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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.

2 Responses to “She’s Sheared”

  1. Jon Campbell Says:

    Nice work. When does the 2nd story go up?

  2. Jules Says:

    Congratulations! Walls!! WOOT!