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Archive for February, 2009


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Here’s a quick vid of me chewing gum (sorry!) and giving a little tour of the house in its current state.

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The Metamorphosis

Saturday, February 21, 2009

At one point today, when I had a moment to pause and reflect, I looked around the house and realized that Holy Smokes! We’re building a house! Adding sheathing to the gables and fascia to the trusses has transformed our little construction project into what can clearly be identified as a house. Now from the street it is possible to see what our new home will look like. It’s strange because while we’ve spent endless hours thinking about it and drawing it out and imagining rooms and layouts, I don’t think we really knew what it would actually turn out like. 

We’re racing the weather trying to get the roof covered before the next rainstorm. Once the house is weatherproof we’ll be able to start on the electrical and finish the plumbing and install the insulation. After that we’ll put in the drywall and then the rough cabinetry. Then the floors and trim and appliances and some paint and we’ll be moved in! I keep telling everyone we’ll be in by August. I must be optimistic because that statement is invariably met with skepticism. Okay folks, start your timers…

Rainy Days and Sundays

Friday, February 13, 2009

Remember January? I do. That was an idyllic time. Sunny, mild afternoons, general dryness, lots of construction going on. February has brought an unending parade of dreary weather reports which seem designed to test my patience and which seem cruelly expansive with their rainy-day vocabulary. Chance of Rain. Probable Rain. Rainy. Wet and Rainy. Showers. Scattered Showers. Occasional Showers. Chance of Showers. Rain Likely. We’ve been sitting around a lot lately waiting for the likely probable occasional scattered chance of rain to stop. We’re nervous about that fancy WarmBoard we put down, hoping that it doesn’t buckle and warp, or at least get really bloated around the edges. And we’re not looking forward to the drying process once we actually get the roof on. The last thing we want to do is trap a bunch of wetness between our drywall and our siding. 

But alas, not all is lost! Today our trusses came. A very large crane carefully backed into our driveway, which is coincidentally the exact width of the crane, and gingerly lifted the trusses over the power lines and our neighbors house and onto our walls. In the middle of the delivery, while Reggie was balanced on top of one of the interior walls, a freak hailstorm arrived. We were pelted with pea-sized hail (turning the already slick WarmBoard into a Scooby-Doo escape sequence – like zoinks Daphne!). The crane managed to get the trusses to their proper locations in both the front and back of the house. No small feat considering the trees and power lines that crowded its path like a game of Operation. You’ll have to excuse the photos – I took them with my cell phone. They have a sort of desaturated LOMO feel to them. Ah the wonder of plastic lenses!

So the trusses are ready to be tilted up and nailed on, but we’re gonna need a dry day to do it. The 10-day forecast shows the next sunny day to be 10 days away. Hopefully that’s not a moving target. In the mean time, viva internet tv!

She’s Sheared

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

We have structurally improved the shear performance of our house against lateral loads and seismic stress. In other words, we attached plywood to the outside of our house with a boatload of nails. I guess we framed the house too. It’s sort of sad that framing goes by so fast. It’s one of the most fun phases of housebuilding because you accomplish so much so quickly. But just when you feel like you’re finally getting something done and giving real form to the house, the job is over and it’s back to more tedious work like blocking and sheathing. 

Allow me to digress. The framing process is relatively straightforward but fraught with pitfalls. First you lay out where the walls will go in chalk on the floor. Then you cut two pieces of 2×4 for the top and bottom plates of the wall. Then you measure every sixteen inches along both plates to mark your stud locations. My stud location is on Castro and 18th, but that’s a different matter. Then you separate the plates and nail the studs in between them, forming a wall on the floor. Finally, you tilt the wall up, nail the bottom plate to the floor and brace it so it doesn’t fall on your head. With super-efficient framers like Reggie, this process takes literally minutes per wall. But with me involved it can take up to an hour. Anyway, in a couple of days your walls are built. 

There were snags of course. The beam we designated for over our big opening in the back seemed woefully undersized. But a bigger timber beam wouldn’t fit between the top of the doors and the bottom of the roof. So I hit the books (specifically the AF&PA Design Values for Joists and Rafters) to find out how to size an engineered beam. All that homework wasn’t necessary however because those nice folks at Big Creek lumber helped me select the biggest, strongest and best looking beam that would fit. It took four of us to lift it into place and luckily, as the shortest member, I was relieved of my labor as my aerie-nosed crew heaved beyond my reach. 

Also, somehow, and I take all the blame, we ordered a transom window that won’t fit into our wall. I think we made our front door taller and thus squeezed the window out of it’s spot. If anyone needs a fine, fine, Marvin all-wood transom, I have a deal for you.

This week has been all about the plywood. We tore through a stack of it, cutting out around our windows, doors and vents and generally nailing it a lot. The plywood stiffens up the walls by applying a rigid skin to the frame. Now the walls don’t move four inches when you lean on them.

One great thing about all this framing, and I never anticipated how gratifying it would be, is that we finally get to walk through our house. We finally get to see how big the rooms are and how wide the hallway is. We see how big our windows are and what our view looks like. With the tub in the bathroom we can imagine what it will be like to take a bath and holler into the kitchen for a clean towel. It’s also cool because we can give people tours. We had a constant stream of visitors last week and Kari and I traded turns walking them through the house and handwaving where the cabinets would go and where we’d have the tv. There is a great sense of community here and we really feel lucky that people are friendly enough to stop by and are patient enough to let us show off our labor of love.