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August 4, 2007
Two steps forward, one step back

Gail converses with Dennis Bayers – formerly our building inspector, currently our very good (and helpful) friend

We are finally at the end of the eight-day marathon up at our mountain house building site, the longest that Gail and Russell have been up here continuously – and alone. We discussed the possibility of staying all the way until Sunday, the same day that our sons return from their church caravan trip. However, we decided that we would rather drive back on Saturday afternoon and have an entire day at home, especially since we both have to go back to work on Monday.

By Friday, August 3, we had installed the entire northeast side of the hallway as well as the southwest side up to the center pole. Our grand total for the week was 13 wall sections constructed and installed.

It was time to call it quits, but even as Gail started cleaning up, Russell wanted to complete one more task. He felt that if he could begin installing some of the ceiling joists – over the boys’ closets, the hall bathroom, the master closets, and the hallway – the current wall structure could be made even more solid and stable.

We were already prepared, having brought up 60 joist hangers that we had purchased on sale in the Bay Area. Russell measured and cut the necessary joists, and we began installing them on Friday morning.

Ceiling joists installed (with joist hangers) over the master bedroom closets and hallway

It was a day later on Saturday morning, after Russell had installed 18 joists, that we received a visit from Dennis Bayers. Dennis had been our building inspector until just this week, when territories were rotated. During the course of building, he and Gail had become good friends; and he had been invited to our contractors’ barbecue a few days ago. He was unable to attend, but wanted to pay a visit just to say “hello.”

As a further courtesy, he offered to look over our work so far to make sure there wouldn’t be any unpleasant surprises during our next inspection. He was generally pleased with our construction efforts, but pointed out a few things that we had done incorrectly:

The third note will be easy to fix; we will construct our remaining walls with single footers. The second note will also be easy to fix by going back and installing more studs on the inside corners.

Three errors pointed out by Dennis
(1) The top headers need to stagger and overlap the wall sections
(2) We need additional studs on the inside corners to support drywall later
(3) We don't need two footers (sill plates)

The first note is more problematic. We have to uninstall all of our top headers, cut new pieces of wood and re-install them. One consequence of this is that we also have to remove all of the joists that Russell spent the previous day installing.

As a consolation (relatively at least), Dennis informed us that we had not installed our joists correctly anyway. While they were not technically incorrect, we shouldn't have used joist hangers. Instead, we should simply have installed our top headers on edge, then used the bottom headers as shelves to support the joists.

Dennis had additional advice and counsel. He told us that we would be better off hiring a plumber than trying to do it ourselves. Plumbing is the part of owner-built projects that most often fails inspection. Apparently, many of the joints that you can buy at a hardware store are actually illegal for construction.

Our next inspection – due by December or January – will be for rough framing. This means that in addition to all interior walls, we must also have either the plumbing, electrical, or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) finished by that time. Fortunately, the final stairs don’t have to be completed yet.

Russell ended up spending the remainder of Saturday morning and afternoon ripping out the 18 joists that he had installed. While wishing that Dennis could have visited a day earlier, we were also grateful that he showed up when he did – before we had made even more errors.

On that unhappy note, we closed up shop and departed from the mountain after our eight-day marathon. Our running tally is a total of 20 interior wall sections installed so far, including the two downstairs. By Russell’s count, we still have 15 more to go. Unfortunately, we have saved the most complex and difficult walls for last.

With so much work still ahead, we are already talking about when we can come up here again.

Our running tally of interior walls: 20 down, 15 to go (Note that the entire hallway is shifted seven inches from the blueprints to accommodate the center pole)


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