Step 11d – Inspection, Bargeboard, and Gable Overhangs

I’m tantalizingly close to reaching that glorious step where rain will no longer be able to harm the OSB roof sheathing or subfloor but a few key steps remain.  Most importantly, there is currently no roof sheathing on the gable end overhangs.  As you can see in the pictures, I only installed the sheathing up to the gable end trusses instead of extending it out to the ends of the lookouts, which is where the roof will eventually end.  The reason for this is that the bottom of the gable end overhang sheathing is going to be visible from below, and the OSB I used for roof sheathing has a very cheap look to it and can tend to flake off when exposed to the elements.  Plywood looks ten times better and will hold up much better to the elements, so it’s worth making the transition from the OSB to plywood just for those gable end overhangs.  This part of the roof isn’t structural however, so it wasn’t part of the roof sheathing inspection I passed yesterday.  The plywood is only to add a nice aesthetic touch.

The other item that needs to be installed before adding the roof underlay is the bargeboard.  Made of the same primed, textured wood as the fascia, the bargeboard will attach to the fascia and run along the edge of the lookouts up to the ridge.  Once it is in place, the roof will be entirely surrounded by this finished wood.  Before nailing it on, I climbed up the roof and measured the lookouts, recording the length of the shortest lookout on each side (they varied up to 3/8″).

I grabbed what was left of the primed, textured, wood and beveled the top edge at 22.6 degrees on each side, to form the shape you see below.  I also cut each piece to the length I had recorded for the side it would be attached to.  I toenailed these pieces on to each end of the roof ridge, and then snapped a chalk line across the lookouts, holding one end of the line on the edge of the ridge pieces, and the other just grazing the end of the shortest lookout.  This gave me a visual as to which of the lookouts needed to be trimmed just a bit so they would all be even.  After cutting them down with a circular saw, I mitered one end of the bargeboard and brought it up to the roof.  I eased it over the edge and lined up the top side with the tops of the lookouts, clamping it in place.  Next, I marked the other end of the bargeboard where it crossed the center of the ridge piece and cut it along this line, then nailed it to the ends of the lookouts using galvanized nails (as these nails will be exposed to the elements).

With the bargeboard in place, I ripped a sheet of plywood in half the long way, and used my winch and rails to reel the two pieces up to the top of the roof.  I lined one end up so it was about a 1/4″ from the edge of the bargeboard and tacked it down to the lookouts.  I then ran my circular saw along the opposite edge of the plywood deep enough so it would cut through the OSB sheathing.  This trimmed off about 3/4″ of the OSB sheathing, exposing half of the gable end truss to support the plywood.  This was important so I would have something to nail the plywood into.  I cut the second piece of plywood so it lined up over the fascia the same distance as the OSB sheathing, and then thoroughly nailed the plywood to the gable end truss, lookouts, and bargeboard.

Here you can see the process in action with step 1 trimming the lookouts on the right side, step 2 placing the bargeboard on the left side, and then step 3 adding the plywood towards the center of the pic

As I’ve said before, there’s nothing quite like working on a roof when it’s a beautiful day!

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 10 – Frame the Second Floor

You can see how I’ve been trying to keep the OSB flooring dry with a tarp but with the walls going up it is difficult.  Luckily, I spent some extra money on Weyerhauser EdgeGold OSB subfloor and according to their reps they are perfectly fine to get wet for a few weeks as long as they are given time to dry out.

Framing the second floor is not a whole lot different from framing the first.  Whereas on the first floor, the sill plate was pressure treated lumber, this isn’t necessary on the second.  Also, the bottom plate was bolted to the concrete foundation on the first floor, but on the second we simply nail it to the rim joists as you can see below.

Before raising the exterior walls, I toe-nailed the inside edge of the bottom plate to the floor boards.  These nails help enure the wall stays in position and doesn’t fall off the house before it gets nailed into place.

After going up and down the ladder many times cutting pieces for the walls I decided it was time to build something permanent.  The finished house will have a large spiral staircase but it would get messed up pretty quickly during building (as well as annoying) so instead I just threw together a makeshift ladder from some scrap wood.

Whereas the first floor walls were pretty simple, things got slightly more complicated on the second floor with the master bathroom as it has walled off areas for the shower, toilet, and two walk-in closets.  Several of these walls are angled, and one of the master bedroom walls is actually curved! 

Creating an angled wall is pretty simple.  You can see I have two walls meeting at a 45 degree angle on both the left and right side of the picture.  All you do is miter both top plates and bottom plates at 22.5 degrees so that when they fit together they create a 45 degree angle.  You can see how the studs meet on the inside wall and the small gap on the outer wall will be covered with a metal corner bead under the drywall.

At the center of the pic above I actually have three walls coming together in the shape of a ‘Y’.  For these I mitered the two arm walls with 45 degrees and joined them to a straight wall.  When it came time to add the top plate I had to do cut a special piece to fit with a jigsaw.

To build the circular wall, I had some 3/4 inch plywood ready.  I created a makeshift compass to get the right radius for the wall and transfer it to the plywood.  Then I drew out a second radius exactly 3.5 inches smaller than the first for the inside of the wall plate.  Sandwiching two of these pieces together, I ended up with an equivalent to a ‘curved’ 2×4.

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The one thing about a curved wall is that it uses a lot of studs!  The far side of the wall will curve right around the spiral staircase when it is installed. (I haven’t cut the opening completely yet for safety)

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step 9b – Install the Subfloor

Solving small problems is a huge part of building.  I’ve always enjoyed crossword puzzles and the like, so I shouldn’t be at all surprised that I am enjoying building the house so much.  Today’s problem was how to lift 24 sheets of OSB panels 11 feet up in the air.  (2 feet of foundation + 8 feet of wall + 1 foot of joists = 11)  You see, each panel is 4 feet wide and 8 feet long, and weighs 59 pounds, so not only are they heavy, but it is difficult just to get your arms around one.  My solution was to build a small section of scaffolding about 6 feet long and 5 feet high.  Then I would carry the OSB over to the scaffolding while holding it just like this guy is.

Turning it so the shorter side is down, I then lifted it up onto the scaffolding

Then I would climb up to the top, grab the end of it and pull it the rest of the way up.  This was easy once I had a couple of them already up there to stand on but for the first ones I had to just stand on a couple of 2×6 boards that I had laid out perpendicular across the joists.  Have I mentioned that building a house is a great way to face your fear of heights?  I lifted every single one of the 24 boards up to the top of the wall in this same manner.  The first row you attach is the most important one to be straight because all the other rows will interlock with it.  I used my chalk reel to snap a line 4 feet in from the edge to ensure that I got it just right.  Next, I applied a liberal bead of elastomeric construction adhesive to the top of the joists.

PL400 is highly recommended for subfloor gluing

I set the board down over the joists so it lined up with the one corner of the house and ensured that the other end was halfway onto a joist.  This is the reason why I lined the joists up 24″ on center.  The 8′ long panel spans 4 joists and on the outer joists it leaves enough space to share the joist with another panel.  Once the panel is perfectly lined up the code calls for it to be nailed with 8d common nails every 6″ on the edges and every 12″ in the middle areas where a joist runs under it.  The boards are marked out so you can easily find the spots where these nails should go if the joists were lined up correctly.  If you look closely you can see them…

You can also see how I left a small gap in between each board to allow for expansion due to heat and/or moisture.  Four of these 8′ long panels were enough to run down the length of the house.  For the next row, I cut a panel in half.  Staggering the seams in this way adds strength to the floor.  With the first two rows complete you can see how the staggering seams look.  Notice how I positioned the other boards so I could walk around as I worked.

When I got to the row above the blocking I used a sander to make sure that none of the blocks stuck up above the joists.  I also measured out where pipes would go through so I could easily find them later.  One of the pipe fittings stuck up above the joists so I had to cut a hole for it in the OSB.

There’s the pipe I cut out a hole for on the right side and if you look closely you can see where I marked out where the other pipe will penetrate the flooring as it heads up to the roof vent

Luckily I thought ahead a little bit and before I got to the last panel I cut out a hole for the stairway opening.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get back down!  The opening will eventually be much larger but for safety reasons I left it just big enough to allow for comfortable access.  I marked a warning on the areas that will eventually be cut out because there aren’t any joists underneath.  The OSB floorboards are strong but without a joist underneath they could easily break.

The last step was to run a circular saw all the way around the perimeter to remove any protrusions.  Because of the small gap between each board there was about a 1/4 inch left around the edges.  That and the stairway opening was the only waste I had.  This is very rare in today’s average construction job as the house plans usually call for a bunch of details and angles in the floor.  Contractors cut panels in all sorts of ways as needed and then discard what they don’t use, which can be a substantial amount.  This is one of the benefits of designing a house yourself.  I specifically designed the house with dimensions divisible by 4 feet for this very reason.

Step 9 – Frame the Floor

Flooring is pretty basic, and if you’ve ever noticed how a deck is built then you have the gist of it.  Long boards called joists are laid out parallel with each other and on their sides so they won’t bend easily.  4×8 sheets of plywood or OSB are laid out over the top of the joists to create a flat, sturdy surface.  The joists are supported by some of the first floor walls.  As I mentioned before, one of my interior walls is a load bearing wall, so it will be used to transfer half the weight of the second floor of the house down to the ground .  The 2nd floor interior walls will rest on the subfloor, which will in turn rest on the floor joists.  Since the floor joists span all the way from the exterior walls to the interior bearing wall, they will need to handle a significant amount of the weight of the house, which they will then transfer to the exterior walls and the interior load bearing wall.  The pic below might help you visualize…

Notice how much weight is carried by the load-bearing wall in the middle

Proper joist sizes can easily be figured out from the IRC (International Residential Building Code) using a table in the same way you calculate header sizes.  For me, that meant looking at the part of the table that dealt with 24 inch joist spacing since that is what I’m using.  Then figure out what the greatest distance the joists will span is, which for me is just slightly over 14 feet.  Last, select a lumber option that supports a minimum span greater than this distance.  I decided to go with #2 2×12 Douglas Fir, which supports a span of up to 16’6″.  Going with an option suitable for a span larger than what I need will hopefully give me a less bouncy, less squeaky floor.

Lifting 16 foot 2×12’s 10 feet up in the air solo is a great workout.  After cutting each joist to length.  I lifted one side up in the air and rested it on the top of an exterior wall.  Next I moved a ladder near the interior bearing wall and lifted the other end of the joist up so I could rest it on the top of the ladder.  After climbing up a few rungs on the ladder, I had enough height where I could lift the joist from the top of the ladder to rest on the interior wall.  Just as with the wall framing, it was important to ensure that the crown of the lumber faced the sky.

The first joists I installed are called the rim joists.  These run on the top of the exterior walls perpendicular to the rest of the joists.  Above you can see the rim joist on the left side of the corner and the outermost floor joist on the right side.  Using rim joists ensures that there is a perimeter of joists all the way around the house even though the majority of the joists run in the same direction.  The rim joists are “toe-nailed” to the top plate, meaning that they are nailed diagonally.  Once the rim joists are up, the other joists are placed perpendicular between them and nailed to the rim joists, as well as toe-nailed to the exterior walls.

The opening for the stairway required a little bit of detail.  The code requires joists to be doubled all around the opening.  In addition, any time you are unable to rest a joist on a bearing wall, you must use steel joist hangers to carry the weight around to where it can reach a bearing wall.  The manufacturer of the hangers (in this case Simpson Strong-Tie) tells you what kind of nails you must use and what amount of weight the hanger is capable of carrying.

Step 6d – Final Steps Before The First Pour

I passed my footing inspection today, which means that I am approved to pour my footings.  The inspector verified that my setbacks were correct and also leaned on the forms a bit to make sure they were sturdy.  He also made a visual inspection of everything to ensure that the dimensions were correct.  Overall it was a pretty easy process.  He signed my building permit and was gone after less than 10 minutes.

Over the last few days I had completed the final steps in preparation for the inspection.  These included forming the small point load footing for the stairway, laying out all the cold water supply lines, and setting up the utility sweeps for the electrical, heat pump water heater, and ductless mini split systems.  I also made a few minor adjustments to the forms to straighten out the rebar and make sure they were precisely squared and leveled, and laid out the anchor bolts.

 The inspector had made a small adjustment to my design during the permitting process.  He decided that the foundation needed to be strengthened at one particular point where the opening for the spiral staircase put a lot of weight on two walls of the first level.  At the spot where these walls intersected, he indicated on my plans that I was to pour a small footing under the slab measuring 16″x 16″x 10″.  I built a form for those dimensions using some 2×4’s and OSB, and lined it up at the correct spot so that the top of the form was 4″ below the top of my other forms.  I will pour this at the same time as my footings and then remove the form.  The 4″ above will allow enough space for the slab to be poured over it.

I’ll be running the hot water lines inside the “conditioned space” of the house, meaning that they will stay nice and warm at the same temperature as the house.  The cold water lines, on the other hand, don’t need that kind of insulation so I am running them underneath the slab alongside the rest of the plumbing I had already installed.  I will be using a hybrid type of water supply installation for the cold water lines, meaning it will be halfway between the “trunk and branch” method and the “home run” method.  The hot water lines will be almost exclusively home runs with one minor exception.

The trunk and branch method of water supply means that you have a main water line that travels through the entire house and wherever you have a fixture like a toilet or sink, the line for that fixture will branch off of the main trunk line.  The home run method means that as soon as the water line enters the house it is piped into what is called a manifold, where it immediately branches off into as many lines as there are fixtures in the house.  These branches pipe directly into each individual fixture.  When dealing with hot water lines, the trunk and branch system has a major flaw in that if you want hot water in one of the fixtures and the water currently in the trunk has already cooled off, you have to wait until all of the water in the trunk has exited the fixture before you get hot water.  This is not only annoying but also extremely wasteful.  The home run method uses more piping, but solves this problem, ultimately paying off in the long run.  For cold water lines this isn’t an issue, so I just ran the piping as efficiently as I could to reduce the amount of PEX piping I needed to buy.

The last step was to set up the utility sweeps, or chases.  These are conduits that are bent in 90 degree angles at very large radii, so when I am ready to run utility lines into the house I won’t need to cut a hole in the wall or reduce the amount of insulation I have in an exterior wall.  The electrical sweep will house the main electrical lines for the house.  The one for the water heater will house one cold line and one hot line as the water runs back and forth between the hot water tank inside the house and the heat exchanger outside the house.  Many houses have their hot water tanks in the garage which is extremely inefficient because the garage is unconditioned space and will cause the hot water to cool down faster.  The last sweep will house the refrigerant lines for the ductless mini split system as they travel between the heat pump outside and the fan inside.  I ran each of the sweeps from the location I had planned for each of them on an interior wall of the house down through the footing and out to the other side.  I next cut some small pieces of plywood to ensure that concrete wouldn’t spill over and cover the end of the conduits.

Here is the electrical sweep with the grounding electrode attached to the rebar next to it.

Here you can see the plywood that will prevent the concrete from flowing past the main plumbing outlet

Step 5a – Be Confident!

It’s been a while since my last post as I had to take some time off building to put my house up for sale and finish moving all of my belongings into a shipping container on the lot.  I also discovered that when you want to get a building permit appointment, you should apply about a month ahead!  They call it an “intake appointment” (still don’t know why) and once again the county website was very helpful in letting me know just what I needed to bring (copy of deed, septic design, proof of water availability, 2 copies of plans, etc) The website had links to download several documents to bring, but one of the links didn’t work.  I eventually decided it was probably not important.

Three weeks later the big day finally came!  I went through the checklist provided on the website one more time and double checked my plans (I ended up finding a few mistakes and had to reprint two copies of a few pages!)  I was nervous and didn’t really know what to expect but it was actually pretty simple.  The plans examiner met me at the counter and unrolled my plans.  He looked at them for about 5 minutes and then told me that I was missing one thing and needed engineering.  I was frustrated but not too surprised (I’m a beginning builder after all!)  The missing item turned out to be what I needed from the link that didn’t work that I had decided wasn’t important.  He admitted that they knew the link didn’t work and showed me where to find the documents.  He told me I needed engineering because my braced wall lines exceeded the maximum of 25′ and that my deck could only extend 6′ from the exterior wall of the house (I had extended it 12′).  I was completely caught off guard and I gave a half hearted attempt to argue that my plans followed all of the county’s building codes but I also started to second guess myself.  Perhaps I had made a mistake?  I had drawn up the plans for the wall bracing months ago and didn’t quite remember the details.  He made an appointment for me for the following week and I left, disappointed but not deterred.  As soon as I drove home I grabbed my copy of the International Residential Building Code (IRC) and double checked.  I was right!  The codes clearly dictated that my exception to the 25′ max was admissible.  Furthermore, I couldn’t find anything limiting decks to 6′ in the pertinent section (R507)

I wrote the plans examiner an email clearly stating the codes that allowed me to exceed the braced wall line spacing (for those who want to get technical, make sure you read my post on wall bracing and then read at the bottom of the post) and also asked him politely to refer me to the code that limited the deck to 6′.  Unfortunately, it was Friday, so I had to wait through the weekend to hear back.  I reluctantly called an engineer as a backup plan and he told me he would happily provide engineering for me… for just a thousand dollars…  When Monday finally came, the plans examiner emailed back and informed me that the exception I was using on the bracing could only be used on one wall, and I was using it on two.  For the deck, he referred me to code 301.2.2.2.5.  Once again frustrated and thinking I had made a mistake, I painstakingly read through the code again.  There was nothing anywhere limiting the bracing to one wall!  For the deck, the code he referred me to discussed irregular shaped houses, not decks!  My house was a perfect rectangle – one of the most regular shapes there could ever be!  I wrote him one more time asking him politely to provide the code that limited the exception to one wall and an hour later he called back with the incredible news!  He admitted he was wrong!   Sweet, sweet vindication was mine!!  For the deck, he wrote that the county had decided to apply 301.2.2.2.5 to decks as well.  This was frustrating, but only a minor setback.  I would be able to build the house without expensive engineering and I could always add to the deck later.  The engineering for just a deck would be half the price.  I would have to reprint my plans (at the price of $30) but if all goes well I should have my permit in another 4 days!  I already have a backhoe reserved for Saturday so I can start digging the foundation!
Read this next section at your own risk!  We are about to get very technical and very boring!  So for those who are interested in how I taught the plans examiner something new, I will let you know.  In review, braced wall lines are imaginary lines that are designed into the house to protect against shear forces (wind, earthquakes, etc)  The section of the IRC that discusses wall bracing (602.10-602.12) is one of the most complex of the entire code and takes up at least 15 pages.  One of the first issues covered is the spacing of these imaginary lines.  As you can see in the table above, in my seismic zone (D1), the lines can be spaced no more than 25′ from each other.  However, if you read the bottom right box, there is an exception that allows the spacing to extend up to 35′.  As I explained in my page on How to Meet Wall Bracing Requirements, these imaginary braced wall lines must contain a certain amount of braced wall panels that run parallel to the imaginary braced wall line with an offset of no more than 4′.  The exception I am using allows the spacing to exceed 25′ only if the amount of braced wall panels is increased.

For me, this was no problem.  The main obstacles to planning for a braced wall panel are large openings like windows, and garage doors.  When I designed the house, I decided to go easy on the windows so I could afford to buy really good ones.  Windows are quite inefficient when it comes to sustainability.  They let the hot sun in on hot days and let the heat dissipate through them out of the house on cold days.  These effects can be mitigated by buying windows with low U-values, low SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient), and insulated frames, but at a significant cost.  Saving Sustainably means using fewer windows, but spending the money to get really good ones and strategically locating them.

Getting back to the point, I had no problem with adding more braced wall panels to my imaginary lines.  Let’s take a look at the first table that was referenced in my exception to the 25′ maximum braced wall line spacing.

The table is quite long, but we will just focus on the section that applies (seismic zone D1).  If you look on the far right side of the table you will see the CS-WSP method.  This stands for Continuous Sheathing Wood Structural Panels.  It means that we will nail plywood (or OSB) to the exterior of the framing of the house, and wherever we locate a braced wall panel, this “sheathing” will extend all the way from the bottom of the wall to the top of the wall (with no openings for windows, doors, etc).  My exterior walls are 24′ and 32′ long and at the bottom of the table there is a footnote that says “linear interpolation shall be permitted”.  Therefore, we can find the amount of bracing necessary with some basic math. The results are….

Main Floor 24′ Walls – roughly 9’7″ of bracing

Main Floor 32′ Walls – roughly 12’4″ of bracing

2nd Floor 24′ Walls  – roughly 4’4″ of bracing

2nd Floor 32′ Walls – roughly 5’6″ of bracing

Now, let’s take a look at the second table that was referenced.

Looking at item 3, we can see that the braced wall line spacing can be increased to between 30 and 35 feet if the amount of bracing in each wall is increased by a factor of 1.4.

I recalculated the bracing, rounded up to the nearest 2′ increment, and came up with the results that I noted on my plans.

It might be hard to make out but if you look closely you can see the triangles along the exterior walls that denote the braced wall panels, and if you add them up you can verify that I have satisfied the requirements of the exception to the 25′ max.