With the concrete walls set for the garage, it was time to build the front wall and get the roof trusses in place. . We were dreading the placement of what we simply dubbed, the “big truss”. Big truss is a 300 pound triple truss coming in at 26 feet long. The smaller trusses are singles at 26 feet long, and only weight 95 pounds.
It was key to ensure that the front wall was built properly – it supports the trusses. If the front wall height is incorrect, the roof will not slope properly leading to water drainage issues. Dave used his laser level to sight the wall heights and then ran plumb lines to ensure that everything as built to the appropriate height.
Dave and excavator Dave used his mini backhoe to move big truss into the garage. Big truss was so long, it could not be orientated properly in the build site. Dave and excavator Dave had to move the truss to the shared driveway, orientate it properly, and move it back to the build site (Jess was fortunately not home for this escapade). The escapade Jess got to witness was the lifting of big truss into place with the mini excavator. We are most definitely not a OSHA job site.
After big truss was secure, we used a materials lift (rented) to position the remaining 15 trusses. The materials lift was a back and lifesaver. The trusses were lifted and positioned 16 inches on center on the top plate of the front wall and rear concrete wall. Dave had pre-marked the top plate so the trusses could be quickly placed. Once the truss was in position, a nail gun was used to toe-nail the truss in place. The truss was then secured to a 2 x 4 running horizontally across the top to ensure that it remained 16 inches on center and perpendicular to the top plate. The tricky part to this step was the last two trusses – both had to be lifted to the top plates and secured to big truss. The reason for this was if the penultimate truss was placed, it would have prevented us from using the materials lift to get the last truss set.
Once all the trusses were in place, the materials lift was used to get the decking sheets (Advantech) onto the roof. The first two sheets took the longest because they had to be secured in order to create a platform to place materials and work from. Construction adhesive and screws were used to secure the Advantech sheets to the trusses. Since the sheets are 4’x8′, it was key to have all the trusses 16″ on center to ensure that all the seams were located on a truss. Once the roof decking was on, the entire system was very sturdy.
Upon completion of the roof decking, Dave went on to build a parapet to hold the green roof material and the roof for the window well. To build the parapet wall, roof’s slope was taken into account. The wall is 4 inches high over the garage doors, increasing to 10 inches high to the rear of the garage.
One of the hardest points of a construction project is right around the end of excavation. You’ve written checks for architect and engineering fees, variance fees, permit fees, and paid deposits. You are already over projected budgets and time lines, the bank account is depleted, and the credit cards are carrying much higher balances. And all you have to show is one flipping giant hole in the ground.
And then comes mud (concrete), glorious, glorious mud. It’s amazing how just getting footers in can offer a bit of hope. And then the wall forms. And before you know it, there are walls.
Footers pushed us a little further behind schedule. It has been a cool, wet spring in the mountains and that means concrete takes a wee bit longer to set up. Throw in the fact that everyone has been waiting for the good weather, the concrete plants are running at capacity and are struggling to keep up with demand.
After getting the front wall framed and the roof decking installed, it was time to lay radiant flooring (3/4 inch PEX tubing on top of 2 inch foam board on top of 4 inches of crushed stone). Through meticulous planning, the radiant tubes are direct below unused air intakes in the existing foundation wall – no need to drill new holes. (It was really dumb luck, but we’ll take it.) After the tubing passed a pressure test, we were good to go for our pad pour.
With the concrete plants still running 24/7 to barely keep up with demand, we weren’t certain if we were going to be able to pour on Friday. This was key to allow us to do interior framing on Sunday. The framing needs to be done so we can keep on track with electrical rough in and not miss the inspection window. (Missing the inspection window just means more delays.) We found out on Thursday that mud was coming Friday at noon. The small things that help keep us on track.
Some fun info about concrete – it can be mixed at different consistencies. Thicker consistency is used for walls and footers (generally) and sets up quickly. The quick set up time results in a heat quickly and helps prevent the concrete from freezing before it sets in cold temperatures. Thinner consistency is used for floors (need to be floated) and sets up slowly. The heat is released more slowly. Why does this matter? Apparently on a hot summer day you need a mix that is thinner than normal. Otherwise the concrete sets too fast before it can be properly floated. We hired a great team of concrete guys, but they were working hard to make sure things were right before the concrete set.
With winter somewhat behind us, we started our garage project. Summer seemed like it was in full swing when we began our dig, but a cold snap showed up a few days later. We kept on chugging through – summer is short in the mountains. (For the big picture of this renovation click here)
The first couple of days of excavation were promising. There was more top soil than we expected. Fingers were crossed that this would keep up. We had local sources who wanted the fill coming out of our job site (saving lots of money not trucking the fill down the canyon). Over the next few days we hit rock. Nothing the backhoe couldn’t handle, but the going slowed down. Then we hit the hard rock. Our excavator had to bring in his rock breaker, things really slowed down, and costs went up. But the hole got dug.
Check out the time-lapse videos below for some digging fun. We didn’t get every day, but you get the idea.
Initial Estimate (time, fill to be removed): 4 days, 250 cubic yards of fill
Final Estimate (time, fill removed): 11 days, 450 cubic yards/658 tons of fill
Alex’s playhouse has been done for almost a year now, and this post is finally going to see the light of day.
Doors, windows (plexiglass), and soffets were added. An area rug was purchased as a floor covering to keep splinters out of little feet were purchased. A toy kitchen was also added. Alex did express disappointment that it didn’t have running water or power. He didn’t appreciate Dave telling him it is powered by imagination. We also added a swing.
With the support posts up and the flooring joists installed, progress on the playhouse can continue. Next steps were to add flooring, framing, and sheathing. The flooring was easy since the the dimensions of the playhouse are 8′ x 12′ (3 sheets of plywood laid next to each other).
The framing was a more complex situation with the introduction of doors and windows. These had to be planned out and properly framed. We opted to build the east and west wall frames on the floor of the playhouse, sheath, and raise into place. This option was much safer than framing the wall in place and then trying to sheath it. Some safety concerns included the height we would be working off the ground and the hillside resulting in less than stable ladder placements. The south wall was the easiest to deal with since the deck could be used as a work space. The north wall was also easy to frame in place because it is only a few feet off the ground.
Alex’s birthday has come and gone and unfortunately the playhouse wasn’t finished in time. We experienced a delay with having to move the playhouse location in order to maintain good relations with our neighbors. Lesson learned, go into more detail on what one is seeking approval. All is good, friendly relations were preserved. In part thanks to the use of the demo hammer – quick work was made of hole digging and original footer destruction. Everything else transferred over (brackets were salvaged!), the posts just had to be cut down to accommodate the different elevation.
Critical Tools: Levels – old school and laser, circular saw, reciprocating saw, measuring tape, drill with spade bit, guide string
Create channel is post, drill through bolt holes, mount post.
Determine desired floor height and use laser level to determine cut down post height of a single post (cut down post height = top of post – floor decking – floor joist)
Cut posts down to proper height and notch out shoulder for support beams.
Tip(s): Use the laser level to mark the posts at dusk. Makes it much easier to see the line.
Know your tools. We mounted the laser level to make the top of all posts (floor height). While we struggled with the optical illusion introduced by the land’s slope, something still didn’t look right. We fastened a 2 x 4 along the marks across two posts and checked with an old fashioned level. Definitely out of level. Looking closer at the laser level it was determined the wrong setting was being used. Whoops. Second tip is when in doubt using a different method to confirm what you are seeing.
With Alex’s birthday fast approaching, we thought it was time he had a playhouse to enjoy. Our initial plan was to purchase a playhouse from Costco or Amazon (something like this, not this – read the reviews), but discovered the smallest ones needed a flat area approximately 154 square feet for the structure and 598 square feet for a safe play area. Our sloped mountain lot does not have this type of level area, at least not without a major earth moving project.
Plan B? Build a playhouse from scratch! Since we can’t find something that suits our lot, we are going to build. And our next house project is with the various engineers, we need something to keep us busy.
As always with our construction posts, when associated with actual building, ‘we’ is Dave.
Preparation:Select build site, with consideration for set backs. Know your local regulations on how large of a structure you can build without a permit.
Critical Tools: Makita 20 lb Demolition Hammer – This tool was rented from Home Depot and was selected because it also has drill functionality. Just in case rocks are encountered in the Rocky Mountains.
Trigonometry and guide string – To ensure square corners just remember a^2 + b^2 = c^2. Yes, that seemingly useless class will come back to haunt you.
Dig first hole and set concrete form
Mix and pour concrete, set support brackets
Confirm location of next hole
Skill Level: Advanced/Expert. There is trigonometry involved.
Tip(s): Just rent the demolition hammer. A post hole digger and breaker bar will only get you so far.