Tuesday, November 3, 2015

2014/2015 Summer Adventure: Idaho Building Project Part III

This is the third in an (unintended) series of articles that documents our adventures building my dad's shop in North Idaho. The project began in the Summer of 2012. By now, we're 4 summers in and just about done. Seriously, we're just about done...

Articles for 2012 and 2013 are here:

Work has slowed these past two years, as other obligations have limited our availability. Indeed, in the summer of 2014, I worked only 4 weeks, while Dad was mostly limited to working just on weekends. In 2015, things slowed even further. I stopped by with Cathie and the kids for just 10 days in August, and that was more to vacation than to work. Nevertheless, we keep chipping away at it.... and enjoying ourselves along the way.

This article documents progress made during the Summers of 2014 and 2015 -- namely, installing the upstairs subfloor, closing in the gable ends, and installing the window and doors.

By now, the building is basically done. The three major steps that remain (besides moving in Dad's equipment) are to pour the concrete floor, finish the upstairs "office" and build a "bridge" to the upstairs entrance. We'll keep after it, and hopefully before too long we'll call it done. In the meantime, here are some pictures and commentary describing our progress.

By the Spring of 2014, the building looked like this:

The state of the shop circa Spring 2014.

The state of the shop circa Spring 2014. Dad cleared the trees near the building in the early spring. This turned out to be a wise decision (see below).
That is, by the Spring of 2014 we had the foundation, walls and roof in place. The roof and side-walls were done, but the gable ends were still open, we had no doors, and no floors.

When I arrived in mid-July 2014, my first task was to install the sub-floor upstairs. This would give us over 1000 sq-ft of "office" space.

Using a block and tackle to hoist sheets of OSB to the 2nd floor.
Aunt Eva and I used a block and tackle to hoist sheets of OSB to the 2nd floor. It worked quite well.

The partially laid subfloor.
To my surprise and deep chagrin, I struggled mightily getting the subfloor down. It turns out there was a slight bow in the first floor joist. As a result, when I laid out the first few sheets -- aligning them with the edge of the first floor joist -- I ended up aligning the sheets slightly askew from the walls. That small mis-alignment magnified over the 60 foot span of the room lead to huge gaps as I progressed down the wall. Eventually, I realized the problem and was able to correct it... after much head scratching and loud swearing (my apologies to the local wildlife and neighbors).

The end result. 
In the end, the subfloor turned out just fine. But of course, I know about and can see the flaws. One other detail: In retrospect, it may have been wise to pay a few extra $$s and use Plywood instead of OSB. Plywood is more resistent to moisture, and since we don't have immediate plans to cover the subfloor, plywood would have been more durable choice. Next time, I'll use plywood.

With the subfloor done, and Dad still in Seattle, I focused on framing in the gable ends.

The partially-framed West-end gable.
Each stud on the gable end had to be custom cut multiple times to accomodate the end truss. As a result, this task took a considerable amount of time, and many trips up and down the ladder.

The fully framed West-end gable, with upstairs door. 

I framed a door in the West-end gable. Our plans are to build a bridge from the nearby hillside over to that doorway. For now, we use a ladder to reach the second floor.

The fully framed East-end gable, as seen from the 2nd floor.
I framed a window into the East-end gable. The window provides a nice view into the "loading area" at the front of the shop.

The fully framed East-end gable, as seen from the ground.
Next up, the sheathing.

Installing the last of the sheating on the West-end gable.
To install the sheathing, we positioned our ladders parallel to one another, then Dad and I would each carry one end of a sheet up the ladder. We'd then position the sheet, and nail it down. Carrying the sheets up the ladder was awkward at best, especially considering the heights, the sandy soil and our one rickety old wooden ladder. Dad, being the old-timer and accustomed to such things, got the old ladder. On the West-end, our aluminum ladder barely reached the top.

The East-end gable with the sheathing all but completed.
On the East-end, we had to place the ladders in the truck in order to reach the upper sections of the gable.

We used the block and tackle to hoist the window into place.
We left a small hole in the top of the East-gable so that when the time came, we could use the block-and-tackle to raise the window into place. This worked well and the window went in without a hitch. We got a nice Andersen window for a good price at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

We then finished up the sheathing.
Installing the final piece of sheathing on the East-end gable.

With the sheathing, vapor barrier and window in place, we thought the building looked pretty good.

The East-end with the sheathing, wrap and window installed.

Next up, the steel siding.

Siding the East-end.
Each piece of siding on the upper gable ends had to be custom cut. We used a skill saw with a metal cutting blade. It didn't work very well, but we managed. Later (when building the garage doors), we bought a hand-held metal grinder with a cutting blade. That worked much better.

The West-end siding, all but finished.

A view down the West-end wall.
While we struggled at times to get the siding on straight, in the end, we were satisfied with the result.

Next we installed the doors.

The lower "shop" door.
Dad brought an old "shop" door over from his shop in Seattle. This heavy old door looks pretty gritty (which is perhaps suitable for the gritty down stairs metal shop).

The upstairs door.
I bought a nice new door for the upstairs "office" entrance. Once the "bridge" is in place, I think it'll look pretty good.

By the end of the Summer of 2014, we weren't finished, but we made more progress. We'd managed to lay the subfloor in the upstairs section, and we framed, sheathed, and sided the gable ends. We also got the doors and window in. Unfortunately, the summer was coming to an end (and we had other issues to contend with -- see below) so we buttoned things up and called it a year.

In 2015, we were only able to visit for 10 days. During that visit, Cathie, Anna and Audrey came along, so we mostly visited with family and vacationed. Nevertheless, we did manage to get some work done.

My building goal for the 2015 visit was to get the garage doors installed. Dad had previously installed a large roller door in the central bay.  Our focus was on the two side bays.

The first step was to hang the support rails.

The rail hangers were bolted through the ceiling joists.
First came the rail hangers.

Attaching the heavy door rails.
Then came the door rails. The rails were surprisingly heavy. It took three of us to get things positioned just right. Aunt Eva (as always) was ready to lend a hand.

Dad inspecting a door frame.
Dad built custom door frames from scrap aluminum he had in his Seattle shop. These are lightweight but strong. To complete the doors we attached steel siding to the frame. For the North bay door, we built the door on the ground then tried to hoist it into place. This proved rather difficult, due to the weight and flex of the door. For the South bay, we first hung the door, then installed the steel siding in place. This too was cumbersome, but we managed.

The East-end with the two side doors installed.

I must confess, I'm not completely satisifed with the garage doors. The doors themselves are 13-feet tall, but the steel siding pieces we hung on them were only 12-feet long. Because we were working under time constraints (we needed to complete the doors so Dad could secure the building), we went with the material we had on hand. This forced us to add an extra layer of panels at the bottom. In my opinion, this looks clunky. Nevertheless, the doors work and do the job for now.  At some point, I want to go back and replace the steel on these doors with full length 13-foot pieces. It'll just look better.

When we left in mid-August the core building was complete. The three biggest tasks that remain are to:

  • pour the concrete floor
  • finish the upstairs walls and ceiling
  • build an access (bridge) to the upstairs doorway.
These will all take time, but we'll do them as time permits. For now, Dad is in the process of moving his equipment over from Seattle. Next summer, God willing, we'll start on the house. :)

Of course, we didn't spend every waking moment working on the shop, and as always, Idaho offered us plenty of excitement and adventure away from the project. For example, in late-July 2014, a powerful storm blew through the valley. It knocked out power in Sandpoint and downed trees all over the place. Dad counted 40 downed trees on his place alone. Here are some pictures.

Downed trees near the old trailer.

A broken tree top near the West end of the shop.

A large tree on the West side of the shop lost it's top. Luckily, the fallen top missed the building. Earlier in the year, Dad cleared a half a dozen tree near the building. It was a wise decision, as the building came through the storm unscathed.

A tree fell on the old trailer, crushing a corner of the lean-to.
The lean-to covering the old trailer wasn't so lucky. A tree broke off and crushed one corner. Luckily, nearby trees caught the falling snag and prevented damage to the trailer itself.

Fallen trees also blocked the road.

A widow-maker hanging over the corner of the old trailer.

 To avoid hitting the trailer, when cutting down this tree, we attached a chain to the tree and pulled it with the bobcat. When it fell, it barely missed the trailer.
There were also plenty of widow makers, just waiting for the next wind to bring them down. We cut down another half-dozen trees, just to make it safe to walk around.

While I continued working on the building, Aunt Eva came over and limbed the trees that had fallen in the yard and along the road. She worked for several days straight and built herself several huge brush piles, which Dad burned the following Spring. Later, Dad cut the trees into logs. I took six loads of (unsplit) logs over to Eva's place to supplement her winter firewood supply. Eventually, she said: "enough!". I barely put a dent in our pile.

I took six loads of logs to Eva's to supplement her winter firewood supply.
Across the valley, Aunt Eva also took hits on her place, loosing several large trees.

Dad standing next to the root ball of a large tree that came down on Aunt Eva's farm.

The wind wasn't the only thing to give us fits that summer. Gweeda also had a run-in with a skunk. Poor girl. 

Gweeda getting a bath after being sprayed in the mouth by a skunk.

We had a chance to swim in the river and visit with family.

Swimming in the river with my cousin Gordon and his family. 

Mom (center) visiting with her sisters: Shirley (left) and Darlene (right). We also had visits from Aunt Mary, Cousin Susan, Cousin Janette and their families.
And of course, no trip to Idaho would be complete without a visit to the White Rock!

Anna and Audrey with Aunt Eva at the White Rock.

We also took time to enjoy nature and just plain lay around.

A family of swallows nesting in the building.

Gweeda enjoying the cool sand, in the shade of the shop, on a hot day.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Summer Adventure: The Idaho Building Project, Part II -- Two guys and a Bobcat

This blog entry is way overdue. Here it is December and I'm only now writing about this past summer's adventure. For shame. My delay can be blamed on the time it took me to recover from all that work. Yeah, that's it.

In the summer of 2012, Dad and I undertook an ambitious project to build a large shop in Idaho. At the time, we thought we could finish the job that summer. We were wrong. By the end of the summer of 2012, the two of us, with some help from family and friends, had managed to make good progress, but we were far from done. We hoped to finish the job in 2013.

Um. Well. Ah. We didn't quite get there. We made good progress though. And I'm pretty sure we'll finish 'er up next year. Yeah. That's it. Next year! I'm pretty sure....

This entry chronicles the progress, adventure and good time we had this past summer. There is nothing quite like two guys and a bobcat working, side by side, day after day, for a month in the baking hot sun -- especially when one of those guys is your dad. I absolutely treasured the time with him. Mom and Cathie were there too -- providing support, encouragement and wonderfully good food. It was truly a terrific summer.

Here is how the project looked when I left Idaho in August of 2012.

The partially completed building as of August 2012.
By then, we'd managed to build the foundation, the walls and a few roof trusses. We also had managed to install most of the wall sheathing.  The blog entry for our summer 2012 adventure can be found here.

Before winter set in, Dad added house wrap where he could and buttoned things up for the year. When I arrived in July 2013, I was glad to see the building still standing. It looked like this.

The building, when I arrived, in mid-July 2013

Upon inspecting the building, we discovered a large hornet's nest. I sprayed the nest with a couple cans of poison, it didn't have much effect, except to piss them off.  Then, Dad fashioned a flame thrower out of a propane tank and some kind of "flame-thrower" fitting he had recently bought -- from God know where! He toasted the poor little suckers. We felt a little bad, but sucked it up. We simply couldn't work with that giant nest in our work-space.

It turns out the nest was just the beginning of our bee problems. Over the course of the next week or so, we found a good dozen nests (little ones) lodged at various places throughout the bobcat -- under the seat, in the roll-cage, behind the ignition switch, in the bucket. If there was a nook or a cranny, or a corner, there was a nest. All day long for days, Dad would contend with yellow-jackets buzzing around him...following him to a fro. He only got stung once.

Later in the summer, the yellow-jackets got down-right prolific. Eating lunch or dinner outside became an exercise in food-protection. At one point while eating a chicken dinner, we amused ourselves by watching the yellow-jackets land on our plates, bite off a big chunk of chicken, then attempt to fly off to their nest. They were often so heavily laden, they could barely fly. It was an amusing form of dinner entertainment.

But that wasn't the end of our bee troubles. We also had a bald-faced hornets nest embedded somewhere in our out-house. I can tell you, it isn't pleasant seeing and hearing bald-faced hornets buzzing around when you're trying to use the privy. Worse, it's down-right annoying when they fly up through the hole, while your sitting on it. To fix the problem, I tipped up the outhouse chair and sprayed the hole and all around, but nothing helped. They persisted. Eventually, we just got used to them. We learned that they settled down late at night and early in the morning, so we planned accordingly.

In the end, I was only stung once all summer. It was a bald-faced hornet. I got hit three times. They stung me when I stepped on their nest, while raising corrugated steel roofing up to dad on the roof. Overall, the bees, wasps, and hornets were annoying, but relatively reasonable neighbors.

The hornet's nest found inside the building.

In the Spring, while I was back in Boston, Dad had managed to build a half dozen trusses on his own. When I arrived, they were neatly stacked against a brace he built. He had cleverly used the Bobcat to move these big 56-foot trusses around all by himself.

Dad's spring built trusses, waiting to be installed.
We installed Dad's previously built trusses, then got down to building more. I cut all the lumber last summer, so it was a matter of putting the pieces together. The trusses took time to build. On our best day, I think we managed to build 4 or 5 of them. The truss joints were joined with steal plates, nailed onto the wood. Each truss was comprised of 16 boards, 30 plates and around 200 nails.

Trusses were built one at a time, on top of our master template.
After a year off, it took me a while to find my swing. Once I got consistent with the hammer, I could hit my thumb in the same spot over and over again.

If you look closely, you can see a blood blister on a blood blister -- caused by hitting myself in the same spot again and again.  
Over the course of the winter, the Carpenter Ants found our lumber pile. They did some lovely, but serious, damage. We tried to save as much lumber as we could, but had to discard some of it.

Our lumber was infested with Carpenter Ants. There were thousands of eggs. 

The damage done by the Carpenter Ants was serious. They ate the soft part of the wood, leaving the hard part behind. The result was lovely -- a smooth, intricate, grain-aligned pattern of channels.
Once we had a few trusses built, we got busy putting them up. We used our bobcat, augmented with our homemade boom-winch to lift and move the trusses.

Step 1: Use the bobcat to position the truss in front of the building

Step 2: Raise the truss above the building walls. With Dad controlling the boom-winch, I used a rope to level the truss.

Step 3: Gently drive the bobcat, with the raised truss, into place.

Step 4. Wrestle one end of the truss into place -- aligning both the inter-truss spacing and the overhang.

Step 5. Tack the truss into place with a few nails and a pre-installed anchor bracket.

Step 6. Do the same on the other side. The trusses were heavy, weighing about 750 lbs. So, muscling them around wasn't easy. 

We had to work fast, since the bobcat's hydraulics had a small leak, which caused the boom to sag onto the building after a minute or two.  

Step 7. Space and secure the rafter at the joint.

Step 8. Space and secure the wall studs, then unchain the truss from the boom and back the bobcat out.
After we got about half the trusses up, we decided to take a break from truss-building and do some sheathing.

We used the bobcat to lift the sheathing up to the roof-line. Then I'd pull the sheets up one at a time.

Getting the first layer of sheathing down straight and square was critical and the hardest part.

Over the course of the winter, some of our trusses warped. We straightened out the trusses as we put the sheathing on.

We used a long rope, tied to a tree, to pull the first trusses into their proper position. From there, we nailed the sheathing on, to lock things in place. This step actually took a while. But in the end, we got everything pretty well squared up.

We kept at it, straightening the trusses as we went. Initially, we only tacked the sheathing into place. Then, once half the roof was done, we went back and completely nailed 'er down.
After two weeks of work, we had trusses up and sheathing on for half the roof. 

After two weeks, we had half the roof done -- not including the roofing! We had a long way to go and only two more weeks of work/vacation left. We'd been working hard, 8-14 hour days, but we also took some time to enjoy ourselves.

We took time to enjoy the scenery ...

Morning dew on a grape leaf in the garden.

... and Mother Nature's bounty.

Fresh produce from the garden.

The Raspberries were abundant and delicious ...

... and so were the Currants.

We took a day to go Huckleberry picking. There is nothing like fresh Huckleberries with cream and sugar. Yum!

Mom also made a couple of her famous pies. Delicious! 

And of course, we swam in the river... pretty much every day. Our routine was to take a break during the heat of the day (roughly 2-4 pm), walk to the river, swim, cool off, walk back and take a short siesta before heading back to work for the evening.

The swimming hole.

We kept working, and before long, we were almost done with the trusses.

Making progress on the trusses for the front half of the building.

Almost done with the trusses.

It seems that nothing is ever easy. And, unfortunately, our 2000 lb winch gave up the ghost just as we tried to lift our last truss into place. We tore it apart to figure out why it stopped lifting. We futzed with it and futzed with it and futzed with it. The bearings supporting the spool's drive axle had become damaged over time and were adding an extra drag on the motor.  I called the local Harbor Freight store in Spokane to find a replacement. Sheesh. We'd already spent a day messing with the thing, now it looked like we'd have to buy a replacement.

We tore apart the winch trying to figure out why it would no longer lift the trusses. 

But Dad didn't give up so easily. He took our batteries over to Aunt Eva's house, charged 'em to the max, and greased the hell out of the winch. Then we tried one more time.  Slowly, slowly, slowly it inched up. Finally, it cleared the walls.

Putting the final nail in the last truss.

Finishing the trusses was a major milestone. I was happy.

Glad to be done with the trusses! Yeah!

Oh shoot! I forgot about the front fascia board. Not done yet. Sigh.

Installing the front fascia board. 

To hang the fascia board, we temporarily top-nailed it to a pair of 2x4 supports. We then slid the board out over the permanent supports, letting it drop down into place. While one of us held the temporary supports, the other nailed the fascia board into its permanent position. It was a little awkward, and scary up at the ridge, but it worked.
Dad holds the temporary fascia board supports, while I nail it into place.

It felt great to have the trusses completely done. Finally, we could see the shape of the full building.

A view of the shop with all the trusses installed.

Overall, it looked pretty good. 

After a brief celebration, it was back to work. There was sheathing to be laid.

Sheathing the front half of the building.

This project used a lot of nails -- about 20,000 by my estimate. Given a swing accuracy rate of 99.9%, I calculated that I should hit my thumb about 10 times over the course of the project. That ended up being about right.

Loading up with nails while sheathing.

As we approached the front end of the building we had to tweak our sheathing a bit. Our outside walls weren't 100% parallel; Nor were they absolutely identical in length. The root cause of the difficulty was traced back to the foundation. Oops.

We had some minor issues with the final pieces of sheathing. Nothing too serious though.
With a little bit of final futzing, we managed to get all the sheathing down. Overall, it looked pretty good.

Another milestone reached. Finish roof sheathing -- check!

We also took time to cross-brace everything and put up the final row of sheathing on the walls.

finish up the wall sheathing -- check!

Cathie helped with the house-wrap.

Cathie re-stapling the house-wrap onto the walls after nailing up the top row of sheathing.

Time was running out now. So we quickly got started on the roof. First came the tar paper.

Laying tar paper on the roof.

Murphy was our ever present companion. One night after papering half the roof, it rained and the wind blew. Murphy shredded our tar paper. So we did it again.

The rain caused the tar paper to shrink up and pull away from the nails. The wind did the rest.

We papered half the roof, then got busy installing corrugated steel.  Cathie and I pre-drilled the holes, then lifted the sheets up to Dad. While I held them in place, he screwed 'em down.

Lifting a sheet of roofing up to Dad.

Installing the steel roof.

We were really running out of time now. It was our last day on the job. We did our best and managed to get about 1/3rd  of the roof on. But Cathie and I had a flight to catch.  We had to go.

By the time we had to leave, we'd only managed to get steel on 1/3 of the roof.

Dad, being Dad, kept at it. And with a little help from Aunt Eva, he not only managed to finish the roof, he also installed additional house-wrap and sided the north and south walls. By November the building was ready for another winter.

The first snows of winter.

Nope. We didn't finish the building in 2013. But we made very good progress. Not bad for two guys and a bobcat. What's left? The end-walls, the cement floor, the bay doors, electrical, plumbing, interior work.... Will we finish in 2014?  Maybe. But if not, we're sure to make progress and enjoy ourselves along the way. Dad wants to move his shop over from Seattle next fall. We'll see. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and looking forward to my 2014 Summer Adventure: Idaho Building Project, Part III.