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: 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 . . .

Alex’s Playhouse: Finishing Touches

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.

Critical Tools: Bubble level, nail gun, circular saw, square, measuring tape, impact driver

Process (Simplified):

  1. Build and install doors
  2. Build and install windows
  3. Install slide and swing

Finished!

 

Alex’s Playhouse: Flooring, Framing, and Sheathing

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.

Critical Tools: Bubble level, nail gun, circular saw, square, measuring tape, impact driver

Process (Simplified):

  1. Place floor decking on joists and screw into place
  2. Build walls – not in place but using the floor decking as a work space (framing and sheathing)
  3. Raise walls and secure

Process (Gallery)

Skill Level: Intermediate

Tip(s): Don’t put up pre-sheathed walls with a stiff wind blowing by yourself. Have a friend or two there to help.

Sizing the playhouse to be 3 sheets of plywood made it simple to install the floor decking – no need to cut plywood down

Alex’s Playhouse: Support Posts and Deck

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

Process (Simplified):

  1. Create channel is post, drill through bolt holes, mount post.
  2. 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)
  3. Cut posts down to proper height and notch out shoulder for support beams.
  4. Install beams (how to build a beam), floor joists, floor decking

Process (Gallery)

Skill Level: Advanced/Expert.

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.

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