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The task ahead: drag this solid wall panel 50 feet across gravel...
... then install it into this extended bay
On Sunday evening, August 14, after a night and a day by himself, Russell welcomed the arrival of his friend Steve. Steve's original expectation had been to put tar paper on the roof, so he was naturally disappointed to find out it had already been done. However, Russell had an even better task for the two of them: position and install the eighth and final lower-story wall panel.
This wall panel comprises the second extended bay, where the stairwell will ultimately reside. Back at the beginning of July, we were unable to install either the second side wall or the wall panel itself. The problem was a triple purlin on the second story that interfered. Topsider informed us that this purlin had been incorrectly installed too low; it should sit above the glu-lam beams, not between them. Because Topsider had called out this purlin incorrectly in the blueprints, they shipped us some replacement lumber. Steve and Russell had successfully removed the old purlin three weeks ago. Now, we were ready to install the wall.
Monday morning was slightly overcast -- perfect weather for working. (In fact, it would have been even more perfect weather for papering the roof!) Our first task was to install the second side panel in the extended bay. This took less than half an hour.
Our second task was to move the final wall panel into place. This took the next nine hours.
We had always known that the eighth wall panel would be problematic. As one of the only two completely solid walls in the entire house, it was massively heavy. (The pantry/bathroom wall was lighter -- it had a window -- but it could barely be lifted by the combination of Steve, Russell, Gail, Cameron, and Joss.) Because we had only Steve and Russell for muscle power, we decided to try a different process. We would put the wall on wooden skis, and tow it using Steve's truck winch.
During Russell's "day off" a couple of days ago, he had already installed skis and braces on the wall panel (using his car's jack to lift the wall). Now, Steve hooked it up to his winch using a combination of straps and chains. We would need to move the wall approximately 50 feet across gravel. Unfortunately, the wall would need to be positioned exactly, down to a fraction of an inch.
What followed was nine hours of readjusting straps, re-setting both the winch and Steve's comealong, re-nailing the skis, re-building the skis, and clearing a lot of gravel out of the way. Russell marveled at Steve's seemingly infinite patience and meticulousness. Every time the winch needed to be re-set (which was often), Steve approached it with the same analytic care and safety. We had to adjust the wall slightly to one side so it would avoid hitting two of the protruding glu-lam beams. Every time we moved the wall at an angle against the skis, the skis would buckle and have to be rebuilt. We probably went through three pounds of double-headed toe nails reinforcing and rebuilding the skis.
Dragging the wall panel on skis
Once the wall was moved in front of the extended bay, we had to line it up, constantly moving the winch to bring it over inch by inch. As we got closer, we had to completely rebuild the skis so that the wall panel could move within inches of the foundation. Even then, we were off by a few inches; and we had to use a sledge hammer to line the wall up with the foundation exactly.
The rebuilt "one-sided" skis, which enabled us to bring the wall panel right up to the foundation
(The resulting problem was that the wall panel kept falling forward)
At this point, we re-configured the winch to act as a drawbridge. The wall panel was gently eased all the way down to the ground, so that we could install a bitumen-based vapor barrier along the bottom edge. Using levers, we brought the base of the wall on top of the sill plate, then cranked the winch to bring the panel vertical again.
With the winch attached to the center column, the wall panel became a drawbridge
We had decided to install the wall before we installed the new triple purlin, to provide extra room for maneuvering. With the winch now holding the wall in place, we set to work cutting and installing the new purlin. It was at this point that we noticed our next problem: the wall was warped, and did not line up with the purlin. Too exhausted to continue working, we decided to sleep on it.
The wall panel in place, followed by the new triple purlin
We had yet another problem with warped wood, which made cutting and installing the triple purlin a huge challenge
On Tuesday morning, Russell awoke with a new idea. We would use Steve's comealong to pull the corner of the wall panel in place, then secure it by installing lag screws upward into the triple purlin. In practice, Steve actually went one better: he used the comealong to pull the corner in one one side, and a screwdriver to push the corner out on the other side.
The wall panel is warped and twisted between the bottom and top edges
As a result, one end (the near end at the bottom of the picture) jutted out beyond the straight line of the triple purlin
With the upper edge of the wall panel forced into place, we proceeded to install lag screws in both the top and bottom of the wall. Unfortunately, a further unintended consequence was that, because the side panel was also warped, we now had a two-inch gap along the bottom edge between the wall panel and the side wall panel. We decided that this was the lesser of two evils. It would be easier to install a piece of trim and fill the gap with insulation and sealant.
Our choices were a gap between the side wall and the foundation, or a gap between the side wall and the main wall -- we chose the latter
After a day and a half of hard and grueling physical labor, we have finally installed all of the lower walls, including both extended bays. As Steve triumphantly put it, "eight out of eight... is great!"
The final wall
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