Loft Floor and Ridge Beam

This weekend saw quite a bit of progress.  The rainy weather stopped very early Saturday morning and I was able to get rolling first thing.

Squaring up

The first order of business was squaring up the walls that I built on Thursday.  I loosened all the J-Bolts and hit the bottoms of each wall until the edges lined up perfectly.  Either by a stroke of luck or due to my extreme building skills :) the bottoms of the walls were within 1/16 inch of being square.  I quickly tightened down all the J-Bolts (turned around three times and spat with my arms crossed) with an impact driver and rechecked the measurement as things can shift when you tighten up the J-Bolts.

The next step was to make the walls perfectly vertical (plumb).  One at a time I removes the temporary screws holding the corners together and adjusted each corner to be plumb.  When complete, I checked the squareness at the top of each wall and found it to be within 1/8 inch which I think is fine. I then used the nail gun to connect the corners together permanently.

Loft Floor

Next step was to install the loft floor which is nothing more than some 2×8’s layed across the house.  On top of the joists I attached some 3/4 inch OSB made by Advantech.  This stuff says its good for 50 years. It comes in tongue and groove and seems pretty sturdy.  I found the T&G hard to snap together.  I suspect it was because I nailed the end down.  I suggest that you tack it down first and get everything lined up before nailing the entire floor.

 

Loft Gable

With a fill loft floor in place the next step was to build the gable end.  Frankly this was a pain in the ass working up in the loft which was too small.  We ended up getting it done after dark and it was a real bitch to get installed even with three people.

We had a large bow in the middle of the wall that we could not move by hand.  The solution was to use 8 timberlok fasteners, some scrap studs, and the impact driver.  I drove the fasteners into the lower (non-bowed) wall section then into the upper (bowed) section.  As I tightened the screws the two plates matched up and we could nail them together.  I used a liberal amount of Gorilla glue, four 1/2 inch galvanized bolts, and framing nails to hold the two walls together….its not coming apart except with a sawsall.
Ridge Beam

The crowning achievement of the weekend was the installation of my nearly 4 inch thick by 18 inch tall by 18 foot long ridge beam.  The lumber store asked me if I wanted it in two sections or one.  Fortunately, I told them two or it would have taken 2-4 more people to lift into place.  This thing is so heavy that the two of us struggled to get it into position.

Now that its installed it is clear to me that it’s really oversized for this application.  I picked it based on the manufacturers data.  This size beam can be used on a 24 foot wide building with a 18 foot span.  My building is only 14 feet so it’s probably 30% oversized.  I would suggest if you take this approach to hire an engineer and certify a smaller beam.  You will likely end up with something a few inches shorter.  In any case I’m not worried about the roof bowing….ever!


Rafters

I made a small change to the way I am installing the rafters.  Originally I was going to attach them to the sides of the ridge beam with hangars as you would with a ridge board.  I was concerned about making the ridge beam to wall connection secure. I discovered on my CAD program that the ceiling height would end up the same if I set the beam directly on the wall headers.  Otherwise I would need to install a 6 inch block of wood which I could not figure out a good way to make secure.  I’m sure there are some steel brackets somewhere, but I found nothing locally.  When setting the rafters on top there is just enough room to cut a notch and set them on top of the beam.  This diagram illustrates what I am going to do except that I will not overlap the tops because I want the rafters to be directly over the wall studs.

I will be using a steel strap over the top, some small joist hangers, and a triangle of plywood glued to each set of rafters to make a secure connection.  Overkill yes, but for $20 I can make this much stronger so why not spend the money.  The bottoms will be blocked in place.

Next Steps

At night (in the dark) this week I will be fitting and cutting rafters so they can be installed before the hurricane (possibly)(comes this weekend!  The building inspector sent someone out to check up on my progress…they better watch out…its getting to be that season and Tim has a deep fryer and knows how to use it!

Three More Walls

I took the day off yesterday since this weekend is looking dodgy weather-wise.  I started at 8AM and finished just after dark with about an hour breakfast break.  It was a lot of work but the results were three walls built and standing.

Back Wall

The front and back walls are mostly the same.  The doors are slightly different sizes and the back wall has a large upper window which shifts the ridge beam supports.  For the most part they are the same.  I built the front wall as a single section but it was really difficult and dangerous to lift into position.  The back wall has a loft floor to work on so the upper triangle can be built up there and will be very easy to stand up.

Side Walls

These two walls are identical and in fact were laid out at the same time.  The front section has a cathedral ceiling so its framed at a full eight feet.  The back section must accommodate a loft floor which is 7.5 inches thick so it gets framed shorter and has a rim joist attached at the top.  The headers for the rear windows will be hidden in this rim joist.  The front windows are not in a load bearing section of the wall and have no headers making that section of the wall more energy-efficient.

You will also notice that I did not cut out or detail frame any of the window openings.  It makes the wall a bit lighter and saves time in framing.

Sheating Attachment

Per IRC the sheeting must be nailed with 2 inch nails every 6 inches on the edges and every 12 in the middle.  If you have ever worked with 7/16 OSB you know that its not that robust compared to plywood.  I decided to use my favorite glue “Gorilla Glue” in addition to nails for sheating attachment.  Once dry, the sheating will not be coming off ever….except in small pieces.

Also note that I applied the sheating vertically (4ft wide) rather than horizontally.  This helps the wall sections resist lateral forces.  The IRC calls them “shear walls” (they resist shearing forces).  In combination with special ties that bolt into the slab they provide a considerable amount of strength to your wall.  I found this part of the building code confusing and talked to the local building inspector to make sure what I built would pass muster.

Do not blindly follow my implementation of shear walls.  I believe that they meet code and then some, but your local building inspector may have other ideas (or none at all) when it comes to shear walls.  My tiny building has three 4×8 sections on the sides and at lest one 4×8 section on either end.

One more thing…you will notice that there is a section of sheating missing on the ends of each side.  This sheating overlaps the end walls and will be applied once the walls are square, plumbed, and bolted down.

Lifting Walls

I improvised a new method for wall lifting after almost flattening myself on the first wall.  I attached the two ends of a tow strap to bucket hooks on my tractor.  Then I attached the tow strap using screws and nails to the top plate of the wall.  Using the bucket I was able to lift the wall about 4 feet in the air and then driving backwards position it vertically.  With the bucket so close to the wall the risk of tipping forward is minimal since it would just hit the bucket.  Here’s a short video:

This Weekend

It looks like there will be a few hours on Saturday and a full day Sunday for work.  I plan to square the walls and bolt them down.  The loft floor should get installed and hopefully the peak of the back wall.  If I’m really lucky, we might be able to install the ridge beam.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Three Day Weekend

This weekend I took Friday off so I could frame some walls up.  The weather did not cooperate at all!  Friday morning it rained and Sunday it poured but Saturday was nice and sunny.

Mud Sills
My dad and I managed to dry off the slab enough with a leaf blower so we could cut and drill the mud sills.  The process began by snapping a line on one side of the slab and then a parallel line 5 5/8″ (PT lumber is a bit wider) from the first line.  Next using two tape measures we used the 6-8-10 method to locate another line perpendicular to the first.  We verified that line using 9-12-15 method :).  From that point it was easy to snap the opposite lines to form a perfect square.  The final quality assurance check is to measure corner to corner and verify that the dimensions are the same.  I used a masonry bit and drilled holes on one side to hold a nail so the measurements would start from a fixed point.  After an hour or so I had square on the slab that was within 1/16 inch of being perfect.
Drilling Mud Sill

To mark the location of each j-bolt in the sill you lay the board on the chalk line and use a speed square to mark the right ant left edge of each bolt.  Then use a ruler to transfer the top edge location.  I used a 3/4″ spade drill bit to drill the holes.  Once the locations are verified by sliding the sill over the bolts, we needed to transfer the locations to the bottom sill of each wall.

My sill design may be a bit different from some you have seen.  I want a plywood floor so I can install hardwood floor using nails rather than glue.  I don’t want residual moisture from the slab in contact with the wood etc.  I will be laying down rows of 1×6 pressure treated boards followed by 3/4″ plywood.  This gives me a 1.5″ thick platform to attach my flooring to.

I decided that I did not want to lose this 1.5″ in wall height so I am using a double thick sill.  The sill will be made from a 2×6 pressure treated board and a standard 2×6 board.  The j-bolts will go thru both sill plates and hold the walls down very securely.

J-Bolt Screw Up

With all the sills drilled and in place, much to my horror I discovered that some of my j-bolts are too short.  This really sucks since I spent so much time making fixtures to position them perfectly.  My only guess is that the concrete ended up a little above the forms and that the pressure treated sill is a bit thicker than 1.5″.  In any case, it had to be fixed.

Code requires one 1.5″ sill plate be secured to the slab.  Since I have two sill plates it is no problem to rout a pocket to let the plates sit below the surface of the board.  A trip to the hardware store, a burger and fries, and 45 minutes I had routed pockets around my 30 j-bolts (its not pretty since I did it freehand).


Finally Some framing

With darkness about 90 minutes away, I began laying out the top and bottom plates of the wall that will contain my front door.  I cut 3 inches off a bunch of studs and laid them out on the slab and nailed them together.  I quickly snapped a pic and packed up all the expensive tools to prevent scumbags from helping themselves.

The next morning, I built the headers for the window and door and installed jack studs.  This wall is a bit different from normal walls since I wanted to build it on the ground and raise it up in a single piece.  I didn’t want to be working on a ladder building the upper triangle section.  When I designed the wall I wanted the ridge beam to sit on a continuous post without breaks.  This decision means the wall gets built on one large very heavy section.

The downside to this approach is that the wall section can flex around “ladder” that holds up the ridge beam.  The upside is that the ridge beam sits on something that cannot flex at all.  I plan to add some steel connectors at the location where the top plate attaches to the “ladder” for the ridge beam.

The opposite wall will have the loft floor to use as a work surface and will be built in an upper and lower section with some 1/2″ bolts used to hold the sections together.

Raising Up The Wall

This was probably the most dangerous thing I have ever done and I don’t think I could recommend it to others unless you have at least 4 strong guys to help…this wall weighed at least 500 pounds.  I wish that I took time to snap a couple of pics of this operation but there were just the two of us and we were had our hands full.

I attached a tow strap and steel cable to the peak of the wall and pulled on it with the tractor.  With the wall laying flat there was no way the tractor could pull it up so we used a farm jack to lift the wall and placed scrap wood under it to get it at about a 15 degree angle.  Once again I tried to pull it up with the tractor and it would not go but seemed like it was close.  So I had tim insert a board under the tow strap to raise the pulling angle. With an 8 foot 2×6 under the strap the tractor raised the wall effortlessly.

Now I’m sitting on my tractor holding up a 500 pound wall while Tim is getting ready to put braces on it.  If I pull too much the wall tips over forward and smashes my deck.  If the cable slips off, it falls back and smashes my plumbing stubs.  Tim directed me to a point where the wall is about 4 inches from vertical and he nails on a support brace on one side.  On the other side, we force the wall to be vertical and attach another support brace.  We then went back to the other side to make it vertical.

Conclusion

I wish I could have accomplished more, but the weather really put a damper on things.  After work this week I will try and cut lumber to lengths I need so that when I get my next framing day I can concentrate on assembling rather than cutting.  Now that I am “into” the job I think it will go faster.

Review: Chevy Spark

My move to western MA has saved me quite a bit of money since I no longer have a mortgage/rent payment.  I can’t say the same thing about my commuting expenses.  Between the rising cost of gas and the increased miles I have seen my gas expenses rise to over $500 per month!

My poor truck has over 60,000 miles on it in just 2 years.  If this pace keeps up I will need to buy a set of brakes and tires  in the not too distant future.  It was clear to me that I should find a cheap car that could take the brunt of these miles without costing me a small fortune.

If you have good credit it is possible to obtain a 60 month auto loan for about 3%. The car must be capable of doubling my MPG from my truck which means 40MPG.  This would in theory cut my gas bill from $500 to $250.  Based on a loan calculator I estimated that I could spend a maximum of $14,000 on a car.  This price point would only cost me the additional cost of insurance each month (which turns out to be $35/mo).
Honda, Toyota, Ford, Nissan

They all make cars costing $15,000-$18,000 that are all very nice but too expensive.  I especially like the new Honda Fit.  I owned an old Fit some years ago and it was a great car.  Toyota is going in the dumper in my opinion.  Their engineering and style seem lacking compared to Honda.

Government Motors

If I’m going to bail them out then I expect to get something for my tax dollar.  The Spark has been in other countries for several years.  No one really raves about it over in Europe, but they all say its been a competent car.  My feeling was that European tastes in automobiles are more discriminating than us here in America.  If it was good enough for the Greeks then I should be able to deal with it.

After a test drive my impression was that it drove well.  The brakes were solid and the clutch/shifter were adequate.  The rest of the car is a plastic piece of shit.  The seat coverings look like the vinyl off my dads 1962 pickup truck and will probably have the same amount of rips and holes in a couple of months.

After 45 agonizing minutes at the dealer, I signed papers on a silver base model Spark.  The price tag came to just about $14,000 with MA sales tax, dealer prep, destination charge, etc.  The payments on my miracle of modern automobile engineering ended up at $252 per month for 60 months which is half of my gas bill.

Delivery

I thought the buying process was agony.  The delivery process was 10X worse.  The dealer forced me to sith thru an OnStar activation where I had to talk with some guy who wanted to sell me minutes for phone calls and GPS directions.  Dude, I have a cell phone it lets me make calls and (get this) gives me driving directions!  If GM thinks that after my six month introductory period with OnStar I will be willing to shell out $300 per year they are smoking crack.  Of course the OnStar service cut out in the middle of the activation process which made it take even longer.

The only funny thing during delivery was when I pointed out that one the cheap plastic brackets holding the sun visor was broken.  I suspect this is a sign of things to come.

Day One

The interior is a plastic piece of shit (did I say that already?).  My first days commute went very well.  I expected my fuel mileage to suck with a new engine, but it was awesome!  The digital gauge cluster has a real time MPG display which I use to optimize my miles per gallon.  With one full commute and a trip to the store for lunch I hit 47.3MPG!  The EPA specs on this car are only 38 MPG so needless to say I am pretty happy with the mileage.

I will soon be installing a ScanGauge into my car.  At $4 per gallon it only needs to save me 25 gallons of fuel to pay for itself.  It also makes a kind of game driving to work each day…see how little fuel I can use game.  I will also pump up the tires a bit to shed some rolling resistance and hopefully pick up some efficiency.

Conclusion

If you are looking for cheap transportation you can’t beat an out the door price of $14,000 (sticker $12,995, discounted $100 by dealer).

Slab Complete

As of this weekend the work on my slab is 100% complete and its about time.  All totaled it took 40 yards of fill, 10 yards of concrete, several hundred feet of rebar, 32 sheets of rigid insulation, 30 “j-bolts” and some funky deck brackets.

Maine Deck Bracket Installation

My weekend started by drilling 16 holes that were 6 inches deep into the side of my slab.  My Dewalt drill running in “hammer drill” mode was sucking down one battery for every 2 holes.  Each hole was taking about 10 minutes to drill.  When all my batteries were dead I went out and bought a new 1/2 inch bit to hopefully speed things up (and it did for about 2 holes).

My dad who is a retired machinist suggested that the carbide tips could probably be sharpened with a diamond wheel mounted to a dremel.  For anyone in a similar situation, I suggest that you research this idea…I think it would greatly speed up the process.

Once my holes were drilled, I used some wedge anchors and epoxy to fasten them into the concrete.  You don’t need to use epoxy with wedge anchors but I personally thinks its a good idea and for 20 bucks its cheap insurance.

Once the epoxy was hard, the bracket bolts were snugged up.  I then clamped on the 2×8 pressure treated boards and marked the holes for the two outside brackets.  After drilling I bolted the joist in place and marked the other holes.  To transfer the holes to the second ledger board, I simply clamped them together (matching the crowns).  The two ledgers were then bolted to the brackets with 16 galvanized bolts.

Screw Up!

As I was typing this I realized that I forgot one very important step.  The copper treatment in the pressure treated wood reacts with other metals in the presence of water.  This means that as installed my deck brackets are going to slowly be eaten away by the wood that they are in contact with.  All this because I forgot to install the plastic spacers I had fabricated.  The good news is that I still have access to the nuts and can unbolt each bracket enough to slide the spacer into position.

This is a great example of why contractors work faster than DIY builders.  They typically don’t make these kinds of boneheaded mistakes that make them do work twice!  Also notice I said “typically”….i’ll leave it at that.

Insulation Fitting

Once the deck brackets are in place I needed to wiggle the foam insulation into position.  To accomplish this I had to cut out pockets where the bolts and deck bracket would interfere.  The best tool I found was a hand saw and a Dremel Multi Max equipped with a flush cut blade.  With all the pockets cut the foam fit nicely into position.

Once the insulation was in place I added the frost skirt, taped it, and backfilled the remaining walls.  I will use a can of non-expanding foam and scrap foam board to fill in my pockets.  I am using non-expanding foam because I “think” it will have a better R value and be more dense than the expanding foam.

Starting the Porch

Since the Patriots game started at 4:25PM I had a bit of extra time to get started on the porch.  I cut two boards for the front ledger and two side pieces.  I tacked nails in the four corners so I could measure the squareness of the layout.  When I was satisfied I nailed everything with the air nailer using galvanized nails (very important in AQT wood).  I also tacked in 2 corner boards to maintain the squareness of the assembly.

To complete the job I drove eight Timber Lok fasteners thru the sides into each set of ledgers.  These fasteners can hold the outside boards to the ledgers with considerable strength, they also can support large shearing loads (deck full of people).

Next Steps

A truckload of framing lumber is scheduled to arrive this week and I will begin framing if I can get a number of consecutive sunny days.

Final Floorplan

I realized this morning that I had not yet posted the floor plan for the Bodega.  As you know my house is based on the Bodega design from Tumbleweed Tiny Homes.  I have modified the design to make it better suited for Northeast winters and to meet MA building codes.

Original Bodega Plan

“MA” Bodega (Porch not shown)

Massachusetts Building Code

The Bodega meets the International Building Code, however we here is MA are “special” we often make up codes because we have a “machine” that is good at making them up.  The IRC states that you need one room of 120 square feet.  MA code states that one room must be 150 square feet.  Fortunately, it does not define what a room is ;).  That means all I needed to do was convince my local building official that the Great Room and Kitchen were one big general purpose room.

In order for this to happen, I removed the central closet and the wall next to the kitchen counter.  This opened up the kitchen into the great room which I think will work out pretty nice.  Another MA code issue is a back door…every house needs one but it can be 32 inches wide.

Kitchen

You will notice that I moved the kitchen counter to the opposite side of the room.  This allows the kitchen and bath to share a single plumbing wall.  The electrical panel will be in the upper left (shaded area represents work space defined by NEC).

Bath

I deleted the full size tub and replaced it with a 32 inch shower stall and closet for a washing machine.  MA plumbing code requires a washer hookup anyway.  That same closet I will install a demand propane hot water heater and in the slab under the washer will be the water tank (grey circle).  The vanity and toilet will share the plumbing wall with the kitchen.  Note the red dotted lines near the toilet that represent the clearances required by the plumbing code.

Loft

The area above the kitchen and bath will become one large loft area with closets taking up the small spaces in the eaves.  When completed, the loft area will be about 64 square feet with a ceiling height of 5’8″.
Insulation

You will notice the 4 inches of exterior insulation and the wall framing which has been switched to 2×6 construction.  The cathedral ceiling will share the same 4 inches of exterior foam on top of 2×12’s that will be stuffed with cellulose.  This will roughly give me walls of R40 and ceiling of R60 if my calculations are correct.

Everyone is concerned about condensation in small spaces.  This is one of the reasons I went with so much insulation on the outside. If my math is right, the dew point will be about 3 inches inside the foam on cold days.  That means that the inside of the foam will not be cool enough to have anything condense on it.  Following green building practices will keep air leaks to a minimum which will eliminate “spot condensation” problems in leaky areas.  I am also making the interior walls breathable which will allow moisture to escape.

Final Comments

The one thing I can see lacking in my modifications is closet space.  There will be a considerable amount of space in the loft area (8′ Long by 3′ high wedge shaped…with an interesting twist…future post).  If it turns out that I need more space, there is nothing stopping me from adding a small closet in the kitchen.

Another great idea is from a fellow named JT who had a really cool idea for built in shelving:

I will be stealing this idea throughout my house.  The plumbing wall between the bath and kitchen would make a really nice set of deep shelves.  I need to make sure the plumber keeps his piping out of the way!

Rainy Weekend

Sorry for taking so long to post, things have been busy.  This past weekend it rained on and off which limited what I was able to accomplish. One long dry spell I was able to install the skirt insulation around the slab.  The remainder of the time I worked on getting a bill of materials together so I could visit local lumber yards for lumber quotes.

Slab Skirt Insulation

The slab has 4 inches of foam insulation attached to the sides.  To fully meet code and protect the slab from frost I need to install insulation horizontally for 2 feet around the slab.  I used 2 inch foam and a 3/4 inch foam which provides an R factor of 14. The foam is sloped away from the house to encourage water to flow away from the slab. All the seams are taped with sticky back window sealer.  I used Owens Corning Foamular 250 which is extruded XPS foam which maintains 100% of its R value even in moist underground environments.

This insulation helps to insulate the 50 degree subsoil from freezing outside temperatures.  a 24 inch skirt around the slab keeps frost about 12-18 inches from the slab depending on the temperature.  It also works by keeping the ground around the slab dry this eliminates any chance of frost being created.

Porch Attachment

An issue that I had not fully solved until late last week was the attachment of the porch to the house.  As you can see from earlier posts I embedded “J-bolts” in the face of the slab that the porch ledger would attach to. This solution makes it super hard to properly insulate the slab in the area of the porch.

Some Google research brought me to a product called a Maine Deck Bracket.  This bracket makes it possible to attach the ledger and place 4 inches of foam insulation behind the bracket!  A fantastic idea, and at $25 each a pretty cheap solution to a difficult problem.  I’ll post pics of my install.

Tiny House “Stuff” Reshuffling

Now that I am in the tiny house full-time I’m becoming sensitive to clutter and things that are not serving a useful purpose.  I took this rainy weekend to complete some projects that will help make the space more efficient.

Slide out Table: I was using a folding TV tray as a table but it was a pain to fold and unfold.  So I installed a slide out table similar to a keyboard drawer on a computer desk.

Radio Shelf: I installed a small shelf that holds my radio and other stuff.  This frees up the space around the wood stove which will soon be seeing some action.

Clutter removal: I would not have guessed that I could have things to junk but I do.  Throw pillows for the couch…gone! why do I have two shower carpets…gone?  This box of papers that I really should keep but will most likely never use…barn.  Small refrigerator that I don’t use…barn.  Cleaning products, windex cleans most everything the rest can go.

Mice!

The mice have found their way into my tiny house and I want them gone!  I drilled holes in the flooring under the sink and filled it with expanding foam.  During my cleanup I found the hole where they were coming in and filled it and everything around it with foam.  With all the holes plugged I put out the live trap and caught a mouse within 10 minutes.  With him/her relocated, I have not heard a peep from the mice. I am also putting all food in mouse proof containers…no food = no mice!

Lumber Quotes

I got back two quotes for lumber.  The cheaper quote was about $7500 which was a little on the high side.  I decided to replace the plywood for 7/16 OSB which brought it down some.  The unexpected cost was MA sales tax of 6.25% which added nearly $500 to the bill.  I will be visiting the lumberyard this Sat to approve and pay for the order.  I will have it delivered next week sometime.

This Weekend

I will be attaching my deck brackets and moving 20 yards of fill to complete the slab.  If time permits, I will begin laying out the sill plates in preparation for framing.  If things go really well, I want to install the framing for the porch floor.  Its going to be a busy weekend!