Garage: Front Wall, Roof Trusses and Decking

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.

Garage: Footers, Forms, and Floors

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.

Garage: Excavation

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

Day 1 – started capturing images a little bit late, but we are off to the races on this project.
Day 2 – more digging.
Day 3 – Dirt continues to be removed.
Day 4ish? Yes, that is snow . . . at the end of May. We might post the video of the summer solstice snow we received . . .

Deck: (Mostly) Finished Product

Ah, the deck. The original two week estimate to completion quickly morphed into five. Why the 250% increase? The major reason was that sections of the deck were poorly done and required more repair work than originally estimated (see this post (demo 2/3) and this post (assembly 2/3) and this post (demo 3/3)). Part was also finding the proper demolition technique (see this post). And wrangling Alex (summer camps, meeting cereal demands) takes time away from deck repair.

What is left to be done:

Screening around the hot tub area.

Benches/table in the hot tub area.

Post caps. Sooner or later we will make a decision on what to buy.

What we like most: The hot tub. It is amazing how time flies while one is soaking.

The gates. We hired a local metal artist to create two custom gates for us. Marion did a wonderful job and we look forward to commissioning more functional art from him in the future.

Having a stable and safe deck. No more sloping due to improperly installed cantilevers. No more over cut stair horses. Just a nice solid feeling deck.

The railing. We now have vertical railing balusters that Alex can’t climb, although, not for a lack of trying. Not only have we removed Alex’s ladder, but we have helped modernize the look of the deck. Gone are the heavy rustic log balusters, in are the sleek black powder-coated iron balusters. Add in the cocktail rail, and life is good. The aesthetic transformation is impressive.

The color of the deck. After some debate, the Clamshell (medium grey) camp won out arguing that contrast was better than trying to match the color of the house and failing. Combined with the black railing, it looks sharp.

Gallery

Deck: Reassembly Part 3

The deck is heading towards the home stretch! Part 2 of the deck reassembly covers many of the repairs (and then some) that the upper deck needed. New band board was put in along with joist hangers (that were nailed appropriately).

What was truly revolutionary were the StairLok stair brackets (purchased from Deck Superstore). Trex does not recommend an unsupported span greater than 16 inches for their product, which is an awful narrow stair. Our stair widths were 36 (lower to upper deck) and 40 inches (ground to lower deck). After some research, we opted for StairLok because they are easier to build, stronger, and use less material than traditional stair building methods. The gallery describes the process for building the stairs.

Preparation: Remove decking, watch rotten post fall away when railing is removed (see Demo post part 3)

Critical Tools: Stairs – carpenter’s square, screw gun, StairLok brackets, 2x4s, screws, chop saw, tape measure

Decking – Healthy amount of patience, well developed curse word vocabulary, screw gun, clamps, jig saw, circular saw, railing jig, level, nail gun, level, tap measure

Skill Level: Advanced/Expert. If you don’t know what you are doing, things will get ugly.

Tip(s): Check the step frame with a carpenters square. The brackets have a tendency to rack. Confirming that the stairs are square saves a ton of headache during the install.

Use a stop block when numerous pieces that same size need to be cut. Check to make sure the block hasn’t slid at regular intervals in the cutting process.

Set up an assembly line: pre-cut all the stair frames and cross bracing. Then start building. Nothing slows a process down like having to constantly switch tools.

Gallery

Deck Demolition: Part 3

With demolition parts one and two complete, along with the subsequent reassembly (one and two), the focus is fully on the stairs to the hot tub pad and the decking around it. Any hope that just perhaps this section of decking was done correctly was quickly lost. It was quickly evident that if this deck had been built in a more humid environment, it would have rotted away a dozen years ago. Even with the low humidity in Colorado, rotten spots were still found. Three cheers to the dry Colorado air. Enjoy the gallery of face palming construction decisions by a previous owner.

Critical Tools: Circular saw, pry bar, hammer, drill, pliers, knee pads, Sawzall, end of day margaritas.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Tip(s): Don’t use scrap wood to build a deck. Even if the scraps are a ‘good deal’.

The spacing between decking boards allows water to drain and air to circulate. Without the air circulation, the chances for rot are greatly increased.

Choose two of the three – good, fast, or cheap. Previous owners chose fast and cheap. Don’t be like the previous owners.

Gallery

Deck: Reassembly Part 2

So now that we have discovered the extent of the poor workmanship on the deck framing, it is time to repair the hazards and make this deck safe. Replacements included rotted support beams, an undersized beams, and improperly cantilevered joists. It is likely that the framing was not constructed fully from pressure treated lumber.

Check out the gallery captions for the nitty gritty details. Check out deck reassembly post 1 for information regarding the Trex installation. No Trex RainEscape here.

Preparation: Remove decking, curse at the unknown person(s) who built this portion of the deck

Critical Tools: Healthy amount of patience, well developed curse word vocabulary, screw gun, clamps, jig saw, circular saw, railing jig, level, nail gun, level, tap measure

Skill Level: Advanced/Expert. If you don’t know what you are doing, things will get ugly.

Tip(s): Step back to help see the forest for the trees. Some challenges are easily solved once it is determined the perceived problem does not affect the end goal.

Take the time to plan everything out. This will save so much trouble down the road.

Don’t go cheap on the materials. This is not the place to be a penny pinching skin flint. Don’t purchase your materials for some guy selling scraps of wood out of the back of his pick up. Buy real lumber. Pressure treated lumber.

Gallery