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July 24, 2005
The right tool for the right job

Which lag screw do we use where?

We had known for quite awhile that we would need to build for two weekends in a row in July if we were to stay on schedule.  As the second weekend approached, however, we discovered that Cameron had a couple of church obligations.  Rather than shorten the working weekend, we decided that Gail would stay home with the boys, while Russell would go by himself and be joined by his friend Steve.  This would actually enable Russell to travel one day earlier -- Thursday evening instead of Friday afternoon -- giving us one extra full work day.

By arriving earlier on July 21st, Steve had the first-time pleasure of being alone on top of the mountain in the dark for an hour -- an experience that actually gave him the creeps.  By driving after the evening rush hour, Russell had the first time-pleasure of making the trip at night.  Steve was excited about putting our bedrolls on the upper story floor (he had been sleeping in the back of his truck), as well as planning no-cook meals.  In fact, Steve was so excited about the weekend ahead that Russell had to request him not to start any work on Thursday evening for safety reasons.

Russell had given Steve ample warning about our frustrations and failures with the wall lag screws and triple purlin the previous weekend.  Fortunately, Steve's father-in-law had been a collector of tools, and Steve brought up an entire truck full.  Among these was an old nail puller, a scary thing which (according to Steve) didn't even need a nail head to function.  (This was fortunate, because Gail and Russell had actually stripped a couple of nail heads trying to remove them a week ago.)

On Friday morning at the crack of dawn, Steve and Russell excitedly set about making another attempt to remove the triple purlin.  Needless to say, the nail puller didn't work.  Undaunted, Steve produced yet another old tool -- a nail pry bar.  While it was similar to the pry bars and wrecking bars that Gail and Russell had tried a week earlier, this nail pry bar had extra thin blades, which enabled it to grab the nails where the other bars had been too fat.  Within an hour we had all of the nails out of their hangers.  Using crane straps swung over the glu-lam beams, we lowered the heavy purlin to the ground.  Mission accomplished.  We were off to a fantastic start.

Old-fashioned tools: a nail puller (that didn't work) and a nail pry bar (that did)
Lowering the triple purlin

The next task was the wall panel lag screws.  During the previous week, Gail had taken ownership for sorting out the definitive lag screw situation with Topsider.  She discovered:

  1. The window wall panels should not use the 2" lag screws (which were actually 1.75").  Nor should they use the 4" lag screws (which were actually 4.25").  Instead, they should use 2.5" lag screws -- a size that Russell had never seen or heard of.  While Gail was sure that Topsider had shipped these 2.5" lag screws, she could not remember where she had put them.  To be on the safe side, she purchased a back-up supply at Home Depot.  We actually ended up using these, because Russell was not able to locate the original stock anywhere on site.
  2. The window wall panel lag screws should be counter-sunk after all.  With the new shorter length, this would be possible without going into the concrete foundation at all.
  3. The solid wall panels should not use the 4" lag screws.  Nor should they use the 7" lag screws.  Instead, they should use 5" lag screws -- another size that Russell had never seen or heard of.  In this case, Topsider admitted that they had never sent 5" lag screws -- they had sent 4" screws accidentally instead.  Again, Gail purchased a supply at Home Depot, which we ended up using.

With this definitive information in hand, Russell and Steve set about installing lag screws.  With the correct sizes, the work went rapidly and efficiently.  By lunchtime, we had set six lower story wall panels (panels seven and eight -- the extended bays -- would have to wait for a future date).   We set to work on the lower story corner panels.

Each corner panel required two lag screws on the bottom and two on top.  Once again, Topsider had pre-drilled pilot holes in the wrong places.  And once again, we would need to remove the glued-in insulation blocks in order to access the joists.  In addition, the upper legs of the corner panels posed an additional problem: they were too narrow to fit the impact wrench.  Once again, Steve's tools came to the rescue.  He produced a spinning U-joint attachment, that enabled the impact wrench to operate at an angle from outside the panel.  Russell was duly impressed, and made a note to give Steve a raise.  (Hmm... what's ten percent more than nothing?)

As another sign of the prosperity of this day, we also received shipment of a new triple purlin (as well as some stairwell hangers) from the local lumber store, courtesy of Topsider.

A U-joint... for those "hard to reach" places

By Friday afternoon we had already accomplished the two biggest tasks on Russell's list.  (We even had time to take a drive to the nearby river to soak our feet, when it became too hot to work at the height of the afternoon.)  And we still had an entire work day available the next day.  Steve asked "What's next?," and Russell was hard-pressed to come up with an answer.  We decided to take advantage of Steve's non-acrophobic abilities, and work on the roof.

The task was to install strips of wood over the eight spoke-like conduit channels between the roof panels.  (We had checked with our electrician brother-in-law, Jim, and he had confirmed that we would not need these channels for wiring.)  Each of the 40 roof closing strips would have to be measured and cut individually.  On Friday evening, when it became cool enough to go up on the roof, we took measurements.  At this time, we noticed another preliminary task: the 200+ lag screws that held the roof panels in place would all need to be individually counter-sunk, so that they would not interfere with the closing strips.

200+ roof lag screws needed to be counter-sunk

So Russell and Steve spent Friday evening with a couple of breaker bars, counter-sinking yet more lag screws, until it became too dark to continue.  To round out the evening, we played a re-match of the "Ticket to Ride" board game.  Steve had obviously learned from his rookie experience; he won handily despite Russell's dirty tricks.

On Saturday morning, we started once more at the crack of dawn.  We finished counter-sinking the roof lag screws before splitting chores.  Steve volunteered to stay up on the roof, stuffing the conduits with insulation and nailing closing strips in place.  Down below, Russell would cut the 40 closing strips from sheets of OSB plywood.  Russell's also took the unofficial task of making sure that Steve stayed hydrated and didn't die from the 100 direct sunlight on the roof.

Steve nails closing strips over an insulation-filled conduit

The teamwork and productivity were excellent.  Once again, when it got too hot to work, we took a recreational drive.  This time, we added a half-mile hike and spent the afternoon at the local swimming hole.

In fact, when we returned to the mountain, we were surprised to discover that a second triple purlin delivery, from a second lumber store, had been left at the gate.  (This one had been trucked over from a Home Depot several dozen miles away.  According to the invoice, the lumber itself cost $50... while the delivery cost $250.)

By the end of day Saturday, the first four rings of panels had been closed.  With the end so close at hand, we decided to change our original plans of "no work on Sunday" and finish before we departed.  In the meantime, we were so exhausted by Saturday evening that we just sat in lounge chairs and watched a movie on Russell's iPAQ.

On Sunday morning, Steve finished the last ring of roof closing panels.  Russell went up as well and replaced the eight closing pieces at the roof apex.  (Topsider had originally sent the wrong size; Russell removed those and installed the correct ones.)  By the time we packed up and left on Sunday morning, the roof was completely closed off (except for the uninstalled roof panel that still serves as the opening to the roof).

For two middle-aged friends from high school, it was an amazingly productive weekend.  We rewarded ourselves with an all-you-can-eat lunch at the Chinese buffet and headed home, a job well done.

The closed roof


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