this late in the year hurt. Still, we should be ok if we can get clear weekends.
So, it’s hard to see the rooms but we have a living room, kitchen and bathroom on the first floor. The second floor is a sleeping area. With the floor in place, I think it is a bit more obvious why we made the outer walls 10 feet tall. The extra 2 feet of height before the roof cuts in should give us a little more room in the sleeping area.
Abigail stayed with her great-grandparents this weekend while Isaac, Emily and I worked. We taught Isaac how to measure precisely and he even ran the chop saw quite a bit. He understands sixteenths better than a lot of adults I have seen so he did a really great job cutting boards for me at the exact length I needed. He knows about “leaving the line” and “cutting the line”. He knows when I say, “cut a board a skinny 77 inches” means I need a sixteenth short of 77 inches. It surely saved my knees a lot of up and down the ladder.
We probably won’t get much done beyond weathering in the place, but I do plan to close in the area under the building. I am considering doing a cord-wood wall structure around the base but I am not yet sure. Anyone have any opinions? Luckily, I think it won’t hurt if we don’t get to it until Spring. In the meantime, I will probably work on getting stairs in place so I can actually go up stairs to get to the upstairs part of our deluxe shed!
We worked on the place again and made good progress. The floor needed another layer of OSB to really suit my tastes so we got that installed and screwed down first thing. Oh wait, the first thing we did was finish getting the second sheet of OSB hung around the outside walls. Then we did the floor. We laid down the last piece of flooring and check out how well it fit! I am so thankful that everything is square:
We also persuaded Isaac to involve himself with the building of this place. He did a great job screwing down 2 sheets of flooring. My brother bought me a new Makita impact driver which is AWESOME! It is so fast and light.
Anyhow, Isaac was running that and got a bit of the Dirty Harry feel going for him. I guess he was feeling like he needed to pick on Abigail some though as he split after sheet #2 was installed. Still, it was a great thing seeing the boy work!
The inspector checking on things…
So, after we got the outer walls done and the flooring down, we started on the inner walls. On Sunday, we were able to get the interior walls for the bathroom and kitchen built. We also hung about 1/3 of the sleeping loft’s floor joists. We should be able to finish that pretty quickly which will make all of the high-up work like the last of the outer walls’ OSB and the roof rafters go up pretty easily. The only thing that I though I was going to like but don’t is the 8 foot ceilings in the bathroom and kitchen (and eventually, everywhere else).
It’s too high and we lose some of the advantage of the added height of the exterior walls. I am not redoing it now though so we are going to have really nice high rooms in our deluxe shed, or, as I have been calling it, the city-slickers’ deer stand!
So I mentioned in the last post that we made good progress last weekend. In fact, we got the fourth wall put in place including the door and window. All together, we have 4 windows and two doors framed into the first floor. When we were framing the first window, we were in a hurry and just threw a header in place above two of the windows. At the time, we didn’t think anything of it, but as I looked at the pictures, it occurred to me that we did it incorrectly. Ugh, I couldn’t live with it being messed up, so we had to redo it. Of course, that slowed us down some but with the last walls, we were on a roll and framed everything pretty quickly.
We used my precision adjustment tool, also known as a 10 pound sledge hammer, to aid in moving the entire wall into line with the others. We started to nail the last corner together but decided to do one last square/plumb/level check, and thank goodness we did! With a final bit of precision adjustment, we persuaded the last wall a little farther and checked everything again. Success! It turns out we have a square/plumb/level shell deluxe shed!
I am not sure if I described it adequately before, but we are building a pretty tall building. Instead of using the typical 8 foot long boards in the walls, we are using 10 foot boards. We will still have 8 foot ceilings on the first floor but the longer outer boards will provide a little extra space in the second floor sleeping loft by adding 2 extra feet before the roof cuts in. It’s like a built-in knee-wall.
We have been waffling back and forth as to whether we want to extend the sleeping loft to include the entire second floor or if we wanted a taller ceiling in the common area. We decided to make a solid second floor. Aside from giving us extra space, the solid floor will make it easier for Emily and me to frame the loft/rafters.
So, this coming weekend, we plan to get the remaining OSB hung. As soon as we do that, I plan to build a few inside walls to separate the kitchen and bathroom and then we will frame up the loft. Since we have a square/plumb/level house, the loft should be much more straight forward. So Huey Lewis and I are hip to be square!