Bike Box Part Two – Doors, Siding, Roof, and Snow

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We’ve recently been working on the bike box (see part one here) and are now onto building the bike box doors. The doors were a bit tricky because the pitch at the top of the doors had to match the pitch of the roof. So we set to measuring and building.

P1020055.JPGWe began with building the frame to the dimensions of the opening. We used 6 inch log screws to connect the boards, mainly because they were the longest we had and nothing else would do it. We then cut the top piece and adhered it with the same log screws we’d used below.

Next, we routed out a ledge along the back of the door frame where our cedar tongue and groove boards would fall. We did this so that the back of the door would lay flush with the frame so we’d have even surface to roll our bikes on up into the box. Using the router was rough – the first time we used it the bit bore too far into the wood and cracked it. After replacing the piece of wood, we tried again. We had a close call when we plugged the router in and it suddenly started up. Drew did a magic ‘oh crap’ dance and stopped it from running into anything.

Next, we cut the cedar tongue and groove to size to fit into the grooves in the door frame. Drew then used a pin nailer to adhere them to the door. P1020064.JPGAs an extra protection, we attached a bit of 1/4 inch trim around the back to prevent the boards from coming loose. Here is the finished product!

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We completed the other door in the same fashion and then attached some oil-rubbed door hinges to the bottoms.

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A finished bike box door
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Looking into the bike box. The doors fold down so that we can roll our bikes in. There is another door at the far end of the box that opens just like this one.

 

…And then it snowed.

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Which unfortunately slowed us down for a few days, but once it melted enough we were able to get back to work. We put down boards so we could get across the snow without tracking mud or snow everywhere, which was great until the snow under the boards turned to mush and we began slipping and sliding everywhere… Not something you want to do while carrying power tools.

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It deceivingly appears to provide safe passage.

Next it was on to the siding! I installed rain screen on the back wall along the stud lines (which I drew with chalk so I knew where they were). The process was the same as when we installed it on the large walls, but conveniently much shorter and reachable.

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Rain screen construction – the panels are nailed in first, then tar paper is adhered around them with cap nails.
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Finished rain screen

We inserted the top ends of the tar paper under the trim so as to prevent water from getting in.

Next, we added the siding. Again, same process as on the house, only conveniently within reach (though the snow did add it’s own challenges..)

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Mmm. Fun.
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Finished bike box siding

Now the three sides were done, so it was time for the roof! We hadn’t received the roofing yet, so we (luckily) needed to wait until the ground was dry.

I ended up working on shakes while Drew finished the roofing. Since the bike box is kind of a mini tiny house, the roofing wasn’t nearly as complicated as it was on the ‘big house’. Drew adhered the panels to the roof with roofing screws, leaving a short overhang over the door to help prevent water from sneaking in through the door opening. Then he installed “Z” flashing, a type of flashing that the top panel adheres to. Because our kitchen window extends so low near the roof, Drew cut the transition flashing around the window in order for it to fit. He finished the process by sealing the top with a layer of silicone.

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Top view of bike box roof
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The “Z” flashing fully installed

And the bike box is finished! (Aside from a few tweaks here and there…)

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“That’s Pretty Darn Fancy for a Fart Fan.”

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Well, we’re officially back to working on the house after quite a hiatus. After being away for a few months we now see the whole thing with new eyes. We’ve conveniently forgotten how difficult and tiring the whole process has been and are simply amazed at what we were able to accomplish before we left. “We’ve built most of a house, Drew! An actual house!” Every nail was hammered in and every heavy wall lifted and secured into place (with some help, of course). It’s amazing.

So after we stared at our house a bit, we started planning out what we need to start on. It’s December now, and luckily it’s been a relatively warm and dry one so far – so best to take advantage of it while we can and finish the exterior. We long for the day we’ll never have to deal with the torn up tarps ever again. They’ve been nothing but trouble.

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We first mapped out how the front of the house is going to look. This has been tricky because we’d like to create a covered porch, but our dimensions are a bit narrow due to how large our half circle window is. Plus, we’ll need to maneuver it around the fascia board. We’re still in the process of figuring this one out; if you have any ideas, please let us know. On the front, we’re also adding a fold-down porch. Sam is kindly building a custom front door for us and we’re looking forward to seeing how it all goes together.

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On the back side of the house we are building a bicycle box to, you guessed it, hold our bicycles. This was another challenge because it will need to fit under our kitchen window and only extend out on the tongue of the trailer to the edge of the pull-away cable attachment. Since our bikes are around the same height, the roof pitch of our bike box could end up being very shallow, which means water could pool on top. The way we’re getting around this is by Drew removing his front tire (since he has the taller bike) whenever he puts his bike away. We’ve tested this and it’s a pretty fast process, so we think we’ve solved this issue for now.

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So after figuring all that out, it was time to work on the siding. With Sam’s help, Drew and I installed about half the siding on the large left wall. We stopped part way up so that we’d have the space needed to install our bathroom fan.

Now you need to understand that we bought the fan back in August and have only just now opened the box. While everything looked to be in good shape, what we didn’t expect was how big the fan itself was. It’s about a square foot, which for a tiny house wall is huge! We figure we’ll disguise it somehow later on once we have the interior walls finished. The fan vent that extends outside, however, isn’t the prettiest thing either. It’s basically a white plastic cover with a lid that opens. We didn’t really like the way it looked so we got creative.

Hence, the quote from a friend of ours that is the title of this post. I now introduce to you our wonderful birdhouse, the prettiest darn fancy fart fan cover you ever did see:

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Introducing our brand new birdhouse fart fan!

Drew designed and built the whole thing. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s not just a pretty cover, though. First off, it has no bottom, so real birds hopefully won’t find a way to live in it. Also, this allows the fan’s air to escape the house easily. In addition, the ‘door’ of the birdhouse allows airflow, as do the vents Drew created in the top of the house. He made it wide enough so the cover opens easily. Magnifique!

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Next we worked on the cedar shakes that go on the walls around the dormers. In a similar painting process to the siding, we painted one side with milk paint and stained the other side with linseed oil. This process took a couple of days, but once finished I could begin adhering the shakes to the walls. We allowed an overlap of about half an inch over the cedar board below. This was so the rain screen had a top cap that allows for the airflow to have a continuous vent.  

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Some of the boards involved very intricate cuts around the window framing. Cedar is a very flexible wood, which can be both good and bad. It’s good because it allows us to cut it with a razor if needed, but bad in that it tends to break when working with a thin piece. I had to redo a piece three times because both the jigsaw and razor kept breaking the thin pieces I was working on. Overall I think it’s a nice material to work with. I’m enjoying it.

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So now the overall goal is to get the exterior of the house done before the cold weather really sets in. So far the weather has uncharacteristically cooperated and we have been able to work outside easily. Drew’s been putting some last finishing touches on the roof, and once the front and back walls are a little farther along we may actually be done with the tarps once and for all. Fingers crossed!

Rain screen, Siding, and Catching Up.

P1010634Long time no post! Sorry about that. We’ve been out of town for a couple of months (to put it lightly), but we’ll be back to working on the house shortly! (And hopefully providing more updates regularly.. assuming we’re not completely exhausted like we were last time around.) So here are some updates on what we accomplished before we left.

We (almost) got the house completely in the dry! We managed to get the majority of the roof, rain-screen, and siding installed.

Let’s start with the rain screen.

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Completed rain screen on one side of the house.

Rain screens are used to keep your siding elevated above your tar paper and create a drainage plane/ventilation for standing water – which could otherwise create rot. This centuries old method of construction has been used on Norwegian stave churches and Japanese buildings which are still standing today.

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The rain screen extends all the way to the under edge of the roof.

Creating a rain screen is quite simple – it basically involves installing ribs of plywood on top of the existing tar-paper surface. First we had to determine where the studs were inside the house so that we made sure we were nailing the rain screen into a solid beam. This took a lot of working with measurements inside the house and using them to determine where those same points were outside. Then we drew lines with chalk to determine where to adhere the plywood.

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Using the finish nailer. So much easier!
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I had so much time left over after nailing that I even had time to pose for a cheesy picture.

Once we completed that step, we used the tablesaw to cut long 3″ strips of plywood. From there we used a 2.5″ finish nailer to attach the plywood to the outside of the tar paper. I first started this process by attempting to use the dinky palm nailer. It immediately cracked the first piece of plywood. I tried again, this time more slowly and carefully. Same result. I even tried hammer and nail. Nope. The nails were too thick and the nailer was too strong. The finish nailer, while not petite in the slightest, is the smoothest tool I’ve used yet. And fast. (And luckily has two safety’s.) It can only fire when both the tip AND the trigger are compressed. So this made the process go much quicker!

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Notice we left room at the base of the wall so we could later add trim.

After attaching all the strips of plywood to the studs, I then cut long strips of tar paper (about 8″ in width) and attached the pieces around the plywood (so it essentially makes a ‘ridge’ in the wall) with capped roofing nails. I tried to cover the tops of the plywood so that the water couldn’t get through there either. Even if it did, we left the bottom open so it could drain out and receive air circulation.

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We later tucked the tar paper in behind the trim board.

If you would like to learn how to make your own rain screen, this PDF is an invaluable resource we found incredibly helpful during our process.  

Meanwhile, Drew added the bottom trim, but with a twist. He and his dad drilled holes through the wood and attached a screen over the holes to keep out debris and bugs. (A big thank you to the secret donor who donated the two screen doors he’d previously walked through and broken.) This made it so any water that got under the siding could drain out through the bottom.

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The base board with holes drilled all the way through for drainage.
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The window screen is wrapped around the board and then stapled.

Drew also worked on adding in the inputs for our water and electrical systems. He framed out a small utilities panel using cedar 2×4’s so they would match our window framing and cut out a pair of holes for the water and electrical inputs. Amazingly, they’re designed to be adaptable with nothing more than a garden hose and a standard 120 volt extension cord. That way we can have water and power just about anywhere we park.

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Drilling holes for the inputs.
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Inputs installed.

Now the majority of our walls were ready for siding! We still need to build a bike holder against the end wall over the hitch and figure out a front porch, so we haven’t put siding on those sections yet. We’ll hopefully be getting to that soon.

Next was prepping the siding for installation. We bought ~650 linear ft of cedar lap siding. As was mentioned in a previous post, we coated our cedar boards with 100% linseed oil. Pure linseed oil provides a protective coating that preserves the wood naturally and protects it from water damage, mold, insects, and UV damage. It also helps the wood retain its color. Unfinished cedar (over time) turns grey, because the outer cells of the wood dry up, turn grey, and flake off. So we needed to stain all 650 ft. of the boards on one side only. On the other we used a milk paint primer, the reason being if rain accumulated behind the siding, it would have less of a chance to soak into the wood.

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Adding a layer of milk paint to one side of the boards.
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After the milk paint dried, we stained the other sides of the boards with linseed oil.

This turned into a long process of paint, move, dry, wait, move, paint, move, dry, move, move-again-because-we-need-the-room, move-again-because-it’s-supposed-to-rain, fine-it-can-go-there-but-not-really-because-we’re-out-of-room–sigh-okay-fine-it’s-there-now.

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Finding a storage spot for these boards was difficult. A few of the boards wouldn’t even fit inside our house. Needless to say our house smelled like milk for a while.
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We set up sawhorses outside to dry the cedar boards.
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The finished boards stored away in the house.

Luckily a lot of people helped us with the painting process. Sam even helped install a lot of the siding! Thanks Sam, Kas, Z, and Diane. You all made the process a lot smoother!

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Mixing milk paint, which initially comes in powder form.

So while I was working with the boards, Drew was back on the roof trying to finagle the last few tricky bits – one being the ridge cap.

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The house with a lot of the siding already in place. Drew’s working on installing the ridge cap.

This part wasn’t easy. There are numerous steps that must be done and pieces to be attached before adhering the ridge cap to the roofing. First, the eave flashing had to be installed, and then we had to slip on pieces of metal called transition flashing, and after that we had to install the small rails of metal that the triangular ridge cap would slide onto. It was a lot of checking the sizing, then mark it, pull it back off, cut it, check it again, find that you forgot something, take it back inside, etc.

And with that, we had most of the outside of our house done. We had to leave town, so we bought a second expensive gray tarp, covered the whole house with it (I hope I never have to do that again-it’s the worst), and were on our way.

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I’ll be glad when we’re past the tarp stage – our roof has sharp edges, which unfortunately leads to tearing…

And now we’re (almost) back and ready to get working. We’re ready to stop worrying about rain and finish our house! We’re both so excited to live in it. While we’ve been away I went to a workshop on how to build your own rain barrel. When the instructor mentioned using a jigsaw I got really excited. Jigsaw! Rivets! Plywood! It felt like I’d been away from building for so long that it was an ancient language slowly coming back to me. Oddly I’ve missed it. As insane as it was, I’ve missed it. Or maybe I’m just romanticizing it and have forgotten how hard and sleep-depriving an adventure it was.

But hey, at least it was an adventure.

Oh, and should I mention that our tiny house is currently parked in a flood plain next to a river where it’s been threatening to pour 10+ inches of rain (and they’ve released extra water from the reservoir, making the river even higher), and we’re hundreds of miles away where we can’t really do anything about it? Eight years ago the entire area was about six feet under water due to a flood.

Yeah. An adventure all right.

Installing Metal Roofing (Or: How to Avoid Buying Fancy Tools You’ll Only Use Once)

Got the harness, got the the tools - all ready to rock.
Got the harness, got the the tools – all ready to rock.
One thing they don’t tell you about building a tiny house is how strange it is to be about 13’5″ feet in the air on a 42-degree-pitch roof, trying to get a roof into place – all the while trying to balance yourself as you work underneath your own two feet.
Roof sheathing (the plywood on the studs), was difficult enough using ladders. But installing tar paper? And then roofing?Better brush up on your pre-school gymnastics lessons.

We unfortunately did not get too many pictures of the process, mainly because Drew and I were both so busy trying to figure who had which hammer and how best to not get tangled up in our roof harness rope. We had a pretty good system going. We bought a roof anchor that many roofers use to attach themselves to a roof for safety in case of a fall. Then we used some harness gear and set it up so we could get around the roof. The harness attachment was mainly a last resort precaution – if we fell, we’d swing instead of landing on the ground 13’5″ feet below. So the majority of the maneuvering was all balance, gymnastics, and focus.

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Yeah, lots of focus.

I’m getting better with heights. After working on the roof for a few weeks, I’m not as freaked out by it. The dormer roof is only 12 degrees, so that one is easier to move around on. It’s very close to sitting on a flat surface. We can exit our skylight opening and reach most of the dormers from there. Since we decided we didn’t want a skylight in our main room under the gables (mainly due to cost), we had to figure out how to work on the gables. If you ever wanted to know, it’s like riding a very big, very pointy, horse.

So my task was laying tar paper on the roof. The way tar papering the roof works is that you start with the bottom layer horizontally along the bottom edge of the roof and layer your way up, with an overlap of about six inches. You do this so any water that hits the tar paper will flow down and off the roof instead of under the next layer of tar paper.
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So Drew, up on a ladder, installed the first layer, and then we attached a 2×6 ledge as a foothold on the end of the roof. Basically a trick we found that roofers use is screwing a 2×4 into the roof to use as a ledge to stand on while working. At first I was skeptical – how much could 1.5 inches really do to prevent my fall – but it proved to be very useful in the end. We worked on both sides, nailing it in with the same roofing cap nails we used earlier for the tar paper on the sides of the house. Once we got to the ridge beam, things got a little tricky. Tar paper tears very easily, even the 30lb stuff we were using, so the less contact I had with it, the better. We basically draped one long piece over the top, nailed the edges, and we were done. We repeated the process with the dormer walls without much trouble.

Next was the metal roofing. We ordered from a local company that pre-cut the roofing into the sizes we needed. That helped a lot. This time, Drew was on the roof.

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We probably need to work on the whole focus thing..
Before we could get to installing the metal roofing, we had some other work to do. First, we needed to create fascia board that would attach to the ends of our rafters along the sides of the house. Then we installed the drip edge along the sides of the fascia, so that rain would have a place to drip off of our house. We later plan on installing gutters too, so they would be collecting the water from this drip edge as well. For the fascia, we bought long pieces of cedar and coated them with 100% linseed oil. Pure linseed oil provides a protective coating that preserves the wood and protects it from water damage, mold, insects, and UV damage. It also helps the wood retain its color. Unfinished cedar (over time) turns grey, because the outer cells of the wood dry up, turn grey, and flake off.
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The fascia board (after we’d installed the metal roofing in this picture). This is along the edge of the gables. A great room window sits below it.

Then we needed to install the drip edge, which sounds easier than it was. There are a couple of layers to it. First, we had to install a metal cleat that the drip edge can slide onto. Then came the drip edge. It was time-consuming and showed little payoff initially, but it helped us get to the next fun part.

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The bottom level of metal is the cleat. Next is the drip edge, which clips into the cleat on the bottom and screwed into the roof on the top. Overlaying that is the roof panel. In this picture, the end of the roof panel has already been bent over the drip edge.

After that, it was time to work with the metal.  We would take each long piece, cut 1″ notches into the corners, and remove those pieces so the metal could later be bent and crimped. We’re supposed to use a fancy metal bending tool, because this part wraps over the drip edge, but we didn’t want to spend the money on a tool we’d use so briefly. So Drew came up with the great idea to take two 2x4s and a couple clamps and make a makeshift bending machine.

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First we cut 1″ notches from the two edges of the metal, so that the flap could bend over and around the drip edge.
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Then we placed a spare 2×4 under the edge along the line we’d just cut.
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Next, we put another 2×4 on top to make a sandwich.
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Then, instead of using fancy metal-bending tools, Drew came up with the idea of putting clamps on the boards and bending the edge down.
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The finished product – his method worked perfectly!

After this, we installed the pieces so that the screw holes were toward the outer edge of the roof. After screwing it in, we’d snap the metal into place and then screw in the next one.

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We started at the cheek walls that separate the dormers from the gables. The first board we installed with gasket screws (pictured). Then we put pancake screws in the holes and then took the next piece of roofing and snapped it over the ridge to make it seamless.
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Here is a picture of the pancake screws before we put the next sheet of roofing over it. (Note, this is on the opposite side of the roof from the last picture).

A note on types of roofing: We decided to use standing-seam metal roofing instead of Maxrib for multiple reasons. For one, standing seam has a longer warranty and is expected to last 40+ years. With Maxrib, the screw holes are exposed, making it so water has a better chance of entering into the holes and damaging the roof. Interestingly, we read that manufacturers often won’t even stand by Maxrib products because the exposed fasteners present a constant liability for water to enter your home. Another great feature of standing seam is its hidden fastener system. If installed correctly, there should be no fastener left exposed to the elements. Therefore it represents a far less likely entryway for water.

The process will get a little more tricky around the cheek walls because there are a few specialized pieces of flashing that we will need to install to make the roof-wall transition safe and leak-free. We’ll keep you posted.

Roofing

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The other day Drew and I were walking up some stairs. My dad, who was nearby, took one look at us and laughed.

“I recognize that tiredness. I’ve been there.”

We just kind of blearily stared back at him.

We recently started work on the roof, and we were pretty exhausted.

Indeed, it’s been a tiring week. But luckily the roof is moving along nicely. The biggest challenge that stood in our way was modifying our roof plans. It all goes back to our trailer: it was two inches wider than the plans called for, so our house had to be two inches wider to fit onto the trailer. Because the house was two inches wider, the slant of our roof had to be more shallow to keep the same amount of headroom in the loft we wanted. That was kind of the whole reason we bought Tumbleweed plans in the first place.

That meant we had to modify ALL the plans, including the roof rafter angles, for both the dormer AND gable styled roofs.

And neither of us remember much trigonometry.

So we turned to the internet for help. Luckily there were several triangle calculators that made it incredibly easy to muddle our way through the roof. It wasn’t exactly easy getting the measurements we needed because we couldn’t know the measurements of our rafters until we knew the angle of our rafters– however, to get the angles of the rafters, we needed the measurements we didn’t have and couldn’t get. See our problem?

This was where we had the idea to make a mock-up model of the rafter; if we just made a model of what we wanted our rafters to sit on, we could theoretically just hold up a 2×4 and mark a line where to cut, right?

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Our model rafter contraption.

We took our ridge beam (two long pieces of microlam nailed together) and attached two 2x4s at the correct height were the floor would be (we’re basically switched the microlam and floor 2×4 for this model). From there, we figured out how wide half the roof would be, and moved our ridgebeam that far away from the edge of the table, where we screwed a 2×4 that represented the wall. Then we calculated the angle of the rafter in the highly technical way of put-it-there-and-draw-a-line. And it worked!

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We field tested our first two gable rafters, and stuck a 2×4 the same dimensions of the ridgebeam in between to ensure it fit.

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Then it was on to installing the ridge beam.

This was a challenge. First, this thing is 19ft long. It took a while to figure out how to maneuver it in through the door and up onto the sleeping loft, especially without scratching the floor. Once we got one end up there, we put the other end in the storage loft over the door. Slowly, carefully, we turned it over and stood up the beam and nailed screwed it into place. We left the supports on it until we put in the rafters.

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Next, it was on to building the dormers, which are the mini walls around the sleeping loft.

Luckily, that went relatively smoothly. As did the installation. It actually started looking like a house!

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The hardest part has been the rain and the insane humidity it is creating. We’re still receiving occasional torrential downpours, and our plastic sheets loves frolicking in the wind. Recently we were working on sheathing, when out of the blue rain started coming down. We quickly raced to cover our work (luckily our friend Evan was helping) and by the time we had finished, the rain had stopped. We called it a day, because it was also 95 degrees outside and we were working in direct sun.

That day was also the day we started on the gable roof sheathing. It’s been a lot of juggling ladders and games of who-has-the-nailer and where-is-the-hammer. The process was similar to that of the subfloor, in that we would cut a sheet of plywood, put glue on the beams, and then attempt to put the piece of wood on the ceiling, get it exactly where we need it, and then nail it in.

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The fun part was that the more of the roof we covered, the harder it was to get up into the rafters to work. We finished gluing the gable roof, but are having a hard time nailing it, since we can’t reach it. We considered straddling the roof and trying to work our way over to the spot to nail it, but we decided that was too dangerous, at least until we have some kind of harness system. We’re still in the process of trying to figure out a way. It will be especially hard once the roof over the sleeping loft is on. I have no idea how we’ll get up there then (especially when it comes to pulling the tarp over that part, ugh. That’s hard enough to do as it is, and our tarp is starting to fall apart. Again). I know there is a way of screwing in 2x4s on the side of the roof for support, but I need to look into it more. It seems like there’s always some new blockage we need to battle through. I think the trick is doing it frugally, safely, and timely. We’ll get there eventually, we always do.

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