Saturday, December 31, 2005

Batten Down the Hatches!

Northern California is in the midst of some big storms. Not Katrina big, but definitely on the heavy side for storms here. Flooding, high winds, power outages, landslides and of course, lots of rain. We've lost power a couple of times and had lots of small branches down, but no major damage.

But a local radio reporter on KCBS, Doug Sovern, who lives nearby had a brush with death. A couple streets over is Shepherd Canyon, and before the road starts up into the hills it goes through a gully (near the park and fire station, if you know the area). The power was out and it was dark, and he drove into several feet of water across the road. His car floated off the road then sank, and he was unable to open the doors or windows, safety hammer or kick them out. He was down to a foot or so of breathing space in the car before he thought of using his tire iron to smash a window, and he escaped with his life. Pretty amazing stuff -- KCBS has an MP3 of his account on their website if you want to listen to it. But now you know why a lot of Germans have those safety hammers in their cars. The odds of needing one are low, but as a local TV reporter said on a report about the Oakland Fire Department's fireboat, "A fireboat is like any other emergency device. You don't need it at all right up until the time you need it really bad."

Amidst the seriousness of this storm, there was a bit of humor. A headline I spotted on CNN: "California residents urged to leave ahead of storm". Leave? Um...where are we supposed to go? "Hi? Nevada? We're your neighbors. Sorry to drop in unannounced but...". Not that we could go, now. I-80 is closed because of a landslide near Lake Tahoe, and flooding near Fairfield. US 101 and I-5 are closed near the Oregon border because of landslides.

Oh, right. The addition. I'd put tar paper on the roof, and expected some wind and rain before I was able to have the next inspection and put some actual roofing over the tar paper. But I wasn't expecting the pounding storm we just got, with 60 mph wind gusts. It blew out some of the plastic sheeting I'd put over the windows, and despite a couple of strips of wood and lots of staples, blew off some of the tar paper. So the addition got a bit more wet than I would have liked. With Kat's help, I got things battened down again, hopefully more securely this time. There's another big storm on the way.

In the 20-20 hindsight department, I had considered putting on some roll roofing before we left for Florida. But I decided against it, because I might have to take it off for the framing inspection. Oh well. The framing inspection should be this week, as I've finished up the bits of framing and most of the work on the earthquake holdowns.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Threads

After a break for Christmas to visit family in Florida, I'm back to work on the addition. Despite rain while we were gone, the addition stayed nice and dry. Only after we got back did the wind kick up and blow some of the tar paper off the roof. Things got a bit wet inside, but nothing too bad.

One of the things left to do was fix some of the foundation bolts that I'd left too long. Originally the bedroom at +21" would be all at one level, but I changed it so the uphill side was a couple of feet taller to make it easier to keep the necessary clearance between the wooden part of the house and the ground. That meant that the bolts in that area didn't need to go through the floor, as the wall sits directly on top of the sill plate. So before I left, I ordered a die to cut some new threads in the bolts that were too tall. Today I discovered that using the die was as easy as 1-2-3. A metal cutting blade on the sawzall, twist the die with a wrench, and voilĂ ! The bolts are now the right height.

And I love the newer design of Simpson earthquake holdowns. The old ones used two big bolts through the 4x4, which meant drilling two big holes with a right-angle drill. Easy enough sometimes, but a royal pain if there were studs in the way, like near windows and doors, or near corners (which is where most of the holdowns go). And if you're particularly unlucky, the 4x4 can split since you're drilling two really big holes into it. I spent a lot of time at Habitat working on holdowns. The new ones use 10 or more special lag screws instead. With a right-angle drill and a socket, they go into place in a couple of seconds each, and no splitting.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Looking Like a House

Last week was mostly work on the roof with Abel, and yesterday we worked on smaller tasks that need doing before the house is ready for the next inspection.

I still need to check the nailing on the sheathing, and attach the earthquake hold downs, but it's looking like a house. And almost ready for inspection.

Kat and I are both pleased with how much light there is. I'm not surprised since I designed it that way (windows on all four sides of the bedroom), but it's still nice to see that the reality is following the theory. And the big cross-shaped windows in the bedroom are great. To the right is yet another glorious sunset as viewed out the bedroom windows.

After the inspection, I'll put some proper roofing on, and then it will be time for the city of Oakland required exterior drywall, then house wrap, then the windows and siding. Given the sponge-like nature of drywall, I don't want to leave that stuff exposed to the elements for very long.

I discovered that I can no longer get the 1x12 siding to match the existing siding. I bought some a while back when I remodeled the bathroom and put in a smaller window, but alas, they no longer sell it. The existing house has alternating 1x6 (also used under the eaves) and 1x12 V-rustic siding. The newer stuff is finger-jointed pine, but the original is solid redwood. Beautiful and durable, but not the most eco-friendly material. I'm hoping to salvage some of it from the wall where the addition meets the house, but our attempts so far have had limited success. The siding is 50+ years old (I shudder to think how old the tree was before that) and very dry, so it has a tendancy to split when removed.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I've been working on the roof with Abel this week: lookouts, fly rafters, fascia (no, not the bottom of my foot, but the thing on the end of the rafters), and the roof decking that's visible from underneath. Yesterday we got all but the decking done on the south side of the roof, so today that part went very quickly. We even put down some tar paper, so it's close to a real roof on that side.

But on the north side, I still needed to trim the rafter tails to the same length, and found out that I needed to make some "adjustments" to one of the fly rafters. After noodling over it a while, I figured out what to do without any major surgery, but it definitely slowed us down. Later in the afternoon, the sprinkles of rain turned into some real rain, so we put a tarp over the north side of the roof and I put Abel to work on the hurricane ties while I worked on trimming the existing gutters so I could put some proper endcaps on them.

And a final roof! to my sister-in-law's family -- they're planning to get a dog soon. Probably a 7 month old Australian shepherd. I just wish the cats were more amenable to us dog-sitting...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Whither Weather?

Yesterday I worked with Abel again. Tuesday I'd precut many of the parts for the lookouts, so we jammed through those pretty quickly. Then we put on the roof sheathing (3/4" aka 23/32" plywood, to match the existing nominal 1" aka 3/4" siding used under the eaves) until we used up all I had. I thought I 'd bought enough, but the width of the middle part of the roof ended up being 16'-5" instead of 16' as I thought. Which meant that two 8' sheets of plywood wouldn't cover it.

In any event, we got most of the roof covered and nailed off, and just in time. Today's storm is even stronger and windier than the one Monday night. Part of the tarp came loose in the night, but not too much got wet and I resecured it this morning.