Owing to the fact that I’m as worn down as my lumber pencil, there’s nothing else at the moment that will inspire me to get some words in, so I’ll tell you about day 10 on the house build. It was a long one.
The lumber has been sitting out there since before the weekend, covered in house-wrap and ready to rock and roll. I’ve been working the day-job.
I posted the above picture on social media with the caption “walls delivered, some assembly required,” thinking that the phrase seemed rather cute. Nearest in the photograph are the long railing lumbers that will hold the wall studs. I decided to build two 16-foot sections and four 12-foot sections, so that if needed, I can raise them myself.
The great morning with a horrible mistake
I woke early. I needed to send out my Gecko Print email with links to freebie Kindle deals to my subscribers for that project. Yes, both of them. Once I did that, I loaded everything I needed into the truck and rolled out for gas. At least, I thought I had everything I needed.
I stopped off at the general store near the property to have a little breakfast sandwich and scribble my journal entry for today. I was so excited to get out in the cool weather and work, and more-so because a friend was coming to help out.
While waiting at the gate, I realized that I’d made a critical error. Over the weekend I brought the batteries for my cordless drill inside to charge. They were still at the apartment, forty miles away. My friend Rick showed up with a power drill, so we decided to just get started.
I learned a neat little trick in the last couple months. By installing some or all of the wall sheathing on the ground before tilting up the wall, you can get it really square, and it will hold its shape well. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first thing we did was snap chalk lines. We spend a good twenty to thirty minutes moving about the pad to lay out the inside wall corners exactly, down to the smallest measurable amount. Since my floor isn’t 100% straight (and even if it were), this is one way to “bump” things a little to bring it back into square.
Square: When carpenters use this term, they are referring to true 90 degree angles and straight sides. In order to ensure any box being “square,” it’s necessary to verify that not only are opposite sides the exact same length, but that the measurements of opposite corners match. This makes a truer rectangle and less of a parallelogram, which happens easier than you might think.
After that we did some sawing. A LOT of sawing. I didn’t waste time with the circular. I busted out my little chop saw for this one. We first cut the two long pieces to exactly sixteen feet, and then several “studs” so that combined with all the upper and lower framing, the finished walls would be eight feet tall. I do this because it’s convenient to hang plywood and sheet rock with less cutting.
Once we had it all laid out and screwed together (which is a little more involved when you get into headers, jack studs, and crupples, but nothing you can’t figure out with a quick Google search), we tacked a piece of sheathing in place and went about the same process of measuring the wall that we did with the floor. We got it square, which was a bit of a pain on this one, but we got it there. Once squared up, we finished installing the sheathing with screws.
Plywood sheathing (and other kinds like the OSB in the pictures) holds everything in place. It isn’t just there to fill the space between the studs, it actually serves a structural purpose in helping all the individual members keep their shape. Doing this on the ground meant less fiddling once the wall was raised. It’s also what the windows will attach directly to later.
You might also notice in the above picture that there’s a little overhang. This is the top of my wall, and there will be another 2×4 laid on there. That second layer serves a handful of purposes, but the primary reason is stiffening the top of the wall to act as a 4×4 rather than a 2×4. It’s also typically lapped, or partially laid over the next wall piece, to add a little more shape-holding to the walls at the top.
Raising a Wall
This guy was a little heavy, not even gonna lie. I think I could have tilted it up without Rick there, but I’m not going to try proving that theory. If I do the back wall by myself, I’m going to limit the amount of sheathing I put on it before the lift.
We tilted it up, and I tacked it in place with long screws into the sub-floor and sub-structure. I also tacked a 2×4 on either end, and tilted that board to also attach it to the side of the frame. These braces will help to keep a strong wind from knocking it on top of us. We then installed some braces from the middle to the floor as well. There’s a lot of bracing going on.
I broke for a break
Rick had to go do some stuff, and I needed my batteries. So we parted for lunch, and I ran back to West Plains to pick up the batteries and a quick bite. When I returned, I cut and fitted the last piece of wall sheathing onto the front wall (we didn’t install it ahead of time because one of my plumbing penetrations would have been in the way), and got started building the next wall segment. Rick came back, and together, we knocked that one out fairly quickly.
We made a couple mistakes along the way, but they were caught and corrected, some of them taking a little longer to solve than others. When something looked off, we stopped and evaluated what the problem could be. I don’t get in a big hurry.
Even if I wanted to get these walls up in two days (yeah, not happening), I still feel like we made some progress, and I was more than happy for the help. After the next wall goes up, all of the window and door stuff will be over with, so thank the gods for that. Much of the time building walls is spent on framing out windows and doors, double checking measurements, cutting the little crupples and other small pieces, etc.
Hopefully, with most of the fiddly bits behind me, the rest will go a little quicker, even without the extra help. (He’ll probably come out again) Here are some pictures of our finished wall-and-a-half. I’ve spend 10 full working days so far on this project. This is where I’m at.
The Ride Back to Town
I’m not going to lie. Ultimately, I’m not as far along today as I would have liked to be, and it’s a bit unsettling. A long drive was good for me. Most of my driving today was spent listening to ebooks, but not that final drive. That was my reflection time.
For over 15 years now, it’s been my dream to live self-sufficiently, or at least as close as reasonably possible while still being connected to people I love. Plan I failed. Plan II failed. I don’t even know what plan I’m on anymore, but I know the limitations of my comforts quite better now than I did when I started. I know more about the reality of self-sufficiency rather than a sketch on paper. I’m still a dunce about a lot of things that I hadn’t even considered in that initial model, filled with its grand schemes of using flashy tech to overcome every possible adversary, and costing about $1 million dollars altogether to boot, just to set it up.
But am I still living in a dream world? Will I go running back to the oilfield to supplement future costs because what I’m doing isn’t cutting it? Or worse, will I eventually scrap the whole project and write it off as a loss? It wouldn’t be the first time such a thing happened in this part of the country. Ask the people that sold me the property about their dreams and aspirations.
Few things are scarier than facing the facts and true worth of one’s creative pursuits. The books aren’t earning any kind of livable income, but writing them is what I like doing, and I still have faith that will a very modest lifestyle, they might one day start paying the bills. I have faith that I can tame this little bit of wilderness and make a home in it. You know? One that I actually live in all the time? Hopefully without getting tick sick again (I have a little plan for them ticks, btw).
The other scary thing is the winter and the water lines. What am I to do? Do I need running water? There are still some details that need to be hashed out, and old man winter is one of them. There’s still a little time to figure out that skirmish this year, so I’ll hold off for the moment.
I’m pretty persistent, so I’ll keep at it. But I do wonder sometimes what my guts are made of, and if there’s enough stuff in there to deliver me to my final destination, whatever that may be.
Hope you enjoyed reading, come back and visit soon.