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May 20, 2007
Final Four

Last weekend, Russell already began to remove the mis-cut trim pieces from the upstairs corner walls

Our recent agreement with our sons was that they would not have to join us every time we went up to our mountain home to work. So when Gail and Russell made another trip the weekend after Mother’s Day, we left Cameron and Joss at home.

We left Friday evening during rush hour so that we would be ready to begin work first thing Saturday morning. We had a fairly large task ahead of us: fixing the four second-story corner walls, enlarging the openings so that we could install the last four windows of the house.

This should not have been a problem. All of the first-story corner windows had installed with no problem. But last October, when Gail and our friend Steve had tried to install the first upstairs corner window, they noticed a problem: the windows were 72 inches long, but the wall openings were only 70 inches long. We actually had to stop work on the windows and wrap everything in plastic sheeting before the onset of winter.

Last October, Steve and Gail discovered (the hard way) that we could not install the upstairs corner windows. While the windows were 72" long, the wall openings were only 70".

When we contacted Topsider, the manufacturer of our kit home, their official reply was “Oops.” Upon looking at our photographs, they concluded that their workers had measured the 72-inch opening correctly, but had then installed the 2-inch ledge above that line instead of below it.

The best solution would be to reverse-engineer the openings. Topsider offered to pay the costs of any carpenter we wanted to hire. With the deadline approaching to seal up the house for the winter, we decided to punt until spring came.

Seven months later, the weather was now consistently warm enough to finally address this problem. Gail was convinced that we could do the repair work ourselves, simply billing Topsider for the number of hours it took. Russell was more skeptical.

The repair would have been more straightforward if the corner wall pieces could be dismantled. Unfortunately, they were already installed in place, with the main wall pieces installed all around them. They could not be removed and they could not be dismantled. They were not going anywhere.

The joint in question was a dado, where the horizontal ledge fit into slots that were cut into the vertical 2x6s. With the corner walls installed, the nails (or screws) were no longer accessible. In addition, the outside panels were nicely finished with mitered trim. Nevertheless, Gail convinced Russell that we should try, and this was our mission for the weekend.

The original wall. Note that the ledge at the top (two inches too high) is joined on either side with slotted dados.

Russell took the meticulous task of removing and repairing all of the trimwork. This included cutting all of the panels and quarter-rounds two inches shorter and then re-installing them. Gail took the muscular task of using the Sawz-All to cut the old ledges (and screws) out. Gail ultimately had the more difficult task: she ended up stripping several metal Sawz-All blades, wearing out her arms, and exhausting herself before she finally finished.

Gail wears out her arms (and several Sawz-All blades) removing the old ledges

It would be impractical (if not impossible) to cut new dados, so we opted instead to simply butt the new pieces of wood against each other, screw them together like crazy, and support them from underneath with additional 2x6s.

The re-carpentered wall. Note that the ledge at the top is now simply butted up against the uprights on either side. The previous dado slots have been filled in with trim wood and caulking.

Not only did our repair job work, but it actually looked pretty good from the outside. The windows fit into the larger openings with no problem, and we caulked and screwed them into place. We finished the first three on Saturday and the fourth one by lunchtime on Sunday. While Russell cleaned up, Gail went around and added caulking and insulation to every remaining crack that she could find around the house.

The re-carpentered wall as viewed from the outside. The dark brown stain shows that the opening used to be two inches higher. The old dado slots have been filled in with trim wood.

Two years and one month after we first started putting up the shell, our mountain house is now completely weather-tight. We celebrated this as a major milestone in construction (as well as a major achievement in carpentry). We can finally say good-bye to plastic sheeting.

A (finally) weather-tight house, complete with corner windows! (Um... ignore the construction mess...)

On the animal front, we saw several more wild rabbits (you have to get up pretty early to spy those rabbits) and a wild turkey. All in all, it was a terrific weekend.

Our weekend visitors: a rabbit and a turkey


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