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May 29, 2005
Roof Day 2: Shutting out the sky

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The last of the 40 roof panels -- a triangular "pie wedge" at the center of the roof -- is craned into place

Saturday night, May 28, was much colder than the previous night.  As a result, neither Gail nor Russell got a good night's sleep, and we were tired before the day had even begun.  Nevertheless, we dragged ourselves out of the tent on a cold Sunday morning.  Russell had to be ready for Frank to return at 8:00 am.  Gail had to drive a half-hour into town to search for a new 12" drill bit.

Frank showed up right on time, but Gail didn't return until almost 10:00 that morning.  (It's hard enough finding a specialty 12" drill bit in a small town.  It's even harder on the Sunday of a holiday weekend.)  In the meantime, we did what we could using the impact wrench (and being very careful not to burn it out.)

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On the ground, Debbie, Steve B, Gayle, and Charlie prep a roof panel for being lifted

As usual, we had to deviate from Topsider's instructions and improvise as we went along.  Topsider had pre-drilled holes into the roof panels, so that twelve-inch lag screws could be inserted through the panels into the roof beams.  Unfortunately, because the panels barely overlapped the beams, the pre-drilled holes caused the lag screws to completely miss the beam underneath.  As a result, we had to re-drill almost every hole in every panel.

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The roof panels barely straddle the beams.
As a result, Topsider's pre-drilled holes cause the lag screws to completely miss.
We have had to re-drill almost every hole.

With extra drill bits, drills, and ladders, we settled into a very efficient process.  Matt and Steve S took most of the roof duty, supported by Russell and Virgil, who spotted, moved bracer boards and ladders, and prepped each next location.  Everyone else worked on the ground, flipping each roof panel over (for some reason Topsider had shipped every single one upside down -- we have no earthly idea why), re-drilling the lag screw holes, and securing crane straps.  Once lifted into place, Matt and Steve would balance each panel on the beams, then use the impact wrench to secure the lag screws.  Before the morning was finished, we had completed the second and third rings, and were about to start on the fourth.

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Completing the second and third rings

It was at this point that Steve B walked over to Russell and asked a perfectly innocent, logical question: "Do we have any more lag screws?"

Russell was absolutely dumbfounded.  It had never occurred to us to count the number of twelve-inch lag screws and compare them with the number of holes.  We had simply assumed that Topsider had sent enough.  (We should know better by now.)  We counted.  Topsider had shipped 175 lag screws.  Among the 40 roof panels, there were 352 holes.  Topsider had shipped less than half of the number that we needed.

"Murphy's Law" had struck again, and once more it was time to improvise.  Gail immediately got on the cell phone and started calling every hardware store within an hour's drive.  (Cell phone reception is extremely unreliable up on the mountain.  Gail discovered that she got the most reliable reception if Gayle stood next to her with her arms outstretched.)  No one had any twelve-inch lag screws, let alone several hundred of them.

We brainstormed our other options.

Should we use the ten-inch lag screws?  (Topsider had sent them out for the floor panels, but we had already secured the floor with spikes.)  Not a good idea.  They were not long enough.  Not only would they not pass inspection, but they would put the roof at risk in a heavy wind.

Should we use the eleven-inch spikes?  Not a good idea.  At a point in the future when we got additional lag screws, the spikes would be impossible to remove.

Russell actually entertained the idea of stopping, but luckily he was talked out of it by everyone else there.  Instead, we decided to use the few remaining twelve-inch lag screws sparingly.  We had enough to put two into each of the roof panels of the fourth ring.  That left the innermost ring, composed of triangular "pie wedge" shaped panels.  These would be secured temporarily with multiple ten-inch lag-screws .  When we got additional twelve-inch lag screws, we would have to go back up on the roof and complete/replace them.

With a reasonable plan and an incredible amount of teamwork, the fourth ring was completed in the early afternoon.

(It was very lucky that Steve B had noticed the lack of lag screws early enough for us to do something about it, and Russell thanked him profusely.  Later, Steve B saved the day in an even more significant way, when he noticed a bag of trash in the gazebo that was smoking.  If he hadn't pulled it out, the gazebo -- and possibly the entire mountain top -- might have gone up in flames.)

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The fourth ring is complete!

The day was not "all work and no play."  Before we completed the innermost ring (and closed off the roof), we needed to stuff the top cap with insulation.  Gail excitedly volunteered to go up in the crane basket.  Despite her intense fear of edges, she explained, "When else will I ever get a chance to do this?"  Gail was so excited that she even dragged Cameron and Joss up in the basket with her.

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Gail, Cameron, and Joss go for a ride in the crane basket.
The view from the top.

With the center cap now filled with insulation, it was time to install the last eight roof panels -- the triangular "pie wedges."  These needed special attention.  How do you attach crane straps to a triangle?  In fact, how can you even remove the straps once the triangle has been set upon the roof beams?

Frank, ever resourceful, already had the answer.  We would drill a hole through each panel and insert an eyebolt.  The eyebolt would be reinforced with a 2x4 board on the underside of the panel.  After the panel was craned into place, the eyebolt would be removed and the hole filled in with spray insulation.

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The last roof panels -- the eight triangular "pie wedges" -- were lifted using a eyehook.
Afterwards, the holes were filled in with insulation.

The triangles presented a challenge for Matt and Steve S as well, up on top.  As we moved towards the center of the roof, the working space kept getting higher and higher.  Matt and Steve S were now using harnesses, but as the roof closed off, they were running out of exposed beams to attach their safety lines to.  Near the end, they had to strap the safety line to a beam, allow the roof panel to cover that beam, then lift the roof panel to remove the safety line.

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The ground crew prepares a pie wedge for craning.
Matt and Steve S -- with safety harnesses -- set the pie wedge in place on the roof. 
(Although they had never met before, Matt and Steve hit it off immediately and worked fantastically together as a team.)

As the last eight triangular panels were moved into place and secured, Russell had the feeling of the sky slowly being closed off.  We decided to leave the last panel half-installed, so that we would continue to have access to the roof (for installing the last lag screws, laying the second floor wiring, and ultimately weather-proofing the roof with sheet metal).

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Shutting out the sky

Abruptly, we were finished.  It was now 4:00 in the afternoon.  Not only had we installed all 40 roof panels, we had finished with time to spare.  As a sad reminder of this milestone, it was time to say "goodbye" to Frank and his crane.  From this point on, the remaining building materials -- walls, corner pieces, etc. -- will all be moved by manual grunt labor.  We hope to see Frank again when we have a gigantic housewarming party some time in the future.

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A fond farewell to Frank Gilbeau, crane man extraordinaire

As usual, Matt took responsibility for the last task of the day.  Several months ago, we had noticed that one of the 60-foot trees next to the building site had died.  At first we thought that one of the roots had been cut accidentally during the installation of the septic system.  Dennis the Building Inspector told us that it was caused by a tree-eating beetle, and that we should remove the tree before the beetles migrated and killed another one.

Matt had experience felling trees, having spent a lot of time growing up in the woods in Michigan.  So Gail handed him an 18" chain saw, and he went to work.  In no time at all he felled the tree exactly where Gail wanted it, to shouts of "Timber!" from all of the watching kids.

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Matt attacks the tree with a chain saw.
The kids "climb" the tree.

As the day came to an end, Russell also took advantage of Steve S and his comealong one last time, to repair the zip line.  Joss, Blake, and Alison were very pleased about that.  (Cameron has decided that he is now too tall and too heavy to use the zip line any more.)

One by one, the families packed up and left.  Even Gail, Cameron, and Joss left that evening, so that Cameron could finish up an immense amount of holiday homework (and so that Gail could take a hot shower.)

In the end, only Russell and Steve S remained up on the mountain.  They enjoyed a dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as they watched yet another spectacular sunset.  Steve, who always seems to be in a good mood, was already looking forward to our next work party.

With the end of May, we believe that the rains are finally gone.  If anything, our concern now is that the days will get too hot to get a lot of work done.  But the Summer is almost upon us, and the boys will be out of school in just a couple of weeks.  We plan to return here every couple of weeks throughout the Summer, and we look forward to watching our house continue to grow.

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The impossible achieved (again): the completed roof


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