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October 12, 2008
Three more shutters

Steve inspects a shutter curtain to ensure that we can insert a 15-foot pipe as an axle without scratching anything

The end of August featured a memorial service for Russell’s brother Curtis in Texas The end of September featured a memorial service in California. With the arrival of October, Russell was finally able to think about going back up to our mountain house building site once more. Fortunately, his friend and building buddy Steve was also available after a busy summer. So on October 10, the two made their usual drives through Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic to met up on the mountain.

This weekend’s task would be one of muscle and heavy lifting. After completely installing our first shutter back in July, Russell and Gail had successfully installed the guide rails and motor boxes for the other three large shutters. Unfortunately, Gail was not strong enough to help with the actual metal curtains. Thus the need for Steve.

The two men started work early Saturday morning, their only full work day. Installing the first curtain months ago had helped to determine the most successful process. Russell had arrived this time with three long pieces of 3/4-inch metal pipe that he proceeded to screw together. These would serve as an axle for the rolled-up curtain. The curtain would be hung from the deck overhead like a giant paper towel roll, then fed through the motor box and into the guide rails.

A shutter curtain, hung like a paper towel roll using 3/4-inch pipe and rope (note the “Pocahontas” blanket hung over the motorbox axle to prevent scratching)

Russell had estimated that each curtain would take about one to one-and-a-half hours. The first ended up taking three hours. The process worked well; it was just much more time consuming than we had imagined. From our previous experience, we knew to hang a large blanket over the motorbox axle to keep the curtain from getting scratched. We also knew to install dunnage beneath the guide rails, to stop the curtain from descending too far before we had attached it to the axle.

The hardest part was attaching the curtain to the axle. This step required attaching seven T-straps to the upper lip of the curtain. Unfortunately, the shutter had plastic end-guards that prevented us from being able to do this. We couldn’t remember having this problem with the first curtain, and were momentarily stumped. (As a reminder, the shutters had arrived with no instructions. The best thing we could find were some general procedures from the company’s website.) In the end, we had to use a screwdriver to bend and warp the plastic end-guards so that we could slide the T-straps into position.

The shutters had plastic end-guards (black, left) that prevented us from being able to slide on the T-straps (lower right).
The only solution was to bend and warp the end-guards.

It was lunch time before we completed the first curtain. We had only the afternoon to install the other two. Number two was finished right at the par of one-and-a-half hours.

We knew that the third curtain would be the most problematic, which is why we had saved it for last. There were two problems. First, the south window wall had no deck overhead, and thus no place to attach ropes for suspending the curtain from. Second, Gail and Steve had previously installed a huge scaffolding outside of this wall, leaving very little room to work in, let alone hang a curtain at all. We did not even want to entertain the idea of trying to dismantle or move the huge scaffolding, as that would turn into a day-long project all by itself.

The southern window wall had a large scaffold that left little room to hang a shutter curtain

With another one of his analytical “thought experiments,” Russell was able to improvise a solution. First, we suspended ropes from the large glu-lam beams that jutted out from the corners of the walls. Next, we strung additional ropes horizontally to pull the hanging curtain away from the scaffolding. The setup worked perfectly.

We had very little working space between the scaffolding and the window.
The last curtain was hung from the glu-lam beams, with additional ropes to pull it away from the scaffolding.

We finished the third and final curtain just in time for dinner, leaving the evening free to relax and watch a “Chuck” DVD on television.

The southwest side of the house, now protected with metal shutters all around (note the scaffolding still on the south wall to the right)

Russell plans to resume coming up to the mountain whenever his schedule allows. He figures that he has four remaining major tasks for the year:

  1. Install the remaining three shutters over the front door, back door and downstairs bathroom
  2. Design and install the cap piece for the new chase around the center pole
  3. Design and install a ceiling box around some exposed pipes downstairs
  4. Install OSB plywood on the parapet joists upstairs

Once he’s finished with those, he can turn his attention to the grounds and trails outside, which have been badly neglected for the last few years.

An inside view of the four full-window shutters


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