Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sus Ojos

Today was a much better day than yesterday. Cloudy to start, but no rain, and sun in the afternoon. I worked with Edis, and we got a lot done. I'd pre-cut the headers, jack studs, and sills for a couple of windows that we'd left out to reduce weight when raising the walls. So while I cut back more of the roof and existing siding to install the wall where the new front door will be, Edis kept busy with putting in the stuff for the window framing.

We got the front wall raised, and I put Edis to installing the header, et al, for the window in it, while I laid out and built one of the wall sections that sits atop the existing dining room and kitchen wall. We raised that, and briefly celebrated because although it sits on two levels because of the Hecka Big Beam, and it had to slide over the existing vent stack for the kitchen, it fit like a glove. (No, not like OJ's fit well.)

Then I put Edis to work installing the window framing in it while I laid out the last section of "tall" wall, which goes between the entryway and the bedroom and bathroom. And hence it contains the door to the bedroom, so it will get a big header.

Building that wall was a challenge, because it was as tall and wide as the bedroom is wide, so there wasn't much room to nail. But we managed, and got that wall raised, too.

Which leaves two more sections of exterior wall to build, the biggest one being the part that makes up the outside of the loft above the bathroom. So tomorrow we'll build the interior bathroom wall and the loft above it, so we can install the exterior wall above that.

Edis did some cutting along the way, but he's not getting how to use the Skilsaw, so I ended up doing most of the cuts. Tomorrow I may have him bring the chop saw up again, since it's much easier to make straight cuts with that, even if it is slower. But I had to remind him time and again to put his safety glasses on -- "¡Sus ojos!" ("Your eyes!")

One of the biggest framing tasks remaining (beside installing the roof trusses whenever those are ready) is making a cricket on the existing roof to meet the side of the addition. That and installing the sheathing (5/8" OSB) on the walls should keep me busy until the roof trusses are ready.

Just getting the roof trusses ordered is taking a frustratingly long time. There aren't that many companies that make trusses in the SF Bay Area, and some won't even do it for single houses -- they only make trusses en masse for developers doing multi-home developments. I've emailed, then called BayTruss, and only get sporadic responses. I just want to know how much the darn things will cost, then I'll go ahead and order them. But that's taking forever. I'm even considering getting them through Home Depot, though I'm not sure they do raised-heel trusses.

A lot of people haven't the foggiest idea what raised-heel trusses are -- even the engineer who did the calcs for the Hecka Big Beam hadn't heard of them. The concept is pretty simple, though. The heel (the part of the truss that sits on top of the walls) is, well, raised. Why is this a good thing, you ask? Because it allows putting more insulation all the way across the ceiling, instead of having it be squished at the edges of the roof because of limited space. Which makes for a better insulated house, which is more comfortable and cheaper to heat. And it makes installing aforementioned insulation much, much easier.

After I dropped off Edis, I made another trip to Home Depot for some more wood for tomorrow's building. A woman in the parking lot asked if I needed help loading, clearly looking for some money. I said no thanks, so she asked if I could help with some money for dinner. Long story short, 'Vicki' may have been lying through her teeth, but she helped me load the lumber on the car, and I gave her some money for dinner and some more for diapers for her 5 month old daughter. And she asked for prayer, which I'll definitely give. A long while back I heard a sermon on giving to people who are begging. The pastor said he used to always worry that people would just use the money for drugs, alcohol, etc. But then he realized...what if they don't? He realized the Christ-like thing to do was just give them the money, and let God sort it out. So I did, and we both went away happy. And God will sort it out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I'm very glad I spent Monday and Tuesday at the worship seminar, but today was not a fun-filled day. The seminar was awesome. I learned some things, got some new ideas, and most importantly, got a chance to worship God and recharge my batteries a bit. Most Sundays I don't get to be as involved in the service as much as I'd like, because I'm too busy helping make sure the service happens. Running sound, the projector with the order of worship and liturgy, the lighting (such as we have control of that), and dealing with setup in general, I don't get much chance to get involved in the service. But Monday and Tuesday, I didn't have to worry about that. But in typical fashion, I did worry about some of that..."how did they do that?" "can we do that?" "we do that better", etc.

But today, I awoke somewhat tired from all the social activity and the later than usual nights, and to the sound of rain falling. Ack! The forecast had a chance of rain Thursday and Friday, but this was most definitely rain, and on Wednesday. There was water getting various places, but nothing too bad. But there was a rather alarming pool of water that had collected in a low spot in the tarp, so I raced around adjusting things, and finally figured out how to get rid of the pool of water on the tarp without making a total mess of things.

And then I raced off to the dentist to get my broken tooth looked at, running late because of the added traffic from the rain. The dentist built some forms around the tooth and patched it up, but a variety of power tools were involved, which made a slight headache into a major headache in short order. I got some ibuprofen and headed off to Home Depot. I got another tarp, but mostly more wood for building some of the smaller wall sections. To accompany the process of loading the madera, err, wood, onto the car, I heard the lovely sound of a piledriver working on some nearby freeway. Ugh...that didn't help the iboprofen at all.

But I got things loaded, made it home, and by that time the rain had mostly stopped. And even managed to get some things done. Added some brackets to connect the cut roof and ceiling joists to the Hecka Big Beam, removed some siding so I could add strapping to connect said beam to the existing wall, and framed some of the short wall sections in the loft. Now you can even see where the windows in the loft will be. Despite the added cruft, not a bad day's work.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hecka Big Beam

Today I worked alone. In part because I was expecting to go to the dentist for a chipped tooth (no, not a construction related accident, just bad enamel). But the dentist had a family emergency, so the appointment had to be rescheduled. I'm not sure when it'll actually get looked at, because Monday and Tuesday I'm going to a worship seminar with my sister-in-law (who happens to be the worship leader at RLC where I run sound). It'll be a nice change to listen to a worship service and participate instead of working to make it happen.

I spent the whole day working on the really big beam that will support the overhang over the back door, and provide the header for the opening between the existing dining room and the addition. It's 4"x12" by 16' long, and very heavy.

Yesterday I cut away the roof overhang. The first step today was preparing for cutting the roof and ceiling joists, in particular making sure it didn't all come crashing down when they were cut. I put a 2x8 in the attic across the joists to help spread out the load, then cut away more of the roof to expose the top of the wall where the beam will sit. It doesn't sound like much, and didn't seem like that much until I looked at the pile of debris I generated doing it.

I added braces to make sure the beam wouldn't fall off the top of the wall, put some rollers (formerly known as an old broomstick handle) on top of the wall, and lowered the beam little by little into place. With the rollers there it was a snap to move it out to position, and I could adjust the position by just twisting one of the rollers. Pretty neat. Though it was heavy enough to squoosh the rollers out of round. But with a plumb bob (thanks, Pete) and a guide board on the side of the addition, I got the beam where it needed to be and fastened it down. It'll ultimately be held in place with some metal strapping down the wall, but it's got enough holding it in place for now.

All the cutting, climbing up and down, and sitting in the hot sun took its toll on me. So I took some time after cleaning up the work site to sit and enjoy what will be our new view out the bedroom window. Not too shabby, eh?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Parfait Got Layers

"Parfait got layers." And so do roofs. At least properly constructed ones. Most people think shingles are what keeps water out of their houses. That's partly true, but shingles are there to protect the tar paper that's the real moisture barrier.

Today I worked with Edis, and while I started cutting back the roof, I tried to keep him busy with finishing up some things and fixing some others. Cutting through the roof took a while, because there's a lot of layers to it: shingles, tar paper, plywood sheathing, old skip sheathing.

It was gratifying to see that the roof I put on a couple of years ago was working properly. There was plenty of crud stuck between the cementious tiles (they look like wood shakes, but are Class A fire resistant), but beneath them, the tar paper and plywood was dry as a bone. In the picture to the left, you can see the multiple layers of shingles and multiple layers of tar paper (This is near the edge of the roof, so I'd added an extra layer of tarpaper underneath. In colder climates where there's freezing and thawing, that layer is normally a self-adhesive membrane.)

But all those layers take time to cut through, especially when the plan is to cut through them no more than necessary, and to not cut through the roof and ceiling joists until things are properly supported. And more time yet when the shingles are cementious tiles, which require a special blade on the Skilsaw to cut.

I had Edis add the header to a window, including doing the measuring and cutting. In the past, I've done all the measuring and cutting and showed him where to nail things, so this was a step up in responsibility for him. To paraphrase Spiderman, with greater responsibility comes the chance for greater screwups. He didn't do too badly, but he's still not very good with a Skilsaw. I explained to him that it's like driving a car. If you look right in front of the car, you'll swerve a lot making corrections. It's the same with sawing -- you want to look further ahead and make sure you're headed towards your overall goal, and your corrections end up being fewer and smaller.

As with many teenagers, I think Edis has some of the feeling that he's immortal. He's bright, energetic, and friendly. But I've lost track of the number of times I've had to remind him of safety things, like wearing safety glasses when using power tools like saws. I also had the opportunity to remind him of the adage in construction, "measure twice, cut once". I've certainly made my share of mistakes, but that's where some of the real learning comes in for construction. Mistakes will be made, but it's how you deal with them that sets things apart.

Despite that, we made good progress. I cut away the roof overhang, Edis finished the framing on a couple things, and we put the Really Big Beam® on the roof in preparation for the next step.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Muy Pesado

Yesterday I finished the subfloor, and measured and cut all the pieces for the stairs. I borrowed a nailgun from my brother-in-law Peter, and with the correct connectors so I could actually use it, I made short work of finishing up the nailing on the flooring.

Today I worked with Edis again. When he called the other morning to see if I had work for him, my brain did a major gear grind. I was out of practice speaking and thinking in Spanish, and add in that I'm not a morning person (those who've been on the Mexico mission trips with me would say that's a major understatement) and I was pleased just to figure out who was calling, never mind about what. But we set up that he'd work today, Friday.

I wasn't totally sure about working with him on the framing, because I wasn't sure if I could keep him busy without slowing myself down. And I like doing the framing. Not just because the walls go up relatively quickly, but I like the thinking, measuring, cutting and hammering that goes into it. So I wasn't that eager to have someone else working on it.

But it turned out to be a good thing. While I started noodling over the layout for the first wall segment, I had Edis assemble the pieces of the steps that I'd measured and cut yesterday. As I started measuring and cutting things and laying out the top and bottom plates, I had Edis bringing the necessary lumber down from the carport.

While this was going on, we had a major bit of excitement. Our neighbor Cynthia is off to Albania for several weeks for work (we'll be helping take care of her cats for a bit), and her somewhat elderly aunt and uncle came to take her to the airport. We said hello, and I went back to what I was working on. The next thing I know, there's a crash and thump, and Cynthia's uncle is rolling down the hill towards out front walk. Aiyeee! There's about a 4' drop off from the walkway back to Cynthia's door before the hill starts at a 30° angle or so. He apparently missed the last step down on the walkway, stumbled and fell, and then rolled off the drop off. Fortunately he only suffered some minor cuts (and doubtless some bruises), but was otherwise OK. We let him catch his breath and I looked for any signs of injury besides the cuts, then helped him to his feet and walked him back next door. He could have easily broken bones or worse had he fallen badly, so it's very fortunate that some minor cuts were the worst of it.

Once that was over, we went back to work. We assembled part of one of the bedroom walls (it's long enough that it needs to be built in two pieces). We went to lift it into place on the higher part of the foundation wall, and over the foundation bolts, and discovered it's very heavy. I ended up getting Katarina to come out and help us lift and balance it. Fortunately I'd pretested the holes for the foundation bolts, so it fit like a charm when it dropped into place. I've only worked on 2x4 walls before at Habitat, and scantily framed 2x4 walls on the Mexico mission trips (ratty 2x4s on 24" centers, and no doubling of studs for anything, separate jack studs for windows and doors, etc.), so I wasn't fully prepared for how much heavier a 2x6 wall would be.

When we built the next section of wall, I decided it would be prudent to leave out the window headers until the wall was in place so it would be lighter and a bit more manageable. As this was the south wall, which has 4 large windows, with a large enough span to require a a 6x8 header (a 4x8 + plywood + a 2x8), that turned out to be a good thing. And I brought Katarina out to help first thing, instead of us trying to lift and balance it with two people. But it was still hecka heavy.

There will be one more really heavy wall segment, and one not so heavy but still pretty heavy one that will require lifting over the plumbing stub-outs, but most of the rest of the walls won't be so bad. Of course, there's also that 4"x12"-16' beam to be lifted 8' into place...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Vanity, Thy Name is *&$%@#!!

The other day I noticed the bathroom faucet was dripping, so I changed the washer, but it didn't help. I took a closer look at the valve, and it was pretty worn. So rather than just replace the valve, I decided it was time to replace the whole fixture. I talked to Kat about what to get, deciding on something to match the light fixtures and towel bars (brushed nickel) and picked up a new faucet at Home Depot.

I figured I'd work on it after working on the addition, after it was too dark to work outside. But this morning Kat and I woke up early, and rather than annoy my neighbors with some 7AM hammering and sawing, I decided to work on the new faucet. Well, as frequently happens, the project got bigger.

My first discovery was that the shut off valves under the sink didn't completely shut off the water. So I added those to the "to be replaced" list and turned off the water to the house. While I had the water off, I took the opportunity to drain the supply lines to the addition, and the DWV pipes as well. I don't know when I'll be working on the plumbing next, so there's no need for the water to sit there.

The new faucet came with a new tailpiece (the pipe immediately below the sink), so I disassembled the trap to start, because it makes getting to the other stuff easier. The trap had a fair amount of corrosion (not to mention some really unpleasant gunk), so it got added to the "to be replaced" list, too.

I then moved on to disconnecting the water supply lines, and quickly discovered why they wouldn't shut off completely -- the valves were full of corroded crud, courtesy of the old galvanized pipes. Back when I redid the shower, I replaced the water supply lines for that with copper, but didn't touch the ones for the sink or toilet. That day will come...the supply lines going into the wall are galvanized, and were full of more crud.

Then I went to remove the old faucet and tailpiece. The faucet wasn't too bad to remove, thanks to having a basin wrench from installing a new faucet in the kitchen some years back. The tailpiece shouldn't have been too bad, but I struggled and struggled with it, unable to get the two pieces of it separated. I eventually gave up, got my sawzall, and made short work of it. I then discovered why I'd struggled so much -- they'd soldered the pieces togther when they installed it. D'oh!

All of this was increasingly difficult, because the vanity in the bathroom is pretty small, and has an edge at the front of the cabinet that makes leaning into it awkward. So I set up some wood to support my back over that, and put a stadium cushion in the vanity for my head, and then it was at least possible to stick my head under. But oy! I've never had a problem with claustrophobia before, but I had to come out for a break several times, because I just got freaked. But I eventually got the old stuff out, and the new stuff in, which just left the trap.

After a couple of trips to the local hardware store to get a chrome trap, I decided I'd just replace the trap and other drain pipes with plastic. The new tailpiece is plastic, so why not? Plastic is a lot easier to get leak-free, and is more forgiving of pipes not quite aligned. Well, one why not is that the connection into the wall, instead of being a normal compression fitting for chrome pipes is a threaded 2" cast iron pipe. Huh. Finding anything to connect to that is going to be a challenge. I temporarily put the old trap back in, but with a tub to catch the inevitable leaks...and discovered that the hot water supply line is 99.99% plugged with corrosion.

I wanted to get back to work on the addition! So I cleaned up my plumbing tools, and I got out my compressor, the nail gun my brother-in-law loaned me, and was ready to roll. Or not. The nail gun has a different kind of connector than my compressor and air hose. Hmmph. So back into the basement went the compressor, and out came the ol' framing hammer.

I installed more of the subflooring today, getting almost all of it done, including the tricky parts in the bathroom that had to fit over various pipes. YAHDT was necessary for more adhesive, a new connector for the nail gun, and of course some bits and pieces of ABS piping for the bathroom sink. I found everything I needed for the bathroom, except of course the 2" threaded connector. 2" ABS isn't the same size as 2" cast iron, of course.

But despite getting side-tracked with the new faucet and dealing with the compressor, I got a fair amount done today. The addition really looks like part of a house now since it has a floor and plumbing stubs. Tomorrow I'll finish up the subfloor, and build the steps up to the bedroom level. That shouldn't be too bad since it's only 3 steps, so maybe tomorrow I'll start on walls. And it was better than yesterday afternoon, which was filled with a trip to Camron-Stanford House to finally finish updating the artifact database so they can update their insurance. Of course, now they want membership lists and other stuff...

Monday, October 10, 2005


Well, despite the computer problems, the inspector made it. The guy who doles out the assignments for her is kind enough to print them out and do some optimizing. Like making sure that multiple inspections for a site (e.g., plumbing rough-in + floor framing) get scheduled for the same time and the same inspector (no, really...sometimes they get handed out to different inspectors). But the upshot is that her list was printed out on Friday, well before the computer problems.

So she showed up a little while ago, took a look at the plumbing, re-acquainted herself with the plans, made sure there was access to the crawl space, and didn't even insist I refill the 10' stack. I siphoned out some of the water earlier because as the pipes and water heated up, the water expanded, so it start dribbling over the top of the stack.

She also told me about a couple of things in the shearwall and roof sheathing to be sure to catch when nailing, and that there's a requirement for houses in this area to have sheetrock (aka drywall) on the outside of the sheathing, under the siding, for added fire protection. Given that the siding will be wood, we were both dubious about how much that would actually help, but easy enough to do. It will make it a pain when the wet weather starts.

But I'm 2 for 2 on inspections. And I can put the floor on, and start building walls!*dances about merrily*. OK, that last sentence probably sound weird unless you've played a game like Wyvern, a graphical MUD that my friend Steve created and I did some work on. probably sounds weird even to some people who have played the game.

Optimizing the inspections reminded me of a story with one of Steve's brothers. Back when he was in high school or college or somesuch, he went to work for a pizza place delivering pizzas. Company policy was to make the deliveries in the order the calls came in. Even if that meant going back and forth across town. Steve's brother thought that was pretty stupid, and did a quick traveling salesman optimization and delivered the pizzas in less than the allotted time. After a while of this, the owner came to talk to him. The owner told him "You're a really, really good driver." "Thanks!" "No, you don't're the best delivery driver we've ever had!" Steve's brother quickly decided this was not where he wanted to spend his life working, at least if he was looking for any form of mental stimulation.

Still Waiting...

The lumber arrived this morning from Economy Lumber. A couple of the 8ft. 2x6s look a bit gnarly (lots of wane), but everything was there. It didn't look like $1000+ of lumber, even with the big 16ft. 4x12. But then I spent a couple of hours moving it from the street into the carport, and it certainly felt like that much lumber. My neighbor Jon offered to help, but I had a good start on it and he was off to an appointment, so I declined.

I've been expecting the inspector to call to let me know a window for the inspection, but hadn't heard anything by lunchtime. And I was reminded this is Columbus Day, so I started wondering if they'd scheduled an inspection for a day no inspectors were working. So I called the city, and found out their computers are the whole building. D'oh! Inspectors are making their rounds as best they can, but without access to their files, well...I may be waiting longer. Hmmph. I'm ready to build some walls!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Waiting Game

As expected, I've been keeping busy with a variety of things this week. Monday I cemented the DWV lines together, and did some clean up in the basement.

Yesterday I pressure tested the DWV lines, and as expected there were no problems. I haven't tested it under the full 10' column of water, but there shouldn't be any problems with that...besides bracing the ABS pipe. 10' of water even in a 2" pipe is pretty heavy.

Then it was off to the Red Cross for apheresis, and in the afternoon I went and worked at Camron-Stanford House on the database. What a mess. I'm slowly getting my head around it, but I realized a long time ago that it had about 5X as many fields and forms as needed, and they're not consistently or clearly named.

Today I made a trip to Economy Lumber to order, well, lumber. Lots of different stuff for framing and sheathing the walls, all the way up to a 4"x12", 16 ft. long beam. That'll go across the dining room where the existing wall is, supporting the wall above it and the 5' cantilever section of the loft.

I also made a trip to Home Depot (I'm sure they missed me), and picked up some odds and ends, and some material to work at my friend Cindy's. She's the one who runs Oakland Firefighters Random Acts. And given her bad back, full-time work on Random Acts, and that job thingy, she can't do as much work on her property as she'd like. So I put some of the trim around the replacement windows I'd installed a while back, and did a lot of caulking. The wood shingle siding is in pretty bad shape, so I can imagine working on that at some point in the future, too. Then there's the steps that need finishing, if Cindy decides she wants the railing on both sides, the porch decking that needs repair, the deck in the back that needs building... well, between our house, Cindy's, Habitat for Humanity, and the Mexico Mission trips, I'll have no shortage of construction and home improvement stuff to work on.