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Sunday, April 17, 2005
Skeleton Day 2: The Floor Above Our Heads

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The task ahead: put these floor panels up on the second story

The second day of our house-raising party began early and promptly again at 9:00 am.

This morning saw the departure of Debbie and her family.  On the other hand, we also welcomed several new helpers.  Gail's mother Patricia and her husband Gordon had arrived yesterday afternoon.  Also, our daughter Dawn, son-in-law David, and grandchildren Keegan and Finn paid us a surprise visit by coming up for the day.

Today's task was to install the second story floor panels.  These would give us some place to stand when it came time to assemble the second-story and roof skeletons.  Unfortunately, neither Topsider's manuals nor their blueprints provided any clear instructions on exactly how we were supposed to install these.

(It could be argued that we were working from ignorance.  Not being experienced contractors, we were generally "feeling" our way around the blueprints anyway.  On the other hand, the numerous -- and contradictory -- manuals that Topsider had provided were less than helpful.  One manual was for a one-story house, and of course did not include instructions for a second-story floor.  Another manual was for a two-story house, but the section on "second story floor panels" was conspicuously missing.  In fact, Topsider once told Gail that we were catching things that experienced contractors normally missed.)

There were only two things that we knew for sure.

One, the floor panels fit together like gigantic pie wedges.  For each of the eight sides, there was a set of four concentric pieces: a triangle in the center, then progressively-larger trapezoids as you moved towards the outside.

Second, each of these things weighed a ton.  Four strong men could kinda-sorta lift one.  So we would be using the crane again. Other than that, we had no clear idea on how to proceed.

After many long debates among the more vocal members of the crew (Russell and Matt), we decided to work our way backwards.  We knew that the outermost panels had to rest on top of triple purlins -- beams that connected the glu-lam "spokes" like an "outer rim" on the "wheel."  We also knew that the triple purlins lined up with second-floor fascias -- external beams that would shield the floor panels from the outside forces of Mother Nature.

Fortunately, Topsider had marked exactly where the fascias sit on the glu-lam beams with small pencil lines.  If we know where the fascias go, then we would know where the triple purlins go.  If we know where the triple purlins go, then we would know where the outermost floor panels go.  And in sequence, we could lay each of the interior floor panels.

Step one would be to hang the triple purlins, because they would need to sit underneath the floor panels.  Actually, step one would be to find the triple purlins among the many piles of wood and pieces strewn all over the building site.  By a process of elimination, we identified what we thought were the triple purlins. Unfortunately, they were: 

  1. Only mitered on one end 
  2. Double-mitered on the end where they were mitered (the triple purlins should only have been single-mitered) 
  3. Several feet too long

We went over the inventory several times, concluding that these must be the correct pieces (because they couldn't be anything else).  Still, Gail was extremely uncomfortable with cutting what could potentially be the wrong pieces.

The obvious solution was to break for lunch.  (Yes, it took that long to get this far!)  After lunch Gail relented, and we began the tasks of measuring, sawing, hanging, and nailing the eight triple purlins in place.

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Sawing (Charlie) and hanging (Matt and David) a triple purlin

The cross-generational work team created an interesting dynamic.  One-year-old Finn and three-year-old Keegan spent most of their day playing in the dirt and eating.  We "grown up" men were put to shame by 82-year-old Gordon, who spent most of the afternoon atop a ten-foot ladder hammering nails (before he retired, Gordon had been a career firefighter).

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Finn (one year old) and Keegan (three years old).
82-year old Gordon fastens a triple purlin hanger, with support from Gayle and Pat.

With the triple purlins now in place, we began the methodical work of installing the floor panels (we had decided to save the fascias for a later time, as they could be installed without the crane).  With a work team mainly consisting of Charlie, Matt, Russell, Frank (on crane), and a bunch of ladders, we made excellent progress.  After Charlie and Gayle said their goodbyes and departed, Cameron and Joss helped Frank with the crane straps.

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Joss and Cameron fasten crane straps to one of the trapezoid-shaped floor panels

Gail had the most distressing time.  Each floor panel was supposedly pre-stuffed with insulation and sealed by Topsider.  But every time Frank's crane lifted a panel, water came pouring out -- the accumulation of months of rain.  Gail determined that every single one of the 32 panels will need to have the insulation replaced and the wood bleached to counteract mold.  Another speaking point for her Monday call with Topsider.

By dinnertime we had the entire second floor in place.  (The center pieces are still just tacked in, as we will need to remove them later when we replace the center column bolts.)  We gave Frank the evening off so that he could actually spend some time with his family.  (But first, he joined us for a delicious dinner of home-made pizza, cooked on a camping grill!)

With the end of the weekend, we also said goodbye to Joanne and her children, mom and Gordon, and Dawn and her family.  Tomorrow our work crew will be reduced mainly to Gail, Russell, Matt, and Frank.  But we're ready, willing, and not completely exhausted… yet.

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Matt, Cameron, and Joss with a ceiling above their heads (or is that a floor?)


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