House Building Saga, Part the Second December 7, 2009Posted by ficial in house building.
We woke up bright and early this morning. Or rather, dark and early. It is a testament to my devotion to this project that I plan and expect to get up at or before 6:30 AM for it’s duration. After a tasty breakfast treat of pancakes (made last week and frozen, in preparation for this day) and strawberries (processed in May, in preparation for days like this), we tossed way too many tools in the truck (borrowing it from my folks for a while) and headed off to the site. We arrived probably about 1/2 hour after the contractor and his crew did – though they certainly had their routine down and all their tools and such already in their trucks and so didn’t have to get up any earlier than we did.
The day started with a lot of standing around and figuring things out. Partly, we had to decide what exactly we were doing with respect to putting up timbers. Partly, Amy and I had to fit ourselves into this standing team of experienced pros. Luckily, they’re all good people and happy to fold us in. Of course, it certainly helps that we’re footing the bill for this, and if the crazy owners want to get in the way, those guys won’t stop us :)
However, we were quite useful on a number of fronts. We’d spent considerable time studying the packing lists and time the previous day looking through the stacks and so we knew which pieces were where and what had to be unwrapped (ans: nearly everything). Also, while we haven’t worked much construction, we’ve been thinking about the plans for this place for the last 2-3 years, so we have a very good sense of which pieces should generally go where. Finally, we worked at finding jobs we could do, asked questions, listened to answers, and learned a lot.
The process for this frame is more piece-meal than for a traditional timber frame. Rather than building bents on the ground and lifting them up whole, each timber is put in place individually. We started with the post on the northwest corner, then the two east and south of it, then two more (making a kind of U around the west end of the house). Then we started putting up beams.
We’ve rented a big electric lift to help get the beam up, but the crew just lifted them by hand and carried them up ladders. This made things fast, but a bit nerve-wracking for Amy and me. It all went well, and very soon we had two beams up, then 2 more, then another post (filling in the top of the U), then 4 more beams. Through out this we had to figure out things like how the corner braces fit in, how we were expected to fit various parts together, and what to do with some parts were mis-cut.
After lunch we helped the crew true up our reference post. Then while they put up more posts, Amy and I strapped and cranked the adjoining posts and beams (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/plussed/4167020955/), drilled some big holes, and drove in the trunnels (pegs – http://www.flickr.com/photos/plussed/4167777724/) for our first finished corner! Drilling the holes and driving the pegs took a surprisingly long time, though it’ll be a bit faster now that we know mostly what we’re doing for that process.
Tomorrow we expect to do a lot more truing and pegging, while a reduced crew continues to put up timbers. We’d hoped to be more involved in the actual erecting of posts, but complications at the foundation join makes that not very practical. We expect to do more of that sort of thing on the second floor. On the plus side, it’s going up very quickly so far! We might even tackle some low rafters tomorrow, depending on how ambitious we’re all feeling.