Build: Day Six

Now that I have (nearly) all of my exterior walls finished up (waaaaaalls!), today was the day to start on the ceiling framing (we just did the front section of the house today). This was weirdly fun, even though it involved a LOT of sawdust in the eyes.  I have learned a ton from this build, but today was especially like OJT Woodworking School; this was in part because almost everything we did today had an identical copy of (we were framing two identical small ceiling sections), so the way things evolved is that Jeff did one thing, then I watched him and tried to duplicate what he did for the second thing. Fun! Jeff and I talk very little during the build (Jeff, who is a very nice guy, is nevertheless not a talker). Also, the generator is loud, and makes it hard for anybody to hear anybody. So we conducted a lot of today’s Intro to Ceiling Framing in mime: Jeff would do something, and then he would mutely hand me some wood and a pencil and a power tool and I would copy it. It was in this manner that I learned how to make rafters.

But before we even get to rafters, let’s talk ceiling beams! (sorry! FUNNEST BLOG EVER, right?)[Oh, PS: Sorry for the picture quality today: I realized when I got there that I’d left my camera’s battery in the charger at home, so all of these were taken with an elderly iPhone that features a half-busted LED.]


So apparently there are two ways you can go with beams: you can either get huge, heavy thick cut pieces of wood like you might see in a mead hall of the sort featured in an early Anglo-Saxon text called “How To Slaughter A Thousand Men in a Mead Hall”. Orrrr, if you’re working in primarily 2x4s (like we are), you can take two 2x4s, glue them together with hard core construction adhesive, fire a bunch of nails in them, and boom! instant beam! This has the benefit of still being strong without being so heavy that it takes out your entire ceiling (though they’re still pretty heavy: I was lifting them over my head all day and now my shoulders are mad at me.)

Step one: glue (this is Beam #1, which Jeff is doing, but I built Beam #2, go me!)

Step two: Nail

Step three: cut a little notch in the wall framing on both sides and slot the beam into that.



Step four: profit!

Dos beams (and one thumb)!

Actually, there’s a step 3.5 in there: cut down the temporary lintel over the door that held everything together, pre-beams. Once we cut it down, I put it to the side and said to Jeff, “I’ll just put this over here in case we have to fight any orcs”, which I am telling you about now because it ACTUALLY GOT A CHUCKLE OUT OF JEFF! This was the greatest accomplishment of my day.


Next, we cut the rafters, fourteen little ones that sloped down just on one side (for both eight foot ceilings) and seven bigger ones that sloped on both sides (for the 10 foot ceiling). Cutting rafters is so fun!

Jeff did a little measuring, then drew out a the shape he wanted the rafter to be on a 2×4 (you can just see that in the picture): he cut that shape out and then used it as a template for the rest of the rafters.


This went very fast. Here’s our pile-o-rafters:

Then we arranged them from the side of the house to the beam and nailed them in.

This all was done up on the ladder: when Jeff was installing his side, instead of putting one rafter up, coming down the ladder, moving the ladder, going back up with another rafter, etc., when he was done, he just kind of did a pull up on the ceiling beams, then I moved the ladder a few feet, then he pulled himself over a few feet monkey-style until he could get his feet back on the ladder. When it came time for me to install my side, I just went up and down the ladder a lot, because I found that that shit was way beyond me. Jeff is kind of a superstar. I didn’t leave him hanging on the ceiling so I could get a picture–that would have been unkind–but here’s some more monkey stuff up in the ceiling.


I believe in that picture he is tiptoeing on one foot on the ladder and has the other foot just braced somewhere in space. BEST CONTRACTOR/MOST INSANE CONTRACTOR!

Right set of rafters installed

Left set of rafters installed! (that is MY SIDE!)

Next, we had to build  the inner edges of the eight foot ceilings up a bit, so the rafters for the ten foot ceiling would have something to rest on. One of the best lessons I learned in Woodworking School today was that if you have a complicated section to frame out, especially if it’s anywhere higher than at eye level, it makes the most sense to build the section on the ground and then just lift it up and install it.

…which is why Jeff is building these little hold-the-ceiling-up boxes on the ground

Once that was built, we lifted it up above the eight foot ceiling (harder than it sounds!) and nailed it in

After that, we had a level base on which to place the bigger rafters (the ones that go over the ten foot ceiling.) See how they’re resting on the new box we built on the ground? Incidentally, I don’t know WTH Jeff is doing there, but it apparently involves some epic veins.

All three sets in!


[Does the ceiling make a little more sense now? I was having trouble really explaining it yesterday]

The whole shebang

And then we called it a day, because come on, that’s awesome.

Oh, also: I have had another failure in The Battle For Denim Insulation, which is that the lady from Craigslist that had a bunch of extra denim wrote me today and said they’d run into problems with their build and were actually going to be using all of their insulation after all. And of course, I could just buy it from an actual store, but that starts getting somewhat spendy. We’ll see how it goes; right now, I am trying hard to convince myself of the merits of rigid foam board. The labeling on the side is trying hard to convince me that it is awesome!

Which, whatever, foam board, I know that you are functionally non-recyclable and I do not care for that, though I do appreciate your relative paucity of toxic chemicals.

After the day’s fun ceiling action was over, I ran home, let the poor dogs out, threw some dogs in the car and headed up to Lumber Liquidators to help resolve my floor dilemma. I got lost in some crazy construction-related detours, ended up getting there five minutes after they closed, somehow persuaded the nice salesman to give me some samples anyway and then came home. I got samples of strand bamboo in dark, medium and light (I don’t know which specific finishes they are, since I didn’t want to make the poor guy hunt: I just asked for the first things he saw in dark, light and medium.) Had I gotten there on time, I also would have picked up some cork (which I’m considering for the floor in the loft), but as it was, I didn’t want to press my luck. Tomorrow, I am going to brush all the animals and see what their hair looks like on each of the floor samples (I may try to figure out how to get them to dig at the board too, just to gauge scratchability). Also, while the nice guy was getting me samples, I took a look at that tiger-stripe bamboo, which turns out to be a lot more subtle and pretty in person (it is interesting, but not nearly as HEY LOOKIT ME, I’M A FLOOR! as it appears in the picture.) Strong contender, I think!

Tomorrow is the last build day before Thanksgiving, which Jeff is remarkably taking off: we’re only working in the morning, but the plan is to frame the rest of the ceiling out (over the loft/kitchen/bathroom.) Yay house!


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