Tuesday, December 28, 2010


It was Christmas, so we held off on the big stuff this weekend and took time out to put on temporary carriage doors, install door hardware, and clean and sort the inside of the shop/garage. Now we can work inside and store stuff without fear of theft! Awesome.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Week 17: Siding

We put up siding. It is pre-primed HardiePlank. It is scored with a box cutter and then it breaks at the score. Very easy to work with. We got the gable ends done up about as far as could be done without the boom lift. The job took a great deal more time than expected largely due to the time lost marking lines and studs, moving scaffolding, etc.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Week 16: Trim Saga Finale

Stephen put up misc. trim, roofing and flashing to get us ready for siding next week. We still couldn't get the boom lift to do the gable trim, so it will have to be done at the same time as the top gable siding.

Much of the weekend was spent trying to locate siding and discussing options.

I primed half of the rafters that will remain exposed in the apartment.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Week 15: Thanksgiving

For the four day weekend, we had planned to get a boom lift to get into the gables to put up trim, but they didn't have any available. Instead, we put up the eyebrows, primed and tar-papered them, and Stephen trimmed out the cornices and soffits on the non-gabled sides of the house. The soffits are a foot deep, and the trim extends a foot below the soffit. The trim detail (dentil blocks, etc) will be added later. Stephen also added a pediment hood over the apartment door entrance.

We got the door hardware for the apartment entry from Ebay this week, some cool old handmade wrought iron stuff.

The trim has taken much longer than expected, and it's getting cold here. It looks like we'll be finishing the exterior about four weeks behind schedule.

Week 14: Door Trim and Eyebrows

On week 14, Stephen built the door trim, including the doorways that don't yet have doors. He finished up the cornice returns.

He also built the half-elliptical hoods for the carriage doors (eyebrows.) I built none, but designed both the look and the construction method. Two arches were cut out of plywood for each set of carriage doors, then the plywoods were connected by pieces of 2"X6" and covered on the top with OSB with kerfs cut into the top to allow it to bend. They will eventually be covered with copper.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Week 13: Window Trim

Later picture shows window trim and cornice returns
Stephen trimmed out the windows with 2"X6" and 2"X4" treated pine. He had considered cedar, but decided against it because the chance of getting long enough pieces in excellent condition was unlikely at best, and cost prohibitive at worst. This means we will not be able to paint the trim until next year.

Week Twelve: Windows and Cornice Returns

We finished putting in the windows on week twelve. Stephen also built cornice returns on the gable ends, so that the cornice trim will wrap slightly on the ends.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Week Eleven: House Wrap

This week, we put house wrap over the sheathing. Stephen took off Monday so we'd have some extra time.

Week Ten: Sheathing

The roofers came Monday after week nine, and charged us an extra $600 becuase we forgot to tell them the roof was on the second story.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Week Nine: Landscaping, Interior Walls

Now, we're in the present.

My parents came up from Austin to help me with landscaping last week. They cleared the underside of several large oak trees near the homesite that were being strangled by cedars and vines. They also helped me built a little 8'X8' patio with some cut bits of concrete pavers that were being thrown away at Stephen's last jobsite. We had to match up all the little bits to make them roughly the size of actual pavers, and then fit them in so the joints wouldn't be too uneven (we didn't have a saw to cut them.)

Week Eight: Gable Ends

We built the gable ends on week eight, framing four windows on each side, and a tiny little window in the loft. It was a relief after all of the roof work.

There are wasps and spiders everywhere.

Week Seven: Roof Sheathing

Oh, what a nightmare!

The roof sheathing is heavy and cumbersome. I shoved roof sheathing sheets up to Stephen, and he had to pull them up onto the top of the rafters, flip them into place, and nail them down. Our roof is 7 1/2' high to a 20' total span, so you can imagine, it's pretty steep. The sides of the roof are 15' off the ground, and the peak is almost 23' off the ground! He put down all the lowest sheets on one side of the roof and moved up. I cut the pieces at the ends and top, and cut lengths of tar paper a few feet longer than the total length of the roof. He put up the paper, adding long cleat boards for footholds as he went, and then repeated the whole process on the back side.

Weeks Five and Six: Rafters

We cut a rafter to what Stephen's math said it should be, then tried it out and adjusted. We used that rafter as a pattern, and cut the rafters.

The rafters were huge, and a nightmare to get into place with only two of us and no special equipment. We cut stretcher boards to go between the rafters to give a ceiling height of 10' in the Great Room (20' of the total 32' length of building,) and the loft boards to give a ceiling height of 7'6" above the bathroom and kitchen (remaining 12' of the length of building.) The rafters kept kicking the sidewalls out of square, and we added considerably more temporary supports.

Week Four: Sidewalls

The fourth week, we put up the little six-foot sidewalls for the second story. They were very easy to frame because the sidewalls have no windows or doors. We also rigged up this crazy ridge board deal for the roof by attaching a long board to the outside of the first floor and running it all the way to the top of the roof (14 feet about the second story floor sheathing.) The long board had a little crook on the side to accept the ridge board, so the long board was set just to the side of where the ridge board would need to be, so the ridge board would be dead center. We secured another board with a crook in the middle of the floor and then put the ridge pole up through one crook, then Stephen had to climb a long ladder to put the other end in the middle floor crook. Then we put up scaffolding.

Weeks Three: Joists

On the third week, we put up a 2"X12" frame on top of the first floor framework. We put up 2"X12" boards, 20 feet long (minus the width of the frame boards,) 16" on-center, attached to the outside 2"X12" frame. In the middle of the joist span, Stephen put in little sections of 2"X12" from one joist to the next. 20 foot long 2"X12"s are very heavy, and getting them up was cumbersome.

Then, we put down the floor sheathing on top.

Week Two: First Floor Walls

To build the walls, Stephen came up with a little framing plan on paper so he would know just where all of the boards would be. He drilled (I think) a treated 2x4 into the concrete around the outside of the slab, and then marked the tops where the studs would go with a tape measure and a carpenter's square. Then he cut and laid out all of the pieces needed to build a wall section, and marked where each board would be connected.

Week One: Foundation

Here is where I backtrack to what we did before someone told me I needed to blog this:

Stephen took a few days off, and we spent approximately four days on the foundation. We already had the site graded, and we already used an auto-level to shoot elevations. We put in posts with nails about ten feet from two sides of each corner. When you put string on the nails and run across to the other posts, it makes a level line that marks the exterior walls.

The total foundation was 20'X32'.

The first day, he rented an excavator and dug channels around the garage and through the middle, and put in pipes that were to go through the foundation. Then he put in no end of rebar tied onto vertical bars with wire. I helped by fetching rebar and rocks and holding up rebar while he tied it.

The next day, we had in the concrete truck and they poured concrete through a little moving trough in the back. I had to stick a big vibrating thing into the concrete, which shook the concrete down. I was not warned or talked through it before it had to be done, and it was scary, finding out what to do, as I did it. That was the footing, the thing that supports the slab and prevents it from moving.

Third day - the concrete was pretty hard. Stephen made a form out of wood around the perimeter for pouring the slab. We spent the rest of the day wiring together the rebar mesh.

Now, this is a scary side note. Stephen works for a construction company, and knows many people who do many things in construction. He said he heard of a subcontractor here who at some point was building residential slabs. The guy would put in the rebar for the inspector, then he would pull it all out after the inspector left so he could re-use the rebar at the next site. Rebar is about half the material cost of a foundation. And apparently that's not as uncommon here as you would assume.

Where we are, we don't have inspectors or codes, except that you have to have gas lines and septic put in by licensed people. That's kind of scary, too. But ideal for an owner home builder.

The next day, we hired a crew for $400 to pour the actual slab, because it is not a job for two people, especially with myself having no experience. While they were pouring, he put in some long boards where the garage bays and doors would be so rain won't come in under the doors.

Here, at week nine, we still haven't bothered to take most of the concrete forms off the slab.

House Plan

I made a list of things that I wanted that affected the overall floor plan.

1. Basement - rooms for food storage, pantry, and utility (AC, washer/dryer, deep-freeze, etc.)
2. Two stories, developed attic space
3. Smallest possible floor plan
4. Exterior trim below the soffit and around windows
5. 2"X6" construction, extra insulation
6. 10' wall height, at least the first floor
7. Library
8. Water, ducts, electric on limited number of central walls to make install/changes/repair easier

I found out the general rules of where rooms in turn-of-the-century homes are supposed to be located by looking at loads of house plans.

--Entry, kitchen, parlors, bath, and dining room downstairs. Bedrooms, baths, and maybe an informal parlor of some sort upstairs (saw it in the Stark house in Orange?, TX. Maybe Beaumont.). Basement uninhabitable. Informal back parlors common on first floor.
--Service areas - kitchen is in back section of house or in a back wing of its own. Entrances from outside and through dining or main hall. IF it has these, it may also have doors into parlors. Door to basement stair can be in main hall or in the kitchen. Butler pantries common at entries.
--Front door MUST open into an entry, the bigger the better. The more of the stair seen from the entry hall, the better.
--Dining and front parlor should be accessible from front hall.
--All rooms are separate - no modern combined use rooms, no exceptions.

I drew house plans on graph paper until I found something I was pretty sure I wanted. I wanted something as close to 24'X32' as I could get, as that is a lot of square footage spread over three and a half stories. Then I put the ones I liked best in Illustrator and put rectangles for furniture and built-in placement.

This is the first floor of the shop and house with the little add-on that connects them:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Introduction to the Project

I don't know about you, but Stephen and I cannot really afford a new house, and we aren't willing to incur debt to buy one.

"Buy an old one," you say?

We just spent the last three years rebuilding a 1970's house for an uncle on the weekends - new floors, drywall, finishes, electric, bathrooms, kitchen, exterior siding, roof. etc. We had a living room that literally had no light fixtures. No kitchen appliances, broken down mucky cabinets, ancient carpets and bad tile. Sections of cheap fake-wood paneling had been used to make a pseudo-wainscot below peeling wallpaper. One of the bathrooms had a tub that had the long side parallel to a three foot vanity with 8" to stand in between to use the sink.You had to stand in the tub to turn on the faucet.

In our spare time, we looked at other, more historic local homes with an eye to buy, but the restoration process on those looked considerably worse than the one we've just done. Why don't people maintain their homes better? Why do people with an eye to restore do such a truly awful job? The homes that looked salvageable had largely been purchased and renovated with a box-store, owner-with-no-experience-done period "look," covered with vinyl siding, that sort of thing. We'd have to pull off all the renovations just to start restoration, though the renovations are considered to be much of the value of the property.

Also, I contacted people from the city and local contractors, and we do not have qualified people to do most restoration work in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Restoration foundation repair, plaster, plaster mouldings, sash window restorers, whatever. Don't have it.
Between the increased building time, cost, and lack of specialized labor required for a half-way decent restoration, we decided to build our own period home. And we're doing it on weekends.