Wood and Stone

A site to track our progress as we build our FirstDay Cottage Canadian house kit. Come on in, get a cup of coffee, set a spell and follow along on our journey or join in if you like. Check back for the weekly update (usually by Wednesday when things are going right) to see what we are currently up to!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

On Top O' the World

This Saturday Pop, Uncle John and Aunt Sandra came up to help. After lunch, Grandma Lana brought the children up, but they had fallen asleep on the way and didn't wake up for a bit.

The framing continues.
Pop, Uncle John and I put together the framing for the basement windows as well as finshing the first floor of the cathedraled areas on the front of the house, in preparation of sheathing.

The road wall completed with sheathing.
Meanwhile, Wendy and Aunt Sandra (and Grandma Lana when she arrived) worked on the sheathing on the wall that wasn't finished last week. Once that was done, Wendy worked on getting the treated 2x6s on in front of the basement window so we can really start sheathing without delay when we are ready.

The structural framing completed.
Today (Sunday) was just Wendy and I. We slept in and got a later start than normal (noon actually). We arrived and cut the templates we had marked last weekend, got the rest of the wood we needed and then cut all the remaining peaks. We assembled and raised (in turn) the two back peaks and secured them. Then we put the remaining three bents together, raised them and put them in place.

Topping Off the frame
Everything was secured before we celebrated, which included the tradition of attaching an evergreen to your framing. I found a site, which names this tradition the Whetting Bush and does a great job of explaining the significance of this tradition. Excited and tired (it took about six hours), we cleaned up and headed home for another weekend.

Thursday we will be working on the framing in the kitchen aisle so that the south side can be sheathed up to the loft floor at least. Next weekend we are going to try to gather a work crew to help with sheathing, framing and whatever else we have to do.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Feeling a Bit Peak-ed

I have been a wreck this week. First, the rib I hurt was bothering me - especially sleeping. Then after going up and covering the wood Monday night (to let it dry out a bit from Saturday's rain and Sunday being cool) and nailing down the extra sill plate on the back of the house, my foot started hurting (and my elbow, from hammering from the ladder at a weird angle). The foot felt like it was broken when I moved it side to side Tuesday and Wednesday.

I was debating whether to work because of that and because some weather reports called for 80-90% chance of rain for most of the day, with thunderstorms in the evening. Anyway, the rib started feeling better and the foot and elbow hurt less today. The weather (after a brief, intense rainstorm) looked to be holding together, so we decided to go ahead and go to work.

Today's' adventure was to finally put up a peak and make sure it fits, so we can finish the major framing. Wendy had already measure out the 2x8s for the first peak rafter, and I cut them last Sunday, but never got back to them after the rib thing,

We still had to measure and cut the 2x4 in the middle of the rafter, but after figuring out how to make it work for the lower rafters, I found it simple to set the 2x4 correctly in the peak rafters. The secret for the bottom rafter is to line the 2x4 up with the bottom post, leaving it short a half inch or so for a little play (given a post that is wider than the norm), and then cut it an inch or two short where it matches up with the collar tie. We found on the first one we made that fitting the 2x4 exactly didn't work and we had to notch the bottom of the collar tie to allow the rafter to sit flush, as the rafter was already all spiked together.

The secret for the peak is to make the long 2x4 flush with the top of the peak, and then using a scrap from cutting the collar tie to figure out where the collar tie fits the peak rafter, and cut the 2x4 an inch or two shorter for fit, as with the lower rafter.

I got the 2x4s cut and then went up to the platform we had built on the collar ties. We took twelve 13' scaffold planks, and put them up in six groups of two with a small space in between them to create a work area the I used to nail the peak together. I set the work so that the ends were right near the collar tie that it is to sit on and aseembled it.

Once it was together, Wendy stood on the middle 4 planks (2 under each foot, straddling the space) and picked the peak up by the point. The ends rested on the planks near the edges of the collar ties, and she was able to stand it up right next to where it should go. I went to the ends, picked them up and put them down on the collar tie.

The trouble zone between the post, the collar tie and the peak rafter.
The only potential trouble zone we noticed is that the way the collar tie and the tops of the posts set, the rafter cannot sit down all the way on the collar tie. I used my hammer as a chisel and beat down the corner of the post on the top outside corner and the rafter dropped right into place. On future peak rafters we'll probably just use a chisel to knock off a quarter inch from the corner of the post, but in the heat of the moment I improvised.

Other than that, we had the first peak up. We went down to the main deck to cut another peak and made some templates to use for cutting the remaining pieces. By now the weather was starting to live up to its promises (we could hear the thunder coming) and we put the pieces up and got it put together and assembled before any weather broke. I braced the two peaks with some strapping to keep them together at least.

The first pair of peak rafters up.
Just having the peak really makes the difference - it completes the hook of the house. The peaks are really very simple to put up once you know about the 2x4 shortcut, the platform and the trouble zone. Next time we work on peaks (Sunday perhaps - Pop is up Saturday to help us with the window framing), I will try to get some photos of the process to help illustrate it and our setup.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Return of the Hammer Brothers

This morning we got up there pretty early, and had to clean up a little bit of water. After we left Saturday, it rained like the dickens as we drove to eat. As soon as the Hammer Brothers and Asten arrived, they got straight to work finishing up the East wall to within one board width of the top. Wendy and Pop worked on putting in the top and bottom of the rough opening for the windows, while I cut the 2x8s for the first peak and put them up on top of the second flor bents, along with a bunch of scaffold boards to make a work platform. Well before lunch, Justin, Asten and Jason moved to working on the west side.

The east wall from the outside.
At one point, after putting in an additional header for the windows in the front from a ladder, I decided to move from the ladder to the scaffold directly instead of going down one and up the other. Of course, that is where things went wrong - I got partway across, and the ladder tipped over, so I had to grab on to the scaffold to keep from falling. I didn't fall, and Wendy recovered the ladder, but I think I bruised a rib while clinging to the scaffold, since it is tender when lifting things now. It doesn't hurt to press the ribs, so I don't think I cracked one though. That was the end of the peaks for the weekend though, since it takes some hauling to get myself up on the collar ties and scaffold planks.

I get by with a little help from my friends
I spent the rest of the day helping Pop with the framing again. We put together half of the framing on the the other cathedraled front of the house (away from the road) and raised it with some help. It went up really nicely and made things much simpler than building it in place like we did on the other end (which is a pain with a long post like we have in the middle).

You can see Pop calulating where everything should land in his head
Once we got that half in place, Pop and I put up the other side of the frame before he decided to head home and rest up.

Wendy sheathing the West wall
meanwhile, Justin and Asten kept working through lunch, as they had to leave and figured they would catch some food on the road. When they left, Wendy took over and worked with Jason on bringing the West wall up to the top. They got pretty close to finishing it before Jay had to go too. At that point we cleaned up and headed home since we were pretty beat and Grandma Lana had Uncle John and Aunt Sandra visiting today and they were thinking of going out to dinner; We didn't want them to get started too late.

The east wall from the inside.
it's really cool having 2 of the outside walls pretty much done, and it makes me torn on whether to work on the peaks next or keep framing so we can close in the rest of the walls. I think the peaks are next though, so we can sheathe the roof and keep the darn rain off - once it rains the water starts dripping and everything ends up in the basement. That isn't too bad, as we have a sump down there that is tied into the footing drains, but there are a couple of dips that collect water, which can be annoying.

The whole enchilada
The shot of everything we accomplished for the weekend.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Full House Beats a Pair

We had a full house this weekend! My friend Jason ("The Hammer") came up again, and his brother Justin and Justin's girlfriend Asten came as well. In addition, Pop came back, and Wendy's uncle and aunt came up on Saturday to help out. After a bit of getting everything setup and straightened out, we put them all to work on some random stuff in the morning.

Aunt Sandra and Uncle John
Jay helped me out up on the scaffold to set the rafters in place and secure them, while Justin and Asten helped Pop and Wendy start the gable end framing. Uncle John and Aunt Sandra got to work on putting up the breaker box, meter pan and conduit for the electric service.

Justin and Asten put up the very first board of sheathing!
After lunch, we started Jason, Justin and Asten on sheathing the end of the house that faces away from the street. We have finally figured out that we should start something new in a spot that isn't as visible, so we can learn without making too funky of a mess. We set them up with some scaffolding, a ladder, a milk jug full of nails and an explanation of how the system works (Which side faces in, which side faces out, the fact that the inside is the finished wall and how to choose boards). We nailed the extra 2x6 onto the existing sill and let them run with it.

The Hammer Brothers at work with the chop saw
They quickly got the hang of what they needed to do and fell into a rhythm with Justin and Asten measuring the sheathing, Jay cutting it to size with the chop saw and then all of them hammering away to put it in place. By the end of the day they had come up with a system of sheathing that allowed them to break the vertical joints for strength and minimize their waste. They had completed over half of the East wall and it looked great! Now we just need the window header and footer in place so they know where to start sheathing again in the window holes.

Pop sitting pretty
I was going to work on the peaks after setting the rafters in the morning, but instead ended up spending a lot of my time playing foreman, coordinating everyone else, answering questions and hopping from job to job. Mostly, I was working with Pop and Wendy on window and gable end framing. We finished the bottom of the west end of the gable end. We wrapped it up and headed out to get some food and get rested up for Sunday!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Next Stop: The Peak!

I arrived at the property around 12:30pm today, expecting to meet Joe and Lisa, a couple from the area who are considering building a FirstDay Cottage for themselves. We had emailed back and forth and it worked out that they could come up today, which was just fine, since we could use some help with raising the remaining rafters. They hadn't arrived before me which gave me a chance to get some things out and get ready. When they got there I showed them 'around' (it's becoming clearer what is where!) and we talked about the house until Wendy arrived. At that point, she motivated us to get down to business.

Lisa staining the siding
Lisa was on baby duty with their 6 month old and she stained more of the siding, which was great! We have a bunch to stain and the weather isn't going to be too good for that soon, so every bit counts!

Joe heads up the scaffold
Joe was ready to put up some rafters, and after putting up the rest of the scaffold, checking the post for plumb and nailing together one of the two unfinished rafters, Wendy helped and we raised the first rafter of the day. We then raised the four rafters assembled last weekend one right after the other, in quick succession. I assembled the last rafter and we raised and secured it. By then it was 5pm or so and Joe and Lisa headed out, steeped in the Firstday Cottage experience.

Wendy and I decided to trim the first floor deck off, finally, so we can put black plastic over the floor in the study/office end of the house. We will put it on the living room end too once the scaffold is down to keep the floor dry and keep the water out of the basement. While we did this a neighbor stopped by to see how we were coming along. He left shortly thereafter, not wanting to keep us from using the daylight. We raced the sun and managed to get all but a couple of board ends bear the posts cut - those will have to be hand cut, but I think I will get a pullsaw to do that with.

The ribs of the beast
The ribs have nearly been completed. All that is left now (ha!) is to put together and raise the peaks and do the gable end framing, and then we can start closing it in with the sheathing!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Swinging From the Rafters

This past week we started working a half day one day during the week, with some help from my boss. He was nice enough to allow me to work a flexible schedule for now until we get the house closed in (we are racing the weather). I may start putting up a summary of what we did on that half day by itself, but for this week at least, I am including it here.

We noticed at the end of last weekend that we had almost no 2x6s left in the pile to make the remaining seven posts from (each post needing two 16 foot 2x6s). On top of that, those posts are the ones in the living room, so the idea of scabbing them together from what we had left wasn't really appealing since they are exposed in the main area other people will see in the house. Wendy called FirstDay Cottage, and after checking into how many we had received, John told us they would be sending us another two dozen 2x6s on Thursday morning. Very convenient, since we would be up that day to work!

Thursday I got to the site around noon and the new lumber was there. I got started putting together the posts which had already been cut, and then began putting up what we needed of the new lumber to make the remaining posts. Wendy came up and met me after she was finished with her prior obligations and when she got there we cut all the posts and put them together. By the end of the day we were able to get all but 2 of the posts standing and braced with 2x4s. The last bracing was done by the light of our battery lantern and then, after a 2x4 dropped on Wendy and the lantern (no major injuries, thankfully), by headlight. Things had dried out for a couple of days too and we also got the upper deck covered with some 6 mil black plastic to keep the water off and from dripping onto the deck below. It is a bit slidey, but we just have to be careful when we are up there (which shouldn't be too much until the house is closed in).

Saturday we had a wedding to attend in the morning and didn't get to the site until 2pm. It was just as well, as it was rainy in the morning and cold all day. Pop met us on site (he wants to help as much as he can to help us get closed in before the weather really turns) and we got two more rafters assembled and put up (the end ones, which are the most precarious as they are right on the edge of the deck). Wendy and Pop cut a couple more for the next day, and we called it a day and went to get something warm to eat.

Sunday morning we got up, but lallygagged a little since the temperature on site was in the low 40s at 6am. We picked up Pop from Grandma Lana's place and got on site around 8:30, when the temperature had risen to the low 50s. We had long underwear, fleeces, flannels and tuques, which I kept on all day since even when it warmed up a bit the wind was blowing and cooling it back down. We hustled it and got the remaining three rafters assembled and up by about noon. Pop wanted to leave at noon to head home, and wanted to help us get the end rafters on the road side of the house up, so we comprimised. He helped us with the rear outside rafter and left around 1pm.

One side done, and one on the next
After Pop left, Wendy and I cut the remaining rafters and and put together 4 of them before the end of the day. We are ready to get the last six rafters put up when we work on Wednesday (a different day due to business needs for me to be at work on Thursday this week).

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I Can't Stand the Rain

Saturday we got up and got to it, since Pop was coming up to work with us putting up rafters. We were able to get another post and rafter up and tacked in place before the thunder storm got cloe enough that we needed to get down from the scaffold. Unfortunately, the second rafter didn't quite come flush with the collar tie, providing this weeks Scooby Doo Mystery. The rain started around 3pm and we decided to call it for the day since the prediction was more storms into the evening.

The ribs slowly going up
Sunday we came back and adjusted the rafter so that it fits in place. It was a bit difficult due to how the rafter connects. It sits on the post on the first floor, and slips up underneath the collar tie on the second story. The 2x4 spacer was a bit long, and we couldn't adjust the rafter without tearing it apart to cut the 2x4, so we notched the collar tie half an inch on the bottom edge. Since there is nothing that the rafter sits on (it hangs beneath the collar tie), we tacked it in place with scaffold nails until we get the others hung. Then we can can pull a line and make sure they all match before securing them permanently.

To alleviate this, we decided to make the 2x4 spacer in the rafter about an inch shorter going forward to accomodate adjustment of the rafter. We started cutting more sets, and got another post up and plumb before it started to rain around noon. We decided to keep working under the deck, but soon the floor above was leaking (we hadn't gotten it covered before Saturday's rain, and decided not to cover it up while it was still gonna be wet to avoid sealing moisture in). By time we got everything into the container and out of the rain, we were all soaked to the skin and given that the forecast was rain the rest of the day, we called it and bought Pop lunch before sending him home and going hom ourselves.

This was our first rainy weekend since starting this project. We have really been rather fortunate so far, and into each house some rain must fall I suppose. This week, I am starting a different work schedule to accomodate working half a day on Thursdays, and spending the other half on the house. Hopefully this will help us get closed in all the faster.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A visit from FirstDay

Last night, we bought a scaffold from a gentleman in Voorheesville. He is a retired roofer who needed to clean out his garage. We bought 8 Safway frames with bracing, feet, jack legs, connectors, half frames, a well wheel and arms, a dozen 13 foot planks and a handful of 6 foot planks and outriggers. It also came with a set of 4 ladder hooks for putting planks across ladders. He kept it all garaged when not in use, and we got it at a very reasonable price. He even said he could deliver it all to the site for us!

I took a half day today. Our scaffold was being delivered and David Howard was coming to visit us on site as we started the rafters. He wanted to come see how things were going, especially since ours is the first Canadian being built. While we worked on getting the first post and rafter built, David checked out the house so far, taking some notes and photos.

David checks the fit
He helped us to plumb the post and raise the rafter into place on the collar tie and the post. Being as this hadn't been done before, we were all unsure of the exact logistics. After a period of deep thought and standing around, we decided to just give it a try and see how it went. We were able to get the rafter up and secured into place before David had to go. We kept going for a while and got another set of post and rafter started before calling it a day.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Movin' on up!

To a deluxe apartment in the sky...

We set out today with the goal of getting all of our loft bents up. The only thing we needed was some help in raising and setting the bents. Fortunately our friends Cindy and Kurt were able help us out.

We went to work and cut all the pieces for the remaining four bents in the morning and then assembled them on the loft deck (or Promenade Deck as Wendy likes to think of it). We stacked them as we built them, in order to utilize the space we had without trying to raise bents with 2 people instead of 4. Kurt and I did end up putting the first two bents up to lean on the doubled section so we could reverse the direction we were building the last two bents in.

A good old fashioned loft raising
Getting all of the bents standing and in place took maybe 20 minutes. Then the task left to us was to finish nailing them in and to clean up from a busy 3 days. I got a quarter of a bucket of sawdust for the toilet while sweeping, and it took another 2 hours to get ready to leave. Another milestone reached.

Seven bents all in a row, Mark II
Next come the rafters and outside posts!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Up, up and away!

Mimi, Pop, Aunt Laurie and Uncle Michael came up for the holiday weekend to help out. Grandma Lana got a break from the kids, as we brought them up with us, figuring that with all of us, someone could have an eye on them at any given time. The beginning of Saturday was spent getting everything uncovered and then a bit of maintenance. While Wendy and Pop got the chop saw back in shape (it had suffered som rust from being left in the basement for a few weekends, even though it was under cover), Laurie, Michael and Mimi were setup to start staining the siding.

We chose to go with a semi transparent stain from Behr, in a color called Redwood. We want a barn red, but what the paint companies call barn red varies wildly, from way too tomato red colored to way too purple red colored. The Redwood looked like what we want on the chip, so we bought it and went for the gusto. We went with the transparent, because while it lasts less time, you can see the wood grain, and what we haven't liked about seing this vertical siding on other houses is that it looks funky with a layer of paint on it. Fortunately the color is really nice, especially up against the container, which is a similar green to what out roof will be!

Redwood stained siding against green metal
Meanwhile, I made a drying rack for the siding from a couple of 2x4s and some strapping. This was to allow for more boards to dry at once than the method we used with the decking. I also finally got our sawdust toilet constructed and setup in the basement (behind a hanging tarp, for some privacy) which seemed appropriate with the number of people we had onsite this weekend.

After lunch, we cut the first upstairs bent, assembled it on the upper deck, and experienced the horror of raising 12 foot wide bents on a 12 foot wide second story platform and installing them on the end of the desk. After much vertigo, we set the bent and braced it in place. One bent down, six to go!

Pop and Michael helping to raise bent
Sunday, we set Pop and Michael on the saw cutting bent pieces, while Mimi and Laurie stained and kept an eye on the children. Wendy and I went up on the deck and assembled the bents. We had two more assembled and lifted in place by the time of Emmet's birthday party. We took it over to the park and had hot dogs and cupcakes by the lake.

Three of seven bents
By time we finished up there it was after 6. My family packed it up to drive back downstate, while we went back to the land with Grandpa Tom and Grandma Lana. We got a couple more boards measured and things cleaned up before taking off for home ourselves.