Cottage In The Woods – Build – Day 19 Report

You might immediately notice a few little differences here, but there’s a lot of details hiding in there. I assure you I did more than cut 2 sheets of plywood and tack them in place. Read on for more…

Like every Sunday for the last two months, I woke up, sent an email out to the Gecko Print Publishing list with free ebooks, and drank some coffee.

Today started with one overbearing question in mind. Do I tack up the roof paper (this goes under the tin), or do I wait? The stakes? We have some more rain coming, and if the paper soaks, then it will probably not be good. It’s designed to keep some moisture from getting in, not to weather a storm alone.

I decided against it after checking the forecast, got my crap together, and hit the road. I also did some promo work for my free kindle e-book give-a-way that just started. Author page here for more details.

I went ahead with my regular plan for today. The devil in the details. Just as a book needs editing, my little first-draft of a housing project had a couple of plot holes to fill in. Namely, the gaping triangular holes at the front and back, and the underside of the vents, where I’ll eventually hang some soffits.

Start With the Easy Stuff

If you’ve been following this project for any amount of time, you’ve seen that little yellow wagon in some of my pictures. Today it got some use. On arrival, I gathered up all of the little triangular pieces cut from the roof timbers and loaded them up. I measured one very carefully, did a test-cut, checked it for fit, and built a little jig onto my miter saw to trim the rest of them.

Because these were cut specifically for the sloped rafters to sit on, the angle was already there. And thanks to the way I designed this, they made perfect little leveling pieces for my soffit framing. Excuse the chopped image, it was a quick snapshot from the ladder after installing the first piece.

They drop down just enough that anything attached to them will seal up against the side of the house, which is what I want. No big gap to fill in later that way. I plan on using 2x2s for the soffit attachment. These little guys will make installing them a snap.

It was no huge chore to put these up, but it did eat up some time. Thus, little detail stuff that makes for extra work.

Moving to a bigger chore.

With my triangle pieces done, I turned my attention on putting some studs in the end trusses. This could have been done (probably better) while I was building the trusses, but I knew it would add some weight, so I waited.

Putting them in was a simple enough task: Do the hard stuff on the ground after measuring and cutting, like getting all of the screws started so I wouldn’t need to mess with them on the ladder top.

Once they were ready, I tapped them into place gently with a small hammer, what an ordinary person would consider a “regular” hammer (as opposed to the sledge and the framing hammer that I’ve been using for most of the work). Then hit the screws with the cordless drill, and BAM:

Framing is ready to go.

I didn’t get the measurements exactly right, and I used some other leftovers for the really short pieces, so they’re way off from the 2-foot on-center I was aiming for, but close enough. Piss on it. I can always locate them with a stud finder if needed. They’re mainly there for nailing up siding pieces, as nails will work their way out of plywood and OSB.

Then lunch, then hell.

Planking the ends

OSB is heavy stuff, I forgot to buy a longer ladder, and in short, this whole procedure wasn’t thought out really well ahead of time. Oh well. I had to improvise a few things but I can claim I did it on purpose later when people ask. Extra air-gap, or some other clever “yeah, that was totally brilliant on my part, not an accident at all.”

What happened? I assumed that I could cut two triangles from one 4×8 sheet and be fine. Problem? They came up about four inches short for doing this, because the pitch on the roof was upped from a 1-in-4 to a 1-in-3, or in laymen’s terms, I made the peak a bit taller than my original sketches.

No worries. I did some measuring. 43 inches at the peak, and 9 at the ends to go from the walls all the way to the top. I fiddled with the numbers, and realized that 41 and 7, respectively, would give me the same angle of cut, and it would divide the OSB sheets exactly in half. So that’s what I did. The top planking is 6 inches wide, so there’s plenty to secure them to, even if they are a little short. You can see the clever gaping in the top photo.

Now, How the Hell to Actually Get Them Up There?

Half a sheet is lighter than a whole sheet, but these guys are still heavy, and the ledge they would be resting on was 1/2 an inch thick, the previous OSB sheets covering the walls. I’m not going to pretend that I was being completely safe. The front wall wasn’t too bad. I turned the sheets on end with the heavy part at the top, and took two steps up the ladder.

There was much wiggling, little breezes, and some vulgar swearing followed almost immediately by praises and thanks to the gods that I didn’t drop the thing. The ledge worked fine, and I had pre-set a couple of screws so that I could use my spare hand to keep it against the framing. It worked! Okay, three more to go.

The subsequent pieces had all of the securing screws installed ahead of time, making them a tad more annoying to lift because of things sticking out them threatening to cut me, or worse, knock my drill off of it’s precarious perch on the ladder. Number two went up without much fuss. Number three left me again swearing, this time that I would need to drive the last few screws from the roof-top because I couldn’t reach them. But okay, get number four up, make a trip on the roof, no problem, right?

Well, number 4 could’ve probably injured me pretty bad, and believe me it tried. As clever as I am, I often invite Murphy over to scan all of my projects carefully, and he showed up. Again, lifting a heavy sheet of OSB overhead from a tiny aluminum ladder isn’t something I recommend doing.

My first attempt caught me off guard. Once it was perched on its tiny ledge, the top tipped, and I couldn’t hold it. I quickly tried my best to guide that sheet of screw-heads over my head and away from both the ladder and myself. The board hit the ground, and surprisingly, survived the fall. Good thing for all the recent rain, the soft ground cushioned the impact.

I couldn’t help thinking that those screws were going to rip a chunk of skin out no matter what I did to prevent it. I could tell they were thirsty for blood, but there exists only one way to keep fighting after taking a hit, and that’s to get back up and start throwing punches again.

I grabbed the sheet and levered it up again. In place, got it. Now the drill, and this is where Murphy found a weak point. The screw didn’t engage the framing, and instead of pulling the sheet tight to the wall, it pushed it away. I put the drill down, knowing failure was only seconds away.

I managed to stop the fall this time, but the sheet was pinned between myself and the wall with no easy way up or down. More swearing, more sweating, more worry that one of those screw heads would soon become a piece of my anatomy.

By some miracle, that didn’t happen. Fortune seems to have taken me for a pet, and after a very long span of minutes inching my fingers around to secure my hold as spiny screw tips tore at a few spots of house paper, I managed the thing down.

I stomped around for a moment gathering my thoughts, and then proceeded back to the front of the house where the floor sits a little closer to the ground. I pushed that sheet of OSB onto the roof as I’d done with the roof sheathing, climbed up top, and positioned it to drop into place from above.

I should have started with that strategy. Being above it, even on a sloped roof, was 100 times easier than lifting it over my head. I lowered it carefully to it’s ledge, slid it into place, and was able to brace it solidly with my left hand cupped around the top corner.

The screws went in, then the top screws from the other sheet, and then back below to finish off number 4 from the ground (where there were screws I couldn’t reach from the roof).

I spent the rest of the day putting up a few hurricane ties and re-bracing the truss framing. Basically cleaning up the mess I created to keep them vertical before the roof sheathing went on. I pulled some of my wall braces down as well. Don’t really need them now that the box is closed.

That’s the thing about a roof. It’s the end of the first draft. It ties everything together to make a complete structure that can stand on its own, even if it’s a LONG way from being finished. I didn’t even finish the hurricane ties, which are little metal brackets that add some security to the spot where the truss meets the wall.

From the outside it’s looking better, and people have started asking me when I’ll move in. But no story is ever finished after the first draft, and this is far from livable for the winter:


I started to feel a little down when I took this picture. I was tired, I didn’t want to finish those ties, and I didn’t. I saw all the work that needed to still be done, and that my floor has been slightly damaged with the sudden spur of wet weather.

It was time for a smoke break. I told myself that I would walk around and spend the rest of my time loading the truck and looking over my work, appreciating my work.

When I came back inside, I paced around the tiny space again. This is my project. It’s my house, my hobbit-hole, my shelter from the elements. As I gazed, I stood in awe of the sheer amount of lumber that’s gone into it, and each stick was put into place by me. My blood is in the woodwork, and I can even point out a couple smears of it that are still visible in the walls. The total weight at this point is well over a ton, likely pushing two or three. Under that floor, there are more, larger, beams cutting across, and more below that. They sit on little concrete feet which fill holes I dug with nothing more than a shovel.

I tell writers that it’s normal to look on a first draft after finishing and wonder where the hell you went wrong, or why you even bothered to start in the first place. It’s normal. You put in tons of work, and realize that you’re no closer to the end. I originally estimated to be at this point in the build by day 14 at the latest, and that was with the roof finished.

Despite all that, the more I looked around, taking a lot of long breaths, the more I looked upon my project with pride. This is my home that I’m building, and it only has to be enough for me. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t need to impress anyone. It doesn’t even need to house guests, as they would be crashing on a cot under my writing desk anyway.

Just the idea that I cut, placed, and lifted each and every one of those hundreds of pieces of wood seems like a huge accomplishment. Little triangle pieces took much of the morning to put up, and by comparison those are nothing but trim. The door actually closes and seals shut with ease, which is more than I can say for the front door at my mom’s house.

So, a couple windows, a few days itching from insulation, and a really hard day of dragging some tin onto the roof, and she’ll be ready for the next evolution, the finishing. Think I’m good with that.

Editing is always tedious busy-work to the young novelist, but becomes enriching and fun to the experienced writer. It’s the shaping of a story from the rough out. I’m trying not to look at the interior as boring and tedious, and see it for the challenging journey it is, in finding little secret spaces to maximize every extra inch of space that I can. Once the roof is all sealed up, the real building can begin.

And when I checked the weather a little while ago, it would appear that Fortune has granted me another little break. If it holds, I’ll be pulling up tin on Tuesday.

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Author: spottedgeckgo

Writer. Making my living on my pen, and working to turn a raw chunk of land into a future homestead.

One thought

  1. You are having way too much fun for one guy. I wish I was there to help, I have done quite a few tin roofs. No, I have never seen a cat on a…

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