Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Barn door shenanigans

Apologies for the ridiculous break in posting but we have good reasons! 1. We went on a mini vacation with Mr. Nick's family to Utah, 2. We're still hanging T-111. It's just not that interesting.

But, I finally found time to wrap up Part 1 of the barn door segment. Part 2 of how we actually hung it to come (once we finish, we're going to go back to T-111 and install the bottom part later).

We thought it was a great idea to build the barn door inside the barn because our surface is so flat (if you missed us pouring our concrete floor, check it out here) but what we didn't count on was the door being so heavy we couldn't just muscle it out the opening (the door is 12.6' wide x 13' high and the opening is 12' wide and 12'6 high). What follows is nothing more than shenanigans. If you're unable to view the video, click here.

Here's Mr. Nick hanging our door a couple nights before we went on vacation ... I'll tell you how he did it next!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Looking for a contractor?

For those of you who follow us you know that we decided to contract out the installation of our roof tar paper and shingles ... and I feel good about it for all the reasons I have already listed.

We did our homework and got 4 quotes from 4 different roofers (all licensed and bonded) and found what we think was a really great deal using a neat little site called ServiceMagic.com. I had never heard of the site before but after doing some research learned that they are kind of like a "gate keeper" for subcontractors. The companies actually pay a weekly fee for Service Magic to refer to them. However, it's not a good ol' boys club. They check backgrounds, company history, liscense, etc. etc. etc. And from what we can tell they check in constantly with their "Quality Pros" to make sure that the company dynamics haven't changed and they are still the same company they advertised themselves as.

After getting the name from Service Magic we went with Islander Roofing, LLC and couldn't be happier. They were professional, quick and overall really nice to work with. Plus, they were also the cheapest. This was a surprise for us since we figured they would pass on the "Service Magic" fee to us but I guess they went with the mentality of a small profit on lots of jobs. Either way, we will definitely be calling on them to bid on the house.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Put a roof over your head

Over the past two weekends we've been working pretty hard to get a good stable roof over our heads and this weekend we finished it! Side Note: We only did as far as the roof joists and sheathing. We're 99% sure we're going to have a professional do the tar paper and shingles for a few reasons:
  • We're on a pretty short deadline to get watertight and we don't really have the time to give to the roof.
  • Mr. Nick won't let me on the steep incline for long periods of time to help him because he says I'm dangerous. I told him, "Ha! I laugh in the face of danger" and he replied, "No, you laugh as danger's hitting you in the face."
  • We're not professionals and, let's face it, this is our roof.
  • Did I mention how steep it is?
The roof in general was a big task, one that I was mildly de-motivated by on the first day (we used 2"x6"x24' for our roof joists, just getting them from the ground to the top was a big task, not to mention cutting two bird's mouths and two angles out of each of them). But, then Mr. Nick told me to just think of it as 16" at a time (the distance between roof joists) and that helped a lot. Either way. Here's the big steps.

Hurricane ties on both the tops of the walls and the tops of the beams.
We made these little "bird houses" in order to make sure our roof joists all lined up properly. There is a bird house on each side sandwiching the 2"x4"x24's. 16" at time ... 
Finished! That's our cute little shed dormer poking out the side (the only part I was allowed to nail the sheathing on top of). The rest Mr. Nick did, isn't he amazing!?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How to construct your building eaves

Almost any building has eaves to keep the water off the exterior walls. Here's our simple step by step process for how we built the two gable eaves (one gable eave = two of the lookout sections below) that are going on our barn (roofing video to come soon I promise).

You'll use three of the same 2"x6"xwhatever you used for all your other roof joists. (We used 2"x 6"x 24' that we special ordered). Measure out your 2"x4" spacing every 3'.
Clamp your three boards together so that the ends of the 2"x6"s line up.
Transfer your mark from the center board across all three boards. You'll want to trace in the outline for where your 2"x4"s will go
Here's a closer look.
Set your circular saw to 1 1/2" which is the thickness of a 2"x4"
Cut in the lines. To see a video demonstration of Mr. Nick doing this, click here.
Here is what it will look like once you've done your "lines" with the circular saw.
Knock out your chunks. You can use a chisel to get out any stubborn pieces.
This is what it will look like.
Lay your 2"x4"s in the spaces. We cut them to 33 1/2". Nail the first row only.
Measure on your 2"x4" marks at 16" and 32". You have to do this on every 2"x4".
Make your way down the row again, lining up the second notches.
Here is an example of how it lines up.
Finish up with the last row.
Make sure your 2"x4"s are recessed in as your roofing material will lay on top of this.
Finished product. Now you have to get it on the roof. More of that in our roofing post to come.
Here it is hanging up, now our barn has an eave!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hanging your floor joists

I'm a bit behind posting about these floor joists but I have a good excuse ... Mr. Nick needed some video game time. I know, I know, you wouldn't expect a burly man like Mr. Nick to also find enjoyment in the simple act of playing video games but it's true, he loves them. And I personally don't mind it either. I have a theory ... I think when you are as high strung as he is (where his brain is CONSTANTLY thinking, over-analyzing, etc. etc. etc.) it's good to have true down time where he decompresses and lets his thoughts turn to mush. It can only be good for his blood pressure and stress level, right?

But, I've managed to get the computer while he's working out the figures for our roof so now we're back on track!

After you've measured your spacing increments, throw up your joist hangars (side note, on our first course of joists we actually used the little tackers to put them in place until we could get both sides done, then once we were sure they were exactly across from each other we nailed them in, by the time we got to the last bay we felt confident enough to secure them immediately).
Here they are all lined up, like "little soldiers" in Mr. Nick's words.
Once your joist hangars are up on both sides measure the distance in between. It's not uncommon with a post and beam barn for the joist distances to vary slightly with each increment but you can make it up with your joists by either cutting bigger than you need to push it out or smaller than you need and securing it.
Measure your joists. We ended up cutting about 8" off the 12' joist for the center course but then Mr. Nick had the great idea to get 23' joists that we were able to get two joists out of for the right and left side. The hassle of hauling the extra long joists was worth the $80 in savings (hey it all adds up right?)
Here's how Mr. Nick uses the triangle to cut a straight line, every time. See how he lines up his skill saw with the line and then butts up the triangle.
The skillsaw was just a tad shallow so instead of ripping the bits off and potentially causing splinters he ran the good ol' hand saw down the line once for a clean break (this is one of the extra long joists, notice how the only waste is the section in the middle)

Handsome Mr. Nick securing his joist hangars ...
Mostly done, a side note. We both work full time jobs so most of the materials are delivered while we're at work. We didn't have time to count and make sure the lumber yard delivered everything before the weekend and then so we found out at the end of the day on Saturday that they had shorted us 50 joist hangars. Because it wasn't a big box store they weren't open on Sunday and we had to wait until Monday to get the rest of our materials, a little frustrating but a pretty painless way to learn a very important lesson, always make sure you are delivered exactly what you paid for!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wind girts and skirting, oh my!

Here we are hanging in all our wind girt glory ... Nice!
The wind girts create nailing surfaces for the siding. We used 2" x 6", Douglas Fir, #2 studs. A few words on studs. There are two different kinds, Douglas Fir and Hemlock Fir. Lowes and Home Depot sell Hemlock Fir and most local "non-big" box stores (we have Bayview Lumber and ProBuild (formerly Lumbermans)) sell Douglas Fir. So what's the difference? Doug Fir is stronger than Hem Fir. #2 basically means, "second best" which translates into some sort of visual defect but not structural, and are cheaper. If your boards don't need to be absolutely straight than it's worth considering.

So, step by step, here's how we prepped for the hanging of the wind girts.

#1 Consult your plans, your engineer will have laid out your plans to show you at what increments your girts should be placed. He'll also tell you what size boards you will need.
#2 Get into place. Consult your plans again (measure twice cut once, right?)
#3 Measure your spacing marks. We measured from the top of the posts because we had already leveled off the top of the posts and we knew they were all the same. This is one instance though where you could measure from your common laser level mark.
#4 Once you have your lines marked on your corner posts you can use a chalk line to snap in the marks for the middle beams.
#5 Have one person hold the one side and the other hold the other (this is rocket science I know). It's worth nothing that in the end we didn't like how the snap line turned out and ended up measuring each posts marks one by one (like Mr. Nick is doing in step #3)
As part of the wind girt process we also put up the mud skirts. We re-used the concrete forms from our concrete pad installation but didn't re-use the original line. As you can see we went 1" below the original line to overlap the concrete and make sure there is no gap for critters and draft breezes to get through.

The girts went up very easy, I hold one end, Nick holds the other, nail-gun "bang, bang, bang". Repeat. Here's a short visual.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

5 "no brainer" ways to save money on your home improvement project

Put the money back in your pocket!
(The chalk line broke last night so Mr. Nick had to fix it, I liked the way it made his hands look though).
1. Return the items you don't use.
Whether you're undertaking a large scale construction project or a small scale renovation you will almost inevitably end up with more supplies than you need. I think the biggest place this is likely to happen is plumbing. Honestly I think being sent to to the store by yourself with nothing but a list from your plumber (professional or not) only to return with the wrong part is cruel and unusual punishment. This happened to me several times with a professional plumber (Mr. Nick was overseas for a year in Kyrgyzstan so I had to suck it up and pay) until finally I ended up buying two of everything in the aisle. Overkill I know, but truly I was at my wits end. And what do you know, I had the right parts! The morale of this story though, is to return the parts you don't end up using. Even little $2 and $3 pieces add up quickly. Mr. Nick and I keep a bucket full of odds and ends and try to go about once a month to get caught up.

2. Take advantage of warranties.
When I buy a tool I expect it work and Mr. Nick is even harder on tools than I am. If something breaks while I was properly using it I take it back. Lowes sells a brand "Kobalt" and it actually says on the package, guaranteed for life. We took back a measuring tape which was pretty beat up but they changed it out no problem.

3. Bid out your materials package.
If you're doing a large scale project most likely you will have a materials list. However, even with simple products (we're currently in the market for garage doors) it pays to shop around. We ended up buying our lumber package at a local lumber store, not a big box chain. A lumber store we almost didn't ask for a bid from since everyone in town said they were expensive. However, they ended up being the cheapest ... by a lot! So for us, it has paid to shop around.

4. Always return rental equipment with a full gas tank.
This one we have gotten lazy on a couple times and each time I do it I kick myself in the foot. It's so easy! For example, when we rented the plate compactor I filled it up with .89 of gas. Cheap! Had I turned it in empty though it would have been $3.99 for the fuel surcharge. It doesn't seem like much but it adds up.

5. Make smart decisions on whether you should buy or rent tools.This is a lesson we learned from my parents who spent a fortune renting scaffolding to build their house before finally breaking down and purchasing a set. Side note: this purchase has worked out quite well for us now that they are done with it and we get to use it for free, or at least I haven't gotten a bill yet from my mother :) Renting tools is pretty economical when you think about what you're getting. However, renting may not be the right choice for you. We opted to buy our chainsaw and our tractor when we considered what the daily charge was for the equipment and how many times we would most likely use it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raising the beams, higher and higher

This weekend we finished what Mr. Nick started and raised the eight middle beams (yes he's amazing but even he needed a second set of hands to get those big ones up). I think even our poor tractor was happy when it was done being asked to haul those big beams, but let the record show good ol' Kubota made it happen! It was pretty uneventful with only one "Oh S*$!, that beam is falling," but we managed to secure it and no one was hurt (but notice we have on our hard hats!)

There were three sizes of beams:
The smallest went along the two sides, Mr. Nick cut this little shelf out and then bolted them into place (these are the ones he raised by himself on Friday)
The medium ones are the two top ones (the highest). One side was pre-made with the "L" and once the beam was in place Mr. Nick made secured it in with the other two 2" x 6"s. The little 2" x 6" running horizontal is to keep the two beams together (it's over 24' up, they want to naturally splay out a little).
And the biggest are the ones that run as the ceiling of the first floor. They were 19.5" wide! Here's a start of what Mr. Nick did for them to rest on. He used the leftover tops that we chopped off of the beams to make them all the same size (in order to determine where to cut off we measured from our "common point" that we made with the laser level).
Mr. Nick securing the beams in.
Finished product!

Song Credit: Passion Pit, "Little Secrets". If you haven't heard of them, check them out. They're pretty amazing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

When husbands moonlight as superheroes

My husband never ceases to amaze me. I'm still not quite sure how he did it, but I think I figured out how the Egyptian's built the pyramids ... they must have had about 50 Mr. Nick's on their service.

So this weekend it's our job to get the rest of them up!

If the video isn't loading for you, click here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Concrete slab in seven hours or less

We poured our concrete slab this weekend and it was a huge success. If you want to watch the video click here.

Here's some key things that we did in order to prep the space for a seamless pour:

On the Tuesday night before the Saturday pour we marked where we wanted the four loads of gravel to go. This was important for us since we both have full time jobs we knew we probably weren't going to be able to leave to be there for the crushed gravel drop-off.
And it worked! Here's the four piles, just like we wanted.
After we installed the concrete forms we reinforced each board with two 3' steel stakes to make sure they didn't "blow out".
We wrapped each post in tar paper to keep the concrete from sticking to the post. If the concrete were to stick to the post, when it settled, it would most likely crack.
We used duplex nails to help with the prying off of our form boards.
We plan for this barn to be a 2 horse barn so we didn't lay concrete in the stall portion (it's really bad for their legs). We used 2" x 6" for these and reinforced with steel stakes again.

We dug out the area along the edge in order to reinforce (less gravel and more concrete equals stronger edge). This was especially important to do on the lips we plan on driving over to get into the barn.

Here's what I carved into the pad. I didn't want to write something like Rachael loves Nick because this house is an investment and should we sell it I highly doubt someone is going to want that on their garage floor. But, I had to personalize it a little. This is a totally side note but when Mr. Nick designed my engagement rink (really designed it, drew it on a piece of paper had a mold cast and everything) he drew an infinity in the side that is filled with purple sapphires. I think it's especially cool because his engineering homework from the Academy has little infinity signs on it ... practice does make perfect!
The other thing we did, which we haven't done before, was pay for help. Mr. Nick put a craigslist add up for a skilled concrete pourer and Joe answered. He was only $200 for the whole day and provided invaluable expertise, not to mention his tools. We did rent the compactor, one come-along (the thing that looks like a rake), and the power trowel, but he provided everything else. It took 26 yards of concrete to fill our 36' x 48' space (minus the two horse stalls). We scheduled the three trucks for 30 minutes apart which provided the perfect amount of overlap (again, had we not had Joe this probably would have been to close together). We started early (first truck arrived at 7:30 but we were there at 6:30) which was also smart since the Pacific Northwest is in a bit of a heat wave right now hitting the upper 90s, reinforcing the adage, concrete waits for no one ... it will dry whether you're ready for it or not.  Thankfully, we were ready!

Song Credit: Discovery "So Insane". We love them. If you want to hear their other song we've done a video to check out our Conduit Loop Line video from laying our power cable.

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