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"construction" Category

Behind the Shack Door

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Well, although this blog has been silent lately, we have been diligently working. Ever since I got back from France I’ve been trying to get the plans approved by the city. And finally, last Thursday, they were! So after paying them a healthy, rather large, and rather unexpected large fee, we have our plans in hand and are ready to start building. But, uh, actually it’s not that simple. See, we want to put radiant floors in. And that means we need to have these special WarmBoard panels that act as both the subfloor and the holder for the tubes that keep the floor warm. They need to be ordered in special configurations that meet the layout of the house. In order to do that you have to figure out how many zones and loops you’re going to have and generally how your radiant system is going to work. The lumber had to be ordered as well. And we never poured the concrete piers for the inside of our foundation. And since we’re doing a truss roof, that needed to be configured and ordered as well. The rough plumbing, which includes the sewer lines, the waste line, and all the hot and cold water that will run under the floor all needed to be figured out and ordered. The One-and-Only-Greatly-Revered-and-Lauded George Williams was very generous with his time and drew these amazing schematics that showed how every part of our rough plumbing system would work. He then wrote up a manifest with every part we needed and got it priced for us (at a discout I might add). How awesome is that??? We owe George, big time. 

At this point, all of our construction materials are ordered and scheduled and will be delivered in a timely fashion. It’s like we’ve been laboriously pushing a big boulder up to a mountaintop and are about to let it fly down the other side. It’s a strange time to start building since it seems as though all building has stopped and since the holidays are just about to kick in to high gear, but that’s how we do. 

Last week Reggie and I installed our salvaged doors (with a super-expensive jamb added after-the-fact) into the shack. It gives the shack a certain viable presence now. Makes it feel like a real building. Also I dug holes for the piers and built forms for pouring concrete into them. I’ll get them inspected tomorrow and hopefully we can pour concrete into them on Tuesday. That will kick off the floor building spree. After the floors get built I’ll install the plumbing. Then the WarmBoard goes on, including the PEX tubing. After that the walls get built and then finally the roof trusses are tacked on top. I’m hoping to have all this done by February. Heh. Wish us luck.

Hasta la Vista Baby!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oh buddies! In a mad rush we poured the foundation for the new house today. Soooooooo stoked. It’s a long story, but we’re leaving for France first thing tomorrow morning so I’m going to bed. Just wanted the millions of readers of this blog to know that we managed to pour before we left. There is comfort in knowing that we didn’t walk away from two hundred feet of rebar filled trenches that would have undoubtedly have been filled with rainwater by the time of our return. 

We Sheathed It Good

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sheathing just sounds like a dirty word. It’s a romance novel word I guess. Well, today we sheathed our tall, hard, hungry framing in a sultry, passionate layer of dry wall and plywood. Bert and I were on our own on this one and it started out a little shaky. I was nervous about things. Not the things I didn’t know, but the things I didn’t know I didn’t know. Like Donald Rumsfeld famously said: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” That’s how I feel when I’m looking at a job I need to do and I feel like there are a million little things I don’t know that are going to come back and bite me in the rear after I’ve finished. There is a name for this educational technique –  learning things the hard way – or LeTHaW.

Eventually Bert and I decided not to sweat the details and we just make it happen. My natural pace is very, very slow. I like to think it all out, get nervous, run to the bookstore, buy a new tool, call anyone who I think might know, and then, very cautiously apply everything I’ve just absorbed so that I can screw it up in my own, unique way. Bert’s natural pace is lightning mode. In all fairness, I think his approach is better because his gets done quicker. But I simply can’t go at it like that because I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. As a team however, we make a good pair. Bert keeps the pace up and I fret about critical cuts or measurements. Today it worked out great and we managed to sheathe the shack (ewww) in half a day.

The first part of the day was spent capping the sewer line to the house. Sewer lines are awesome when they are empty. Ours is made out of something called Orangeburg. The only consistent information I seem to get about Orangeburg is that I should remove it as quickly as possible. It makes babies cross-eyed, attracts cats in heat, and is nearly porous after two years of burial. 

The lumberyard was next. I loaded up my truck beyond the capacity recommended by the lumberyard faculty and wheelied all the way home. 

Also! Our peaches are ripening. We sheathed our shack next to succulent ripening peaches. Ewww! And I have photos to prove it:

Something from Nothing

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I’m amazed at how much we’ve accomplished this week. Tuesday morning I was putting the finishing touches on a ditch in an empty yard and by Friday night the walls were framed. Kari has also begun planting in the back yard – we’ve got a tree fern, an elephant ear (esculant), a bougainvillea and a plum tree. Actually, the plum tree was already there but it seemed unhappy in the shady corner of the yard so Kari moved it to the sunny side. There is also a peach tree and an avocado tree in the back. Both of those trees look like they were cared for by blind lumberjacks, so Kari is working on pruning them so that they look like trees again.

Bert has been over every day, helping a ton and politely informing me of all the mistakes I’m constantly making. I’m like his adopted retarded son. Having people around makes the day and the work go by really quickly. Bert also has some serious skills when it comes to building stuff, so I really appreciate the additional expertise.

Framing is really hard compared to the concrete and floor stuff. Until Friday I thought it was the other way around – that concrete forms were really tricky and that framing would be a breeze. But a framer needs to be good with his tools, consistent, and smart about how, where and when things get nailed together. And it’s not always obvious in what order things should be built. Again, Reggie to the rescue. He’s very, very patient. Bert and I calculated that we were actually slowing Reggie down by being in his way the whole time. And of course I’m constantly pestering him with questions. But he’s a great teacher. Actually, he’s a real professor at San Jose State in the business department, with a doctorate and everything.

It seems like all of my building instincts are wrong. Today I was installing the sill (the board that sits under the window) for a window opening. First I forgot to support the header (the big wood piece that goes above windows and doors) with trimmers (2x4s that don’t reach the full height of the wall). Then I nailed the sill in without trimmers below that to support it. Basically, I’m stupid. But I think I’m getting less stupider. The whole point of building the shack is to learn how to build the rest of the house by starting with a more manageable scope. Still, I have high expectations of myself that I keep not meeting. Dang it!

Reggie brought his 6-year old son, Nathan over on Friday to help out. He found nails in the dirt with a magnet and located all the secret passages on the property, and eventually built a gate between the house and the back yard. He was pretty stoked on doing construction so he came back today and made a Nathan sign (photo below). He’s a really cool kid and based on what I’ve seen him build so far, I think he’s better at construction than I am. 

Also, I bought a nail gun. Don’t tell Kari. Nail guns don’t give you quite the satisfaction of manually hammering a nail in, but they sure make quick work of sticking things together. Too quick sometimes. Already I’ve hastily nailed boards together that shouldn’t have been only to have to pry 45 nails loose afterwards. I’ll try to make a video of the gun in action for all my graphic designer friends who think that a nail gun is some sort of pedicure device. 

Hammer Elbow

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is “hammer elbow” a condition, like tennis elbow? If it is I think I’ve got it. Yesterday we installed the sill plate and framed the floor for the shack. Using a hammer properly is like swinging a golf club. Lots of people do it, but only a few do it really, really well. Reggie sinks every nail in two hits. If I sink one in four hits I feel like a smooth operator. Somewhere out there, there is a Tiger Woods of hammering who sinks every nail perfectly with one hit. He’s sponsored by Home Depot and he does the NASCAR circuit, demoing Stanley hammers and building eco-responsible show houses in 35 minutes flat. Bert Moulton is kind of a bigger, older, whiter Tiger, and he can sink a nail with the best of em. He came over to help after working a full day at his gas station. Thanks Bert! He and Reggie adding some blocking to the floor while I made a lumber run. On the way back he called and said, “Dammit Ed, there’s no beer! What the hell kind of working conditions you got goin on here?!” I pulled a u-turn and picked up a sixer of fancy Peroni Italian beer just to piss em off. 

Here are some pictures of the result of the concrete pour and yesterday’s framing work:


We have another inspection today and (don’t tell anyone) but some of my anchor bolts are a little too close to the edge of the sill plate. Hopefully he’ll let those pass. We’re gonna install some insulation, get the subfloor on, and maybe do some wall framing today. Hmmm, how many trips to Big Creek Lumber will that be today? Oh, speaking of which, Mary and Dustin over at Big Creek saw the blog! I guess they just stumbled upon it somehow and they told Reggie they saw it. How cool is that? I mean, c’mon, you think you’re gonna go to Home Depot or Lumberman and those people working there are gonna be stoked because they saw your blog? Thanks Mary and Dustin – you guys are cool!