Liberty Nature Preserve



A garage?  A cabin?  How 'bout 2 in 1?

Follow us as we build a garage/apartment at LNP


Dump the concrete trowels and grab the hammer and saw...

I must admit, I am extremely relieved to be past the concrete phase.  We weren't completely over our heads (or out of them) when we took the job on, but there were a number of "great timing" and "good luck" occurrences that got us past some spots that could have been catastrophic.  Both Donna and I are fully aware that a higher power is always there providing a boost.  We are grateful.

OK, enough concrete stuff.  Let's get wood.

This is the point where our 2-person construction crew is truly on it's own.  We have planned for and accepted the challenge of completing this project on our own.  In fact, we will hand pick and deliver our own lumber, one utility trailer load at a time.  There will be one event of "factory asssistance" when the roof trusses and second floor framing members are delivered on a flatbed roll-off truck, but that's a no-brainer decision and we sign up.

This is pretty much how it's gonna work for the next few months...

The trailer is 16' long and rated for 7500#.  The truck won't pull much past 6000# (safely), but the package will suffice to keep our weekends full of fun with wood.  Earlier this spring, before this project kicked into gear in June, I took the trailer to "the man" to get the bearings re-packed and inspect the electric brakes.  We are ready to rock.

The week after the last slab pour occurred, much time was spent preparing for the framing portion of the job.  The first real step was to verify the height of the concrete see how consistent they were.  Remember, I had a lot to do with striking them off to height when the pour occurred.  Marvin was my guide, but I take responsibility as the job boss.  I knew during the pour that there was going to be some variation since we poured beneath the tops of the forms.  This pouring practice is normal for the pro's.  I don't qualify.  As a result, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to find that the concrete wall height around the entire perimeter only varied within 1/2".  The changes were gradual, so I am going to work with it.  I did, though, find 2 areas that dropped too low and 2 areas that elevated too high.  By how much?  Oh, maybe another 1/4" beyond my 1/2" variation range.  The low spots were relatively easy to fix with a vinyl concrete patch product.  The high spots would require some alteration to the actual wood framing.  After mind-wrestling with the different options of framing alteration, I decided that it would be easiest to use my 12" board planer.  I cut the treated sill plates to length, flipped them upside down, and marked the zone where the wall "bump up" occurred.  I put it thru the planer, keeping the planer blades elevated until I got to the bump-up zone.  Then, as the sill continued to feed thru the planer, I manually cranked the blades downward until I was in the middle of the zone, then cranked them back upward as we exited the back half of the zone.  A couple of passes, a couple of dry fits on top of the foundation wall, and it worked absolutely great.  The only downside is that these areas had sill plates that ran to about 3/8" thinner than they should be....but only within a zone that was about 4 - 5' long.  I accepted the compromise...and the cure.

Another huge disadvantage (one of many) that our 2-horse team would face is how to raise the walls.  I knew this a long time ago, and had already taken the necessary steps to mitigate the problem.  We are going to use wall jacks.  I came across a product make by Qual-craft; a cast iron wall jack unit that uses a 2 x 4 as the jack pole.  I was very skeptical, but read a whole bunch of on-line reviews and everybody raves about them.  OK, that's what I want.  Too bad they cost upward of $150 each...and I need two.  OK...time to hit Ebay.  It took a few weeks of searching and waiting, but a used set came up for auction and I really nailed it.  We got 2 of 'em delivered for $55.  Woohoo; what a bargain.  Looking back, they could easily qualify as the best 55 bucks I spent on this project.

We get our first lesson with the Qual-craft wall jacks...

Oh yeah...and don't forget to attach a rope to hold it from going too far.  (God, I love that woman!)

The first floor walls are tall.  I wanted enough room to install 8 ft tall overhead doors and still have enough room above the door to install the track hardware that will use an easy-set torsion spring for tensioning the door operation.  We opted for 9 ft walls.  The dimensions worked out pretty good.  The 2nd floor framing will add another 16" of height, so the sheathing plan worked well.  .

The wall framing is 9 ft.  The wall sheathing is 8' tall, so when we attached it, of course there would be a 12" open gap at the top.  We opted for this plan for 2 reasons.  First; cost.  The price for stock sheathing at 8 ft is way lower than 9 or 10'.  Even at 10', it would not have been tall enough to cover to the top of the 2nd floor framing anyway, so why pay the expense?  Second reason; engineering.  If we leave a 12" gap at the top of the walls, we will have to add another panel to continue upward and fill it in.  In fact, 1/3 of another sheet is exactly enough to run all the way up to the top of the 2nd floor framing.  Once glued and nailed in, this second upper panel now securely ties the 2nd floor to the first floor.  Good plan!  When we installed these upper panels, we laid a generous bead of polyurethane caulk along the top edge the bottom wall sheathing panel and gished the upper panel down into it.  When polurethane caulk dries, you couldn't ask for a better bond between panels, both mechanically and for air infiltration. 

Our construction plan for this first floor is to frame out the walls and attach the OSB (oriented strand board) sheathing.  We use construction glue and galvanized ring shank nails to bond the OSB to the 2 x 6 framing.  Since the walls are so tall and the runs are so long on a 28' x 44' footprint, we are going to install them in smaller sections.  For instance, on the 28' long sections, we set them in 2 pc that are 14' long.  We split up the 44' long runs similarly.  The window openings are cut after we set the walls.


Since we are setting the walls in smaller sections, the decision is made that it will be easier to attach the housewrap after all they are set.  At the end of setting 2-1/2 wall lengths, we are now at 92 linear feet of wall.  The housewrap is in 100 ft rolls, so we install it.

It should be noted that our 2-horse construction crew moves along fairly slowly.  We are fully aware that it will be many weekends of separate trips to the jobsite to bring this thing together.  This means that Mother Nature will have her way with exposure to the weather.  The housewrap is an integral part of our defense against rain, but we must also protect the inside of the walls for the same reason.  The plan was already laid out before we even started, and the plastic sheeting is installed.

This plan of weather protection is used throughout the entire construction process.  Yep, it takes time away from productivity, but will be worth it in the end..

I should take a moment to share one of the many things we learned during this process; this journey.  It's one of many little things that make a big difference; sill sealer.

Since I had much to do with the concrete wall pour and finish, the tops of the walls are...well...shall we say "not perfect".  They aren't perfectly flat and the elevation does vary a tiny bit...not bad or unacceptable, but in need of a good sill sealer.  My hired hand, Marvin, did contribute much to getting it as good as it is, but so did I (uh oh!).  Anyway, the tops of these same walls are the foundation support for all the wood framing of the structure. 

The bottom framing member of all the walls that sets atop this concrete wall is pressure treated 2 x 6 lumber to resist decay and insect/rodent passage at a very critical transition point just above the exterior grade.  It is called the sill plate.  Where this sill plate meets the top of the concrete wall, a gasket of sorts should be installed to complete the transition between the two.  This sealer job is to stop any air/water/insect/rodent infiltration.  I have always used a roll of polyethylene foam.  This is standard fare for this part of the job.  It serves the purpose.

The problem is during installation; it moves and slides around.  This is no big deal, providing it doesn't move too far.  When you're leaning up a fully framed and sheathed 20 foot long wall section, and using a sledge hammer to nudge it as it scooches along the top of the anchor bolts, trying to find the hole in the sill board and slam down to the sill sealer that you are praying won't move because if it does and that wall finally drops, there is no way you are going to adjust it....compound this with a crew of 2 handling this entire process for wall sections totaling some 120 total linear feet of wall...(you get the picture).  Ultimately, something as simple as the sill sealer can really help...or hamper the process.  Researching the www, we found the product that actually helps:  Protecto Wrap Energy Sill Sealer. 

It has the same closed cell polyethylene construction, but it is thicker at 3/8" (the cheap stuff is 1/4" thick).  The real advantage, though, is the sticky black coating.  We set this stuff during the heat of the summer.  Don't touch it with your fingers or you risk becoming a permanent part of the structure.  This black adhesive stuff adheres to the top of the concrete like gangbusters and is thick and pourous enough to fill in the tiny concrete irregularities.  Topped with the 3/8" of foam and the gasket is complete.  Once it hits the top of the concrete wall, it cannot be moved or sticks that good.  A very good product and makes for a killer sill sealer.  Done deal.

While we are somewhat focused on the sill plate area, I want to share another little thing we do to protect this area.  The exterior sheathing for this first floor wall extends 1/2" below the sill plate.  After the wall weight squishes into the foam sill sealer, this realistically drops the sheathing about 1/4" - 3/8" below the top of the concrete wall.  When it rains and the water hits the soil (particularly the sheets of water coming off of the roof), it splashes upward.  Over time, it will slowly degrade the bottom edge of this sheathing by subjecting it to wet/dry cycles.  Besides, the edges of OSB sheathing can be like a sponge.  In order to eliminate this exposure and protect the bottom edges of the OSB sheathing, we add a continuous strip of aluminum flashing.

The housewrap is attached to provide an overlap of approx 1/2".  This little extra step will pay back over time.

Did I forget to mention the other good reason to hurry up laying in a gravel driveway apron?  The next big load of building materials is the one that we decided would not fit on our 16' utility trailer.  As a result, we made the better choice to have it delivered by the lumber company.  These products are planned in as 2 separate loads.  The first load will contain all the 2nd floor framing members.  The second load will be the roof trusses.  I wanted to space them out to receive the roof stuff when we are ready. didn't quite work out that way.

A couple of weeks ago, I called my salesguy from the lumber company and lay out a plan to deliver the framing stuff for the 2nd floor.  I told him to hold back on the roof trusses until further notice.  Fast forward to the 1st delivery weekend.

This weekend is going to be opressive heat and humidity, so I'm thinkin' it won't be conducive to high productivity. We do have a limit. With that in mind, I don't want to burn up vacation time, so I  keep my plans confined to Sat & Sun. My lumber guy says Friday is good, but Sat is gonna be a dely premium. We work out a fair price and I tell him as early as possible on Sat so we can beat the heat. He tells me that the driver should be there about 7:45 or so with a roll-off truck. We leave Friday night and stay overnite in our spartan 10 x 12 home-away-from-home.
I wake up with the daylight, or somewhere shortly thereafter. Because we are so deep into the woods, daylight is more like ambiant morning light. Anyway, I pop outta bed at 6:00, drag on my canvas work drawers, and step out into the humid and somewhat cool morning forest air. I'm still half asleep as I saunter over to the building site and my mind slowly shifts into think mode as I start talking to myself to decide where to have the truck roll off the 28' long I-joists and other floor framing stuff. The only sounds are me mumbling and Mother nature's bird and Bullfrog chorus. Then, way off in the distance, I hear a faint "beep, beep, beep, beep"...the kind that heavy equipment sounds when backing up. Huh? I wipe the sleep from my eyes and stand there, listening, as it stops and things get quiet....for about 1 minute. Then I can hear the unmistakeable sound of a truck coming thru the woods to our place. Jeesh; it's 6:15 and I haven't even combed my hair or brushed my teeth. Then, this full sized truck and trailer comes winding around the last turn into view. I mean this is a full sized tractor-trailer semi rig. I had no idea that they would send a rig this big. My mind is doing flip flops trying to figure out how I'm going to not only get him in, but turn him back around to get out. He pulls up and stops and I look at the load on this long truck. He's got everything, including the roof trusses that I did not want yet. Crikeys; only me. I share all my concerns with him as he looks around for travel options. I ask him if that's a 40' trailer. Nope....50'. YIKES!  We walk around and discuss the limited options to maneuver.  All I can see is him driving straight in and around the new structure on the building site.  This would take him right across our new gravel apron and head him back out the same way he came in.  The only problem is the possibility of getting stuck in the somewhat soft soil surrounding the jobsite.  Nope....he won't take that risk.  He tells me that he can use our boat launch driveway to do a 3 point turn and ultimately back up to the gravel driveway apron.  WHAT?...No way; I can't believe it.  This trailer is 50 frickin feet long, plus the semi tractor pulling it.   Anyway, he made this rig twist, turn, and jackknife into unbelieveable configurations and flipped it around and backed it into the last 100 feet of driveway. Incredible job of driving....absolutely incredible. To top that off, he was able to split the load and drop the roof trusses in a different area to keep me calmed down that they arrived unannounced.  The entire process took 1 hour and he was gone at 7:15.  I stood there as the sound of his truck slowly dissipated into the distance, thinking to myself "did this just happen?"  The pile of lumber stuff provides the answer.

I go back to our love nest and wake up Donna.  Suit up and drink up that coffee; it's time to start moving the new stuff to storage inside the structure.  The plan is to store it on the concrete slabs where we can stack it tight and neat, protected from the weather with tarps.  We won't get into it for a few days and rain is forecasted for the next few days. When we do start picking away at it, working from the interior will be the better choice.

I maintained substantial concern for our ability to move this stuff.  I was confident that I could muster the strength, but worried for Donna's strength and stamina.  I've been thinking about it quite a bit over the last couple of weeks.  This stuff is long and heavy.  I brought all kinds of contingency equipment to move it, along with 2 or 3 Rube Goldberg plans.  The wheel barrow, a 2 wheeled hand cart, anything to give Donna a better chance to handle her end of the load.  In the end, it was all useless.  Donna tore it up.

The I-joists weigh 140# each. The LVL's are 240# and 210#.  She shunned it all, put on her leather gloves, and told me to get my ass in gear as we hand-carried each and every piece.  We would each get at an end, count off 1-2-3, and dead lift each piece and walk it over to it's new home.  Absolutely awesome show of power. That's my girl.

The heat is killing us, so we work slowly and methodically until we have tidied up the new inventory and protected it.  The next morning, we take a couple of production hours to construct and lay in the framing for the narrow wall section between the doors, but the heat and humidity are becoming unbearable.  The searing heat of the unobstructed sun puts it over the top and we cash it in for the day (and the weekend) and go back home.  No, not much progress on construction, but having that delivery behind me is a huge monkey off of my back.

OK, we are moving to the wall areas of the first floor that should be the quickest to frame since they contain 2 big openings; the overhead garage doors.  Right...wishful thinking again.  The garage door openings present an entirely new plan for framing.  Since there are 2 openings, side by side and separated by a narrow 10" wide wall section, the header across the top is pretty beefy to carry the load of the second floor above them.  This means a substantial laminated beam (lam beam).  This also means cumbersome weight to be hoisted to the top of a 9' tall wall.  Let's get into it.

Part of this big ol' load of lumber that the semi truck dropped off is 4 substantial Lam beams.  They are all 16" tall (to match the 16" height of the engineered I-joists that will support the 2nd floor) and 1-3/4" thick.  2 will be bonded together for the beam across the top of the garage doors and the other 2 will be bonded to create an even longer beam that nests within the I-joist framing at the stairway opening.  Right now, we are focused on the beam at the garage doors.

The finished beam weighs in at 420#, so we have to do some smart planning for it's installation.  We carry the two 210# members (one at a time) to the saw horses staged directly adjacent to where the bonded beam will be lifted.  We bond them together (while sitting on the saw horses) with liberal amounts of construction glue and nails.  The finished beam is tipped up on edge and prepared for it's 9 foot ascension to rest atop the wall framing.

The wall jacks are staged at each end and the lift begins.

We move real slowly, raising each end a little at a time and keeping the clamps on it at all times, stabilizing it against the wall framing.  We arrive at the top and lean it over until it hits the temporary backing boards we have screwed against the outside of the wall framing.  QUICK...CLAMP IT!    WHEW!! 


We left off the second top plate of the center wall support (the narrow wall between the doors).  I want to run it through the planer to create a perfect, snug fit so the newly installed beam is supported evenly at all 3 critical load points.  I run 1/2" x 10" lag screws upward, through the wall top plates and into the bottom of the beam to secure it.  Done!  

A pair of small walls are framed below the beam in each door opening.  This will create the rough opening to match the 8 foot tall garage doors that will be installed later.  It's now time to turn our attention to the next wrestling match:  installation of the engineered I-joists.

The I-joists are also 16" tall (same as the beam we just installed) and just short of 28 feet long.  They weigh 140# each and are set at 16" on center directly on top of the wall top plates.  There really aren't many options available to get them up there for our 2-person crew, so we summon muscle and sweat...again.  Each beam was an exercise of orchestrated moves by both of us.  We would carry it over to it's approximate installation location and I would walk one end up a 6 ft ladder and drop it on top.  Donna would climb that 6' ladder and stabilize it from falling over.  I would go to the other end and use an 8 foot ladder to heist it all the way up to the top of the wall and drop it down.  We would switch ladders again and I would go back to the 6' ladder to lift it the rest of the way up to the top.  We have to do this 29 times.  Whenever I would get weary, I would think how easy this is compared to the 28' long 480# lam beam that awaits us at the end.  This psyche job worked...kinda. 

When we got to the beam over the garage doors, we stopped to install the joist hangers to the beam.  This is when and where that big beam earns it's keep.  It is going to carry the load at the ends of every I-joist that attaches to it.  This combined load is then transferred down thru the walls at the 3 bearing points of the beam.  The attachment method of the I-joists to the beam is a bracket called a joist hanger.  This is where we discovered the beauty of our next cool tool; the palm nailer.  My buddy, Mike at work, turned me on to this simple little tool.  He had 2 of them and sold me his lesser model for cheap.  I'm now a believer.

3.8 MB vid clip; sure beats using a hammer

We installed the joist hangers, continuing on our 16" on center, and lifted the balance of the I-joists into place.  It's time for the big Mamu; the long lam beam.

This beam is the single heaviest structural item within this building.  It is a pair of 1-3/4" x 16" lam beams that are just short of 28' long.  It is being installed to carry the second floor load where the stair opening is located.  It will also bear the point load from the 2nd floor walls above it that carry up to the roof at this end of the building.  It weighs in at about 480#.  We only have one way to get it up to it's final resting spot; by jacking it up 9 some feet with our wall jacks supported by two 2 x 4 legs.  It was quite a hair-raising event and left us no time for pictures during the process.  

In the end, our efforts were rewarded with a successful installation. 

The last floor framing members will require some custom cutting and installation around the stairway opening.  We put that mini-project on hold to go back and start filling in the perimeter of this same floor framing by installing the rim board.  The rim board is 1-1/4" x 16" x 12 foot long boards that are made of OSB.  They are attached to the ends of the I-joists to enclose the perimeter. 

 The following pic shows the rim board to the left and the lam beam over the garage door to the right.


There are no I-joists at the very ends of the structure (at the gable walls).  Instead, a 16" tall wall is constructed from 2 x 6 stock to bear the load from the 2nd floor gable walls that will be above them.  We also pre-stage a bunch of the heat/AC ductwork and main PVC plumbing drain pipe into the I-joist holes that were pre-cut at the Georgia Pacific plant.  Having GP do this cutting was a $160 up-charge and well worth it.  All the holes line up from one end to the other and allow plenty of room for mechanical stuff.  And " does not affect the structural integrity of the engineered I-joists".  The following pic explains a little better.


2 more shorter I-joists will be installed within the nearer side of the stairway opening depicted above, leaving the far side wide open as the access zone for stairs.

When we contracted with our lumber yard to develop and supply the 2nd floor framing, they used Georgia Pacific as their raw material vendor.  GP has a staff of engineers that took my drawings and pumped them into fancy computerized programs that calculate dimensions and loads.  In the end, they offer the necessary products to meet the structural need.  This includes placement drawings.  Real neat; real helpful.  During their review of my plans, they identified a structural issue in my plan.  The narrow wall (at the corner, between the overhead doors and the nearest corner) is not wide enough to offer correct structural integrity.  The answer is adding a structural metal strap to tie the corner to the lam beam over the garage door.  So...we did.

At 12 gauge thick x 3-1/2" tall, and rolled up into a coil, this strap thing was a bear for us to wrestle.  We must flatten, bend a 90* corner, and stretch it 10' in each direction.  It took an hour or so, but we got it in.


When the next row of sheathing was applied, we had to take extra time at this corner because of the metal strap brace.  The sheathing had to be relieved on the back side to allow it to lay flat over the strap zone.

I gotta admit, I would have never identified this type of structual goof in my design.  This is when it pays back big to allow the pro's to look over our shoulder.  We are grateful for the support and advice.

The next step is to fill in the exterior sheathing.  We have to pick up from where the sheathing ended on the first floor framing and carry it to the top of this new 2nd floor deck framing.  It will be the final step to framing the 1st floor and will also serve to mechanically tie the first floor framing to the 2nd floor deck.  We add another shorter strip of gorilla wrap to this  shorter stretch of sheathing, allowing it to overlap the existing gorilla wrap already installed on the first floor walls.  In the end, it makes for a tidy, weather-tight exterior right up to the top of the 2nd floor deck framing

Shortly after the above pic, the balance of the sheathing and housewrap was installed to complete the sheathing at the garage doors.  Big milestone; first floor framing is complete.

We have been far too busy to be anxious, but having this second floor framing into place really sends a strong signal of anxiety.  It is the foundation of the living space level, providing the platform that will be our view...a very main reason for doing all this in the first place.  I can't wait and put up the 8 ft ladder, standing on the top of it and raising the camera over my head as far as I can. 

(don't be fooled by the camera lens; the framing is straight as an arrow)

  Onward and upward...

Second floor, here we come!  First is the decking to create the subfloor.  We have elected to use a product called Advantech.  It is an OSB product that uses polymer glues as a binder.  It is highly rated for exposure; guaranteed for 300 days of continuous exposure without degrading.  Amazing...and perfect for us.  We are moving kinda slow, so every ounce of weather protection that we can gather will be helpful.  The price to use the 3/4" Advantech subfloor is comparable to regular 3/4" plywood.  We made this choice for our subfloor some weeks back and had it delivered with the load that contained our roof trusses and floor framing members.  The pile is uncovered and we dig in.

The first major step for our 2-horse team is "how to get the panels up there?".  We use a tried-and-true method that we employed when we build our garage some 10 years ago.  It requires one panel carrier, one length of stout rope, and some 2 x 6's screwed together to create a slide.


Using alot of subfloor glue and a whole buncha ring shank nails in the nail gun, we laid down the decking.  The panels are tongue and groove along the long edge.  Part of a proper install requires laying in a bead of subfloor glue right into the groove so the tongue of the adjoining panel "gishes" it out and creates a very tight, squeak-free bond.  We put the wall jacks back to work.  HUH?  Yeah, they have many uses.

The ends of the short 2 x 4 jack boards are screwed into the top of the I-joist.  A small sacrifiscial block is inserted between the jack and the subject floor panel.  The jack is pumped until it pushes the panel tight against the existing panels behind it.  It works like a charm!  Donna cranks down the jacks and I blast it fulla nails to set the glue beneath.  Dun deal. 

Having the second floor decking in place adds a huge bonus; a roof.  This Advantech decking product is touted as being extremely water resistant, so it should shed most, if not all, of the rain.  We take the extra time to use polyurethane caulk and seal pretty much all the seams between the ends of the sheets.  We hope the seams with the glued tongue and groove will already be sealed.  Then, we run a thick bead around the permimeter of the deck where it meets the top of the walls below.  It's alot of extra detail, but in the end it works.  After the next hard rain, we found 5 or 6 areas that were dripping water thru, marked their location, and caulked them up after they dried out.  We are also pleasantly surprised at how resilient this Advantech floor decking is.  It is virtually impervious to water.  Once the sun hits it, within an hour it is totally dry. 

We had to add a make-shift tent for the opening we left for the stairway.  Blue tarps fill in this small area  and we are weather proof.

Having a roof (of sorts) gives a little breathing room.  We no longer sweat bullets every time it rains, thinking about all the potential water damage to the work we have already done.  It also affords us the time to go back and work on door and window installation.  With those projects behind us, we actually have a place to safely store stuff.  We shift our attention.

Window installation turned out to be a construction tune up.  Man, things have changed.  It used to be a good bead of caulk around the nailing fin, level the unit, make sure the sashes operate freely, and nail it in.  Well, now there are a couple more steps based on using a special tape.  I even called Jeld Wen, the manufacturer of the windows we are using, to be sure that all this extra sealing is really required.  The answer was a resounding "yes, but only if you want the warranty to remain intact".   OK fine....we're on board.


It slows us down a bit, but we do like we always do....keep picking away at the mountain until it's gone.  All 9 windows + 1 service entrance door, and we are corked up and secure for interior storage.  Yep, another milestone.

....and, for another shot of inspiration, a peek at how it will look from the shop area of the garage

We get back into our "lumber hauling" state of mind and set our sights on building level 2.  Our typical week consists of one long weeknight selecting 2 x 6's at Menards and loading the trailer.  Haul it to the jobsite on Friday night and get up early Saturday.  I have been picking off my vacation days at work, usually 1 or 2 at a time, by applying them to create 3 or 4 day weekends.  We forge forward.

The 2 walls that create the long shed dormer sections of the roof are 36 feet long.  They are framed as one continuous wall. 

While the wall sections are still laying flat on the decking, they are sheathed with OSB, the window openings are cut out, and the housewrap is applied.  We forego installing the windows, electing to let the housewrap cover the openings to keep it weather-tight.  I want to install the windows after it is set and has completely settled.  There will be very minor movements of the wall, even though it is fully sheathed.  If the windows are pre-installed and subjected to any further movement by the wall, we risk the window frame moving also.  It's not worth the risk; we will install the windows only after the wall and adjacent framing has been set. 

Shed dormer walls are often short as a result of the roof design geometry. These shed dormer walls are pretty tall, by design.  Since they create the largest amount of the living space on this floor, it's very important that it is a usable and comfortable living space.  Knowing this, I simply designed a taller wall section at 87".  The scissor-truss roof design that we have selected will create a very nice cathedral style ceiling throughout the entire living space.  The ceiling will rise from both sides of these 87" tall shed dormer walls to the center of the space at 11 feet high.


We are kinda anxious to get these two 36' long kites tied into the end walls to ensure that they stay up where we put 'em.  It will take a couple of substantial framing efforts for us to finally tie it all together, so we start with the end with "the view".

The wall sections at either end are just short of 21' long and set centered onto the 28' wide span below.  The "view" end will receive the most glass per square foot of any of the wall sections in the structure.  We elect to install three slider units of 5' square.  This much glass demands a little extra "beef" in the wood structure that makes up the balance of the wall.  We don't pull any punches and use a lot of 2 x 6 lumber to frame the wall.  The sheathing is upgraded to 1/2" plywood for the same reason.


All do you stand these walls up without losing them over the edge?

Oh yeah....glad you asked.

We used the same wall jacks up here that we used downstairs, but we had to take another critical step before raising any of these wall sections.  We had to assure that the base plate would not "scoot out" over the edge.  We used a standard trick.  We cut off short lengths of the metal banding that was holding the stacks of lumber that got delivered some time ago.  It doesn't take much.  For instance, we used 4 pieces on each of the 36' long shed dormer walls.  I think we used 4 on the end wall sections, also.

In the above picture, you're looking in from over the edge of the building at the bottom of the bottom plate of the picture window wall.  It is staged right where it is going to land permanently.  Just before this pic, this same wall was scooched to the right (away from the edge) about a foot to allow us to nail the 4 pieces of bent strap into the decking.  The strapping is located exactly 5-1/2" back from the edge (the width of the 2 x 6 bottom plate).  Then, the wall is scooched back until it just touches the vertical piece of the strapping and 3 nails are shot thru the strapping and into the bottom of the 2 x 6 plate.  (The loose piece is just an example of how high-tech the strapping looks before installation).  Quite simply, the 4 pieces of strapping will act as hinges, allowing the wall to be tipped up without the bottom kicking out.  Once the wall is straight up, the part of the strap that is nailed to the deck is exposed, cut off, and the nails removed.  The piece of strapping under the plate becomes a permanent piece of useless metal, though it's short life span of usefulness will not be forgotten by either of us and the bullets we sweat while the wall was going up. 

There are two 4 ft wide wall sections that attach to each of the 21' wide end wall sections.  We install temporary panels into the centers of the three 5 ft square window holes to strengthen the housewrap under high wind conditions.


The opposing wall at the other end is framed and left laying down.  Before we stand it up, we have another big step to take.  It's finally time to get serious about the roof trusses.  Leaving this end open and unobstructed will allow us to heist the roof trusses upstairs and onto the 2nd floor deck. 

Enter Ben, our excavation contractor.  He has an boom that he attaches to his backhoe that can be used for lifting roof trusses.  It's a bit "Rube Goldberg", but it works and really saves Donna and I from an incredibly difficult task if done manually.  Ben and I meet the next weekend and move all the trusses to the 2nd floor.

 The cash we paid Ben for his help is a very good investment.  I could not even imagine how the two of us could have ever gotten those 29 foot long trusses up there.  Now that they are staged, we WILL be able to handle them manually from here.  Just watch...

OK, back to the last wall section.  It's a bit simpler for framing since it only houses one window.  It goes in without issue and we are movin' on up!  Time to take the framing up as far as it's gonna go. 

A "strongback" is installed at each end wall section.  A strongback is simply a stout support to stabilize something in a specific trajectory.  We make our strongback from a pair of 2 x 6 x 8' screwed together over the length into a "T" shape.  It is then screwed to the lower wall and the top peak section.  This will stabilize the top peak section from being blown over AND keep it plumb and vertical with the supporting wall section.  The notches cut into the top rafters will house the perpendicular supports for the fly rafters that will soon come.  The shorter roof trusses are installed, along with some of the lower gambrel roof rafters.  It's starting to take shape.

The time has finally come to install all the roof trusses.  We are a bit hesitant as to exactly how to manually handle them between the two of us, but it is a do-or-die situation...we have no choice.  Like most of the heavy lifting jobs, we take a half dozen contingent plans with us to use to get them in place.  And, like most of the heavy lifting jobs, it ultimately comes down to sinew and sweat.  The trusses are relatively light at 98#, but their 29 foot length makes them unwieldy and bulky to handle.  Donna puts on her gloves and puts us to work.

I have already installed hurricane brackets at the tops of the 2 shed dormer walls.  They are set at the 16" on center we designed into the roof framing.  Our truss manufacturer did the engineering and assured us that 24" on center would be fine for these trusses, but we elect to add a few more to ensure structural integrity.  Also, at 16" on center, the plywood roof sheathing will be more stable and won't require the sheathing clips that are often used on 24" o/c installations.  As cheap as I am, we will never regret this decision to spend a little more to forego the potential of "you can pay me now...or you can pay me later".  We start slinging roof trusses.

Setting the trusses wound up being pretty much the same drill we employed to set the I-joists for the second floor decking.  A couple of ladders and an orchestration of movements between Donna and I as we lifted and set one end at a time.  The weekend we selected to set the trusses was questionable weather, so our rain gear does get put to use.   We are rain-free for the muscle work needed to heist and set the trusses, but we work thru the next rainy day installing bracing between each of them for stabilization.  In the end, this seemingly giant step really makes us stand back, gaze, and smile.

In the above picture, depicting the cross bracing, you can see both the 2 x 4 angled bracing and the much narrower metal truss braces.  2 x 4's are nothin' new to us...but the metal truss braces are.  I bumped into them as part of www research of proper truss installation.  I think I first read of them on a DIY forum.  I did some Googlin' and found a manufacturer that sent me a box of 'em for $40.

Each unit is 8 ft long, but folded up.  I can acutally slip a unit into the deeper ruler pockets of my canvas jeans.  The bar in between each fold is exactly 14-1/2" long, so it spaces each truss at 16" on center.  The straps at each bend are exactly 1-1/2" long with a hole punched into the center to allow installation of a nail into the top of the truss to hold it in place.  There are also tiny pointed teeth stamped into the ends of each bar that dig into each side of the truss.  Simple engineering; super invention.  The box is plainly marked "not suitable as a structural brace", since they are nothing more than a spacer to keep the trusses aligned during sheathing installation.  Since we had 40 units in our box, we had plenty to make 4 evenly spaced runs on our truss installation.  The resulting matrix of trusses, 2 x 4 braces, and these truss spacers was VERY sturdy.  Another excellent find and I add it to my "guess what I learned of great value" list.   (note; they also manufacture a unit used for 24" o/c)

OK, the nest step...

We are using 24" overhangs at both gable ends.  This is a bit longer than a normal gambrel roof design, but I wanted some additional rain protection.  The longer overhang is also a nice architectural feature.  It will require stout framing to support it as it "hangs out there".  We use 2 x 6 perpendicular framing members to cantilever out.  The last "fly rafter" that will define our gable fascia is attached to the ends of the cantilever members.  I am very concerned for how we are going to actually attach this long 2 x 6 fascia member, particularly at the peak.  It's WAY up there and inaccessible by our 24' ladders.  There is only one way; work from the inside and reach out.  Between my long arms, some middle-aged agility and strength, and assistance from a Higher Power, we are able to methodically complete the fly rafter framing.  It is absolutley solid and looks pretty cool.

There is a row of short roof framing members that run along the bottom half of each shed dormer wall.  They are the final members that tie the entire roofing system together.  Of all the roof stuff, they will be the easiest to install.  The work can be done from the ground, the toughest part being the movement of the ladder.  There are 58 rafter tails (29 on each side) to be installed.  They are all identical, so we use small scale mass-production and pre-fabricate them in the comfort of the shop at home.  The radial arm saw, band saw, and couple of fabrication jigs yield a stack of perfectly cut rafter tails.  Off to the jobsite they go.


(ooops; forgot to mention installation of the 2 x 6 fascia at the tops of the shed dormer walls.  Since we're in the mood, I will admit that I mis-calculated the fascia height and we had to go back and attach a 2 x 2 to the bottom of the entire length of both fascia runs.  Like I said....ooops!)

Well, it's time for a roof.  We have selected a metal roof for our project, so the roof sheathing that it is attached to is important.  Originally, I expected to just use OSB; maybe 5/8" thick.  My home designer pal, Rocky, quickly shut that idea down, insisting that I do the right thing and install 5/8" plywood.  A little bit of researching the www for proper metal roof installation confirms his insistance and we scrap the OSB idea in favor of 5/8" CDX plywood.  The up-charge is about $ insurance for a one-time cost. 

We are now messing around with serious height.  There are a number of "strings" that come attached to this kind of work, the most critical being safety.  Although we are always scheming and calculating all our moves, this package of work will require elevated levels of unhindered concentration.  We both know it and do our best...partcularly the guy that has to go up there and do the work; me. 

The slider contraption that we used to get the decking up the second floor is brought out of the moth balls for a final command performance.  It gets the necessary length additions and we start moving plywood uphill.

One side is sheathed; then the plywood slide is moved over to the other half of the roof.


We designed the upper roof slope as 5-1/2 :12 (rises 5-1/2" for every 12" of horizontal run).  This was a design blend of proper aesthetic appeal for a gambrel roof, good water shed, and able to walk on it.  This last point is pretty important:  able to walk on it.  We really need this advantage to complete this project as DIY.  Once the slope of a roof hits 6 :12, the walking comfort zone gets sketchy.

The restrictions of a 2-horse team comes into play again.  We can only cover one half of the roof this weekend, along with the shorter lower roof sections along the shed dormer wall.  The longer lower roof sections at each end will have to wait.  Our goal is defined and we bust butt.


After the sheathing is applied, the rush is on to get it dried in. Although the CDX plywood is rated to withstand some low levels of rain exposure, no exposure is best.  We are using good old fashioned felt paper (roofing paper, tar paper).  The thicker 30# felt paper is best, attached using plastic-cap nails.  I have worked with felt paper before.  It isn't too bad to work with as long as it is laid in straight.  It is slightly forgiving and will allow a very minor amount of adjustment, but lays best without any attempt to stretch it one way or another as it is being unrolled.  This means starting it off straight.  I take the extra 30 minutes to snap chalk lines from one gable end to the other.  The chalk lines represent the top of the felt paper for each row, calculated to allow a 4" overlap at each new row.  A good roofer would not normally take this time and could lay it in by using the markings that the factory applies right to surface of the felt.  For me, it's a small investment of time and pays back big during installation of the felt paper.  It allows me to tack one corner of the roll at the gable (on the chalk line), unroll about 8 feet, pull it taught and straight against the chalk line, and tack it again 8 feet down the row.  This sets the run true and allows me to continue along, unrolling a little bit at a time against the chalk line and tacking it down as I go.  


The lower roof section also received felt paper protection.  We applied a continuous strip of the Protecto Wrap 4" wide sealing tape along the top edge of the felt paper, sticking one half of the sealing tape to the house wrap above the felt paper and the bottom half directly to the felt paper.  It will shed and deflect any driven rain from the shed dormer wall down and over the top of the felt paper.

The next weekend, we did the same thing to the other side.

An interior shot, looking up to the peak.

Another very big step has been brewing for the past few weeks.  ELECTRICITY!  Yep; the power company has been trying to schedule in between the rain drops to get in and trench in our utility power feed.  This is, indeed, a huge step.  It's also an expensive step since we have elected to forego unsightly poles and power lines by hiding it underground.  We knew from the beginning that this was gonna be costly and it gets written into the mounting debt.  We get rewarded with a big kick of power....our loan officer also benefits.  A win-win if you're in the banking biz.

Enough crying over money.  We go to the power company and retrieve the meter box they specify.  They also supply us with the necessary heavy gauge wire to hook it all up.  We add our own breaker box and secondary disconnect.  This is how it's gonna work....

In the above pic, the box on the left is the meter box.  When the power supply line arrives, the electric company will install the meter and make the final hook-ups to fire it all up....but this only happens after the county inspector has approved MY work of hooking up and wiring this end of the deal.  Here is the plan.

This building will be our weekend and vacation home for the coming years.  Somewhere further down the road, we will start getting serious about retirement and building a real house about 75 feet away, on the other half of the building site.  The living space in this current structure might remain intact as a guest house, a B&B, or whatever...who knows.  Either way, we want enough juice to power both structures adequately; 200 amps per unit.  This dictates bringing in 400 amps of power to the site (as opposed to the standard 200 amp residential power service).  The upcharge to do so is minmal; about $300.  The additional cost covers the upgrade of the meter and a larger transformer that will be set about 75 feet away.  It's a one-time installation fee that will pay back dividends later on.

The 400 amp feed goes directly into the meter box, thru the meter, and back out to 2 sets of power-feed lugs.  My job is to hook up from these lugs and send 1/2 the power to the current structure's breaker box, and the other half to a disconnect box.  The disconnect box is simply a place to terminate the wires into a 200 amp breaker that will remain shut off.  It will be the source of the power for the future structure.  When that time comes, we will tap the lugs on the dead side of the 200 amp breaker inside the disconnect box and run the power over to the new house.  Flip "on" the disconnect breaker and the second structure is "live" with the other 200 amps of power.

Here is the meter box (left) and the 200 amp disconnect.


The breaker box is on the other side of wall, at the interior, directly behind this meter box.  We have hooked up one circuit for power to run saws, compressors, etc. 

Of course, more circuits will be added later, but this will be enough for now and will allow the inspector to approve my work....if it's good enough.  It is and we receive the green light to allow the utility company to bring in 400 amps and fire it up.  While we wait, we shift back to the roof.

I've been researching metal roofing products for the past few months.  I already know that we want a standing seam product that snaps together and hides the fasteners.  It is the same style roof we used on the boat dock and our 10 x 12 shed that we have been calling home.  I weigh out costs and product quality and unltimately wind up right back where I so often do....Menards.  Menards owns the plant where the roofing is manufactured.  In fact, this is where Menards started some years the metal building business. 

Galvalume is touted to be the superior product for residential roofing.  The addition of small amounts of aluminum to the coating process is the advantage.  Menards does not use galvalume.  They use a standard galvanized product, but the coating is G-100.  G-100 is very thick by galvanizing standards.  I am satisfied that the combination of the product construction, combined with the warranty, combined with the very competitive price, combined with my familiarity with the specific product installation,  combined with a company that I believe will be around further down the road should I have problems.....guess which roof we purchased.

We need about 20 square of roofing, along with all the necessary trim and installation pieces.  The entire shooting match barely fits on the utility trailer.

  It takes a ride to the jobsite and gets stored inside our garage.  DID YOU HEAR THAT?  STORED INSIDE OUR GARAGE!  After all this work, this is neat little reward.

Let's move some metal.  Time for a roof.

The metal roofing panels are pre-cut length for the job.  There will be some trimming at the ends of the runs, but most of the installation is production and moves along pretty good.  We decide to get the lower gambrel roof sections completed first.  These areas have the most custom cutting and flashing.  I want it done and behind us. 

This part of the job turned out to be an intricate puzzle without instructions.  Before we started, I called up the manufacturing plant to talk to their customer service.  They have a few folks that are knowledgeable, but I get passed thru to their resident expert and we spend a good 45 minutes, verbally walking thru how to cut, fold, and install flashing for our type roof installation.  I now know just enough to be dangerous and we take it on.  It was slow going....very slow going.  There was alot of mental visualization to create a piece that would not only fit, but shed water and weather correctly.  Fortunately, once I conquered and cracked the code on how to do it, it would be typical for the remaining similar flashing installations.  I only had to learn it once.  The downside is that right when I really get good at it, I'm done.  In the end, though, this downside becomes an upside cuz I really don't ever want to have to do it again anyway.  Yeah....never say never

It takes an entire weekend to get one side done....and it's only the lower half of the roof.

At the end of the weekend, we assess the dent we put into the roofing inventory.  Not bad, but doesn't seem like much.

Oh, and by the way, it's Thankgiving week.  Boy, can we put together a wonderful holiday or what?  We can hardly wait for Christmas.

The following weekend was a carbon copy of production, but the other side of the roof.  When we are done, we start planning for the big real estate; the top.

The top sections of the roof bring another mixed bag of anticipation.  I already know that we should be able to move back into production mode and install one panel after another.  There will be alot of repetition up there with long panels.  Right; long panels.  That's the downside. Not only are there 58 of those long panels, they have to somehow be moved up there.  If I am going to be doing the safety dance 20+ feet overhead, there's only one other player available to hand these 15-1/2 foot long monsters up to me to keep me dancin'....Donna.

I start throwing out plans and ideas for her to somehow manipulate these long, clumbsy wind kites over the edge of the roof that's over 18' above.  I wanted to move the entire trailer out, remove one of the skids and set up a mouse-trap kinda thing with ladders and walking planks; any way for her to get close enough to somehow hand them up to me.  She patiently listened to my plan.  Then she told me how this is going to happen.  I was told to leave the stinkin' trailer right where it is, put up a ladder against the side of the garage as far as it will go, and get my ass back up on the roof.  I requested a thumb-nail sketch of her plan.  That was one too many questions and I got "the look".  I stuffed the battery drill and installation hardware into my tool belt and scampered up the ladder.  (one more question and I risked the drill and hardware being stuffed somewhere else).

Donna would remove one panel from the skid and walk it out to a pair of saw horses we have staged out in the driveway.  She would go over it and pick off the metal stamping slugs that were hanging from the installation holes along the edge.  Once cleaned up, it would go under her arm like she was carrying a 16' long surfboard.  Over to the ladder and wait for the wind to die down enough for her to use one hand to hold the metal kite and the other hand to hold the ladder.  Up she would come.  Often the wind would suddenly blow a little gust and she would stop 1/2 way up the ladder and steady the panel as it buffetted left and right.  Then the window of opportunity would open as the wind died and the ascension would continue.  At the top of the ladder, nearly 18 feet above the ground, she would flip up one end of the panel like an airplane propeller, until it stood vertical so I could reach over the edge and grab it.  In the end, this is how we got 20 panels of 11 feet long and another 58 panels of nearly 16 feet long up to the roof.  Quite the team, quite the helper, quite the woman. 


There is still a considerable amount of trim to be installed; the rake trim at both gable ends and more rake trim at the short triangular walls at the ends of the shed dormers.  More important that that stuff, though, is the ridge cap.  We have 48 linear feet of ridge at the peak that receives a special pre-formed piece to tie both halves of the roof together in a weather-tight way.  This ridge work includes installation of special foam and matting gasket material that will allow the ridge to "breathe" thru the long slot we left open in the plywood roof sheathing.  It's a small installation project unto itself.

The ridge caps are metal pieces that are 10 feet long.  At each end, they are caulked,  overlapped about 4" - 6" and riveted to the next piece.  It's late on this day.  We have just finished installing the last roof panel, there's a couple of hours of daylight left and the low gray clouds have been briskly blowing across all day.  Somehow, they have held back the rain and allowed us to work all day.  I take these last couple of hours and push on to install some of the ridge cap.  MISTAKE!!!

We're both tired.  Donna has been up and down that damn ladder what seems like a gazillion times.  I push her on to continue bringing up the stuff I need to do the ridge cap.  Like a tireless trooper, she continues without complaint.  Me?  Well...I'm in the zone.  I keep going.  I get one 10 foot ridge cap installed and it looks OK.  Not perfect, could'a been better, but good enough and fully functional.  I'm learnin' and the next one will be better.  I summon another 10 ft piece of ridge cap and my better half makes the gazillion'th and one more trip up the ladder with another long piece of sheet metal.  I wrestle with it and get about 2/3 of the screws into it.  The gray clouds are moving quicker and seem to be rolling across the tree tops.  I don't notice the tiny pin head sized droplets of mist that have started landing on our new metal roof.  I stand upright to move  down along the ridge; out goes one foot like I slipped on a banana peel.  I quickly shift the other foot and get the same result.  I'm goin' down and it ain't gonna be pretty.  I hit the roof on my hip and prepare for the slide over the edge to the bitter end.  Instant adrenaline rush!  Instinctively, I reach up and barely get my fingers over the top of the half-installed piece of ridge cap that I was just working on.  Everything stops.  More mist is falling and is  easily identified now that my face is 2" from the mist-coated surface that I am now laying on.  I pull myself up to the ridge, sit down on it, and pull my pounding heart back into my chest.  Donna climbs up another wrung on the ladder, looks over the top edge of the roof, and asks "what just happened?".  The next minute or 2 is a blur as she does her best to calm me down.  My mind is racing.  How in the hell am I going to get off of this roof?  There's 16 feet of slip-and-slide between the peak and the edge.  Even if I make it that far, how will is get my feet to stick as I turn around and gingerly back over the eave, blindly reaching my feet down to the ladder below?  I take off my gym shoes and socks, hoping that my bare feet might provide some level of grip.  No way; it's worse.  It's gonna be dark pretty soon, the weather forecast is cold and rainy for the coming evening and I'm stuck on the roof.  Donna takes over.  She goes down and gets the 6 foot long aluminum straightedge.  A generous wad of paper towels gets stuffed into her coat pocket.  She climbs all the way to the top wrung of the ladder she is using and leans up onto the top surface of the roof.  For the record, Donna is not comfortable with heights.  She uses her mind to tune it out when we work.  This new level is above and beyond her normal mental control, but she summons the mental resolve and does it anyway.  She lays the wad of paper towels under the end of the rigid aluminum strip and pushes the pile uphill toward me as far as she can reach.  I grab the ridge cap and lay down, hanging by one hand and stretching my leg and foot as far as I can.  My foot just barely reaches the paper wad of salvation and I drag it up to my free hand.  I pull and slide back up to the ridge cap and prepare for the next step.  I take a paper towel and wipe an area just below my seat.  I wipe off the bottom of one gym show and push it against the roof.  It sticks good.  This is the first good sign.  The next sign is nothing less than a blessing.  The mist stops.  It could start again at any minute...or second...but it stops and the wind picks up.  At first, the increased wind velocity spooks me further, but I quickly realize the next blessing.  The increased wind is helping to evaporate some the water slick that has formed across the entire slip-and-slide.  I slide my portable drill down the slide to Donna.  The speed and weight catch her of guard and nearly knock her off of the ladder.  She teeters and holds on....I watch her face turn white.  I got "the look" again.  This has not been a good experience for either of us.  I put back on my gym shoes and start.  I put a small wad of paper towels under my right foot and reach down and use my foot to dry off a small area.  I wipe off the bottom of the other shoe and put in onto the small area I just dried with the other foot.  It sticks good.  I go thru this routine, one foot after another, one dry spot after another, until I make it to the eave.  If felt like an hour, and probably took 4 minutes.  OK, now the biggie.  I have to stand up, turn around, and back off the edge of the roof to the ladder hiding just below,  underneath the eave.  My heart starts pumping harder and I go for it.  I can feel my muscles twisting and tightening in unusual contortions as I make myself do stuff that was cake when I was 16 years old.  By the grace of God, we both made it down to terra firma.  Donna looked at me like I just beat death.  Maybe I did.  My shaking hands agreed.  We (I) just learned a very valuable lesson.  We pack it in and go home. 

Over the last couple of weeks, the electric company has been pretty busy, also.  The trenching contractor has been on site, along with their boring contractor.  You may recall that we have elected to run the entire 2000+ feet of utility feed underground.  Since it runs directly adjacent to the driveway, the chance of rocks falling into the trench dictates that a conduit must be used to protect the feed wire.  The power company is responsible for the maintenance of the power feed all the way up to the meter.  The fear is that a sharp rock might, over time, cause a cut in the protective jacket of the wire carrying 7200 volts.  A conduit becomes a necessity.  We knew this 4 years ago when we had the power company field tech out to visit the site when we first put in the driveway.  All this stuff has been planned from day one.  In fact, knowing that we needed a conduit, and that it was another expense that we were to bear, I kept my eyes and ears open for a good deal on 2" PVC conduit.  Enter E-bay.  I found this guy that had stacks and stacks of it and the price was right.  In fact, we found this deal some 3 or 4 years ago and the conduit has been in storage in the garage at home.  The PVC stock was transferred to the jobsite a couple months ago, anticipating the long awaited power installation.  We stage it for the power company to dig in.  

There is 1600 feet of this stuff, in 20 ft sections.  The 600 ft long stretch thru the meadow at our entrance will not require conduit since there is plenty of room to nudge the trench over a bit and away from the rock-laden driveway.  The balance of the run, though, is mostly thru the woods where the room to trench is minimal and right next to the driveway.  That is where this stuff will get used.

We have 2 areas in the underground run that are unsuitable for the trenching unit to pass through, so a boring contractor is hired to push in a conduit.  It is one of those hydraulic machines that pushes a flexible conduit underground like a mole.  The ends of the flexible conduit are connected to the PVC conduit to create one continous run.

The power feed arrives at the building site.


A hole is dug and a transformer is set just beyond this reel of wire.  The 7200 volt unbilical cord is cut to length and connected to the transformer.


The trench is continued from this transformer about 75 more feet to arrive at the meter box that we attached to the exterior of the garage/apartment.  The wires are connected and we have power.

While their trenching contractor is on site, I get to thinkin'.  That machine sure would make life easier for us to install our power feed from the garage to our 10 x 12 shed.  Dreams of flipping a switch without having to go out and crank up a noisy generator are dancing in my head.  Right after their lunch break, I introduce myself to the man on the trenching machine.  A deal is struck and I make a reservation for another 125 ft trench.  It happens about 3 hours later.  It's too late in the weekend to do too much more, so we head back home to prepare for next week end.

We return 5 days later, equipped with the necessary conduit and wire to run our next power feed.  We tap into the new breaker box inside the gararge and run a 1-1/4" conduit through the trench that we contracted at the last minute.  Every PVC conduit glue joint gets us 10 feet closer and really helps us to appreciate the excellent decision we made to have somebody else cut this trench.  We also add another 3/4" conduit that will be used somewhere down the road to feed power to a pole and security light.  We are really outta control with future planning to the point of surprise that we actually thought of all this stuff. 

We pull 220 volts thru 6 gauge wire to supply 60 amps to our humble little 10 x 12 abode.  I have to do some wire-juggling inside the breaker box at the shed.  We have to create this new conduit entry and flip around other wires to get it all right.  In the end, we have 60 amps of utility power to the shed.  We reverse the lines that used to feed generator power from our storage shed and now the juice flows the other direction, powering the shed with utility power.  The lines that run out to the dock remain as installed and also now enjoy utility power.  

In a matter of one day, we completely electrified our tiny power grid. day....right!  OK, more like a multitude of planning steps over the last 3 years.  Anyway, our patience and planning has paid off.  Oh yeah...I forgot to mention that it's Chrismas week.  We celebrate this significant gift by firing up the elecric oil-filled heater, the microwave for dinner, and kick back to enjoy the satellite TV.  Can we party or what?

We are pretty much immersed into the throes of winter.  All things considered, we have been blessed with very reasonable weather throughout our fall and winter that has allowed us to continue production.  The only thing that would hold us back is extreme cold or too much snow in the entrance drive.  What is extreme cold?  Anything below 20 degrees during work hours is unacceptable.  We have done a number of days where the temps started at 14 or 15 degrees, but it would warm up to a balmy 25 by mid day.  If it dips down into the lower teens overnight, the oil-filled heater combined with the electric blanket keeps us in a good zone for survival.  These are the simple benefits of having utility power available.  Our little 10 x 12 love nest stays pretty toasty in this weather.  The driveway is a different story.  It got beat up pretty good last summer by the flow of concrete trucks.  Not horrible, but definitely needed a couple of truckloads of rocks to fill in the holes.  This got compounded by the utility company trucks and the trenching performed right next to most of the drive.  We were warned right from the beginning that it would be a bit messy.  It was...and is.  The result is a driveway that is only accessible by pick-up truck.  A sedan used to make the trip without issue.  It would now likely lose a good amount of undercarriage and exhaust stuff.  This is OK for now; we use Donna's pick-up truck anyway.  The problem comes in when we get a couple of inches of snow.  Her truck is only 2 wheel drive and runs on street tires.  At about 3 or 4 inches of snow, we run a definite risk of fettered passage.  Once again, the weather has been very cooperative.  The snow has been minimal, or any larger amounts were followed by a couple of warmer days to melt it down.  We have put in many weekends right up to the end of January.  February had a different plan.  We have seen notable amounts of snow, or at least over 3 or 4 inches.  The days have been consistently below freezing, so nothing is melting away.  I sit here right now playing catch-up on this web page and its February 18 and we haven't been back for 3 weeks now.  It looks like we might be able to get back in within a week.  We will see.  Anyway, back to the story...

The upper gables have not yet been covered in.  This is not an immediate threat, unless the wind is blowing.  Even then, if some rain or snow blows in, it will land on the highly weather resistant Advantech subfloor that we installed.  Yep, it continues to pay back dividends. 

Every weekend we go down there, the desire is to get back up onto the roof to complete the ridge cap and the rake trim.  We have a good couple of days worth of work left to button it up completely.  The roofing paper that covers the exposed peak is doing a fine job of repelling rain and snow, but it won't last forever.  Also, the precipitation that does hit the tar papered peak will run downhill, some of it running behind the metal roofing panels that are in place.  This part bothers me.  I reach out to a popular metal roofing forum on-line and pose my question of fear to the experts.  The answer is somewhat reassuring.  Assuming the felt paper (tar paper) roofing is in good shape underneath those roofing panels, I should be OK for the short term.  I know it is in good shape and take some comfort in the response.  I can verify the repellency condition by the fact that there are no leaks at the interior of the roof.  All this points to a good job of installation....I think.

So, this next weekend when we arrive, the roof is wet.  We already know the verdict about wet metal roofs.  This means "find something else to work on, Ace".  So be it; we surely have plenty of other things to do.  The project du jour is setting the panels and housewrap at the gable peaks. 

I have actually been putting this one off simply because it is way up there.  We have to pre-cut OSB sheathing panels to fit and I have to carry them up to the top of a ladder and install them.  If that's not a big enough pain, when I'm done, I have to install housewrap over the area.  Ladder work sucks.  Doing it at 20+ feet sucks more.  Here's a shot of misery for reference.


Like so many steps that we take, progress moves along slowly.  And, like so many projects, it turns out pretty good in the end.  This really corks it up, keeping the upstairs interior protected from driven precipitation AND the wind itself.  We turn our attention to the interior.

There is alot of nip and tuck that needs to be done.  For instance, all the walls are 2 x 6.  First off, we strip off all the plastic sheeting that we applied last summer that protected the wall framing from rain.  We are going to beef up the headers over the windows.  The space for the headers is pretty thick at 5-1/2" (created by the 2 x 6 wall thickness).  To save time during wall framing, we only installed 2 pc of header stock in each opening.  This fills 3" of the 5-1/2".   Now, some months later,  we take the time to add a 3rd header pc in all the header openings.  The final 1" gap will be a non-structural filler plate.  We'll get to that when the insulation and drywall are higher on the priority list.  In the meantime, the headers over all the windows are now super strong and another step is behind us. 

Even though the upstairs windows are not in yet, the interior space is now totally enclosed and really provides a feeling of accomplishment.  It's kinda neat to stand up there and look at 1100 square feet of open area with 11' tall cathedral ceiling framing overhead.  We can walk around and dream out loud.  You know, stuff like "OK, the kitchen island will be right here, so while I'm cooking breakfast, I can look out those picture windows and watch the deer taking a sip of water across the pond at the beach".  Yeah...that kinda stuff.  It's fun and we are enjoying what little bit of it is currently available.  Then we remember that our noses are frozen and numb and we can see our breath.  Dream over. 

or is it just beginning...???


We welcomed the 2010 new year with renewed resolve and updated committment.  Quite frankly, we have no other choice.  We forge forward, one nail at a time, keeping the distant vision of a habitable structure within view of our mind's eye. 

Donna gets a welcomed break and I spend a solo weekend messing with the electric.  We are in a fairly remote location and the power company has already suggested that we seriously consider installation of a generator as a back up power source.  Since we already have a decent 5500 watt portable generator (that has faithfully served us thru 2009 while we waited for utility power), the decision is made to incorporate it in some fashion as an emergency back up.  No, it's not the ideal setup, like a permanent propane driven back up generator, but it's paid for and an affordable option.

A separate electrical panel is needed to isolate the electrical circuits that will be handled by the back up generator.  I find a good deal on Ebay and it is installed directly adjacent to the main breaker box.


The power feed for this smaller box will be the generator (wheeled outside) thru a 25 foot cord that can be plugged in during emergency power needs.  It uses a simple mechanical rocker arm on the main power feed to assure that only one feed can be activated at a time.  One feed is the utility power coming from the main/larger box and one feed would be the cord to the generator.  For now, we have only completed and wired the utility feed.

We have room for 8 circuits within this box.  We will think out which items are most important to control during a power outage and they will eminate from this box.  We also know that a 5.5 KW generator will not be powerful enough to run all those circuits at the same time, so we are prepared to pick and choose which power breakers to activate during those potential power outages.  Nope, not ideal, but surely reasonable as an alternative power source. 

The winter has yielded some warmer temperature swings.  March entered like a lamb and we took full advantage, allowing us to complete an important part of the metal roofing installation.  Since the roof-slide incident, I have a new level of respect for ideal conditions before I return to complete the task.  Those ideal conditions arrived and the decision is made to climb back up on the horse that tried to buck me.

There is only 20 feet of the 52 overall feet of ridge cap installed.  The felt paper that I overlapped at the ridge before we started roof installation is keeping the water from entering the structure, but it is allowing any rain to sneak underneath the metal roof decking below it.  The experts tell me that this will be OK in the short term, but I need to cork it up.  Back up to the roof we go.

The view from up top inspires me to consider a large cupola addition at the roof peak, with a staircase.....NOT.

With this project knocked out, the only remaining roof pieces are the short rake trims at the edges of each shed dormer.  Fortunately, these pieces are installed from the top of a ladder firmly footed onto the ground below.

March's offering of warmer temps continues and we move forward with some more outside stuff.  It's time to finally install those upstairs windows.  There are 11 of them, 3 of which are large 5' square slider units.  Anticipating this somewhat awkward and laborious task, we prepared by investing in some scaffolding.  Last summer, I watched Craigslist for a pair of ladder jacks and some kind of scaffold plank.  I scored pretty good and picked up the entire shooting match for $175.  We added the new players to our existing pair of extension ladders and got into our window work.

It took a couple of weekends, but we got 'em all installed.  The main attraction was the toughest part of the project; the picture windows.  Like most steps along the way, when we were done, the reward made the tough journey well worth it.

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