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November 22, 2009
Stairs: first flight

Building code dictates that each stair step must be accurate within 3/8” of every other stair step.

On November 20-22, 2009, the weekend before Thanksgiving, Russell and Gail were able to enjoy a rare “couple-only” weekend at our mountain home construction site. Originally, it was going to be a “Russell and Steve” weekend until Steve developed a conflict. Then it was going to be a “Russell alone” weekend until Gail decided to join him at the last minute. Gail changed her plans for two reasons:

  1. There is a chance that our sons Cameron and Joss, as well as the entire family of Joss’ girlfriend, will be staying here on Thanksgiving weekend. Gail wants to make sure we can comfortably accommodate eight people.
  2. We are on the verge of getting hot water installed, hopefully in time for Thanksgiving. Gail needs to coordinate a lot of the steps on site.

Russell was determined to make further progress on the stairs, a critical path towards getting an occupancy permit. He hasn’t been able to work on them in more than a month. Things didn’t get off to a good start when we drove up on Friday afternoon. The road outside of Mokelumne Hill was blocked by a vehicle accident – somehow a truck had completely rolled over onto its cab. Ultimately, we were able to get through.

The last time Russell worked on the stairs was in mid-October, when he, Dirk and Steve installed the first two notched stringers with a hangerboard.

As anticipated, Russell’s stair work was regularly interrupted to help Gail out. Most of this involved moving things. We had brought up a second sofa for the upstairs living room, so we could move the futon into Cameron’s bedroom. We had brought up several pieces of polished slate countertop to put on top of the kitchen cabinetry that we had brought up last weekend. We moved the temporary stairs from one side of the LVL joist to the other, so that Russell actually had room to work on the stairs. And we moved the temporary scaffold platform from one side of the stairwell hole to the other, so that Gail could continue installing drywall.

We had to move the temporary stairs from one side of the LVL joist to the other, so Russell would even have enough room to work on the permanent stairs. This turned into a very difficult task with only two people.

Russell moved the scaffold platform from one side of the stairwell hole to the other, so that Gail could drywall both Cameron’s bedroom wall and the exterior living room wall.

Ultimately, Russell was finally able to complete the first of three flights of stairs. This was the middle flight, between the two landings. By this point, the steps were very straightforward. First, Russell installed the third stringer, making sure that it was level and plumb with the two previously-installed stringers. Second, he glued and screwed the rough risers. Finally, he glued and screwed the rough treads. Fortunately, all of the wood had already been cut during previous visits.

Russell’s first (middle) flight of stairs – with stringers, risers and treads – completed!

Gail was also able to make good progress. She cleaned out the downstairs pantry so that the water heater can be installed. She cleaned out the upstairs utility room to accommodate all of the tools that came out of the downstairs pantry. She drywalled all of the walls surrounding the stairwell hole. And she even got to install her first bit of drywall mud.

Gail cleans a section of polished slate countertop. She picked it up almost four years ago from freecycle.com.

One of the trickiest pieces of drywall was around the kneebraces in the ceiling. It required a carefully-cut puzzle piece.

The stairwell hole, finished. Note Gail's first drywall mud in the corner.

While Russell departed on Sunday afternoon, Gail remained. She has a tight schedule of meetings with the plumber, the gas company and the inspector. She will return to the Bay Area just in time for Thanksgiving, hopefully bringing news of hot water on the mountain.

Russell, exhausted but resting atop his first flight of stairs. One down, two to go!


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