Shangri La

Shangri La

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Cost of Being Hip(ped)

It was just after noon on Saturday when I reached my low point. While my father and Mr Big created knee walls for the back loft, I stood in the [future] living room and considered a declaration of defeat. I just couldn't see us calculating, cutting and installing all of the angles a hipped roof requires in anything like the time left, and building the porch roof alone on a subsequent weekend was an overwhelming prospect.

The work had begun just after noon on Friday, when my father and I arrived to find the materials that LaValley's had delivered that morning, and the first order of business was to create a 2x6 'box' between the deck joists over the beam to ensure that the porch posts' load transferred directly to the ground rather than relying on the strength of the decking and joists alone. That having been done, we turned to the decking.

I considered composite material, but - at over 3 times the cost of pressure-treated ($400 vs. $125 for a 6.5'x14' deck) - it was out of my budget. I think of decking as being 'quick work', but the process of ensuring uniform spacing both 1) of all boards and 2) over the length of each individual board required that one of us gauge the spacing and insert the screws while the other pushed or pulled on the end to compensate for each board's bow. We had just finished when Mr Big pulled in just in time for beer and steaks. Uncanny timing.

"If we were taller we'd be able to touch the top of this post."
 The next morning was spent erecting the porch posts and building the 'box' they supported: A ledger board (lag-bolted to the cabin just above the front window trim) and 3 sides of doubled 2x6s to support the rafters. By lunch, we were ready to frame the roof, just as soon as I figured out the angles needed. And here we ground to a halt. Or rather, I did. They quickly bored of watching me scratch my head and began building the knee walls for the loft.

In retrospect, here's where I went wrong: For some reason, I constructed a Byzantine process for holding the boards in place and marking the cuts by eye rather than simply doing the math and laying the rafters out with a carpenter's square. I let myself be intimidated by the fact that -- unlike the cabin roof -- I was dealing with a hipped roof that would require multiple compound angles. After futzing around for a couple of hours and finally losing all hope (maybe I should just build a pergola?), I pulled out the carpenter's square and did it the right way.

Its a miracle!

And wouldn't you know it worked perfectly better than expected. By 5 PM the porch roof framing was up -- all 15 rafters in all of their compoundy-angle glory. We had only 3 problems:

  1. The Paslode would periodically decide to go on a 15-20 minute holiday, its indicator light mocking us in green or red and refusing to respond to any of the manual's remedies until it was good and ready.
  2. I swear to God every other sentence uttered that afternoon was "Where's the pencil?" Why did we have only one pencil? Why didn't one of us keep it in a pocket? In the future, I'm bringing at least 5 pencils to the job site; one will be tied to the mitre saw, and another is going to be Velcroed to my hat.
  3. We forgot two ancient pieces of advice: 'Measure twice, cut once' and 'quit while you're ahead'. Rather than resting for the night on our framing laurels, we cut the first piece of sheathing into a shape that was breathtaking in how poorly it fit the roof. Breathtaking, I tell you.
On Sunday the team showed both determination and ingenuity in managing to sheath the entire porch roof despite being sure we had only enough material for about 80% of it. The tar paper, roofing shingles and -- as always -- the siding were left for another day.

"That's what all those games of Tetris were for..."

 While all of this was going on, Dan and Tom -- of Taylor Excavating -- were hard at work on the septic system. They began work on Friday morning, and were essentially done by Saturday night. The work will be inspected by Marquise and Morano early this week, and then Dan will finish covering, grading and seeding in about a week. He's also going to set the Sonotubes for the back deck, and -- depending upon the final costs -- possible topsoil and seed the east side of the cabin as well.

Our beautiful new septic tank in situ
 My father, Mr Big and I passed the evenings in the Saxtons River Inn while the LSW selflessly dealt with wrestling The Boy to bed. She felt that we might enjoy a 'guys weekend', and it certainly was appreciated. I owe everyone a debt of gratitude - this porch is one of my 'must haves' for the cabin, and without them it likely would have devolved into a simple deck with a pergola, an arrangement I would have grumbled about for years.

The first official beer on the porch.

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