Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Mind is a Great Editor

The entire frame of the coach house we are building is made up of about 150 southern yellow pine timbers cut, milled and joined on-site. As mentioned in a prior post, Stephanie and I did not have much background or experience with this type of building.

It all started last summer when we were at an outdoor concert with Andrew and Denise, a couple that is very near and dear to us. Andrew is an architect and got me going on the whole idea of using timbers. I had the great idea of using them in selected places or as more as a trim detail to give the look of a timbered structure. Following the old adage of "form follows function" that was popularized by Louis Sullivan, Andrew thought the whole structure needed to be timbers.

Along comes Daryl, he is our camp director, engineer friend who has all of the timber framing experience in the group. He was really into the idea since him and his dad attended a week-long timber framing course in the northeast. Daryl figured it would take about 4 to 6 weeks to do all the jointery. I was on board given that we have made multiple pieces of Craftsman furniture with lots of complex mortise and tennons. As you can see by the picture of Stephanie laying out some joints during our first weekend of timber work, it was warm outside. It was late summer.

It never seemed to end! Late summer turned into early fall, early fall turned into late fall, late fall turned into early winter and early winter turned into late winter ..... and we were done.

The final timbers were complete in early February, the weekend before the frame raising.

The final jointery was done as we assembled the bents on the second story deck.

Stephanie and I previously decided that we were going to stick frame the main house when it goes up but it is interesting ... 6 weeks after the frame raising we are in love with the timber frame and are actually talking about timber framing the main house. I guess time and the mind are the best editors.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

OSHA Approved Building Site

The roof is going on .... slowly. About a decade ago Stephanie and I put a roof on our Cape Cod in Madison WI. It was a much steeper roof pitch but we were using shingles. That seemed difficult at the time, but they provided better traction.

The whole safety profile changes when you are using tin and obscene depths on the gable ends, especially when it starts to rain. Half the porch is completed and the remainder of the tin is stacked on the roof.

We took the roof bracket and gable end depths from our 1909 Stickley house plans. The gables are 42 in deep and the rafters will extend about 32 in. This creates some difficulty in hanging out over the side of the house about 20 feet off the ground getting the rafters in place. While placing one rafter on the gable another would fall. Two rafters fell and both broke in half.

With the help of Jacob and Joshua we should be done by spring.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Catching up: Frame Raising

Feb 11th, 2006 40 degrees and rainy ... what a perfect day for a traditional frame raising. It was sunny for the week before and late the night before it started raining and raining. Not the heavy stuff but more of the continuous mist. Bone chilling.

We sent out and evite to all of our family and friends. Over 100 people RSVPd. I guess this was an odd enough of an event that people wanted to see it. Two musical groups were there (Celtic violin and bluegrass). It was like planning for a wedding without the bride and groom.

About 35 people ended up showing up for Saturday. It was most of the people who were there to work and not to watch. Our minimum we thought we needed was 25 or so.

After some confusion as far as what to do first (Side note: the morning of the raising I realized that I had never even been inside a real timber frame structure). We had read all of the main books on the topic (about 4 or 5) multiple times and our good friend Daryl, who attended a week long seminar on timber framing was there.

The first bent went up around 9:30 or 10 am and the other 4 after that. We were able to get the main structure up by the end of the day and about 8 of us placed the purlins.

Scott S. a new friend that I met on the Forestry Forum came by with his tool (JLG Man Lift) which helped with placing the purlins and getting the great camera shots that Jack took. He is preparing a DVD of the event.

Fast forward now 6 weeks and the roof is going on and we are dried in.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Roof Brackets Instead of NCAA Tournament Brackets

Even though it is March and I guess March Madness it is time for another madness ... Roofing Madness. A friend of mine who owns a roofing company offered to help us for a few hours this morning but there was one catch. We needed to have everything ready to go. As of Wednesday of this week we did not have the gable end complete (i.e. roof brackets in place or rafters). That lead to a few late nights with a halogen light stuck on top of the temporary power pole. Nothing like climbing a roof in the dark!

We started placing the roof brackets a few days ago in the dark after work. They are made out of southern yellow pine 4x6's from the building site. They definitely give the place the bungalow look. We need to finish cutting in the window openings.

The roof is going on today. Stephanie and I have a few friends that are going to come over to help. It is the first metal roof that we have ever installed. It should be fun.

Ahhh the life of the owner-builder. Time to finish the coffee so I can make it out to the land early this morning.


P.S. Here are some other recent pictures.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Building my own house using timbers from the land seemed like a good idea at the time!

Here is a note I received on regarding my signature "Building my own house using timbers from the land seemed like a good idea at the time!" It was part of what planted the seed to start this blog.

Howdy, Joel!

I just read a post you made to a thread about timber framing traditions, namely the traditions practiced once a frame is completed. Although I suspect that there's a bit of humor involved, I was wondering if you'd explain your profile caption: "Building my own house using timbers from the land seemed like a good idea at the time!" Having grown up "on the land," I've always had a yearning to get back to the land someday. When I was a child, the folks from all over our area would congregate and pitch in to build structures of all kinds. The materials for these projects would typically come from the owner's land. Having labored for some of those old craftsman, it was burned into my mind that nearly anything can be accomplished given enough time and the proper resources. Obviously, you acquired at least a similar way of thinking somewhere along the line. It would also seem that you put this theory to the test at some point as well. How did it go? Did you complete your frame? Did you use your own resources or, as I suspect, did you run into the widespread [modern] problem commonly known as "the bureaucracy?" I'd love to read about your venture if you ever get the time to write about it.

Have a great day,

Bill "

The comment of "Building my own house using timbers from the land seemed like a good idea at the time" came during the 3 months of a "4 week" project of cutting the joints for the 150 timbers for our frame this winter. It was all worth it the day after the frame raising. Regarding the use of our own materials ... we have cut all the timbers, flooring, roof decking etc from trees from the property using our Lumbermate sawmill. Thanks for the note Bill!


Catching up: Footings and Blocks

We started to lay out the building in late February last year and mucked around in the mud for several months (it was a rainy time). The footings finally went in with family and friends in late April. The dimensions are 22 x 40 ft.

The first floor is all block wall and will serve as the garage/ workshop. I laid about 1200 blocks during the summer, learning to use both hands for trowel work since I would sprain one wrist and then switch to the other. The joys of being an owner builder.

We are temporarily making one garage bay a family room. The exterior will be traditional cement stucco. On a side note: Our 1920's Oak Park/ Chicago 4 Square was stucco and if never painted it will be virtually maintenance free for decades other than minor repairs.

As it worked out the temporary power also went in on the same day as the footings. It took about 6 months to get the power in. We are 1/4 mile from the street and wanted the power underground. There are about 6 or 7 water crossings to get to the site (streams, springs etc). A deal was worked out with the power company where we were able to dig the trench (3 ft by 18 in) and they would inspect it and place the line in it. Ed M. spent about a week doing the digging.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Metal Roof Arrived Toady

We decided to place a metal roof on the coach house. The frame has been up for over a month now and dried in. The galvalum roof will go on this weekend and was delivered today, which was kind of ironic since it was the first day that is has rainded in a while.

It is the unpainted multi-rib. We got it from Construction Metal Products a few hours west in Statesville. Stu and Mike were helping us and worked through the whole process of picking out what we wanted. Stephanie and I even toured the factory where they form the products when we were on our way to The Grove Park Inn last February on our way to the annual Arts and Crafts Conference.

Catching up: Clearing the Building Site With Ed

We started clearing the building site January of 2005 with the help of Ed M. We spent a few days running a mini excavator (Ed) and our 1941 Farmall (Joel). Ed is 80+ years old and has lived in the area for years (and has all of the local connections). Over the past year or so Ed has become a good family friend and an invaluable source of information. No matter what the tool is, he has it.

The property is covered in ~80 year old southern yellow pines and oaks. With this in mind we settled on building the first building (the coach house) as a timber frame. We are trying to obtain as much of the materials from the land as possible. This of course required the purchase of more tools (more on that later).

Friday, March 17, 2006

The First Posting

We have been working on our property (Boothe Mountain Retreat) for nearly two years since we purchased the property April 2004. The first 10 months or so were spent clearing the building site, getting a sense of what we wanted to build, collecting supplies etc. Permits were pulled January 2005 and we broke ground shortly after that. The footings went in in April 2005 and we started working on the timber jointery in later summer. The timbers were finished January of this year and the frame went up Feb 11th. Since we are now only getting around to documenting the progress we have some catching up to do.

Joel and Stephanie (and Joshua and Jacob)

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