Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cabin Building - Day 69

So, here it is October 30th, one day before our drop-dead moving date and we're not moving... yet :)

Firstly, I'm just having too much fun shoveling snow out of my living room... highly entertaining, recommend it to everyone at least once!

Secondly, Lowes says they're delivering our insulation and the doors & windows on Monday... so what the heck, might as well keep going, right?

Thirdly, if we do get it finished and sheathed and insulated and install the doors & windows and get the drywall hung now, before we move in, then we can install cabinets and shelving to put stuff away as we're moving so we're not tripping over piles of crap all over the floor and without having to take it all apart in the spring to fix it all properly.

And lastly, hey... it's snowing... so it's not cold enough to stop building yet. Only wimps and weenies hang up their tool belts before it gets below 0F for the daytime highs :D  If the weather can hold out, so can we.

So anyway, we briefly got the camera working and Gungnir downloaded the pics, so here's a quick update on where things are at with the cabin.

Day 59: These pics were once we got the 4 joists above the posts installed to lock in the header beams. Nothing spectacular, just a PITA.

Day 62: Ken came over with all his nifty toys and we got the remaining loft joists in, the end walls completely framed, and the interior pantry/staircase walls framed. Pay no attention to the ratchet straps holding the northwall plumb... really, that joist is not so bowed that we need the ratchet strap to hold in the proper place until we get the subfloor nailed in. No, no, really, we just thought that a big yellow canvas strap would be an awesome design feature.  And also completely ignore that the beam on the SE corner is still all twisty and canted funny... we're sure it'll all straighten out once we get the roof on and a little weight on it. If not, well, we do have some 6" lag screws that we can use to persuade it to cooperate with the rest of the building.

Day 63-69: Not really much work on the cabin much as we would have liked to get the subfloor down and the rafters started. We had to make a whole bunch of calls to find out the status of orders and deliveries, and since we don't have a phone, that means we spent almost an entire day up at Ken & Sarah's using their phone. Then began hauling all the remaining lumber and materials back to the tent from the various places we stashed them and loading them up on the trailer so we could take them down to the cabin. That got interrupted with the Manley errand day, where we just had to stop in and check in with everyone since so many folks are heading south for the winter.

Then we had a small issue with the Kipor generator not liking to run in the cold so we had to half-choke it, which fouled the plug, which you have to completely disassemble the thing to get to, which then turned out to be 13/16" which is the only plug socket we don't have, so up to get one from Trapper, only to snap the darned lead off while we were reassembling... good thing we still have the Honda! We'd almost gotten finished with the lumber hauling when the Weather Liars started calling for a "storm", so we thought it best to drag back some more of our firewood and get a bunch split up just in case. Which was good, because it started snowing shortly afterwards while we were up checking on Ken & Sarah's dogs since they were up in Fairbanks.

So, finally finished hauling back the last load of lumber and loading up the remaining tongue-and-groove flooring onto the trailer, only to find out that the trailer won't move. Don't know if that's because it's overloaded, or because the snow froze it to the ground, or because the snow wasn't allowing the truck to get enough traction. Whatever, we took one load of OSB off and drove it down to the cabin in the truck and then had to shovel & sweep all the snow out of the living room so we could load the sheathing in. Briefly contemplated trying to get the subfloor in the loft laid, but it started snowing again, so we went back to the tent to spilt some more firewood instead.

And somewhere in all that, I had a sick day where I pretty much slept the whole time... which was good, because at least I got to rest my gimpy hand. And, of course, you know all about how we spent today from G's earlier post about helping Ken & Sarah retrieve their truck and trailer.  Ahhh, life in the bush in winter :D

With any luck we'll get the subfloor down and the first floor sheathed tomorrow, so we can at least stop having to shovel snow out of the cabin. Hey, maybe even get the railer to move without having to unload all the lumber and haul it back in the truck. Once all that's done we get started on the rafters... but that probably won't be until Tuesday since we'll likely be shuttling all our stuff back from the highway after Lowes delivers on Monday... if the trailer moves, that won't take nearly as long and we might get the rafters started earlier.

If Ken can come help, we might even get the rafters done and the roof sheathing up before he and G head back up to Fairbanks on Wednesday to take Trapper to the airport, run more errands, and pick up the insulation blower. If Ken can't help, I'll be assembling rafters while they're gone so we can get them raised when they get back. Otherwise I'll be framing the two loft walls and getting the mesh and vapor barrier installed so we can get the insulation blown in as soon as they get back. Then it's hanging drywall, and back up to Fairbanks to get our cabinets and some more of our winter supplies. Once the cabinets are in, the hearth pad is built, and the stove and chimney are up and running we'll start the move!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Helping out the neighbors...

Yes I know, you all want to find out how the building is going, but I'll leave that one to Plickety.

So today no building, our nearest neighbors had some issues coming back from Fairbanks last night, their transmission let go and they were stuck about 40 miles from home. They got home, but, not with the truck and trailer they were hauling.

So today off we went to get the trailer, fortunately the neighbors have a Semi, so that took care of the towing vehicle. It just needed to get started, and chained up (no traction without a trailer). So that taken care of (by this time it was about 11 or 12) off we go the 40 miles to the place they broke down, with several pauses to check chains that kept loosening, or stretching not sure which. So that took about an hour or two, which would have been awesome, if the truck engine could have maintained enough heat to run the cab heater.

Once we got there first rule of business was to see whether we could get any drive to the pickup, so we topped off the transmission fluids, but no dice. So we disconnected the trailer, and hooked it up to the semi, then we decided to tow the truck too, using a firehose (which was interesting, but they do make a damn fine tow line). Now the engine on the truck was running fine, so great heat thought I, erm no, the engine was barely maintaining temperature to run, so I had to quick switch between the windshield and feet to try to keep the windshield clear, since I was getting snow spray all over it, the wipers cleared it, but it was refreezing, and to try to thaw out my feet. Which were remarkably cold. Then of course because we're towing we were restricted to about 10-15 mph. So a few hours later (and a snapped firehose) we got home. By the way, if you've never driven someone elses truck before on a good dry road, it is not the most comfortable experience being dragged behind another vehicle with about 15' of firehose between you and it on a snowy and icy road. Just in case you ever find yourself in this same situation.

Of course during this time Plickety and the other neighbor are getting a but anxious we've been away for by this time 4-5 hours and there's no sign of us. Our truck Sonja was sitting in their yard but in a different place, so they figured we're ok we have two vehicles, the Semi and our pickup. Then comes the fatal moment, of "what's that red truck over there...? Is that ours?" and gradual dawning that we only took the semi, so they both came looking for us. Found us a short while later.

We got home at about 8:30 to a reasonably cold residence, the last fire was laid at about 11, and of course just for fun we also had only a small supply of split firewood left over, so I had to go fire up the generator, and split wood for 45 minutes on my return.

However on a positive note, it feels pretty good helping out our friends across the road, in their time of need, even though I could have lived without the wood splitting on coming home.

I promise to bug my wife to post her latest report on the building. Right after I download the pictures from the camera that she's been bugging me to do...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cabin Building - Day 59

Sorry no pics, left the camera in the truck overnight and killed the batteries -- ooops! They're in the recharger now, so hopefully we can revive them.

Well, we have the header beams all anchored in, the first floor end walls framed in, and have started on the loft joists. No work really on Monday since it was errand day in Manley, but we did get our stove which Paul picked up for us while he was in Fairbanks. It started snowing while we were there and didn't stop until Tuesday evening... only 3 or 4 inches accumulated, but it at least helped us slide the 400+ lb stove from the back of the truck into what will eventually become the great room. And today we shoveled and swept all the snow off everything and enjoyed a productive carpentry day in the clear sunshine just below freezing instead of just above zero :) 

The end joists were a bear since we had to worry about them flipping off the end of the wall/top plate and dropping 12' into the snow (possibly taking one of us with it!!), but the rest should go up relatively easy -- hahaha famous last words!  Once we get the full joists up in the two front bays, we're going to frame in the interior walls for the pantry and staircase so we can put in the partial doubled joists in the rear bay. If Ken's available to help us this weekend, we may even get started on the rafters - fingers crossed! We still have 10 days until our drop-dead moving day, so we still *might* get it weathered-in and not have to futz with rigging the tent to the second floor this winter.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cabin Building - Day 55

Beam Me Up!!

We finally got the beams built up and the walls all braced plumb, and Ken's tractor to start in the cold.  So we now, officially have header beams! Yay!

I was going to film the actual lift for you all; but I missed it. No seriously, I missed the whole thing! I'd been down at the site measuring, marking and templating while G-man was lighting a fire under Ken's tractor (yes, literally, diesels and Alaska winter don't play well together). Well, it was taking them awhile and my poor hands and feet were freezing, so I went back up to the tent to thaw out and get a cup of coffee. They showed up at the tent just after I got there, so I sent them down to the site while I made us all a pot of coffee. Figured it would take them a couple minutes to sort out logistics and move stuff around to get the tractor in and such. But when I got down to the site 15 minutes later - they were already nailing in the last of the anchor cleats!!

I guess I should be thankful that everything was set up so well in advance that it all went quick and smooth... but it was such a huge milestone in the project, and I missed it :(  No cool action shots of Ken lifting that big beam up onto the posts with backhoe and dropping it down neat as you please. From what they say, it only took a tiny bit of persuading to bang them flush on the posts and the walls didn't even budge an inch.

It was nice to have Ken come take a look at what we've done and give his blessing as a professional carpenter/builder on the design though. Some people of the male persuasion in our household had some serious doubts about the integrity of his wife's structural engineering and design abilities :D  But Ken confirmed that the design is actually a little over-engineered for what we're doing, post-framing being as light as it is, and that has put us all at ease.

Once we get the joists hung, that'll plumb up the beams since they're only cleated in place right now. After the joists have tied everything together, we can take down the braces to frame the end walls and get started on the rafters. Woohoo - then it's time to sheath sheath sheath baby! Since Paul picked up our woodstove in Fairbanks for us yesterday, we'll be able to get her heated as soon as the sheathing is on and the flue is installed. Ken's going to come back and help us with the last of the framing as he has time since it's really starting to get too cold to do much more carpentry this season... once you can't cut a board or drive a nail because your lumber is frozen solid, trying to keep going is self-defeating. But, we should be able to get her all buttoned up by the end of the month... which is perfect since our drop-dead moving date one way or the other was Halloween!
"Would you guys hurry it up, geeeeeez!!" 

Ripley, our little task master, (im)patiently waiting by the truck for us to get ourselves in gear and get our butts back to building her house already! She doesn't care that it's only about 20F right now. Heartless!!

(BTW -- G has managed to spill coffee on the floor already and the house isn't even built yet!!)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cabin Building - Day 41 to 45

We now have a foundation, one floor, and two walls!  Yippee :)

Day 41 - things went a little slow since we were sort of figuring out how to make my design model come to life when we had to deal with nasty things like gravity, imperfect lumber and dozens of bent nails. There is no CTRL-Z Undo in the real world -- dammit!

But we got the first 4 posts up on the east wall.

And two infill wall panels installed.

Day 42 - realized that executive last minute design change the day before to leave the posts at 8' was ill-advised and had long reaching ramifications. Well, technically they were "short reaching" ramifications since it would have meant that our stairs wouldn't have reached the second floor unless we completely redesigned the staircase and let them take up too much floor space.  So we lopped all the tops off a foot with the chainsaw and finished all the infills for the east wall. The door buck was a particular pain in the butt... I have a sneaking suspicion that we'll be doing some moderating planing of something to get the pre-hung door to fit in this rough opening.

Day 43 - getting the hang of this building stuff now, but it was errand day so we were down in Manley and also helped a friend fix his computer and network (again! the man has gremlins). No work on the cabin since it was getting late by the time we got back. But we did split some firewood... well the G-man did since Ripley decided it would be fun to pile dirve herself head first right into my bad hand and set it off again. Arg!

Day 44 - rocking along pretty good now, even with my gimpy hand. Hauled a bunch of lumber down to the site. Then we got the 4 posts up for the west wall, and one section of the infill started, plus all the pieces to assemble the rest of the west wall cut and laid out.

Day 45- FIRST  SNOW!!!!  But we managed to get the rest of the west wall completed before it started falling too heavy and I started to get too cold.

Don't worry about it tilting in at the top... the walls aren't plumbed on the E-W axis yet, not until we either get the end walls framed in or the header beams on and the loft joists in.

But the studs and posts are plumbed on the N-S axis... or at least as best as we could make them considering most of the studs were completely folded, spindled and manipulated LOL. We can drive a nail where we need to in order to attach the sheet goods... that's all that counts :D

And, bush recycling at it's finest... these are the kick-away utility stairs I originally assembled for our tent platform before we had our little private earthquake. The fit perfectly in the front door rough opening (which should fit much better than the back door since we learn from our mistakes!).  Convenient, no?!

Yup, those weren't just flurries. It's still coming down and it's sticking. Poor Ripley thinks anytime we come out the back door/flap we're going down to the cabin site... she doesn't realize we can't see as well in the dark as she does, and we don't have a big fluffy fur coat to go play in the snow. Silly pooch!

Tomorrow - it's building up the two header beams. Maybe, just maybe, pre-cutting the pieces for the infills on the north and south end walls... we'll see what the weather allows.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cabin Building - Day 40

Woohoo!! We now have a floor :)  At least now, even if it snows tomorrow (and it just might if you trusts the weather liars) we'll be no worse off than we were last year... just move the tent to the new, more stable platform, and we'd be good to go. Of course, we're not stopping until we absolutely have to... crossing fingers that we'll have an actual frame, if not a full and insulated shell, before it gets down below zero.

It took us 3 actual working days to get the joists in because those 16-footers aren't easy to manhandle and everything was warped, twisted, bowed, cupped and generally not the same dimensions.

But once they were hung, it only took us 3 hours to get the subfloor attached. And it only took us that long because we kept having the push, pull and manipulate each joist so that it actually lined up with the OSB.

No, we aren't exactly square, I take full blame for that little faux pas because I was the one who measured out the joist locations. But it's good enough for a bush cabin and we can continue building on it.

Next comes the eight posts, which should be relatively easy; and then we can assemble the infill wall panels and header beam, and have Ken come over to lift them into place with his tractor. Technically, we could do the wall panels last, but it makes the whole assembly a little more stable when we're trying to get those 500 lb beams into place.

Even though it's technically Day 40, I'd say we actually have spent less than 2 weeks actually working on the cabin. The rest of the time we've been dealing with hauling materials, the weather, injuries, errands, and random visitations.  Trying to keep a schedule in the middle of the woods is like trying to herd cats... impossible and frustrating. And I really must protest... not only do they not make really useful women's work gloves; but they also don't make framer's tool belts to fit us either. I have the band adjust past small and on the very last holes and I'm still hiking it up all the time. The pockets are on the front of my thighs, not the side, makes it really fun trying not to dump nails and screws when ducking under and between those joists... we won't even talk about how many times I've been violated by my hammer ;)

Here are few pics we took of the Tanana Valley on our way to Fairbanks last week... you can see why we love it here! Seems that the clouds decided to finally go away now that it's below freezing at night :)

Yes, there are still forest fires burning from this summer!