Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Work Like An Egyptian

Remember all those neighbors we were going to recruit to help us lift the first wall with the really heavy header for the 16' radius eyebrow dormer? Well nobody was going to be home Sunday, sooo..Ed started thinking about plan B. Finally he says to me on the phone,"If the Egyptians could build the pyramids, I should be able to think of a way to raise this thing up by myself."

So Sunday morning, he got up and finished building the wall. I could see him up there just staring at the darned thing, and I don't dare make a sound because I don't want to break his concentration. He's seeing the whole thing play out in his brain first. Finally he gets a steel cable and starts hooking it around the top of the header. Then he took a ..oh I dunno.. 2x10"? board, held it up vertically, and took the cable over the center to hold the cable up higher than the forklift prong on the tractor, and tied off the cable to the forklift prong. Ok now here's the cool part. He comes down the ladder and says. "I'm pretty sure this will work." He gets up on the tractor and starts ever so slowly backing up.

Now go way back... the movie 2001 Space the very beginning when the pre-human manages to make a tool, and the monolith comes rising out of the ground. The drums are pounding,, DUM DUM, DUM DUM, DUM DUM, DUM DUM,,, I can hear that music in the background as Ed is inching the tractor backwards...

The tractor is inching further, the drums are getting louder DUM DUM, DUM DUM, DUM DUM , DUM DUM , the orchestra comes in .. Dee Dee Dee.....DEE DEE.. the center board comes to the upright.. Ed keeps moving every so slowly..

The brace board fell over just like it was supposed to. Now I can't decide whether to close my eyes and wait for the crash, or to keep taking photos. Just like a witness to any crisis, I stand staring with my mouth open. Not that I doubted for a minute, of course! More drums... DUM DUM, DUM DUM, DUM DUM, DUM DUM,,,the orchestra reaches a crescendo.. well.. you all saw the movie.. you know how it goes..

Then we got up on the and inched it over to the edge and nailed it down. It really felt like a milestone.

The following day Ed started on the front wall. We also snapped out the interior walls, and came to a suprising realization. The windows front and back will be 4' off the floor, making any kind of view minimal, if not impossible. Since we'll be living in the apartment for 2 years while the house is under construction, this could be a bit claustrophobic. We may have to revise the plans a bit to include a balcony off the back like we will have on the house. Fortunately, the building department here isn't difficult to work with, and we don't expect a problem with the revision.

Ed finished framing the front and back walls, and since they were much lighter than the back wall, we were able to just lift them into place. It felt really good to be able to see such tangible evidence of all of Ed's hard work.
Here's a little known fact.. if you're 15' up in the air, and the wind is blowing like crazy across everyone else's pastures... all the pollen goes right in your face. Go figure. But the sunshine felt wonderful all three days, there was no rain, nobody fell off the roof, and Ed built the pyramids, so who can complain?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Good Day Sunshine

At rain to speak of for three days! Mist doesn't count. Sunday Ed started by taking off the old plywood he temped up for protection from the wet. He spent the rest of the day putting the new plywood subflooring down. Now, kids, don't try this at home, because you could actually decapitate yourself, but he triangled the plywood on the forklift bars of the tractor and lifted them to the roof, being very careful not to tip the pile toward himself. If it slid off...well let's just say that the backhoe would be digging a trench somewhere down by the pasture for the funeral. I maintain a calm and serene facade while watching him do this stuff, screaming on the inside. Ed is very careful and is very good about moving stuff with the tractor but it's still scary to watch. Once the plywood was lifted more or less parallel to the subfloor, he went on top and pulled it to the building, glued and nailed it in place. Oh yeah, it's tongue in groove too, so he would get it set more or less in place and then do the Plywood Shuffle which consists of jumping on it with both feet while pushing forward with your feet to shove it together. For a guy that doesn't dance he did an amazing job! By the end of Sunday he had about half of the floor down.

Monday morning gave us another good weather day, so bright and early, Ed was back at it. He finished laying the subflooring and nailed it off. Yea! It felt like a milestone, mostly because he had been thwarted by the weather for weeks. **Note to self: When it's really windy and the compressor hose gets wrapped around the can fall right over. Then you're stuck on the roof until a neighbor drives by, which out here can be a while!** In any event, Ed put up the last rim joist and began laying out the double curves for the eyebrow dormer. Who knew all that math we had to choke down in high school would finally come in handy? Good thing Ed remembers it all, because I would be lost! It was nice though to stand up there and look around. The view that we will have from the garage studio and the balcony on the house is going to be spectacular. In the summer all the trees and the pasture are green and lush. In the winter when the trees are bare, we will have a clear view of both pastures and the creek. We may thin some of the trees in the forefront to give a more clear view of the pastures. This is the southwest view. Out the north windows is a row of sugar maples that are stunning in the fall.

Tuesday morning was drippy and drizzily...not really rain, just enough to make us nervous. Ed and I went through the bundles of lumber still sitting in the driveway, and sorted them out. The pre-primed pieces and the cedar went in the garage, and we put the 2x4s and 2x6s in separate piles. After that, Ed started laying out the framing and working on the header for the eyebrow dormer. Now what shows here is one layer of the header. He made two more sets the same and puts them all together. You'd think by this time I'd be used to seeing Really Heavy Things, but I'm not. Next weekend he'll build the first wall, attach it to the header. Then after bribing as many male neighbors as possible, they'll lift it up and get the first vertical wall in place!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Catch-and-Release Construction

Another weekend fighting the weather. The weather guy (whom I have learned not to trust) said this is the coldest spring in 60 years. Not to be daunted, we forge on.

Sunday afternoon we started lifting the floor joists up. Remember the rim joists? The grunting..the groaning..the occational profanity? Apparently that was just the warmup. Ed leaned a ladder against the front of the garage, shouldered up one end of the floor joist, and with me ineffectually pushing from the far end, he hauled each one up to the rim of the garage, then pushed it toward the inside until resembled a teeter-totter. You remember teeter-totters.. how if you played on one with your older brother he always thought it was funny to jump off and let you slam down to the ground? Yeah, well..that was what we tried to avoid. Ed would push it forward until it balanced on the rim of the garage, hand it off to me to balance while he ran inside the garage, set up the rolling staging just under it and would yell, "Let it go..I'll catch it." So I let go and prayed there was no subsequent screaming. Then I would run inside the garage, climb up another ladder and help balance the floor joist while Ed muscled it up the opposite side and nailed it off. Amazingly there were no traumatic injuries. And that's a good thing because it's really a long way to the hospital. We did that twenty times in the next two days.

Ed then put the rim joist on the front of the garage. That was pretty much a repeat of last weekend. Since Tuesday was scheduled for rain, he covered the floor joists with some old plywood as temporary protection and we called it a weekend. This next weekend is supposed to actually look like June, and we expect to get the plywood subflooring down.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

All Jacked Up

Not much to show for this week. Ed worked half of Sunday and all of Monday on the building, but much of what he did was "invisible".

Sunday he nailed off the front sheering, and God forbid anyone ever try to take that plywood off because there are a hundred gazillion nails in it now. Then he put in sheetrock ledgers on the headers. That became vital for Monday when we put up the rim joists.

Now I didn't know what a rim joist was. At breakfast he says "I'll need your help to lift the rim joists up today." Always willing to help, I just smiled and said "OK" . "They only go up on three sides", he says. I'm thinking, "No problem.. I can do three boards. How hard can that be?"

Let me begin by saying that these things are like gluelams. They're plywood glued together to 1 1/4"x16"x17' .. yes, 17 F E E T . The glue they make them with, apparently made out of lead because they weigh a ton. Did I mention we needed to put them 10' in the air on the rim of the garage, hence the name rim joists? Grunting (Ed) and groaning (me) we managed to hoist those things up, then eeever so gently tilted them on edge, and Ed nailed them in. Actually once we figured out how to do it, except for more grunting and groaning, it went pretty smoothly.

Several of the existing walls had low spots so Ed decided to jack up the wall and level it out. I'd seen him jack up a whole house before so I had an idea how he was going to do this, but it always amazes me that a little tiny jack can be such a powerhouse. He jacked up the top plates and put in extra studs. The rim joists were nailed off and secure. At 5:30 it started to rain in earnest and Ed had to quit for the day.
Monday night into Tuesday we got 1/2" of rain and it didn't let up all day Tuesday. Bummer. The long range forecast is calling for decent weather next weekend. The plan is to get the floor joists up and plywood down across the floor. Of course that forecast is subject to change at a moment's notice.