Thursday, May 27, 2010

Construction Laws Of Nature


  Yesterday was Roof-Truss Wednesday. Do you think Mother Nature cut us any slack? Nooooo! The forecast was for rain in the morning, increasing clouds, with a possibility of thundershowers in the afternoon.
The boom truck and trusses showed up at 9:00 a.m. It was drizzling but no serious rain. We had a crew of four here, plus Ed.

   Ed and I used to go to a gym that had some very serious weightlifters. One of the guys had a shirt that said "I'm not very smart but I can lift really heavy things". That's the way this boom truck is. It has a giant arm that telescopes out, oh..a gazillion feet, up into the air. It has a cable with a hook on the end and swings the trusses up to the top of the building. The plan was to have four up top, and Ed on the ground hooking trusses, cutting support beams and blocking, and generally running up and down the ladder like a house-afire.

 The guys up top caught the trusses, set them in the notches that Ed and Rick pre-cut in the roof rim joists, and nailed them in.
    Things were progressing nicely, the rain picked up a little bit, but so far no wind. One after another the trusses flew up to the roof, were snagged by the crew and nailed into place.

I was inside, typing yesterday's blog entry, when I heard the wind suddenly whip through the trees. Rain began drumming on the apartment front door. When I looked out the window, through the pouring rain and tearing wind, I saw...I saw.... those guys just working along like it was just another day in Washington.
     In the far distance I heard the roll of thunder. I started to get nervous. That metal boom truck is sticking up like Benjamin Franklin's kite. A metal cable attached to the truss goes down the two guys standing on metal staging, and everything is soaking wet. Now I know science wasn't my strong point in high school, but I do remember enough to know that this is not a good thing. But the thunder never seemed to move closer, and I was the only one that was getting nervous.

There is some Construction Law of Nature that says once the boom truck is finished, the weather must clear. And darned if that didn't just happen! The boom truck left, the skies cleared, lunch was consumed, and everybody went back to the sunshine. The rest of the trusses went up on the single story portion without a problem.

 In one day, the whole structure has been transformed. A week ago it looked like a plywood hacienda. Now the trusses have given the whole structure a new look, and you can see the curve of the eyebrow dormer. All the trusses went up in one day, nobody fell, nobody got struck by lightening, nobody choked on my pizza. Life is good.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meat And Potatoes

  Ed is waiting for the roof trusses. Waiting is the one thing he doesn't do well. He starts getting twitchy and looking for something to do, and decided to work on the columns and joists for the front porch.
    You know how a good pot roast just isn't really there until the mashed potatoes are on the plate? That's kind of how the columns are. The frame is just the skeleton without the muscle. In the front are two double columns at the porch entry, and a single column on either side. They visually anchor the house.

  Once the columns were sheathed in plywood, they wrapped the portion adjoining the porch in felt paper and began cutting the joists for the porch. Since I'm not a spatial thinker, it's hard for me to visualize the size in advance, and I am continually agape.

The front steps echo the shape of the eyebrow dormer, so Ed had to mark the center front joists in a perfect arc, then bevel the ends to accept the bent riser joist. I haven't a clue how he figured that out. He started to tell me and my eyes glazed over after the first sentence.


I had to go up top to get a good look at how the steps will come down off the porch.

  In the meantime, he was still waiting for those roof trusses. We went and picked up scaffolding. Ed and Rick hauled itl up to the second story and got it all set up. Ed is hoping for no rain, but's Washington and it's spring. The trusses are due this morning. It's raining and thunder and lightening is expected this afternoon. The crew is here and we're waiting for the truck. At least there isn't any wind.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oh Deere Me

  Spring is a tough time for construction. The weather is unsettled, unpredictable, and just a bit quirky.
Days that are predicted as sunny are damp, and days that should be drippy are bright and sunny. Do we ignore each band of puffy clouds or run for the tarps?
     Ed and Rick keep plugging along. They finished putting the headers in for the upstairs windows and framing the north and south walls.
    The next thing to go up was the giant glulams that support the front porch and back balcony. These things run from post to post and are monstrously big and heavy. Once again, that tractor paid for itself. I suppose there would be a way for six strong guys to lift one of these in place without anybody getting killed, but I have no idea how that would be accomplished.  At least in the front, there is some room to maneuver the tractor. In the back, there is much less room, as the hill drops off dramatically
What we don't want is for the tractor and driver, namely Ed, to drop off dramatically as well.
Ed rigged a platform and chain (not OSHA approved) for the forklift tines and tied a come-along rope to the beam. Ed then hoisted up the beam and  Rick guided the beam into place. Like ants moving a Snickers Bar, they scurried up ladders and dropped that huge thing into place, without a 1/4" to spare.
What a relief! Six big, heavy, and it seemed to me, dangerous glulams, all in place.
   Once that was done they moved on to putting the plywood sheeting on the north and south upstairs walls. Again, how would we do this without that tractor.
     In the meantime, we'd hit a run of really nice weather and Ed put me to work staining cedar plywood for soffits and eaves and painting cedar trim for ..well..trim. We learned it's a lot easier to paint and stain when it's down flat than when it's cut and up two stories. I dug out the rollers and paint trays, a pile of rags and my baseball cap. Yup, it was that sunny! That raw plywood really sucks up the stain. I used five gallons on 20 sheets of plywood.  Rick's wife, Jenny came down to help me which really made shuffling the plywood a breeze. We ran out of stain in about two hours. Now only 32 sheets to go!
    In the meantime, we received another lumber delivery, this time it's support beams for the porch...6"10" pressure treated beams, the longest one at 20'.  Now the tractor can't help carry them to the back because the beams are too long. Ed and Rick had to manhandle them back there and put them on the sawhorses. Then they had to measure and notch the beams to fit around the vertical supports. There was no room for error. As usual it was a perfect fit.
      Lots of work doesn't even show. Carriage bolts, and hundreds and hundreds of 16d nails. The rest of the plywood sheeting is up front and back. Today Ed and Rick framed up the columns front and back. We haven't decided whether we will encase the columns in stone or shingles, but regardless, they'll be massive when they are finished. The beams supporting the back porch and back balcony are all in place awaiting  the floor joists.
     The front is really starting to take shape. Each day makes such a difference. Passersby tend to slow down as they go past the driveway to take a peek.

Ed is really working hard each day. Sometimes (not often) I feel guilty because I'm not much help on the construction site. But just when it begins to really bother me, I find someone a little lazier than me.  Midnight began as a barn cat, keeping the barn safe from packrats and other nasties. Now...well, now he's pretty much a couch potato.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Raised Eyebrow

   I drove home from California Saturday and Sunday, and it sure feels good to be here. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is here.
  Monday the lumber delivery came and by Tuesday, weather permitting, Ed was out sorting and cutting it up. He was using the big 2"x12" pieces to cut the headers for the big eyebrow dormers that define the entire house. They have to be perfect because not only do they shape the building but they support the roof trusses. They are in a perfect arc, so he took his time with the layout. He stares off into space, then looks at me very intently and says, "Now these have to be 19' 6" so I'll measure them at 19'7". I'm going to make 1" notches for the trusses."
I smile and nod, but my eyes have glazed over. I know he's not really talking to me, but to his brain. That's ok, because it works.
He lays out the timber, he backs up 19'7", and taps a nail into the subfloor next to me, checks his measurements, and walks back to me, frowning.  "It's off by 1/8." he says. He pulls the nail and resets it.  Now he's ready to draw the arc onto the 2x12s.

Once those were drawn out, he just cut the excess off with the skil saw, and checked for fit. What a surprise...they're perfect.

So up they went, and they just make such a difference to the look of the frame. These eyebrow dormers are really the defining feature of this house.

It began to rain, then hail. Just about the time Ed got all the tools inside, the sun broke out. It was like some cosmic version of The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Not one to waste a minute of sunshine, Ed kept at it. By midday yesterday the south wall was standing, and by the end of the workday yesterday, the north and south walls were up. noticed. Yeah, those gorgeously curvy header pieces are off. Don't worry, they'll be back. This baby will have plenty of curves, front and back.