Sunday, August 10

Raising the Roof

Rafters complete- waiting for a roof.

We had to do some preparation before putting up the first layer of the roof (OSB.) We had to trim the top of some of the posts because they were sticking up above the angle of the roof. We had to add some blocking in between rafters to give the rafters just a little more strength. We added some metal straps to the ridge beam and rafters for some extra support.


Then it was time to put up a roof! Lifting the OSB that high wasn't as hard as I expected it to be. With one person lifting from the bottom and one person pulling from the top, we would get the OSB onto the second floor. Then two people on the second floor would pass it up through the rafters to someone on the roof (who was, of course, wearing climbing gear and attached to the ridge beam.) Then everyone would put a hand or two on the OSB as the person on the roof put a nail in it to hold it in place. Then, screws and nails were added and we start over again for the next piece.

First piece of OSB up.

Jessa, on the roof. Notice the strapping on the rafters and ridge beam.

Some of the pieces were slightly trickier, simply because they were hard to reach. Specifically the pieces on the end. We had to pull up the scaffolding and pass the OSB up it.

Drilling, high up.

One side, mostly complete.

We still need to add OSB on the angled edges (but not full sheets) and trim the non-angled edge to 15 feet. (We decided to trim it up in the air so that we could trim the rafters at the same time.) Then, a layer of waterproof tar-paper and then tin. (And, of course, this happens on the other side as well.)

Wednesday, August 6

Rafters, baby!

After getting all our side-beams up, it was time to focus on rafters. Before putting up a ridge beam, we needed to know what style our rafters were going to be.
They could either be set into the beam (sketch on left) or above the beams (sketch on right.) We decided to go for the inset ridge beam for extra security. Since none of our beams are directly lined up, the cutout was not actually going to be in the center- instead, most beams were going to need their sides notched out.

The first order of business in putting up the ridge beam was to even out the tops of our posts.
Phil has become quite the expert on elevated construction.

As the top of the post fell, it hit and snapped one of our supports. Everything was alright- just exciting. (The rest of the post tops gave us no problems.)

Setting the ridge beam was not too terrible. We had gotten plenty of practice putting up beams with the side beams- this was just a little higher up in the air. We pre-drilled holes into the beams for the lag screws to reduce the amount of time we had to spend up on ladders. The two outer beams got placed first to ensure that they landed halfway on our middle posts. The middle beam was then measured and cut for an exact fit.
Adam and Phil, placing the last beam.

Completed ridge beam.

The next step in the roofing process was to put up the actual rafters. Adam and I trimmed all the rafters at a 25 degree angle. (Actually, we somehow didn't get the angle right the first time, so I had to trim most of them again the next day. Oh well. Learning.) I then made the angled edge about a quarter of an inch thinner so that our true 2x6's (I think) could fit into the hurricane brackets made for dimensional 2-by's. (I don't feel comfortable typing 2-by's. It sounds right saying it, but not typing...)
Phil finds the appropriate angle/cut for the bird's mouth. We were later able to make these cuts on the ground.

After a steep learning curve, the rafters started going up pretty quickly. (By "pretty quickly," I mean 3 days. Not necessarily full days, but 3, nonetheless.)

We finished rafters today (no picture available) and went home early as a reward. Good stuff.

In the meantime, other fun and exciting things have been happening. Like getting straw!

Pallets are being used to keep the straw off the ground. We put a plastic sheet over the bales to protect from moisture and put the top and sides of the tent on.

Jason Coomes has also been out to visit us twice. Jason is going to be a new professor at Berea (teaching my Ecological Architecture class, among others.) He worked in Alabama with Rural Studio before this, and I think everyone is pretty excited to have him in Berea. He seems nice and knowledgeable (which is good, since I will be working with him next year,) although natural building is fairly new to him. Once was basically just a visit to see the project and talk about possible class trips to work on the site, but yesterday he stayed for a while and helped up put up some rafters. We then headed out to John's.

I've been to John's a few times without mentioning it in my blog. It's only been a few random days (or, in yesterday's case, half-days.) Jeff has been camping at John's, so the two of them have been continuing work without us. Without going into too much detail, here are some pictures for you. Some are mine; some are Jessa's. They are taken over the course of a couple weeks, so the heights of the walls and such vary- don't be confused.

Starting corbelling (curving the walls in to create the dome.)

The compass has letters on the vertical pole that correspond to the letters on the horizontal pole. I'm not sure who did the math, but they figured out where the wall should be at what height, so using those guidelines, the compass helps to figure out if the wall is curving in enough.)

Goofing around... It's an "UnBirthday Cake" (with teddy grahams, because that's how my mom used to do it) and a mouse drunk off tea. (Think Alice in Wonderland.)

A waterproof barrier was layed on the backside of the building since the area will later be infilled with dirt. Trying to keep out moisture.

Jeff's make-shift steps. Very helpful.

The crew, resting and visiting.
Starting the arches.
Almost done with the arch. Arch, complete. (And Jeff.)
The building, almost as it is now. Now there are two complete arches and maybe another layer or so of bags. It's an impressive place.

Oh, and for kicks, here's a picture that Jessa posted of Adam and my completed seam coverers:
I thought it was cute.

Saturday, August 2

Up until Monday.

Again, I procrastinate updating until it becomes a big headache of a job... Here goes...

We bought some new wood to cut the stairs out of, since the wood we had delivered had split significantly. I marked the wood and Phil cut. Phil and Jessa moved the stairs into place, put in some support beams and treads and we were ready to go.

After checking to make sure that it was the right height, Phil and Jessa trace the original stair side.

Stairs in place.

Adam and I routered and sanded the edges of the stairs.

We had a slow day, so we decided to do some art projects. We needed wood plates to cover the seam where the beams that the floor joists rest on meet. Holes will later be drilled through the plates, beams, and post and will be filled with a threaded metal pole with screws on the end, holding everything securely. Jessa suggested designing the wood plates so that they wouldn't just be square- to put some kind of unique design on each plate. Adam and I worked together on this...

There was a lot of debate about our design. It had to be fat in the middle and fairly long. Adam and I sketched out some ideas, but eventually decided on the silhouette of an ant, since there were so many around (and we destroyed enough ant hills in the process of making this building.)

I jigsawed the ant design out.

Adam shows off the finished product.

After screwing the plates into place (there was also a cloud and an abstract circle design, but the ant was the best,) we tried to drill the holes through the post, beams and such using an auger.

We drilled one hole successfully, but about midway through the second hole, the drill started smoking and died (even though we had given it some breaks in between.) We've tried other drills since, but none seem to have the power we need to make it through everything... So the plates and extra support is still waiting to happen.

Phil, Adam and I (Jessa was out of town) started putting on some sidebeams (unofficial name, I'm sure) that the rafters would later sit on. At first, we were trying to move 17 foot 3x10's, but we soon realized that, since our posts weren't perfectly squared anyway, we could just put the beams up in sections.

Our first section up.

Required some temporary walkways on the outside of the building.

One side done.

More has happened since. There's still almost a full week to document. This weekend will help me catch up. Keep an eye out for updates.

Wednesday, July 23

Going Up.

Alright guys. I've been avoiding posting. So much has happened at Michelle's... (This entry was written while listening to NPR's "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me" and talking to my mother on the phone. Therefore, it might have a few mistakes/redundancies in it. I might go back and edit later. It just took way too long to write and I am glad that it is done.)

For kicks, here's what Michelle's looked like when you guys last heard from me:
Actually, it wasn't this built up. The stemwall was not complete at the time of my last post. Sunday, (the day that we were supposed to meet with a guy named Jeff to get some timberframing help but he didn't show,) we finished the stemwall.

Here's a now picture:
It has grown. Here's how:
These are the U-brackets that we attached to the concrete piers. We attached the whole in the bottom to the screw on the J-bolt that was sunk into the pier. The two holes on each side of the bracket would later be attached to a log.

The original plan was to lift the logs using a nifty tripod device.
The plan was to lift the log about halfway up using strength and a miniature tripod and then continue lifting the log into place on the pier with the big tripod.
This plan was unsuccessful. We did not have the manpower. So, we got machine-power.
Harol, the neighbor with the bobcat and cute dogs, came to help. Jessa's husband, Nathan, also came.
We used a safety chain on all our logs, which did not keep the raising process from being exceptionally nerve-wracking. Especially since Nathan had to crawl on top of the bobcat to move the chain around.
After we got the logs vertical, we used 2x4s for extra support.
Some of the logs had been notched out the previous week. The notches had to be lined up with the U-bracket so that the log would fit. There are also holes on the bottom of the logs that had to be lined up with the J-bolt.
Sometimes getting the logs to line up took a little "convincing."
Once the logs were in place, we screwed the two bottom screws in, then stood back and (judging primarily by sight) made sure the logs were straight. Then put our braces in and then a few more screws.
3 logs up. ^_^ The fourth log was difficult to get up. We didn't want to run over the stemwall and we couldn't really get to the pier from the outside because of fence nearby.
(I just like this picture.) We started at the pole from the outside, and once it was fairly vertical, it tipped. The chain held the log as it went from vertical to horizontal, knocking and breaking one of the braces on the first log. There were some screams and gasps, but everything was fine and the first log stayed standing.
We ended up putting up the fourth log from the inside.

The building, up. Hoorah!
The next day, we had to put up our sideboards. We hadn't picked up our scaffolding yet, so we winged it. Scarily. A shaky 10x2 is not a comfortable thing to stand on. Phil did, though, for the majority of the day. The 10x2 sideboards needed a place to rest, so Phil carved notches. He started just using a chisel, but soon picked up his chainsaw. I helped some, although found that I am slightly afraid of heights when on such rickity scaffolding.
It took us a full day to get these five 10x2s up, but the next day went by much faster. I believe in learning curves. (This is a favorite picture, if only because Phil and Jessa's butts are up in the air. Lovely.)
The supports have made for some awkward hammering so far, but we're leaving them up as long as we can.

The next step was putting up the floor joists for the loft. Although the loft covers two thirds of the building, we were only prepared to put up one section of joists. The second section will come when we put the curved cob wall in- the joists will be built into the cob.

The joists weren't a huge issue, as long as we measured our notches correctly. I did get to use a chainsaw for the first time in my life. Wonderful stuff.

Today, we were going to build stairs. Phil was looking at the plans and realized that, according the the plans, the stairs were only a few feet below the sideboards, meaning that people were going to have to duck quite a bit. This was not good. We decided to move the stairs a couple feet towards the curved wall, so there's less of a landing. When we move the stairs as far as we can and allow 6 feet under the sideboard to walk under, we still needed some steep stairs. 9 1/2 inch rise and 9 inch run.
Phil marked the stairs out, using a textbook from a construction short-term class. (I get a personal kick out of doing stuff that nobody on our team has done before, like stair building. That way, we're all on the same level. Learning together. Kinda.)

When Phil started cutting, the lumber REALLY started cracking. He decided that we need more lumber to act as a backing. We are going to pick that up tomorrow.

So, with no stairs to build, we were searching for something to do. The next step in our progress is going to be getting a roof up. Phil thought that maybe we could go ahead and trim the tops of the posts, since they were all a little long. Thus:
He put out a 10x2 to stand on, but it was a little too uncomfortable. We decided to wait until we got a temporary floor down on our joists (tomorrow, most likely) so we can use ladders and scaffolding and such. It would be safer and easier. And we got to leave the site early today because there was nothing else we could really do.

And, just because this picture did not fit into my narrative anywhere:
Adam and Nibbles, Harol's dog. Harol has another dog named Red who is super affectionate and rides around with Harol in his mule.