Step 11c – Install Roof Sheathing

I had been waiting for today for almost a month!  It has been so frustrating to watch the second story OSB subfloor get wet day after day, but today I took a big step towards getting a roof over it as I installed the first row of roof sheathing.  With all the inclement weather, I had spent plenty of time figuring out how to get the roof sheathing installed as safely and efficiently as possible.  Carrying a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of OSB is hard enough on the ground, so the thought of bringing it 20 feet up a ladder didn’t sit very well with me.  My solution was to buy a cheap winch online and build some “rails” so I could simply stand on the trusses and crank up the OSB like I was reeling in a fish.

It worked like a charm!  The webbing that came with the winch wasn’t long enough but I had some extra rope that worked just fine.  Before I started reeling the sheathing up to the roof I used a chalk reel to snap a line 4 feet up from the fascia.  The goal is to have the top edge of the OSB sheathing line up directly over the top of the fascia.  With that done I brought up the first panel and matched it up with my chalk line.  Just like the subfloor, the roof sheathing must be nailed to the trusses every 12″ on the inside parts of the panel and every 6″ on the edges.  I used my tape measure to ensure that each truss was on layout 2 feet center to center before nailing down the OSB. Once the sheathing is nailed down the trusses aren’t going to go anywhere so this was my last chance to make sure they were nice and straight.

Before installing the next row of panels, I installed an ‘H-Clip’ roughly halfway between each of the trusses, as shown above.  These will ensure that there is enough space left between the panels to allow them to expand and contract due to heat and moisture.

Here is a more closeup look of the clip.  Once they were installed I repeated the steps on the next layer of sheathing.  When I had reached the top layer, I measured to the top of the ridge of the roof and ripped the panel down to size so it would end at the ridge line.  I moved in six inches from the edge, and then ripped it down an additional 3 inches.  This will leave a 3″ gap on each side at the top of the roof sheathing for the ridge vent.  The ridge vent will work together with the baffles to properly aerate the attic and dry out any moisture that finds its way in.  As I will show later when I start on the shingles, the gap for the ridge vent will be covered with a material that will allow air, but not moisture, to go through it.  I am currently only halfway through the roof sheathing, but hope to get the rest of it done tomorrow.  The building inspector only comes into town on Tuesdays so if I don’t finish tomorrow I will have to wait an entire week before starting the roof.  The inspector must check up on the roof sheathing, specifically proper nailing of the roof sheathing, before I can start on the shingles.

Once the other half of the sheathing is complete, I can remove the vertical 2x4s from the gable end.

Step 8c – Plumb and Line

With all of the 1st floor walls complete, it was neat to be able to navigate the rooms and get an idea of the feel of the dimensions of the house.   Before moving on to the 2nd floor I needed to take some time to ensure that all of my framing so far is straight, level, square, plumb, and true.  (For those who don’t know what the last two are, plumb means perpendicular to level and true means both level and plumb at the same time)  Once the subfloor is nailed to the floor joists it will tie everything together so this was my last chance to make sure it was just right.

I started by double checking the lengths of the top and bottom plates, and the lengths of the corner studs.  Next, I used a plumb bob to ensure each of the corners was plumb.  I used long 2×4’s nailed diagonally and nail stakes in the ground to push or pull the end of each wall as needed to plumb the ends of the wall.  I knew the foundation was level, so since the wall lengths were equal and plumb, I knew the walls were square and true as well.  I repeated the process for each wall, and then checked each wall for straightness.  Now I knew the corners were right, but in the middle of the wall there might be some waving.  I nailed a 2×4 block to the top corner on each end of the wall and stretched a string tightly between them.  Using a third 2×4 block, I checked all along the wall to ensure this block fit snugly between the wall and the string.  Where necessary I used additional bracing to make the wall straight.

With the exterior walls (hopefully) perfect, it was time for the interior walls.  I used a powder actuated hammer tool to nail the bottom plates of the interior walls into place.  This uses a .22 caliber explosive to drive the nail into the hard concrete.  You insert the nail into one end, put the .22 caliber load in the middle, and then strike the other end with a hammer.  The blow ignites the load, driving the nail in.  I double checked all of the measurements for the walls to ensure they were straight and then used the powder actuated hammer tool to attach them to the concrete.

Once again, I used the plumb bob to square up the walls and attached them to the exterior walls with a splice plate.  I used additional bracing on the one long wall, but the others were so short that they should stay straight.

With this crucial step of straightening done, I was now confident enough to get going on the joists.

Step 8 – Frame the First Floor

After spending the weekend spraying the new slab down every hour or so, it was finally time to get the walls up!  This process of “wet curing” concrete can add up to 50 percent more strength when done for 3-7 days because it prevents the water inside the concrete from evaporating.  While many contractors immediately begin framing the house the day after the concrete is poured with no problems, I played it safe and waited until the 3rd day to get going.

The first step was to “snap lines” (see pic above) where the walls would go.  This will help me to ensure the bottoms of the walls stay straight and square to each other.  I took several measurements of the footings, including the diagonal measurements from corner to corner, to decide where to start.  The footings came out really good, but not perfect (this is my first solo build, after all!)  There will be a few small areas of concrete that stick out a bit or don’t come out far enough.  This is no problem at all structurally and visually it will be covered up by the siding, but in taking these measurements I was able to position the walls to minimize it as much as possible.

Here you can see where the concrete sticks out a half inch

The exterior walls will be framed on 2×6’s, so the first lines I snapped mark where the inside edge of the bottom plates will go, 5.5 inches in from my starting corner (for those not in the know, a 2×6 is actually only 5.5 inches wide on average)  Snapping lines is done using a chalk reel, which is basically a spool of string inside of a metal casing.  The casing has a sliding door so that you can fill it with chalk, that way when you pull out the string it gets covered in it.  I would put the end of the string on my mark on one end of the footing and weight it down with my sledge hammer, then allow the chalked string to unroll as I walked to the other side.  By pulling the string taut against the concrete and then lifting it just an inch, the line snapped back down leaving a neat line of chalk behind.

Once I had marked all the exterior walls, I grabbed the first sill plate from my pile of lumber and cut it down to 20′ (most lumber yards give you an extra 1/2 inch or so).  I lined it up on my line and marked out the anchor bolt locations, and then drilled them out.  (Remember that the bolts were embedded in the concrete footings so just the top part is sticking out)  Then I placed it over the bolts and made sure it lined up just right.  I repeated the procedure all the way around each wall until I had all 4 done.  With the placement of the exterior walls now set, I was able to measure out the locations of the interior walls and snap those lines as well.  It will be much easier to mark them now and serve as a sort of map to where my interior walls will be going.

I had to call a friend over to help me carry the 32′ long LVL top plate from the lumber pile over to the slab, and we set it on edge next to the bottom plate, which I had also turned on edge.  I used some clamps to hold them together perfectly lined up, and then used a tape measure to mark out the stud locations every 2 feet.  I had ordered the studs precut so that saved me a lot of time.  I just had to carry them over from the lumber pile and then inspect them and “crown” them.  Lumber being a product of nature is never perfect.  Sometimes they have significant bends or waves in them and I will save those for later.  The straighter ones I will use now, but even the straighter ones have a bit of a curve or “crown” in them.  I lined the crowns up all going the same direction which will make it easier to straighten them out later in the build.

 

 

 

Once all the studs were laid out on my marks it was just a matter of nailing them together.  Building codes offer several different ways to satisfy nailing requirements, and the one I chose will be 3 16D nails to connect each stud to the top and bottom plates.  I took my time and carefully aligned each stud to ensure that it didn’t stick out on either side of the top plate.  It is situations like these where even with my lack of experience I can guarantee I put together a better wall than 90% of the framing crews since they are focused on speed over quality.

For the window openings, a larger piece of lumber must be used to carry the load from the opening that is missing a stud to the studs on either side of it.  Again, building codes dictate several ways to satisfy these header requirements, and for mine I chose a single 2×10.  I will also be utilizing some metal hangers to carry the weight of the header instead of shorter studs called jack studs, although you can see that I did use jack studs for the entry door in the pic below.

The jack studs are the ones that are shorter than the regular studs on either side of the door opening

Once all the lumber was nailed together, I unrolled some “sill gasket” and placed it over the footing where the wall will be hoisted.  I also nailed some long 2×4’s to the top of the wall.  As we raise the wall, these boards will swing out and brace it.  The wall was very heavy but with a few friends we were able to get it airborne with ease.  Once it was vertical, I staked down the bracing boards and then screwed the nuts down over large square washers on the anchor bolts.

If you look closely you can see the white sill gasket underneath the bottom plate

Within a couple days I was able to finish the remaining 3 walls and raise them into place as well.  It’s so much fun to see my vision becoming reality!

The long 2x4s in front forming an ‘x’ are the bracing pieces I was talking about

Step 7 – Pour Concrete!

Today marked another milestone as the concrete was poured into place that will eventually support the load of 90% of the weight of the house.  As with almost every step in the build so far, there were definitely a few hiccups along the way, but at the end of the day I was pretty pleased with the results.

The major hiccup occurred when a couple of the pieces of wood I was using to hold the forms exactly 8″ apart from each other pulled away from the screws that were holding them in place.  This wasn’t catastrophic because the bottoms of the forms were held in place by the nail stakes, but it is the top of the forms that is the most crucial, so it was important to figure out how to push them back in place and hold them there.  The easiest fix was a little costly, but it worked and in the grand scheme of the build it will be a minor cost.  I had one of my friends (thank goodness I had some extra help!) run to the local building supply store and buy some steel spreaders and then we used some 2x4s to lever the tops of the forms back into place and lock them together with the spreaders.  I measured it out and the entire pour ended up being less than a 1/2 inch off all the way around the top.  Although the bottoms did bow out a little bit, they will be completely covered with dirt.  Crisis averted!

Here you can see the wooden spreader that ended up breaking next to my right hand

A little less than $100 worth of extra concrete. Better safe than sorry…

Another minor hiccup during the pour was that the weight of the concrete inside the forms was so great that it pushed the concrete underneath and up around the outside of the forms.  If you recall, the concrete was supposed to level out as it reached the bottom of the forms and press into the dirt, creating an upside down T.  Unfortunately the concrete started rising back up at the ends so in reality it was more like an upside down ‘T’.  Structurally, this was not an issue, and again, this part of the pour will eventually be completely covered by dirt.  The problem was that I hadn’t accounted for the additional concrete in my calculations.  I had ordered extra but started getting scared that the excess I had ordered wouldn’t be enough to cover it.  We solved this problem by pouring the bottom part of the T first and then pouring the top half after the bottom half had about a half hour to cure.  This incurred an additional hourly cost for the pump truck driver but running out of concrete would have been catastrophic.  As it turned out, we would have had enough but better safe than sorry.  We poured the excess concrete underneath the slab and it will result in needing less gravel in the next phase of the build.

Below you can see the finished result of the pour.  I removed all of the bracing but I’m having a little trouble removing a lot of the nail stakes.  I had purchased a powerful stake puller capable of exerting over 750 pounds of upward force on each stake but it wasn’t enough.  Thankfully, the company said they would send out the next model up and I would only have to pay the difference in price between the two.  Thanks JackJaw!!  It does set me back a week on getting the inspection for the second pour but it could have been worse.

A big shout out to my friends Michael and PJ for all their help  and also to Raphael and his crew who I hired to help with the pour!

 

 

Step 6b – Square and Level Forms

Work was slowed a little with selling a house, in-laws and fiancée visiting, and just enjoying fun summertime activities, but I’ve finally gotten enough done to get another post written up.  One of the more intimidating parts of the build has been putting up the form boards, and I’m confident it will hold up to be one of the more crucial aspects of the build.  It is one thing to make an incredibly detailed drawing on a CAD program in which everything is perfect and straight and level all the time.  It is quite another to take a crumbly and uneven medium like soil and place forms that will be just as straight and level as the CAD drawing.  I’ve thanked myself for sticking to a small footprint many times over the last few weeks as I trudge back and forth from my trusty builders level to the grade stake, fine tuning everything.  The dimensions I chose for the footprint have worked out nicely as well, since (24′)2 + (32′)2 = (40′) Thanks to Pythagoras I can very accurately check to ensure my corners form perfect 90 degree angles by measuring the distance between them to be 40′.

Before I explain what I did, it might help to visualize what the goal is.  Here’s what we want to accomplish…

It may not jump out at you at first, but there are two distinct sections of the foundation.  There is an 8″ stem wall at the top, and then a thicker 16″ footing below it.  The soil will act as a form for the 16″ footing and the form boards will create the stem wall.  Once the concrete has been poured and partially cured for the portion above, a second pour will create the flat slab inside.

So here’s the rundown of what I did.  I cut a couple small 9″ blocks to hold the form in place while I screwed it to the nail stakes.  I chose 9″ because the footing needs to be a minimum of 7″ deep and I wanted just a small buffer in case any dirt caved in between the time I level the forms and the time the inspector comes to check the depth of the footing.  With the unfortunately sky high concrete prices in the area I will pay about 200 dollars for this buffer but I’ve decided it is worth it.  I set each form on the blocks and then lifted it up just slightly before screwing it to the stakes I had pounded in.  The extra lift at the end is something I learned from my mentor.  It is quite simple to nail in a stake just a bit more to lower the form, yet even with incredible strength it is virtually impossible to pull one out of the ground and expect it to stay there.  By nailing the form to the stakes just a bit higher than they needed to be I was able to easily fine tune the forms by pounding a stake down just a bit here or there.

I used the builders level to decide how much extra to pound each stake in.  I used a couple clamps and a small 2×4 as a jig to hold the grade stake straight on top of the form and then checked the height with the level.  Using this point as a reference, I worked my way around the perimeter, clamping the grade stake on top of the form, checking the height against the reference height, pounding the nail stake holding the form down a bit if needed, and then rechecking the height with the level.  Once all the forms were level, I measured the lengths of each side and then measured the diagonals to ensure the sides were squared to each other (as I explained above).

You can just barely see the grade stake clamped to the top of the boards to the upper right of the pic

Although they are called nail stakes, I decided to use screws to attach the forms.  The screws are more expensive, but are easier both to install and to remove once the concrete has been poured.  With any luck I will be able to remove them in good condition and reuse them later on in the build.

 

Step 5b – Overview of the Permitting Process

A huge box was checked off today as I picked up my building permit from the county office.  It had been approved by the plans examiner a week earlier but it wasn’t official until I had it in my possession, ready to present to any inspector who might request it.  The entire process was unknown territory for me, and I couldn’t find much information about it online, so I thought it might be good to describe in detail what it was like and what I will do differently if I build again in the future.

The county website does a great job describing how to apply for a permit, but there isn’t any information describing what happens after you apply.  I wasn’t sure at all how much detail they wanted on my plans other than what they listed as being mandatory.  My mentor had a ton of extra information on his plans describing precisely how the building would adhere to code so I figured I had better do the same.   I spent countless hours painstakingly drawing out the fine details of my design using CAD.  Looking back, it seems that for the most part, these efforts were completely unnecessary.  The building department added several stamps and stickers to my plans that said the exact same things I had already written on them.  My advice would be to just give them exactly what they are asking for and nothing more.  This gives you more flexibility to change things if you choose to do so during the course of the build.

The first step was called a permit pre-screening.  They take a quick glance at what you want to build and check to see if there are any additional concerns that will need to be addressed.  It was during this meeting that I was told I would need to conduct a natural resources assessment.  After the NRA was complete and my site plan was submitted, the county sent me a NOAR (Notice of Additional Requirements).  This email notified me that the setbacks I had noted on my site plan were not sufficient and needed to be bigger (60′ instead of 50′).  I made the appropriate changes and resubmitted my plan, and a little over a week later I received an email that I had passed and was free to schedule an “intake appointment”.

I went through the permit application checklist on the county website and made sure I had all the required documents ready, and then scheduled my appointment.  Unfortunately, the earliest available date was over two weeks away!  If I had it to do over again I would have scheduled this the second I received notice and then prepared my documents while I was waiting for the date of the appointment.  The intake appointment was much less formal than I imagined.  I unrolled my plans on the counter and the plans examiner looked them over briefly and then let me know I would need engineering.  I explained this encounter in a previous post.  They were able to schedule me another appointment just a week away and I used the time to make the adjustments to my plans that he had requested.

The second appointment was much the same as the first.  The plans examiner unrolled my plans and checked to see that the changes had been made.  He also spotted one additional mistake but said that they would just make a note of it on my plans.  (I had used the rough opening of my egress, or emergency exit, windows to comply with the minimum opening area of 5.7 square feet instead of the area of the actual window opening)  They gave me approval and said that they would notify me when the permit was ready to be issued.

I received a call almost two weeks later that they had found one additional mistake with the front setback. (I would have disputed this but they had already come up with an easy solution)  Basically, I was allowed to shorten the setback if I agreed to plant a couple rows of pine trees at the back of the lot, something I would probably have done anyway.  A couple days later I received an email letting me know that the permit was ready to be picked up.

When I looked over my plans I saw that in addition to the stamps and stickers, they had marked several things as needing adjusting.  The first were the windows that I had made mistakes on.  The second was on the foundation plan, where they had added a 16″ x 16″ square for a reinforced section of the foundation.  This was to carry the load from the opening in the floor for the spiral stairway.  I had specified the correct amount of support on the floor joists but hadn’t carried the load all the way down to the foundation.  I’m sure they could have forced me to get this engineered but instead they basically engineered it for me saving me a grand!

Looking back on everything, this is a process that I would have started a lot earlier in the game, even though I hadn’t fully completed my design at the time.  There was plenty of time to finish in the weeks of waiting and there were also plenty of opportunities to make alterations.  Even now with the plans stamped and approved, the inspector has already told me that I can still make adjustments as long as he approves them.  The entire process of getting a building permit with no experience as a builder was surprisingly easy.  The county was very easy to work with and never gave me a hard time even though I made several mistakes along the way.  They even helped me correct some of my errors!  I’m sure this isn’t the case at every county building office but it is the experience I had.  Now I can focus on getting going on the foundation!

Using a rented plate compactor to ensure that the bottoms of my footings are well compacted. I also used it a bit on the top where the slab will be

 

Step 5 – Get a Building Permit

With the lot now officially fully improved, the next step is obtaining a building permit.  The county website had a nice and easy step by step instruction on how to go about working your way through the process.  The first step I completed a few weeks ago when I received my accepted Natural Resources Assessment.  The next step is to make a prescreening appointment with the county building office.  They will expect to review my construction documents, request any necessary changes and/or alterations, and address any concerns they have.  At that time I will go back to the drawing board and make any corrections they require before my final permit appointment, where I will present the updated construction documents and get them signed off by the inspector.  I’ve been working on the plans for months now, and am finally getting close to finishing them.  I’m quite sure that there will be some corrections requested, but I also don’t want to give the inspector a first impression that I don’t have a good grasp on what I’m doing.  Here is a sneak peek at what I have so far….

My goal is to complete the rest of my plans over the weekend and schedule my prescreening for Monday.  The only thing I have left to do is the details page (although it might need 2 pages).  It will take some time because much like the floor framing page above, there are lots of leaders (the arrows with explanations) and it takes time to scale the cross sections properly.

Step 3b – Wiring and Inspection

Electrical wiring seems very complicated but its actually pretty simple.  The catch is that a mistake could possibly kill you.  Fortunately, when you are dealing with new construction, the power isn’t hooked up yet so you don’t have to worry about that.    The basics behind modern electricity can be pretty complicated, but here is a quick rundown.  Standard residential service uses alternating current with two 120 volt currents running in opposite phases.  Think of it like two pedals on a bicycle.  They are on opposite sides of each other but they can work together when you need them to.  Large appliances that need all 240 volts available can use a double breaker and take advantage of the added power.  Most normal circuits just utilize one phase or the other depending on where the breakers are situated in the panel.  As you can see in the photo at top, I have one 30 amp circuit powering the trailer using one phase and a 20 amp circuit for my tools on the other phase.  Within a couple weeks I hope to add two additional circuits on opposing phases to power my septic system.

As for the wiring of these circuits, the first step was to bring power from the utility company’s stubout to a meter socket.  The utility company will splice these wires to the ones they have in the stubout and put a meter in the meter socket so they can properly bill me for the power I use.  They are not allowed to complete these tasks until I have a sticker placed on my panel by the state electrical inspector.  In many states the building inspector does the electrical inspections but in Washington they are completed by the department of labor and industry.  According to the NEC (National Electric Code), you need to use size #4 copper or #2 aluminum wires to power a 100 amp service like the one I am installing.  Because these wires are run underground, they are required to be URD (underground residential distribution) conductors.  I used aluminum because it was cheaper.  Three wires are used, one for each phase of the AC current and one for the neutral wire where the power returns.  Think of electrical power like a river powering a water wheel.  If there is no place for the river to flow it won’t move and the wheel won’t move either.  Likewise, electricity won’t work unless it has a place to go and the neutral wire provides this path.

From the meter socket, the same URD wires are used to run the two “hots” and one neutral to the breaker panel.  Inside the panel, clamps are provided that connect to large metal plates for the “hot” wires, and a long metal bar for the neutral wire.  For every circuit, a breaker is connected to one of the metal plates and a white neutral wire is connected to the metal neutral bar.  The hot wire for the circuit is then connected to the breaker and the circuit is complete.  As you can see, I have one circuit to power the trailer that connects to a 30 amp breaker and one for my tools that connects to a 20 amp breaker.

There is a third wire on each circuit that is called the ground wire.  This wire is a relatively modern innovation for safety reasons and isn’t necessary to power either of the circuits.  Many elements have the ability to conduct electricity, including the human body, and electricity acts just as water does in that it will take the easiest path available.  A properly grounded electrical system provides a path with very little resistance so that, in the instance of a wire coming loose and briefly contacting a surface that conducts electricity, the surface charge will continue through the grounding system rather than remaining on the surface and electrocuting the next person that touches it.  The ground wires on the circuit are connected to a “grounding bar” inside the panel that is also connected through a copper wire to a 10 foot long copper rod that is buried all the way down into the earth.  Using our water analogy, this would be as if there was a water slide leading to a pool.  Some of the water might splash up onto the sides of the slide, but gravity is going to eventually draw it down into the pool.

So that basically covers the wiring of the system.  The hardest part is deciphering the NEC to figure out what type and size of wires to use.  There are many different kinds of conductors (THHN, THWN, XHHW, URD) which are basically single insulated wires, and then there are many different kinds of cables (UF, NM, SE, USE) which are several conductors independently insulated and bundled together and then given a second layer of insulation.  With the wiring completed, I was able to call an inspector in and he passed me off and put a yellow sticker on my service panel.  The utility company won’t connect the power without the sticker but now that I have it I can call them up and get connected.

 

Step 3 – Temporary Power Pole

There are many reasons why I need to get some electricity running at the lot as soon as possible.  It will power my tools.  It will power the lights and heat in the trailer I will be living in.  It will charge my phone and computer.  It will even power the pump that will run the septic system.  In short, living without electricity is awful.  Did you know 1.2 billion people on this planet are without electricity?  This experience has taught me to never take for granted how fortunate I am to have this powerful amenity.

So how do I get electricity rolling?  First, find out which power company services your area.  Luckily for me, the Puget Sound Energy company that services Point Roberts has an excellent website that lays out all the steps pretty clearly.  They have very strict procedures that must be followed and they lay them out in easy to follow, step-by-step instructions.  Here’s what it says….

Step 1 – Call the Construction Service office and inform them you will be installing temporary power.  This allows them to prepare by ensuring the proper framework exists to provide the lot with power.  This may include a line extension, adding a transformer, etc.  Luckily for me I didn’t need any of these things but it was still a good thing to check and it gives them time to prepare for my permanent service, which they said may require them to add another transformer.

Step 2 – Obtain an electrical permit – According to the building department for my county, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries is in charge of issuing electrical permits.  While their website wasn’t anywhere near as slick as the power company site, I was able to navigate my way through a few hiccups and eventually get my first permit!

Electrical Permit

Step 3 – Call 811 – Someone will come out to the lot and use spray paint to mark all existing underground cable locations marked to prevent digging into one of them.

Step 4 – Install the meter base/ socket – Here’s where things get a little more fun.  As you saw in the 1st picture, the power company laid out exactly how they want me to construct the meter base and install the meter socket.  They even added another picture for more detail….

Detail

As I explained in the introduction, many people think this stuff is so complex and that it should be left to professionals.  What they don’t know is that many of these “professionals” don’t even take the time to read the instruction manual.  They simply rely on past experiences with other power companies and follow the same routine.  This can result in mistakes which must be corrected, then a fee must be paid for it to be reinspected.  As you can see, the instructions provided on the power company’s website are precise and crystal clear, so I’m quite confident that I can do a better job following them than someone who didn’t take the time to read through them.  The first step was to tackle the blackberry vines that had invaded the 4 foot square area behind the power stubout where I would build the power pole.

I also located a meter base and a 6 circuit service entrance online at good prices.  I decided on a 6 circuit because I will need one circuit for the 30 amp RV power, one for the septic pump, one for extra outlets for the RV (there are outlets in the RV that run off the 30 amp circuit but with an electric heater and plenty of electronics a little extra will be nice), one for temporary lighting inside the house when I get to working on the interior, and the last two for powering tools.