[Worldtrippers home] [Mountaintop home]

July 2, 2007
Mapping the floors

The second-story floor plan, marked up to show each of the rooms and interior walls

For months, we had been anticipating the milestone of installing interior walls in our mountain home. And yet, somehow we kept putting it off. After we finished the sliding glass doors back in February, we spent weeks repairing the upstairs floor. We did carpentry work to fix the last four corner windows. And we spent a weekend installing the toilet.

By July, we were running out of other things to do, and decided that we’d better get to it. We downloaded several sets of instructions from the Internet on “How to build a wall.” We were finally ready. Almost.

Russell decided to take a weekend up on the mountain by himself, just to measure out and mark exactly where the walls should go. He decided that this was better as a one-person job. On Thursday, June 28, he left the latest he’s ever driven up – 9:00 pm – and didn’t arrive until 11:30 pm, well after dark.

Russell spent all day Saturday measuring out and taping wall locations on the upper floor. Right away, he was faced with two challenges. First, Topsider was very inconsistent with how they marked wall lengths and locations on their blueprints. Sometimes the length and location was obvious. Other times, it could only be interpolated by measuring a nearby wall or intersection and doing some mathematics.

A view from Cameron's bedroom looking south

This brought Russell to the second challenge. The house is octagonal-shaped, with a center pole. Due to various anomalies when we installed the exterior walls, we knew that they were not set at exact angles or locations from each other. Therefore, when marking out the location of an interior wall, what should you measure against? What should it be perpendicular to?

A view from the master bathroom looking northeast

The only exact point of reference that Russell had was the center pole. Unfortunately, it was 12-inches wide and set at an angle, so Russell could not even measure exactly to the “center” of the pole. In the end, everything contained a little bit of guesswork, but he was able to arrive at a map of the floor in which everything measured out more or less the way it was supposed to.

A view from the master bedroom looking north

One problem that Russell could not overcome was a fundamental error in Topsider’s blueprints. The blueprints showed that the center pole was supposed to end up inside of a wall, and thus be hidden in the final interior. The blueprints showed this. It wasn’t until Russell actually marked the walls that he realized: the wall is only 4” thick (actually 3.5” when you consider a modern 2x4), but the center pole is 12” thick. By his measurements, the center pole would actually protrude more than 8” into the (already narrow) hallway.

A view from Joss' bedroom looking west

After some phone conversations with Gail, we arrived at non-ideal but workable solution. We would move the wall 8” over so that the center pole would be visible in the laundry room, as opposed to the hallway. In turn, we would need to shift everything else over 8” as well – the hallway and upstairs bathroom. The 8” we stole would be removed from the closets of the boys’ bedrooms.

A view of the main hallway, showing how we had to move the wall 8" over to account for the 12" center pole (We will account for the bends by installing the doors at slight angles)

By the time Russell finished on Saturday night, he was completely exhausted from bending up and down and crawling around on the floor. Sunday morning, though, he decided to tackle one more chore before he departed: renovating the stairs.

Our temporary stairwell had been constructed way back in April 2005 by Russell’s brother-in-law Matt. At that time, we had planned to use a ladder to get up and down during construction – after all, we thought the house would be completed over the course of a single summer. It was Matt who had suggested a real stairwell, and he constructed one out of scrap wood from the crates.

Two years later, we were extremely grateful to have these actual stairs. The only trouble was, Matt had constructed them with 12” risers to conserve wood. As time went by, we found these 12” risers to be harder and harder to walk up and down, especially when we were exhausted.

Russell decided to reconstruct the stairs with more traditional 8” risers. Instead of completely taking down and dismantling the stairs, he simply removed every other riser, then installed two in its place. The job took all morning, but Russell’s sore legs were extremely grateful to have the more gentle and forgiving steps.

Three stages of stairs: Matt's original 12" risers; every other riser removed; Russell's new 8" risers

It was not until after Russell returned home that Gail hit him up with a piece of potentially devastating news. In reviewing the blueprints, she noticed a small comment that stated that the second-story floor required a second sub-floor on top of the first sub-floor. Russell was completely distraught at the possibility that he had just wasted a weekend of work, that we would need to cover over all of his taping work, and re-measure and re-tape everything all over again.

Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case. Gail called our building inspector, and Dennis said that we could install the second subfloor after the walls were framed. In fact, he said, most contractors actually prefer to install the walls first. That way, if the subfloor ever needs to be accessed or repaired (due to flooding, for instance), you don’t need to completely uninstall the walls in order to do so.

The lesson here: as we ignorantly stumble our way through the building of this house, sometimes we’re actually doing the right thing! (Though not always for the right reason…)

A view of the upstairs bathroom and boys' bedroom closets. Gail remarked, "Only Russell would tape both sides of each wall."


[Worldtrippers home] [Mountaintop home]