Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Framing the Gable Ends on the Sauna

Most of my early thoughts on the cabin and sauna involved having a solid log wall at the gable ends.  This seemed somehow more "authentic" to me.

On this point I gradually conceeded that it didn't make as much sense.  Assuming that the beams WILL shrink over the first few years, even a small amount, it became obvious that there would be issues with the slope of the roof changing over time.  This isn't a good thing, or at least, an easy thing to deal with.

With fewer logs close to the eaves, and more at the peak, shrinkage would be more obvious under the peak than the eaves.  One possible solution was that I'd support the roof(s) entirely as cathedral ceilings, or support them by the internal walls.  Then I'd place a large (2x10 or larger) board on the outside as a trim to cover the ever increasing gap between the top of the beam wall, and the rafters themselves.

I'd have to monitor this gap for the first few years, packing it with extra insulation as it opened.  I would also have to be able to adjust the support height of my theoretical interior wall, to accomodate the overall settling of the roof as the outer walls of the cabin settled.

Framing the gable ends would eliminate these problems.  They would not shrink within themselves, and they would settle on top of the beam walls at the same rate as the roof itself.  Through Howie's Saw, I am able to purchase 5" wide V-Joint boards that will closely resemble my own log walls.

So it was settled - I would frame the gable ends of the sauna and cabin.

Because the sauna is so small, I made the decision to rely on my ridge board and beam walls as vectors for the roof weight.  As you can see in my framing pictures, I did not in any manner assume that my gable ends would be load bearing.  I will likely do this differently in the cabin, where the roof is nearly twice the size.

We decided to put in a window on the south side of the sauna gable - this would allow in more natural light, and hopefully some of that winter light may fall upon the water tanks I plan on installing in the loft.

Yes, I know that the window is not "properly" framed and reinforced.  Again, this was a decision based on the lack of any real stress in that wall.  I will do it differently in the cabin where the forces are geometrically different.

I was hoping to have a nail gun by now, to use to put the log siding up with.  Unfortunately, Home Depot was sold out of the model I have my heart set on, so I have to wait a few days while my ever so wonderful parents purchase one on my behalf and UPS it to me.  Grandpa and I agreed to try to go old-school with a nail punch and hammers.  How stone age!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Installing the Water/Wind Barrier on the Sauna Roof

With solid decking put down on the roof of the sauna, both Grandpa and I were eager to get the water barrier put up to start really keeping water out.

Traditionally this would be done with tar paper, but I think that's increasingly falling out of favour, making way for more modern fabrics.  I opted to install HydraShell by Marco Industries.

A testament to the simplicity of this phase of construction is that we completed it in a single morning with two of us snapping away on our staple guns.

Five sheets allowed us to complete the roof with a minimum of 3" overlap.  We tucked the ends around the boards at the gables and stapled them up underneath.  Grandpa at first thought we would lay some board up and down each edge, but they went down tight enough, and with the wrap at the ends, we decided to forgo this precaution.

That night we were treated to some of the heaviest rains I have experienced in the yurts, and the shell stood up fine.

We have subsequently experienced rain every single day since it has been completed, and aside from rain blowing in from the sides and wetting the base layer of my logs and the window sills, the interior of the sauna appears to be dry.  I am looking forward to getting the steel installed on the porch and roof sections though, as that will give us a large, dry work area to complete construction.

Apologies for no "in progress" pictures, but things went up just that quickly that Donna didn't even have a chance to put her skills to use.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Strapping the Porch Roof

The porch roof is by no means going to be insulated, so I had no need to install any sort of decking there for extra protection or support.  Instead, strapping spaced out at about 19 or 20 inch centres was judged to be sufficient.

I dug out a number of long boards from the board pile at the mill, and between Grandpa and I, managed to get them cut and positioned over the course of two days.  It required a fair bit of moving back and forth with the ladders to place and then screw down the boards.

In the corners, I ran a pair of 2"x4"'s from a block on the sauna to the corner of the fascia boards of the porch.  The angles were very challenging to get right, as they had to be cut in all three dimensions!  I think they came out better than I expected, but as I've said before, I don't think I would go with a non-vertical fascia board on the cabin or other future porch roof.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

More (Anecdotal) Evidence of Climate Change in Thunder Bay

That's one degree outside on July 21st!

Thankfully it warmed up to seven degrees in the afternoon a few days later.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Boarding up the Sauna Roof

With the rafters in place, it was time to clad the roof with some sort of solid decking, before the water/wind shield, and then the steel.

Both Grandpa and I agreed that it made good sense to use up my huge pile of 1x4 boards, rather than purchasing any new plywood or something of that nature.  I believe this option is also encouraged by the CMHC construction handbook under environmentally friendly practices.

Grandpa was the first up the porch roof, balancing on the rafters while starting to place boards up the main roof. As much as Grandpa was set on using nails to work at this part of the project, I insisted on screws (thanks to a vague feeling they were "better" - as it turns out, there is much debate on this point in contractor forums. Most professional opinion running towards nails as being a better solution - but perhaps that's because they are much faster to install, and cheaper?).

We placed two screws at the end of each board, and then a single screw that alternated back and forth between the top and bottom edge of the rafters it was passing over.

I made the decision to overhang the boards about 16 inches at each end. This should protect my gable ends from the weather. This also worked well with my overall dimensions, as I am purchasing 15 feet of steel roofing. 12 feet of roof, plus 32 inches of overhang, leaves me still 2" of overhang in the steel. On the sauna I opted to forgo the trims to finish it off at the edges, and instead, simply overhang the steel a few inches to help it shed snow and water.

Eventually we worked up to a height that allowed us to more easily move inside the structure to put on the last few boards. Once we were in danger of getting our heads stuck, we switched to the opposite side of the roof and worked our way about halfway up.

Then we set up a stepstool inside on the loft, and completed our first side.

With that accomplished, it was back outside to dismantle one of my ladders and use the two sides of it as a bit of a makeshift scaffold. We dropped a long, rough cut 2x4 across the tops of the ladders and I screwed it to the deck temporarily with some 3" screws. This was enough purchase for us to complete the decking! It looked really great, and we were rather proud of ourselves.

By this point, I had dealt with my fear of heights enough to actually clambor up top to pretend to have a dogfight with the dreaded Red Baron!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Framing the Sauna Roof

With my parents gone, Grandpa and I returned to the sauna with visionary ideas about the roofline and techniques which would be required to assemble it.

Grandpa, with his continued penchant for dancing a jig while up high, volunteered to put up the first few challenging rafters.

With the corner rafters and ridge board in place, I made short work of a "test" rafter for the porch.  I cut them at six feet long, and using my square, notched a 3" by 1" corner to rest on the top of the cabin wall.  Then I braced this up with a spare two by four from my rough cut pile.  I ultimately braced three porch rafters on each side in a similar fashion.

It would be hard to understate the usefulness of bar clamps on a project like this.  I'm currently coming around to upgrading my bar clamps to high quality versions as my cheap ones break.

After a particularly hot and humid day, it was very refreshing to take Grandpa up on his offer to take us to camp for a swim and sauna.  Kenny even got in some fishing and watergazing.

With two corner rafters up, it was getting more easy to see how well the roof lines were coming along.

Also, when I knew that things looked okay, it was a green light to precut all the rafters for the porch.

Now we could really get down to business putting up the main roof rafters.  They were just a shade over eight feet long.  We put them on sixteen inch centers, two screws at each end to hold them in place.

With a few more porch rafters in place, I put up a fascia board to dress things up.  I didn't bevel the ends of the rafters to be vertical, imagining that the angle would help keep the ends of the rafters from getting much exposure to the elements.  This would be fine, but I question its value now, considering the mental gymnastics involved in calculating the angles at the corners, and further imagining how I will connect support posts in the future.  On the cabin I think I will return to a vertical fascia.

I also have to puzzle out how to add a support or two from the cabin down to the corner for the strapping under the steel roof.  Stay tuned for that issue.

I really like the way the lines have come out though.  Hopefully a hint of a Japanese tea house.

Then again, Donna thinks it is more UFO.

Meanwhile, back at the yurts, the mystery of the buzzing by Kenny's bed has been solved...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Water Line Revisited.

As my "loyal readers" will attest to, I had loads of issues with the water line over the last winter.  Every time it froze in a different place, I ended up cutting a new access to it, and then adding a coupling and clamps.  Eventually the well froze where the water line passed through the water's surface, and we were out of water for the remainder of the winter, forced to carry in all our water, and giving up on in-yurt laundry.

My general long term plan for our water system is to have the well pump up to the sauna, where I will have two storage tanks placed up in the rafters.  From there, a second water line will pass down from the tanks, underground to the cabin, and back up to the bathroom and kitchen sinks.  This will strictly be a gravity fed system.

I understand that the pressure will be rather low - but the sinks will definitely be at a lower altitude than the tanks in the sauna, so water SHOULD flow fine.  We don't see a need for high pressure, just for running water.  Compared to how things work now, it will be an amazing luxury to be able to turn a tap and have water.

Running low on building supplies the other day, Grandpa and I decided to tackle the first phase of this improved water system.  I had purchased 12 lengths of 10' PVC pipe, 3" in diameter, and we lay it out loosely between the sauna and the well.  Then I threaded through this a new water line.  One 100' length, joined to a 50' length.  Alongside this new waterline, I added in a new electrical line, as well as the existing electrical line for the pump.  After getting the new lines run down to the well, we extracted the existing pipe.  I went down the well for the first time since February, and brought up the pump.

Disconnecting the pump from the existing hose, we passed the new electrical line and new hose through the hole in the well casing, and I connected up the pump to this new pipe.  Then I used some cable ties spaced out every six inches to fasten a 5' length of heating cable to the lowest part of the water pipe.  There was enough cable to follow from the pump, right up to the well casing.  I've never seen more than 3' of water in the well, and the hole in the casing is above the surrounding ground level, so I cannot see a scenario where the plugs would ever become submerged.

I connected the heat cable to the new electrical line I had run down, and then returned to the sauna to pass the electrical cables and water pipe through the footing and into the sauna building itself.

With this done, we connected the PVC pipes together, effectively gathering together the three lines, as well as supporting them and keeping them on a generally straight and level slope down from the sauna to the well.

It wasn't a perfect slope, so Grandpa and I hammered in stakes along the path from the well to the sauna, and then strung up the pipe to ensure a constant angle down to the well.  This again should theoretically allow the water line to drain out when the pump isn't running.  Hopefully this will mean that there is no water in the line - which means no freezing up.  We will have to see how this works.  At least now we have only one coupling in this 150' of line, instead of the five or six that existed by February.  It also meant that there wasn't a 90 degree bend in the line inside the well casing, as had been the case previously when I wasn't sure if the water line could handle the turn radius inside there without kinking.

As a bonus feature, I connected the water line coming into the sauna directly to the water line exiting the sauna for the cabin.  This allowed me to pump water directly from the well to the cabin foundation.

With water this close to the yurts, it was an easy decision to hook up my RV water hose to the cabin outlet, and then push it through to the yurts, so we could once again have running water in the yurts to fill our washing machine.  Yeah!

This is just temporary of course.  Ultimately it will include the tanks and the sinks, but for now, it is a big step up from having to carry four buckets of water from the sauna site to the yurts for every load or two of laundry.

I'm sure some wags want to point out that PVC is not stable in sunlight.  I wondered the same thing, so I was sure to pick up some paint at the same time as I picked up expanding foam to seal the ends of the PVC against water/pest infiltration.  A nice, dark green to help blend in a bit better, as well as to absorb sunlight in winter and keep the pipe perhaps marginally warmer.

For now it works as expected.  The true test will come once the mercury drops below zero.  Only a few months away - and us without even a foundation in our cabin!  I have to get back to work now!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Building a Solid Log Wall Sauna - More Experiences

After more than two weeks of solo work on the sauna, I had just managed to prepare enough beams to pass over the opening for the sauna stove.  I had put in place the spaces for both doors, and was using one of my best looking beams to square everything up.

As always, I was quite prepared to pontificate on my techniques, thoughts, and tribulations.  At about this height, I wanted to get a better feel for how things were progressing, so I temporarily held off on adding the splines and insulation, and focused on just dry fitting the beams.

Often, I would run into a beam that was either twisted or warped, and I would have to get creative in finding a way to straighten it out.  I found that using a ratchet strap wrapped around the end of the beams and tightened down worryingly snug would help loads.  I would put in up to four screws in the notch under these circumstances.

Being able to place a header beam across the gap for the sauna stove was a very satisfying feeling.  I had managed to keep the beams reasonably level and consistent up to a height of twenty four inches at least!

At this point, we were treated to a visit by my parents!  I had been looking forward to this for, well, a year since they last visited!  I had anticipated  that the bug season would have ended just as they arrived, but instead, it seemed to get some extra legs.  We were forced to don our bug shirts and nets to cope.  Papa jumped right into construction and we decided to prepare all the remaining beams for the project, and then do a rapid assembly.

It was a great feeling when the final beam was completed and I could see the different length piles all waiting to be assembled.  I was a little apprehensive though about the amount of work and fussing that I knew remained to insert the splines and insulation and make everything remaining fit.

Cutting the grooves in the beams for the splines had taken a large amount of effort and time.  I was rapidly opening up to any sort of alternative technique for building this structure. 

It was a really special moment when we realized that Kenny had developed his chisel technique so well and so rapidly that we could actually give him a stack of production beams to notch for us.  He really enjoyed helping, and his work was very much appreciated!
It was at this point that Papa and I agreed to completely abandon the splines.  I had been very dissatisfied with their performance.  They seemed to be causing more troubles than they would ever solve.  In fact, I suspect that they actually were working at cross-purposes to what I wanted them to prevent.  Marking them with a chalk line helped to keep them consistent and straight, but that meant that any warps or twists in my beams would not be able to be addressed without causing the splines to misalign.  Not marking them with a chalk line would mean that I couldn't properly align them otherwise.  Catch 22.  Even when they did line up properly, any imperfection in either their length or height would prevent the beams from resting directly on top of one another.  My rush to assemble beams in a dry-run fashion before my parents arrived had shown me just how delightfully easy it was to interlock the beams sans splines.

And so with a bit of apprehension, we stopped using the splines and would instead cup a double-width of insulation and insert both edges of it into the grooves that were designed for the splines.  This worked amazingly well - the insulation held in place very manageably, and bulged upwards nicely to make good contact with the beam above.  We even had the option to install the insulation in the grooves on the bottom of some beams if we felt that would make for an easier install.

To better  fasten the beams together, I would use two drills.  One with a 3/8" bit, which I would drill down about three inches into the newly installed beam, and the other with a red (#2) robertson bit, which I would use to install a 3 1/2" screw from the upper beam, into the lower beam.  

I placed these screws at about two or three foot intervals - wherever I felt that the beams could be tightend up together.  The walls went up much tighter, faster, and more level in this fashion.

With storm clouds gathering rapidly, we managed to rush up all four corners, and then had to leave the rest for the final day of my parents visit.

That morning we headed out early and rapidly put up the small walls between my windows, and then began putting on the final header beams above the openings.

Frustratingly, the final full beam didn't align over the back corner.  It seems that the door frame was a little bit higher on one side compared to the other.  Debates on how to hide this, or recut a beam into a taper ensued...

In the meantime, Kenny used his newly developed skills to construct his own solid log fortress!

As the clock finally ran out on my parents' time here, Papa came up with the excellent idea of drilling through the bottom beam (which would be covered inside and out by floor joists), inserting a pipe, and attaching a chain and comealong to it.  After delivering Nana and Papa to the aeroport for their flights, I returned to construction in a bit more somber mood.  A few cranks with the comealong and then a strap applied to the outside of the beam leveled things up perfectly and I completed the job in under an hour.  If only they could have stayed just a tiny bit longer!

It was great having them here though, and they got to preview the new sauna stove we had had custom made just for our specifications.  Kenny is very excited to see them again in September, when we hope they can stay even longer and Papa and I can put our new construction techniques to use on the scaled-up structure that will hopefully house my family soon.

Please forgive the formatting of this post.  I have been having a few problems with my usual posting app, and am testing the waters of a new one.