Construction Journal for 2001, Part 1 of 6

1/2-4/01 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 11:20. It was 33 degrees and there was about 3 inches of new snow. There were a set of tracks on the trail. It looked like a man, a woman, a kid and a fairly big dog. The kid made a snow angel in the area of the old log pile and the dog looked like he was having fun inspecting everything and sinking pretty deep in the snow. The tracks didn't go to the trailer or to the door of the building, but the guy's tracks went behind the rock pile up to the Cougar Trail. He was sinking into the snow pretty deep so he turned around and came back. The woman went up to the privy and then back down. It looked like a friendly visit, probably from someone I know.

After moving in and having lunch, I went to work fastening plywood down on the loft floor. I got three sheets down before I quit for the day.

On Wednesday I completed the first three courses of plywood on the floor. Larry stopped by and had a look at what I had done near the end of the day. We talked about my alternatives for the rails and for the edge of the loft floor.

On Thursday morning, I had to make a decision about what to do about the edge of the loft before I could install any more plywood. I did a lot of thinking and then made a decision. I decided to bolt the 4x4 posts to the joists which would put them an inch and a half from the loft edge over the dining room, and 3/4 inch from the edge over the entry room. I haven't quite decided whether or not to have a knee wall, but if I do, it will have to be notched to accommodate the posts. Then I measured and cut all the posts and installed the first one over the dining room. I used two 3/8 through bolts (actually all-thread with a nut on each end) and the post is very sturdy.

By the time I finished that, it was time to have lunch and pack up. I left for home about 2:00.

1/9-11/01 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday

I arrived at 12:15 and there was only about an inch of new snow. The temperature was just under freezing. After moving in and having lunch, I took all the loft rail posts outside, except the one I already installed, and sanded them nice and smooth. I figured it would be easier to sand them before I installed them and it would keep the dust outside. Then I went up and sanded the one post that was already installed. Before I quit for the day, I got one more post installed.

On Wednesday, I installed the last three posts. They ended up very sturdy and nice and plumb. I was very pleased with the result.

Then, since I had quit a bit of TJI left over, I used a piece as a rim joist on the short cantilever ends of the joists between C2 and the wall of the entry room. Before screwing it in place, I sawed a little off the end of one of the joists and shimmed three others so that the rim joist is nice and straight. When that was done, I screwed and glued down two small sheets of plywood over the entry room.

On Thursday, I cut one piece of plywood to fit around the B2 post, but instead of screwing it down, I turned my attention to cleaning up the place. Ellen, Andrew and I are planning to come up and spend Saturday night in the trailer so I want the place to be as presentable as possible. I hadn't cleaned up any of the sawdust since I started installing the loft floor, so it was pretty messy. After putting everything away and sweeping up both floors, it looked pretty nice in there.

Then I took a shovel and made some of the trails a little safer. Some spots had gotten very icy and there was a big berm in front of the door. Now it is a little easier and a lot safer to walk on the trails. I had lunch and left for home about 1:45.

1/13-14/01 Ellen, Andrew and I went to the property for an overnight adventure. On Saturday we went to Leavenworth for the Ice Festival and then in the evening we went up to the property and spent the night. Ellen and Andrew inspected the new work on the cabin before we went to bed. In the morning, Andrew did a lot of sledding and hiking. Then we built an igloo down at the site of the old log pile. We had a great time.

1/14/01 Talked to Tom Hammond about the strength of the floor around the fireplace hole. He had done the calculations and concluded that I need to double the joists on either side of the hole. He also worked up a structural design for the staircase.

1/16-18/01 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:15 and it was a clear 25 degrees out. After moving in, I screwed two more sheets down on the loft floor.

On Wednesday, I screwed down two more sheets which used up the plywood I had up in the loft. There was one more sheet boarding up the back door so I replaced that one with a sheet of OSB and lifted the plywood up to the loft.

Just as I was having lunch I got a call from Jon and Kathy saying they and their kids would be up to visit in about a half hour. They showed up just as I was finishing my coffee. They toured the building to check out the progress and then we went in to the trailer for hot chocolate.

After they left, I cut and screwed down some more plywood but I wasn't feeling too well. I quit work about 5:00.

On Thursday morning I still wasn't feeling too well. When I tried to light the stove, I discovered that I was out of propane. I shut the furnace off and plugged in the electric heater. I had brought some eggs along for breakfast and I debated on how to cook them. I knew you weren't supposed to cook them in the microwave, but I thought that if they were submerged in water and I just brought the water to a boil that it would be okay.

Wrong! I was watching the two cups of water with eggs in them rotate in the microwave as the water just started to boil. All of a sudden the eggs exploded blowing the door open and blasting egg and water all over the inside of the microwave and some of it out the door. There were some big edible chunks that I salvaged, but most of the mess went into the garbage. It took a while to clean up and now I am a little bit smarter about what not to do again.

Since I wasn't feeling too well, and since I needed to be home sort of early to get ready for Andrew's cub scout meeting, I closed up and left for home by about 11:30.

1/23-25/01 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 11:20 and there was about 8 inches of heavy new snow on the ground. Mike hadn't plowed my driveway, but by getting a running start, I got the pickup parked without doing any shoveling. Since the snow was so dense, I didn't need the snowshoes to make trails. After moving in and packing the trail from the pickup pretty well with my boots, I got the wheelbarrow and unloaded a pretty big load of rocks from the pickup and dumped them near the igloo. These rocks were about half of what was left over from our landscaping project at home. I don't know exactly what I will do with them but since I have plenty of space to store them at the property, I decided to keep them.

Once the rocks were unloaded, I was able to unload two sheets of 3/4 inch plywood that I had also brought with me. This was more than I needed in order to finish up the loft floor, but I needed quite a bit of the tongue edge so I bought two sheets. I can use the leftover pieces for shelving in the pantry so it won't go to waste.

I used the wheelbarrow to get the two sheets moved up to the trailer in one load. Then I carried each sheet by hand up to the building and leaned them against the foundation wall. Finally, I rigged up the winch and used it to pull both sheets at once up through a front window and then on up to the loft. It worked very slick.

The new snow added to the load on the privy roof which was now a little over two feet thick and very dense. A few layers were solid ice. I figured this was getting to be too much and decided to shovel it off before it got dangerous. By the time I finished that, I was pretty tired and I decided to quit early.

On Wednesday I finished installing the loft floor and felt really good standing on it and admiring it. It looks just like the floor on the model.

It snowed off and on during the day and added about an inch on the ground. The temperature briefly got up to 33 degrees so it didn't thaw much at all during the day.

On Thursday morning I tried a recipe for cooking eggs in the microwave that Ellen had found. You cook them in a Pyrex measuring cup and they come out scrambled. They were excellent!! I think they were the best eggs I have ever eaten! But then again, maybe I was just extra hungry. They came out in a big ball all light and fluffy and uniform. I guess finding this recipe made the explosion and the mess worth it. And since I eat them right out of the measuring cup, that and the fork are the only dishes I have to wash. I think I am on to something that will become a tradition.

After breakfast, I put away all the tools and scraps and swept up both floors. That made it look even better and I took a bunch of pictures. Then I went down to the crawl space and examined and sketched the floor joists connecting the C2, C3, D2, and D3 posts. Tom Hammond had told me that I need to double the joists connecting these posts because the current framing of the fireplace hole is too weak. Getting extra joists installed is going to be a little challenging so I need to do some thinking before I decide how to mount them. The sketches will help.

I had lunch and left for home at about 1:30.

1/30-2/1/01 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

It was snowing most of the way from the pass to the property, but I had no trouble and didn't need chains. There was about 4 inches of new snow on the ground when I arrived at 11:20. I backed in to the parking space so I could unload the second and last load of rocks from home. After moving in, I got the wheelbarrow and unloaded the rocks.

I forgot to mention that I sawed through the electrical cord on my saw last week. I brought it home and fixed it and I brought it back this week in working order again.

I spent the rest of the day laying out sole plates for the interior walls. I went slowly and gave it a lot of thought because once the plates are in place, that is where the walls are going to be for a long time and I want to make sure they will be exactly the way I want them. It is very gratifying and fun to make things take shape just the way I want.

The layout didn't match the plans exactly primarily because the walls were drawn a little to thick on the drawing. This gave me about three extra inches to distribute across the building. I had given two of them to the bedroom and one to the bathroom, but when I got to the utility room, I discovered that there was only going to be 30 inches of wall to accommodate the depth of the refrigerator. I wasn't sure exactly how much space I needed, but I quit for the day thinking that this was maybe too tight.

On Wednesday, I decided to move the plates 1 1/2 inches toward the bedroom to give me that much more space for the refrigerator and that much less for the bedroom. I have to thank Dr. Dick again for suggesting that I use screws for framing. That made it very easy to move the plates.

When that was done, I moved the tub and shower stall into the bathroom and finished laying out all the sole plates. Larry stopped to visit and see what I was doing just after lunch. We discussed a few options and alternatives for the framing and it helped me get comfortable with the layout.

Next I started building the stud walls. Since there is an exposed log beam in the ceiling, the studs need to be even longer than 8 feet so I had to buy 10 footers for studs. And, since the ceiling joists were already in place, I have to cut each individual stud to fit. No commercial builder would tolerate this kind of time consuming requirement, but it falls right in line with my methods so it doesn't bother me.

I invented a neat way of measuring for the length of a stud: I take two 8 foot 1x2s and clamp them together with a C-clamp so that one 1x2 is snug up against the ceiling joist and the other one is resting on a 2x4 laying flat on the sole plate where the stud will go. When the 1x2s are in the right position, I tighten up the C-clamp. Then I lay the 1x2s on top of the 10 foot 2x4 and use it to mark the 2x4 for the stud length. It works slick. It's quick and easy and makes the studs exactly the right length.

By the end of the day, I had one short stud wall in place in the utility room.

On Thursday morning, I got one more stud wall up in the utility room, but I didn't get it plumbed or fastened. I use a plumb bob to plumb the walls. This is a lot slower, but more accurate, than using a level.

Another thing that slowed me down was that when I cut the sole plates, I cut the matching top plates at the same time. I thought this would save me time since the measurement was already done. What I hadn't thought about was that the pattern of which plate passes the other at a corner was different on top and on the bottom. This is because at the top the plate needs to be screwed into the joist and depending on how the walls meet the joists, it is better in some cases to have the plates in a different configuration on the top than on the bottom. As a result, I remade a few top plates. There is a lot to think about and it is all delightful fun!

I left for home at about 1:30.

2/6-8/01 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at about noon. There was about five inches of crunchy new snow. It had snowed a couple feet, but that had been rained on and melted down and then frozen. The trails were nice and firm so I didn't have to use the snowshoes. I brought a half dozen 2x6s with me and I carried them up to the building before I had lunch. These are for doorway headers. I had forgotten them when I ordered the framing lumber.

After lunch, I plumbed and fastened the wall I had set up last week. Then I built and installed another wall. Earl stopped by for a visit in the early part of the afternoon.

On Wednesday it was clear, sunny, and 16 degrees. Pretty nippy. I spent the day building and erecting more walls. I spend a lot of time getting them as near perfectly plumb as I can, so I don't build them anywhere near as fast as professional framers do. On the other hand, I don't have very many stud walls to build so my slow speed won't matter much in the big picture.

On Thursday it was 26 degrees and snowing lightly. I noticed that a pair of coyotes, dogs, or maybe even wolves, had passed through the property from up by the spring, between the privy and the woodshed, and then on up to the drainfield. Even though new snow had partially filled their tracks, the claw marks were clearly visible indicating canines rather than felines. They seemed to have pretty big feet so I imagined that they might have been wolves. But their short wheel base indicated they were smaller so I guessed they were coyotes. I was kind of excited at the visit, but then while I was working on the walls, I got to thinking that Tutino's two young dogs, Bert and Ernie, had huge feet for their size and they had probably been my visitors. Oh well. It's still fun to imagine.

I got about half of the stud walls up before I quit for the week. Before I quit, though, I figured out a way to mount the two new joists I have to add to the floor around the fireplace hole. I have a length of three inch angle iron from which I can make four brackets to hold the joists. I will use two 5/8 lag screws in each of the C3 and D3 columns since they are continuous logs, and I will use 5/8 through bolts in the C2 and D2 columns since they will fasten through the joint between the main floor beam and the log columns. I marked the angle iron for cutting and drilling and took it home so I don't have to spend the time at the property making the brackets. I feel good about this solution because it will make the installation of the new joists pretty easy. I needed to get home early to pick Ellen up from work and a snowstorm was moving in anyway, so I left for home at 1:00.

2/13-15/01 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:15. It was a beautiful, sunny 36 degrees. I had received a rebar bender over the weekend from Doctor Dick. He had enclosed it in a plywood box and advised me not to open it until it was up in the building. I was eager to open the box and see it.

The trails were very firm so I got the wheelbarrow and hauled the rebar bender and two tool boxes up in one load. The rebar bender and box weighed 53 lb.

I was impressed by the construction of the box and it was easy to disassemble by simply backing out all the screws. I was delighted with the device and I cut one piece and bent a couple other pieces of rebar just to get the feel for it. It worked great and will be very useful to me in the future.

Almost from the moment I arrived, a flock of half a dozen Gray Jays were begging me for peanuts. I fed them all the shelled ones I had and I shelled a bunch more while they impatiently waited. These birds all had adult markings but they seemed to be a little apprehensive and inexperienced so I think they are the same young brood that visited me last year.

I erected the 10 foot wall between the bedroom and bathroom. This wall is parallel to and between two joists so I had to attach perpendicular headers on top to go between the joists and I screwed plywood on top also to provide backing for the sheetrock. That made the whole think pretty heavy and it took some jockeying to get the structure in between the joists.

To lift it, I rigged up a pulley and a come-along. This worked great. Click by click I lifted the wall and maneuvered it to its position between the joists. Once the headers were snug between the joists, the wall was held fast in place.

On Wednesday it was 22 degrees and clear. The flock of Jays were back so I fed them a hearty breakfast. I screwed the bed/bath wall in place and then built and installed two more bedroom walls. I had a rather close call with the first of these, the wall between the closet and the entry room.

I had the wall standing up with a 2x4 leaning against it to keep it from tipping over. The main loft beam kept it from tipping the other way. Then I realized that I had forgotten one stud so I decided to lay the wall back down and install the stud. I took the leaning 2x4 down and turned around to lay it down and out of the corner of my eye, I could see that the wall was not waiting for me to lay it down; it was coming down by itself.

Fortunately for me, I was standing so that my head and shoulders were right between two studs as the wall came down. It hit my arm pretty hard and I slowed its descent quite a bit, but I was still glad I wasn't under it when it hit. I felt pretty lucky and pretty stupid.

In the evening, I noticed something that caused me some concern. I poured a glass of water and noticed some sort of transparent things swirling around in it. You could only see them if the light was just right and you were holding the glass over a dark background. I had fished a dead flying insect out of my coffee cup a week or so ago so I know that things can get into my cup and glass which I just leave standing out. So I thought the things I saw were dust or something that fell into my glass from the air.

I rinsed the glass out and poured another glass and sure enough, there were more of those things in the water. That pretty nearly emptied one of my water jugs so I thought maybe it was coming from the jug and not the glass. I poured another glass from my second jug which was full. This time there was no sign of the stuff. That was a relief because it indicated that the source was the jug and not my water supply, although my observations weren't very scientific.

The thought occurred to me that whatever that stuff is, it might be responsible for the occasional GI distress I experience. Now that I have something to suspect, I can pay closer attention to what correlates with those symptoms, and I will inspect the water in my glass more closely. If I keep seeing the foreign material, or if I suspect it is making me sick, I will either drink only boiled water, or bring drinking water from home. The starting point, though, is to wash my glass and clean out my jugs.

There was a fierce wind outside and about 9:00, while I was talking to Ellen, the power failed for a minute or so. I called her back and we finished our conversation. No sooner had we hung up than the power failed again and it stayed off all night.

On Thursday morning, the power was still off so I couldn't cook my eggs in the microwave. I fried them in a pan instead and used the toaster that sits on top of a gas burner. After I had finished breakfast, the power came back on.

I went to work and plumbed and fastened the third bedroom wall, the one with the doors in it. In the process, the family of Jays came to visit for another meal. When they first landed on the window ledge, they were accompanied by a beautiful bird that I had never seen before. It was about the size of a robin but it was mostly a brilliant golden yellow. The back was the color of a sparrow and so was the front of the throat, but the breast gradually changed from the sparrow color at the throat to a brilliant gold at the bottom. There was a single bright white stripe on the wing that was parallel to the long feather and there was a bright white stripe parallel to that running across the head containing the eye. That was all I had time to notice because as soon as he realized I was there, he took off. After I got home, I looked in Priscilla's bird books and the closest I could find was an Evening Grosbeak. Later, looking in our Audubon book, I am pretty sure that's what it was although it looks like my memory of the markings on the head were faulty.

I left for home about 1:30 feeling pretty good about the visible progress in the framing. I realize, though, that professional framers would probably have done the whole job in a couple of hours. On the other hand, I don't think they get the same amount of satisfaction that I do.

2/20-22/01 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I got a late start and then stopped at Priscilla's so I didn't arrive until 1:30. It was beautiful, sunny, and 39 degrees. There was about two inches of new snow on the ground, but there had evidently been a lot more since I had been there and it had shrunk back down. Mike had also evidently scooped out the driveway because the pile of snow was a lot higher than before. The new snow had covered his tracks, so it had fallen since he had been there.

There was a fresh set of tracks of someone and his dog visiting the cabin. The tracks went straight up to the building, a little ways up a snowbank, and then they turned around and went right back to the road. I suspect that it probably was John and his dog Winky.

After moving in and having lunch, I did some work on the walls. I inserted two additional studs I had forgotten in a bedroom wall, and I built and installed the short wall between the hall and bedroom closets.

I was still finding some clear filamentous stuff in my water. I found a good way to test for it. I filled my glass with water and got it swirling around. Then I set it atop a 6-volt lantern that was sitting on the table pointing up. With the light shining up through the water, I sit so that I am looking at the dark carpet on the floor through the side of the glass. This makes all the little air bubbles that are swirling around very visible. Then with my reading glasses and a magnifying glass, I can get a good focus on those little bubbles and that way I can easily see if there are any other foreign bodies in the water - at least any reasonably big ones.

I did many experiments of this type and only once did I see anything in a glass that I drew directly from the hose. I suspect that in that one case, the stuff was in the glass to start with. If I took water from any of my jugs, I always found that filamentous stuff. I am pretty well convinced that the jugs are the source of it.

My plan was to disinfect and clean the jugs with bleach, but I couldn't find the bleach that I thought I had up there. I only had a 50-50 solution of bleach in a container, but that was so dirty and contaminated looking, that I didn't want to use it. I will bring some new bleach from home next week and see if I can't clean out those jugs. In the meantime, I only drink water that I draw directly from the hose, or after boiling to make coffee etc.

On Wednesday morning, I cut sixteen jack studs for the eight doorways. Then I started to cut the doorway headers and discovered that I had figured each of them three inches shorter than they should be. I forgot to figure in the length necessary to go over each of the two jack studs. Since my plan for cutting the headers from the 2x6s didn't allow much scrap, the plan was now useless. I went down to the trailer and re-figured how to cut the headers from the 2x6s that I had.

I went back up with the new plan and cut all the header pieces but two. With the longer length, I didn't have enough lumber to make the last two pieces. Next, I started installing the jack studs and I discovered that I hadn't planned for the linen closet door correctly. The opening was an inch and a half too narrow for a 2-0 door. The walls aren't completely installed, or even completely figured out in that area, so I don't know exactly what I should do. I installed most of the rest of the jack studs anyway. I also didn't do the front entry door because that wall isn't done either. It needs to be tied into the main loft beam so there will be a lot of cutting to fit that I haven't done yet.

On Thursday morning, I started making and installing headers. I used some of the plywood from Doctor Dick's rebar bender box to make the sixteen spacers. It worked great. I got a couple headers installed and then Larry stopped by for a visit. We talked about my alternatives for the linen closet door. Larry felt there was no problem attaching the header to a stud with no jack stud under one end. This would make up for the inch and a half the opening was short. My idea was to use 1x4 jack studs so the two together only take up an inch and a half. These would each be screwed to the edges of two studs so there would be plenty of lateral support. I left for home at about 1:30 not really having decided what to do about the linen closet doorway.

2001: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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