Monthly Archives: June 2016

One to go – We have started framing the second floor

June 16, 2016

Well, today was a great day, as the first of the two beams that will support the second storey were installed.  As hoped, I was able to do this task with 100% mechanical assist.

Alfie was able to lift the 350 lb beam over the front entrance/office, that will support the upper floor exterior east wall, close to the final location and then it was a simple matter of sliding it along the top plates.

The 320 lb beam that supports the north end of the floor trusses located over the living room was a bit more work.  The biggest challenge was that the west end of this beam was to sit into a beam hanger that was to be nailed to the side of the 16″ deep lintel over the kitchen window.  So it was not a simple ‘slide’ job like the first.  This time I used Alfie, one of my wall jacks, and my neighbours hydraulic car jack.  I also built a ‘skateboard’ to assist the effort using one the the FastCap Speed Skates I recently purchased.

The FastCap Speed Skate made a great skateboard to support the end of the beam as it was pushed through the window.

The FastCap Speed Skate made a great skateboard to support the end of the beam as it was pushed through the window.

As you will see in the video below, the process entailed sliding the beam through the kitchen window opening by supporting the east end with the skateboard and installing a rail along the side so the beam would not flop over.  I then built a cage at the west end so again the beam would not flop over and raised one end into place using the wall jack and the other end the car jack.  Once at right height, it was a simple matter to nail hanger into place to secure.

Would it have been faster to just lift in place with 3-4 guys?  Absolutely, but it is hard to find labour for such a small task (beams would have taken well under an hour), and although there would be some assistance available in the neighbourhood, I really do not want to take a chance of someone hurting their back.  My approach took longer but was safer, and a lot less stress.  The rest of the beams are generally around the perimeter of the house, so can easily be lifted into place with Alfie, or if in the middle of the house, are quite small.

It feels great to have finished the first storey.  Many, including myself, were not so sure I could do the framing by myself.  But other than two minor partition walls to build around the stairs to the basement, and the garage walls that will both be raised later in the build, all of the first level framing is complete.

I should finish the installation of the beams this week and start on the floor truss layout next week.  If all goes well, I should have the floor assembly wrapped up by the end of the month and start framing the second floor walls.  Woo-Hoo!

Thanks for visiting!

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This and That

June 5, 2016

While I comply with my medical team’s instructions and have some down time after my latest cortisone shot, I thought I would address a few questions/comments/concerns that have been raised about my construction methods and build in general.

Q: Why don’t you wear a construction apron for your hammer and other tools?  You would be a lot more efficient.

A: Great and very true point – BUT, my back is under enough strain and I am doing everything possible to baby it during this extended building process.  Around the waste aprons are actually very hard on your lower back and foolish for those with discs that are already bulging.  I could wear a vest for the tools which would help as it distributes the weight much better across the whole upper body, but they are very hot, and I would rather take a small hit in efficiency and be more comfortable as a result.  I am getting better at remembering to grab the appropriate tool as I move about the job-site and have it sitting close by when I need it.

Q: How did your dehumidifiers do and can you advise the make and model.

A: They have performed flawlessly except for the fact that they do use a lot of power (7A – less than commercial units but still a lot).  When I had all three running, my power consumption per month was averaging 1100 – 1600 kWh or $160-$230/month (compared to <$50 for normal month).  But this is a small price to pay to keep the basement dry.  When I compared the output (amount of moisture removed from the air) under identical conditions (both units running at same time) between rental and my ‘cheaper’ unit, I was shocked to see my purchased consumer unit outperformed the industrial unit.  In a period of about 14 hours, the rented KOMPACT model 10240KP-US removed around 4.5 Litres where the purchased Ecohouznd 33.1L Dehumidifier removed 7 litres of moisture from the air.

Q: Why did your basement get so wet since you had a tarp?

A: I still do not understand all the factors that played into my wet-up of the beams in the basement.  Here is what I do know.

  • A lot of moisture was present in the gravel drainage plane at the bottom of the excavation helping create a very high humidity in the basement (89% RH)
  • The sap wood in engineered products absorbs moisture more readily than heart wood and also provides a better food source for fungi growth.
  • The micro environment created between the tarp and the floor deck (tarp was between 12″ and 5′ above the deck) allowed an even high vapour pressure that contributed to condensation and frost on the underside of the tarp.  This moisture then dripped back down to the deck and wetted up the floor sheathing further contributing to the basement moisture levels.
  • I unfortunately had several reoccurring bulk moisture leaks (holes in tarp) at key locations that were directly wetting some of the beams.  This moisture would then travel quickly down the length of the beam do to capillary action.

Recommendations for others – A tarp is still a great idea to keep bulk water off of the floor deck, but expediting the placement of the basement floor slab is also critical to cut off the large moisture source below the dwelling.  If you do find yourself with fungi growth, I can heavily recommend the Concrobium Pro Mold Stain Remover to remove any stains that develop and the Mold Control to ensure fungi spore is eradicated and prevented in future during subsequent wetting events.

Q: What happens when you loose power, are you going to flood?

A: I could but not likely.

In many parts of the Lower Mainland, basements are built below the municipal storm sewer lines.  For an example, my storm sewer connection is only a couple of feet below grade.  All of these houses are consequently built with a collection sump (concrete tube that extends below grade to a point below the deepest floor slab of the dwelling).  This sump collects, by means of the perimeter drain pipe, any below grade ground water (so generally should not be huge flows unless an underground stream or spring is present).  The collected water is held in this sump until the height gets high enough to trigger a pumps float switch and then is pumped up generally to a shallow sump that gravity feeds into the storm sewer.

On my build, my installation of a very thick granular drainage plane below the structure means that I have close to 100 hours of buffer during a power outage before the water level would raise up high enough to impact the basement floor slab.  Power outages this long are highly unusual in my region (we have never had one in the 17 years we have lived here).

I also plan to have a backup diesel generator for the dwelling (I am choosing diesel so that I can convert it to a duel fuel system that can also burn waste vegetable oil). This will provide backup power to the sump pumps when needed in extreme circumstances.

My foundation is also waterproofed to a much higher standard than 99% of residential buildings.  Instead of ‘damp-proofing’, I have waterproofed my foundation utilizing a   bag footing system sealed to under slab poly and a torch on membrane on the exterior of the foundation wall.  In essence, I have built a boat. So even IF the water level rose high enough, it would unlikely ever be able to penetrate the sub grade building envelope.

Q: Why don’t you hire people to help and get done faster.

A: I have addressed this question a few times before and the short answer is because it still does not pay.  An unskilled labourer would cost me over $3200 per month and improve my efficiency by maybe 25% to 30% max.  But my holding costs including financing, site utilities, rent, temp storage, property taxes, and insurance are only around $40K per year (some of these costs like insurance and taxes will be even higher once structure is complete).  So it would cost me $3200 to save $1000 per month ($40K/12*30% increase in efficiency).  The bigger picture is that I should save somewhere between $450K and $500K by doing almost all of the work myself (both bank and insurance company estimated build costs at close to $1M and I am budgeting well below $500K). At this point it is looking like it will take me an extra 2.25 years to complete compared to a standard build of 1 year that is common in our neighbourhood for most builders.  So if I subtract 2.25 * my yearly holding costs of $40K from say $450K savings, I am still left with a $360K in expected savings.  If instead, I looked at just framing entire tasks out to subs, my potential savings would be whittled down very quickly and my tress level would go through the roof as I struggled to find contractors willing to meet my build schema in terms of quality and building science best practices.

Of course, this level of savings is only possible if you possess the skills, stamina, and perseverance to do all of the required tasks yourself. I believe I do, but warn you that it is not for the feint of heart!  You must possess a lot of stubbornness and patience to push through all of the setbacks and hurtles you will face during the process.

Q: When DO you expect to finish?

A: I get this question the most often.  It is my strong belief that the construction will be complete enough for us to move in by this time in 2017.  This means that most of the basement will still be unfinished (my shops and storage), and there will still be almost all of the landscaping to complete.  But the above grade main living space will be complete and ready for occupancy. I would spend the summer and fall of 2017 starting the landscaping of the side and rear yards and then move into the basement for the winter of 2017/2018 before continuing with the extensive landscaping plans in the spring of 2018.

I have of course been misguided in my schedules many times before on this project, but I am convinced that the hardest part of the build is behind me and I am starting the tasks that I truly enjoy, have experience with, and quite frankly – are good at.  This includes framing, and electrical/plumbing rough-in’s.  Because I do not dread these tasks, I should find that they proceed much faster as I am willing to put in the long days to see them through.

Q: Are you really doing EVERYTHING yourself?

A: Pretty much.  At this point, the only tasks I plan to sub out are as follows:

  • Drywall tape and filling because who really likes this task
  • Installation of metal raised seam roofing
  • Installation and commissioning of air source heat pump
  • Installation of the 7 heaviest of the triple pane windows
  • Pouring of basement walk-up stairs
  • Fabrication of two storey metal post that will hold up the east end of the beam holding up the centre of the roof structure
  • Possible stamped concrete driveway (still trying to decide what we will do re driveway – I want something a lot more permeable and with a lower embodied energy)
  • Commissioning of possible photo voltaic panels

Tasks that I will hire labour to assist as needed:

  • Lifting engineered beams into place (may be able to do most of the first storey with Alfie and my wall jacks and second storey with delivery crane).
  • Any significant lifting activities of large objects during build
  • Moving bulk materials (lumber, gravel, etc.)
  • Any key activities that are just impossible to do with only two hands.  Not sure yet if I will run into this situation.

Q: Where did you get that tarp???

A: The B.A.T. (Big Ass Tarp) is my design and fabricated by the very capable gents at Fraser Valley Tarp and Tie.   It is a very light but strong poly based fabric.  It acts a lot like a boat sail fabric.  The latest iteration (B.A.T. 3.) was almost perfect.  IF I was doing this again, I would change up the location of a few of the rope pockets and also ensure that all of the sewn seams were waterproofed with a applied liquid or the application of strips of tape over the seams.

Well this addresses the collection of comments I have so far.  I encourage you to keep the questions coming.

Thanks for visiting.

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Highs and Lows – all too typical with MY project.

June 3, 2016

As has been all too typical with MY build progress, the last month has been filled with exhilarating highs and soul crushing lows. But we do continue to make progress, albeit slower than hoped (we did not expect anything different – did we!).

So lets take you through some of my highs and lows on last month’s journey as we have a lot to cover.

Never underestimate force of wind. Problem was the bolt was side loaded and in shear. I installed the new bolt parallel to load so under tension.

Never underestimate force of wind. Problem was the bolt was side loaded and in shear. I installed the new bolt parallel to load so under tension.

High#1: The new B.A.T. 3.0 Flies High – It was so awesome to feel protected from the elements once again.  Even in good weather the new tarp provides an fantastic shaded work space that is bright and airy. Although there were some minor rigging issues at first including snapping off the a ½” Cast Eye Bolt (below shown), it was easily addressed and I could see the resilience of both the tarp fabric and my rigging system.

 

Resident crow vocalizing his desire for some cat treats

Resident crow vocalizing his desire for some cat treats

What is really cool is when birds regularly fly under the tarp and hang out.  I have a pair of resident crows and also doves, that hang out most days.  The crows have typically cleaned up any cat food left behind from Blackberry’s treats, but are now getting a bit more brazen and giving me heck if no food is about.

 

Some other local residents looking for a hand out.

My lovable Blackberry spends most days nearby and enjoys a handout of kibble from time to time.

My lovable Blackberry spends most days nearby and enjoys a handout of kibble from time to time.

Raccoon though he would help himself to the chow bag inside the container

Raccoon thought he would help himself to the chow bag inside the container

Even squirrels come by to see what they can scrounge up.

Even squirrels come by to see what they can scrounge up.

Raccoon bake later that evening to try her luck again

Raccoon back later that evening to try her luck again

Low#1: The B.A.T. 3.0 leaks.  – While I felt all smug standing under the new tarp during the first light rain, my attitude soon changed later in the day when the monsoon came.  All of the sewn rope pockets leak through the needle holes as the volume of rain increases.  Fortunately, with careful placement of buckets for the worst areas, the floor pretty much dries out within 8-12 hours after the rain stops.  If this was a different time of year, I would have to take the tarp down and waterproof all of the sewn seams.

After a sustained med - heavy rain, I am left with wet streaks along where the sewn rope pockets are located.

After a sustained med – heavy rain, I am left with wet streaks along where the sewn rope pockets are located.

Fortunately, by using buckets to capture the worst, place is dry by the next day

Fortunately, by using buckets to capture the worst, place is dry by the next day

High#2: We have a Wall! –  I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when the first wall was up.    There were a lot of people who doubted my ability to frame by myself and some who thought it would be impossible to raise a 40 foot wall alone.  But I had a plan, and although it was not executed in a perfect and pretty manner, it worked and the wall and me are no worse for the wear.

The next wall was even more critical to line up with this small kitchen sink vent stack.

The next wall was even more critical to line up with this small kitchen sink vent stack.

Thought I would be smart this time and tie off bottom of wall to force it to rotate down and not slide off work platform. The rope I used was climbing rope and just stretched. raising the wall was even more of a mess than the first time. Fortunately Alfie was close by to offer a hand.

Thought I would be smart this time and tie off bottom of wall to force it to rotate down and not slide off work platform. The rope I used was climbing rope and just stretched. Raising this wall was even more of a mess than the first time. Fortunately Alfie was close by to offer a hand.

Low#2: Framing taking longer than hoped. At one point I dreamed I may be able to frame the entire first floor in a week.  I had budgeted 1 month, but after starting thought I could expedite that considerable.  Well, 1 month will be much closer.  This is the end of week three and I still have a few more walls to raise before I can start on the second storey floor assembly.

Very handy tool is this anchor bolt marker. You place your plate on opposite side of alignment plane and then just rest marker against bolt and wack with a hammer. Works with both 2x4 and 2x6 plates. Produced by Big Foot Tools

Very handy tool is this anchor bolt marker. You place your plate on opposite side of alignment plane and then just rest marker against bolt and wack with a hammer. Works with both 2×4 and 2×6 plates. Produced by Big Foot Tools

This was seconds after the tool burst into flames while driving a reasonably small screw

This was seconds after the tool burst into flames while driving a reasonably small screw

Don't think it is supposed to look like that

Don’t think it is supposed to look like that

Low#3: Tarp Damaged – The evening after I took the monsoon video above, I had the fortunate happenstance to return to the site about 45 minutes after I had left for the day and was shocked to see several hundred gallons of water pooling in the NE corner of the tarp.  It was pouring rain again, and there clearly was not enough slope near the bottom of the tarp.  I had originally planned to install drains at these crucial locations, but up till now had not seen any pooling tendencies.    At this point the only thing I could do was slice the rope holding up that corner to let the water out before it torn everything apart.

The end result was some torn rope pockets near the corner, a small gash resulting when the tarp and all that water came smashing down to the garage floor catching one of the largest beams and tossing is aside like a 2×4, and a very wet northern ¼ of the house deck.  But the tarp damage was minimal.  I easily repaired the tarp, and the floor deck and all the stockpiled beams were dry by the next day.  I was again very impressed with the strength of the tarp fabric.  The old tarp would have just shredded under that weight.

The only real aggravation to this episode was that I wasted 2/3 of a day trying to rig the rope for this corner back into position.  Because I had cut the rope, I now had a knot in the way of the pulley.  I spent a lot of time re-locating where the knot would be so that when the rope was tensioned, the tarp would be in the right position. Fortunately, after wrestling with it for a few hours, I found an unused bundle of rope left over from the first B.A.T. and had it installed and the tarp properly tensioned 20 minutes later.

Notice the very large pool of water in the top left corner of the photo. This shows the true strength of both the trap fabric and my rigging.

Notice the very large pool of water forming in the top left corner of the photo. This shows the true strength of both the tarp fabric and my rigging.

Next day I patch a small tear and used plywood strips to recreate the ripped out rope pockets at the corner

Next day I patched a small tear and used plywood strips to recreate the ripped out rope pockets at the corner

Tarp re-raised once I had also installed some drains (floor drains)

Tarp re-raised once I had also installed some drains (floor drains)

Unfortunately it would still rain harder than the tarp could dump off water and pooling was still occurring.

Unfortunately it would still rain harder than the tarp could dump off water and pooling was still occurring.

So I finally rigged the NE corner of tarp (front right of photo) to lower that corner about 6ft. I will have to prop up when I get crane deliveries to second storey, but this fixes all pooling problems.

So I finally re-rigged the NE corner of tarp (front right of photo) to lower that corner about 6ft. I will have to prop it back up when I get crane deliveries to second storey, but this fixes all pooling problems.

Low#4: Kitchen wall not square – I’d experienced a lot of difficulty getting the Durisol blocks both plumb and square at the tree jog at the NW corner of the house (suspect the footing was off).  The end result was a foundation corner that was quite a bit out of square.

All the other corners of the foundation were quite good, but of course the worst corner was also to be where the kitchen is located.  Kitchens are one area where you want as square and smooth walls as possible to mate up to kitchen cabinets and counter-tops.

As I framed the kitchen north wall interior extension of the exterior portion of the wall, I realized how out of square the wall was.  There was going to be a good 3” + difference (as measured from the south wall of the house) between the west end of the wall and east end of the wall.  I decided to just ensure that the wall was flat (used a string line from one end to the other and ensured all studs were touching the string line) and decided to live with the out of square.  We would just have to scribe the counter-top to fit.

I then struggled for a couple of hours to build the interior wall.  I had cut all of my studs at one time, but for some reason three were too long (something I discovered after most of the wall was nailed together).  This was perplexing as when I measured the long studs, two were actually the right size.  Turned out there was a defect in one of the plates where it had not been planed at the mill properly and was wider in those areas than supposed to be.  Nothing a reciprocating saw could not take care of.

Soon after the wall was raised and nailed into its not square but straight extension of the wall it was extending.  I started to clean up for the day and then realized I had screwed up big time.  That portion of the wall was supposed to be 2×6 construction because it had a plumbing stack running through it for the upstairs master bathroom. Instead of leaving it for me to cleanup in the morning, I pried that wall off the floor and put it aside hoping I may be able to use it somewhere else in the dwelling (not likely as it had a non standard stud pattern and 3 king post for a beam).

I left for the day having only framed and raised a 9’ exterior wall to the east of the science lab for my 9.75 hour effort.  Can you say Poor!

String line used to ensure that internal extension to wall is in perfect alignment. Too bad this was a 2x4 wall instead of the required 2x6 wall!

String line used to ensure that internal extension to wall is in perfect alignment. Too bad this was a 2×4 wall instead of the required 2×6 wall!

High#3: Out of Square Addressed – I returned the next morning bound and determined to address the out of square nature of this kitchen corner.  My issue was that the wall sits on a 6” tall concrete curb and the drywall extends down the inside face of that curb.  So it would be impossible to just shift the wall on that curb outboard to make things line up and any adjustment would also mean the wall would miss the anchor bolts.  Fortunately a good night’s sleep provided a clearer mind.  I could just shim the existing wall’s studs to create the square corner.  This was only a 5’ wall with a limited number of studs.  When I measured what was required, it worked out to a perfect combination of 1” shim on first, ¾” on second, ½” on third, and ¼” of forth stud.  I will use plywood for the ¾” and ½” shims and just cut down 2×4’s for the other two.

Progressively smaller shims attached to the studs will square up this wall

Progressively smaller shims attached to the studs will square up this wall

With the wall squared, I was able to quickly erect the 2×6 extension ensuring perfect alignment of square using a string line and my friend Pythagoras. The east kitchen wall followed and I now had a framed in space for the kitchen.

Nail on diag at corner allows to hook on a tape

Nail on diag at corner allows to hook on a tape

so one can precisely measure the diagonal to ensure square.

so one can precisely measure the diagonal to ensure square.

I find this only Pythagorean Theorem calculator a great addition to a build site. You can measure any distance on the legs and it will provide the diagonal. No longer need to ensure you measure in 3/4/5 increments. Notice the answer and my measurement in the photo above

I find this only Pythagorean Theorem calculator a great addition to a build site. You can measure any distance on the legs and it will provide the diagonal. No longer need to ensure you measure in 3/4/5 increments. Notice the answer and my measurement in the photo above

Still cannot believe variability in lumber sizes. These were both supposed to be 12' 2x4's. Line indicates actual location of 12'

Still cannot believe variability in lumber sizes. These were both supposed to be 12′ 2×4’s. Line indicates actual location of 12′

I am thrilled with the feel of the location and the window placement.  I now also get a better sense of the living room size and fell a bit of relief. During original framing, it was feeling pretty small, but now that the kitchen space is defined, I can see that while cosy, the living room will be completely functional.

View from kitchen window looking to back yard. Not much to look at now but this vista will later on incorporate all landscaped gardens around a waterfall. pool and stream.

View from kitchen window looking to back yard. Not much to look at now but this vista will later on incorporate all landscaped gardens around a waterfall, pool, and stream.

Kitchen looking south past living room. Again, will provide wonderful views of our landscaped back yard.

Kitchen looking south past living room. Again, will provide wonderful views of our landscaped back yard.

Well that’s it.  Sorry for the long post, but lots to cover and thought I would get it over with instead of trying to break up into a bunch of small posts.  You will not see a lot of activity at site over next week.  I had a second cortisone shot into the bursa of my shoulder this time.  I can not do any work before Monday and then only light work for at least the week after that.  Lets hope this is the final key to repairing the shoulder, but I still suspect I will either need surgery or will need to lean to live with restricted movement and lots of discomfort when I push past that restriction.

Thanks for visiting.

“If you’re doing your best, you won’t have any time to worry about failure.” —H. Jackson  Brown, Jr.  Writer

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou (1928-2014) Poet, Dancer, Producer, Playwright, Director, Author

“If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.” —Dr. Roopleen (born 1972) Dr Roopleen is a Motivational Counsellor, Speaker And Author.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” —Earl Nightingale (1921-1989) Entrepreneur, Motivational Author

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