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June 24-26, 2005

Matt attaches roof fascias

It has been almost a month since we last journeyed up to our mountain top for a back-breaking weekend of hard physical labor.  We were delayed not only by the boys' need to finish school, but by yet another rainstorm in the middle of June.  (Every local we have talked to says that the rain is usually done for the year by the end of May, but this is an unusual year.)

With the main crane work and heavy lifting finished, we are moving away from the huge "house building parties" to smaller work groups -- usually, our immediate family, plus one or two others.  On Friday, June 24, Russell as usual took a day off of work and we arrived at the building site at about mid-day.  Russell's friend Steve joined us a few hours later.

Our agenda this weekend would involve three overall tasks:

  1. Complete the installation of the roof lag screws
  2. Install the second-story floor fascias
  3. Install the roof fascias

With the weather getting warmer, one of the reasons that we wanted to arrive by mid-day on Friday was so that we would have the cooler times of Friday evening and Saturday morning to be more productive.


Roof lag screws

Steve on the roof with the impact wrench

When we last left the roof, it was unfinished.  We did not discover until we were onsite... on the roof... and with the crane... that Topsider had not sent enough 11" lag screws.  We secured the roof panels as best we could, knowing that we would need to come back and finish the job.

Now, equipped with two more boxes of lag screws that Topsider had shipped to our Bay Area home, we put up the ladder and climbed back onto the roof, securely tethered by belts and straps to the roof beams.

Steve and Russell did the bulk of the roof work.  Actually, Steve did the bulk of the roof work, while Russell spotted him to make sure that he didn't do anything foolish like fall off.  Russell is a firm believer that the best-qualified person should do the job; and Steve was already experienced, having done this task the last time.  (Russell is also a firm believer that the less he has to be doing precarious work on the roof, the better.)

We did manage to get Joss, Cameron, and even Gail up on the roof as well, if only for a look around (which they had not done last time.)  The panoramic view from the top is spectacular, and we are already discussing whether it would be possible to build a permanent crow's nest at the center apex of the roof.

Joss peeks down from the roof access hole
Cameron on the roof

The small glitch of the day was our discovery -- on site -- that Topsider had not shipped a full contingent of 11" lag screws.  When we opened the boxes, we discovered that half of them were 9" lags, which were completely useless to us.  Fortunately, there were enough 11" lags to finish the job.  Steve was finished before dinner, and even had time to re-set some of the panels to make them more flat against each other.


Second-story floor fascias

Steve prepares a second-story floor fascia

With the evening still very young, Steve and Russell decided to start on the second task: the second floor fascias.

The heavy second-story floor panels had, of course, already been set with the crane back in mid-April.  However, those panels are composed to 6-inch thick interior wood.  In order to protect the house from the elements over time, 2 x 6" treated boards need to be placed around the exterior of the second floor, like a gigantic rubber band around the perimeter of the second story.

The fascias were actually supposed to have been set before the floor boards back in mid-April, but we had run into a glitch.  When we had pulled them out of the wood pile on site, we had discovered that:

  1. They were compound mitered (angled in two directions instead of one direction), and
  2. They were several feet too long

Gail was concerned that we might be using the wrong piece and was reluctant to have them cut.  So we placed the floor panels without the fascias, expecting to come back to them when the situation was resolved.

It ended up taking Gail many, many emails and phone calls to Topsider over several weeks to find out what had happened.  Topsider had shipped the wrong pieces.  Instead of sending us 6" floor fascias, they had sent us 6" roof fascias (in addition to the correct 8" roof fascias that they had also sent us).  In other words, they had accidentally sent two sets of roof fascias.

Topsider actually offered to drop ship us the correct pieces from a local lumber yard, but they were concerned because Carolina lumber is exterior-treated differently than California lumber (California lumber is injected instead of soaked, which leaves it full of unattractive little holes).  We decided to use what we had and simply re-cut the boards.

So on Friday evening, Steve and Russell set about measuring and re-cutting the second story fascia boards.  We had actually brought up Gail's large table saw.  That lasted for exactly one cut, after which we discovered that it was foolhardy to try to move a 16-foot piece of heavy lumber across a small table.  Instead, we ended up using the regular circular skill saw with its miter plate.

By the time we called it a day on Friday, Steve and Russell had cut all eight second-floor fascias.  As a warning for the remaining work ahead, we discovered that after months of sitting in the rain (even under black tarp), some of the wood had warped dramatically.  It would take a bigger effort to muscle them into place.

Warped fascia boards


Roof fascias

The second-story floor fascias were just a warm-up act for the biggest job of the weekend: the roof fascias.

Like the second floor, the roof would need to be surrounded by a ring of fascias for long-term protection from the elements.  Unlike the second floor, the roof fascias would be much wider (8" instead of 6"), much longer, and much heavier.  Unlike the second floor, there would be no place to stand.  The roof fascias would have to be hung by leaning over from the roof itself, and from a greatly inclined angle.

This was the task before us as we began our work on Saturday morning, June 25.  Fortunately, the weather was great for doing work -- clear and sunny, but not too hot.  Even more fortunately, we were joined this morning by Russell's brother-in-law Matt, who had come up for the day (with his son Blake).

Matt was impressed by the amount of work that we had accomplished so far.  Unlike the rest of us, he was full of energy, and ready to go.  So naturally, he was volunteered for roof duty.  His first job was to attach each of the outer roof panel sections to its neighbor with a nailing strap "band aid" for added rigidity.  This provided ample practice in the art of hammering nails while leaning over the edge of an inclined roof.

Then, using the circular saw and some mathematics, we computed how each of the roof fascias would need to be cut in order to achieve the compound miter necessary for them to butt up against each other.

Russell, Gail, and sometimes Cameron took ground crew duties.  Matt and Steve put on the safety harnesses and took roof duty.  Matt's job was to lean over the edge of the roof and do all of the nailing.  Steve's job was to sit on the roof and hold Matt's harness strap in order to keep him from falling over the edge.

Steve and Matt on the roof; Gail spots from below
Steve holds Matt's "leash"

For the first fascia, we tried lifting it into place using hoists.  That proved so difficult that we ended up bring the rest up through the roof access hole, then lowering them into place instead.

Using a pair of ropes, a roof fascia is lowered over the edge and into place (Steve holds the rope in one hand and Matt's safety strap in the other hand)

Throughout the day, Matt performed an amazing act of physical, exhausting, and difficult work.  He had to rest in between hammering every single nail.  During the down times, the ground crew continued to prep roof fascias as well as finish the second-story floor fascias.

While Matt rests, Steve and Russell prepare the next roof fascia
Cameron presets nails
Cameron and Gail affix a second-story floor fascia

As a further protection against the elements, every fascia needed to be affixed with a vapor barrier on the side facing the interior floor/roof panels.  Topsider's manual suggested black plastic nailed to the fascias.  However, several people recommended a newer bitumen-based material that comes in rolls with adhesive on one side.  Topsider fully supported that as an alternative.

(Russell immediately nicknamed this the "gooey stuff."  Gail recounted a funny story that she had heard at the hardware store.  Some woman had bought too many rolls, and drove back to the hardware store to return the extra roll.  During the time that it took her to drive to the store, the roll had melted and adhered itself to the bed of her pick-up truck.  Two strong men with pry bars couldn't remove it; for all we know, she's still driving around with it in the back of her truck.  The lesson for us: don't buy it until right before we're going to use it.)

Russell with the "gooey stuff"

The fascias took all day.  Because Matt had a hard stop at 8:00 Saturday evening (he would have to drive the three-hour trip home that night), he began to affix the fascias just on the ends.  Russell tried his hand at hammering some of the nails, and only succeeded in bending four nails in a row.  The remainder will have to wait for the next time that Matt journeys up to the mountain top (and the roof top).

After having worked literally from sun-up to sundown, we sad farewell to Matt and turned in for the night.

(Gail's cooking throughout this trip has, as usual, been amazing and delicious.  Tonight, she and Cameron invented their own snack chip out of leftover tortillas and herbs.  We call them "Nebbs," for "never ever before been seen.")

The next morning, Sunday June 26, Steve and Russell were up again shortly after dawn to complete the installation of the second-floor fascias.  As we expected, we had to muscle a lot of the warped wood into place.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), these fascias were to be secured with heavy iron fasteners in addition to the 16d nails.

(In fact, after six of these fasteners had been put in place with the impact wrench, Russell suddenly inquired why we were putting iron -- which is susceptible to rust -- on the exterior of the house.  At that point, we decided to quit work.  We had run out of bitumen before we could put a vapor barrier on the last fascia.  And once again, Topsider had not provided enough lag screws (we needed 32; they had provided 25).

Steve and Russell fasten the end of a fascia with an iron fastener

It still took several hours to pack up before we could leave on Sunday.  Out of the three tasks, only one had been completed: the remaining roof lag screws were all in place.  The second-story floor fascias would require more bitumen.  The roof fascias would require more nailing.

We are due to return here for more work in less than a week.  Russell especially is getting worn out from working all week at his regular job, coming up here to do construction work for the entire weekend, then going back and working for another week at his regular job.  But the opportunity of the extended July Fourth weekend is too good an opportunity to pass up.  And there is still a lot of work left to do.

Up until now, we have been used to the steady and visually rewarding progress of seeing posts, floors, and the roof being installed.  This time however, as Steve observed,  "We did all of this hard work... and we don't have a thing to show for it."

The current state: looking pretty much the same (unless you look really, really closely)


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