Another day, another piece of drywall

So today went better than yesterday. Sleep helped, unsurprisingly. This morning I tracked down some more of the stainless steel finishing nails that hold our cedar strips onto the house – despite our local Bob saying they had them in stock, they couldn’t find them, so I trekked over to Lacey and grabbed some more. It’s a bit more of a schlep, but it allowed me to get back to the cedar application.

I also had to plane down some more of the strips. I’m trying to be as frugal as possible, because we are probably not going to have enough to make it around the house. But we might. The calculations we did were based on a vast overage, but also on 2″ wide strips – forgetting that 1″x2″ is really about 2/3″ x 1.5″. So while we thought we had 40% overage before we started, we realised very early on that we had made a fairly massive maths error, and then re-ran the numbers and came to the conclusion that we may, or may not, have exactly enough. I think we have about 1% overage. Which is not really appropriate given the quality of the lumber we’re using. But it’s what we’ve got.

So I’ve tried to make sure I’m using as much of every board as I can; even gluing some strips back together where they’d split, and gluing knots in to boards where they’ve worked loose but are still intact.

Anyhow, I cut probably fewer of the short strips that go either side of the porch than we need to reach the top, but enough that we should get close (allowing me to work out exactly how many we need when we’re closer) – and continued working up either side of the door.

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They’re actually not quite in line on either side I realised, so I’m trying to correct for that as we go up because at the top of the door the two sides have to meet up again.

Still, I really love the look of the cedar, and am quite looking forward to the interesting little momentary glimpses of the street you’ll get as you come out of the house.

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When Kathryn arrived we set to – and finished – the first coat of the white/grey paint on the trim boards and eaves. The weather started to look suspicious for rain (despite Dark Sky’s promise that it wouldn’t (and it didn’t)) so we traded for drywalling. The first of the sheets in the second bedroom went up much better than either of the last two we’ve done. It still took us at least 90 minutes, but it was a fairly organised 90 minutes and all of it went fairly smoothly (assuming it’s still attached when we get there tomorrow).

So then there’s just one and the diddy bit up at the ridge more for us to do in there, and then it’s on to the lounge. At least until we rent a drywall lift that can actually reach the top of the ceiling.

Roughing it

So the past few days have been rough. I’m starting to come out the other side of feelings of utter despair – so far I’ve proven something to myself about bending, not breaking, although some of that is down to a lot of time with my wife holding me and giving me somewhere to hide from the world. Most of this is down to the evil ongoing in the world. Watching as more facists get power, watching the institutions I grew up with (the BBC, the Guardian) amplify the words of those who would have me dead and ask if it’s just “a refreshing alternative to political correctness”, seeing locally bigots running around with pride… It’s been tough.

There have also been the appalling events in the news, hate crimes happening at least every week, and most likely every single day. Murderous terrorists running around while the GOP conflate the discomfort of being called out for being an arsehole over dinner with being gunned down in a supermarket, and then having the press bothsidesism it to be comparable.

It’s left me profoundly worried about our safety here.

It’s left me profoundly disturbed and considering where we should go. The vague “we should have a plan” has become a more and more incessant clamour in my brain.

It’s made more tricky by the fact that the inside of our house still looks like this:

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Which is not conducive to selling it.

Thankfully, my wife pointed out to me that while we may not be happy with contractors as a general rule, they’d be fine if we were selling it, and a good team of contractors could probably have the place done in a month, maybe two.

As it is I’ve started to nose at Canada. My wife reminded me that if we want to leave the US and don’t want to go back to the UK (where they’re still debating whether I should be a person in the press on a regular basis, and hate crimes against minorities and LGBTQIA people went up dramatically last year), then I might have to get over myself and get some more OB/GYN education and some more surgical experience. Although, that said, I also now have an MSc in Critical Care (which I didn’t have when I applied last time) and I’ve completed the NCLEX (which again, I didn’t have last time). We should probably think a bit about where we’ll go if we do, because the application timeline wasn’t terribly short.

Of course, particularly Sunday night, after I’d curled up and cried for a bit, I slept like absolute shit. That led to a bad day yesterday, where pretty much every job had some mistake in it. Basically my day started badly when the store had run out of the specific stainless steel finish nails we use for our cedar trim and then…

– I picked up the wrong paint – and instead of priming the last two sheets to go on the outside of the house, I instead painted them with the top-coat intended for the trim (which is just off white). I realised this as I closed the can. There is some debate about whether the paint will adhere online if you do this, with some arguing the main purpose of primer is to soak into the wood and prevent you wasting the more expensive top coat, and some arguing that primer has some binders in it to make it stick to the wood better. Fuck knows. I put top coat on all the same, but I’m not sure whether we should go ahead and put it up.

– I misscut the trim I’d carefully left long on the front of the house. It’s marginal, I think less than a mm, maybe a mm at most. But still, depressing. I’m going to have to get a sander and see if I can blend it with the ones around it to make it ‘fit’.

– I forgot to pre-paint the vertical of the furring strip next to the door. That’s meant to be black, not white, which meant I had to try and paint around the cedar I’d put up yesterday. In that process I managed to get paint onto the cedar (not a lot, and not anywhere visible, thankfully).

In the end I switched to digging the trench (which will be filled with stones) around the front of the house, which is a less stressful thing to do.

Bloody e-bayers

As the weather has gradually got less clement (is that a thing? I mean, it’s inclement, so surely it’s becoming less clement? ;) ) we’ve paused a little on our painting odyssey. Which is kinda frustrating – we’ve painted the eaves on the south and the west side, we’ve also painted all but the last approximately 8 feet of the north side. But the weather’s been misty and damp – which isn’t ideal for painting – so we’re holding off until the weekend when it’s meant to be just overcast, rather than mizzley.

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It’s made a difference that’s big to us, but probably subtle to everyone else. Making the house feel more finished. It’s kinda pleasing, despite being a job we’d never really factored into our scheduling.

I’ve also been continuing my quest to attach all the cedar in the world to our house. I did a count today and we may, just may, have enough. It’s going to be spectacularly tight though. It’s a pretty simple, albeit long, job. And I’m not hugely looking forward to the next round of planing as I’d really hoped that the drywall would be out of the way before then. However, particularly after today’s little… experience, it won’t be.

So – we got a drywall lift. The listing (still up on ebay) says that it can lift 150lbs to a 15′ sloped ceiling. Interestingly, it’s now saying it can only lift a 4’x8′ sheet, but the manual (and I use that term loosely) that comes with it says it can lift a 4’x12′ sheet – and the extension bars that it comes with clearly make a 4’x12′ sheet possible.

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However, it’s also clearly a piece of crap. Ropey welds and a wire-rope feed that scrapes the wire up against the winch wheel. It’s nasssty to use and our 100lbs (45kg) drywall sheets are clearly very near it’s real maximum, especially at full extension. Which we’ll get to.

So yesterday we put up the second and third drywall sheets that we’ve ever put up in our lives. There’s a little tweaking needed, we didn’t put enough screws down the edges (but the middle is fine). The summary of that process is: it was a total mare. It took us about 2 hours per sheet – which is a ridiculous amount of time, although some of that is just the sheer weight of the sheet, and some of it is dealing with the unsquareness of the house, but most of it is trying to get it into position. Partly that’s because we’ve gone with a single 12′ sheet cut down to the 138″ width of the room which means that it’s tight to get in there, and then getting it up to ceiling height is a pig. Oh, and did I mention – they’re f’kin heavy. Right at our limit for carrying and positioning with any kind of vague accuracy.

Also, as has been mentioned these are the second and third sheets we’ve ever put up and it turns out that starting off with cathedral ceilings is perhaps not the simplest of things to start off with.

Anyhow, despite the lift making some moderately unpleasant noises, we got the drywall up on the bottom two sections of the cathedral ceiling in our bedroom:

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And so today we set to on the top sheet and a bit. Now, this is where things start to get tricky. We’re dealing with both the unsquareness of the house, and the (and this bit is our fault) unsquareness of the 13′ high walls. See, 13′ it turns out is really beyond our limit for lifting and accurately fixing. So when we got the walls ‘up’ there was not as much straightness as we’d like*. Now, cathedral ceilings are prone to cracking at the seams anyway, it turns out, so I’d found this stuff called “x-crack” which is meant to help with that problem and with unsquare walls. So having made some extra little bits of triangular wood which made a flat section at the peak of the roof (helping to remove part of our unsquareness), and applied X-crack (removing a bit more of our unsquareness), we cut and fit our little thin section that goes right up at the top.

Now the theory was that this would leave a 4’0.25″ gap at the top.

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It did not.

Which is about par for how this has gone. Instead, it ended up with a 3’11.something-just-shy-of-four-foot gap, which was really quite annoying. Still, we reasoned, rather than take down the teeny drywall sheet we’d just really very carefully manoeuvred up and fixed in place, the x-crack, the triangular bits of wood then recut the wood bits shorter, fit them back…then the x-crack, then recut the thin bit of drywall to make it thinner**, then get it back up, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and we’d cut the 4′ wide board down just a smidge (which in this case is 0.5″).

That done we loaded it up onto the hoist. The hoist that the listing said can lift up to a 15′ sloped ceiling, I remind you.

About 11′ later we discovered that our lift cannot lift to a 15′ ceiling.

It’s limit is a good 18″ lower than that. And actually, when you read the specs in the manual it says that an extension bar is required for that final bit of lifting***. An extension bar which was not included. So we are pondering various ideas for what to do now. Do we do all the bits we can do and then come back for the high bits when we’ve got an extension bar? Do we even trust the damn thing with an extension bar…? It is f’ckin terrifying the way it creaks and groans lifting these boards, no matter what it’s official weight limit is. At the current maximum height I think it’s got nearly 20cm of play horizontally. I’m currently engaged in ranting complaining moderately politely at the person who sold it on e-bay. If I’d’ve known it wasn’t able to lift to our 13’6″ ceilings, I’d not have bought it, obviously. Because why would I want a lift that’s not capable of doing what we need?

At any rate, we need to come up with a plan, because currently we have a lot of drywall on the floor, and a distinct lack of it on the ceiling.

* and wanting more straightness is a damn rare occurrence around here.
** which is technically thinner than is recommended for x-crack, but is what we’ve ended up with because of other compromises.
*** Well, actually, it lists its maximum height as 110 ft (or 33.6m), which I think is probably an error.

A billion thin bits of cedar

So yesterday I made it to the corner of the building. Or more accurately, I finished applying cedar to the front corner of our house – I’d not trimmed it to length, but it was all there:

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Last night, and, for a while, this morning, I was wondering if I’d manage some fair distance down the south side of the building today. But I’d not considered that:

We need 12 of the black painted furring strips for that wall (there’s still the back wall to do, too). So this morning I needed to cut and paint them before I could get started. And to work out that we needed 12 I first had to sit down and work out the pattern.

I’d not worked out how long to make the cedar strips…because they’re 12 foot long and our building is just over 24 foot – plus the inch at each end to make it meet the cedar that’s furred out from the building anyhow. So it ends up being ~24′ 5″. Which you can’t do out of two 12′ strips. At the north end I screwed up and ended up with an erroneous non-brick-pattern line because I did alternating rows of [6′, 12′, the end bit] and [12′, 6′, the end bit]. Which seemed fine in my head, but ends up with:


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Which was stoopid. But it’s behind a fence anyhow, and I seem to recall that what I did was throw in a 3′ section somewhere to make it not line up. I can’t recall how I ‘fixed’ it, but it’s not quite the way we intended.

The south end I spent some time thinking about it this morning before attacking it (and I’d thought about this for some time before) and after some playing I have:


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(3’5″, 12′, 9′; 9′, 12′, 3’5″)

Which looks like it’ll work well. But… of course, in addition to working out how it would fit together if it was a plain flat wall, this is not a plain flat wall (we have none of them). This is one of the most complex ones – with the fuse box and the 3 outlets (one box containing two standard / doubles, one for the 40A Rav and one for the 50A general EV charger outlet).

So having sussed the plan, painted the furring strips I then realised that I needed to plane some more cedar. Because, if you’d forgotten, to save money we got rough cut cedar, not planed, so it has to be planed before going onto the house.

So once I’d planed a bunch of strips today I spent a lot of time measuring and cutting. I trimmed down the front ones to length (although I need to get a DA sander on ends of them). I put in the two stainless steel nails into the ends of each one that tie them to the straight runs to the back. And this is where we’re at:

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It was pretty hot out there so I hid under the shade of our shade, which worked fine earlier in the day, but as the sun got low in the evening I just couldn’t find a way to hide and ended up getting pretty warm… but I’m reasonably pleased with how it’s working out. I’m somewhat nervous about the meeting up at the back of the two sides. Thankfully, the french door is in the way, so if it’s not perfectly in line it’s not a total disaster, but it’d be really nice if it was close without a lot of frantic adjustment.

Plan is (as always, subject to change) – do the south side, then do the north side, then do the back.

There’s still the whole strip around the front door too, but that really needs the new front door to be in. Which we’re not quite ready for yet.

Feh.

It’s what’s on the outside that counts

Well, at the moment it is.

This past week we have plodded on with the cedar – I’m now most of the way across the front of the house…

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Although I still need to go back and finish off the back section of the North wall of the house. I left that because I wasn’t sure how I was going to tackle the back corner joint – and cutting for it, but I think I’ll end up doing it the way I’ve done the front corner joints – where I make them overlong, then trim and give them a *very* light sand once I know where the line-up point is for the next side. This is my “cunning” plan to deal with the unsquareness of the building.

We have also decided on how we’re going to do the bit either side of the door. We’ve made the final decision to scrap the really cool thing we wanted to do, and switch to the achievable within a faintly realistic timeframe variant, which is much simpler.

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Today we continued to prime our way around the eaves (where the soffits would be if we had them). This side I remembered that we need to caulk along that strip at the top – to attempt to reduce the amount of bug ingress that can occur (because we have no way to access that void once the plasterboard is up). We’ll have to go back and caulk the top of the bird-blocks at the front, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. I can reach that on a ladder at a push.

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Despite being a dog of a job – slow, fiddly, uncomfortable (I have such a crick in my neck now) and fairly much unrewarding, and also feeling like it’s eating into time when we could be making the house habitable – it does at least look better once it’s done. The wood out here was still stained from the visit from the mould fairy that we got early on. It hadn’t seemed to change since we got the house properly roofed, and mostly it was fine, but there were a few boards that we were less than happy with, particularly on the North end of the house. They’ve all been treated with a proper fungicidal treatment – and now this is stain blocking primer with a mould inhibitor in it. We want to be damn sure that shite ain’t coming back.

We were going to try and match the colour of the roof, but have now decided that something a bit brighter might be nice – and help to reflect light into the building. That said, the light in there is actually really nice – and one of the things that makes us feel a lot more positive about the project.

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Most likely we’ll go with some sort of pale-grey-y-white. Something that shouldn’t become instantly dirty, but also doesn’t just look like we’ve not painted it for a long time.

This week I’m hoping to get more cedar up, and when Kathryn’s free we’re going to attempt to finish the priming, and I guess if the weather holds out we’ll be moving onto the final coat. We’re still hoping that our very-discount-wood supplier will get more of the cedar we need in, because if they don’t the the price is roughly four times the original price. Which would make us both quite unhappy.

One thing which has been pleasing is that with 2400 Watts being poured into the house to heat it, it’s warm. It’s straight up warm in there. Despite having no plasterboard, and loose insulation just stuffed in the ceiling, and the sky-light areas being enclosed with cardboard stapled to the joists, those two little heaters are keeping the entire place warm. Most of the time the thermostatic one seems to be on standby.

So that’s astonishing. I mean, we’ve never had a really well insulated house before, and this one at the moment the front door is badly installed and it’s got no proper air barrier on the inside, but it’s warm with very little heat being put in. So that’s pretty nifty :)

So that went superbly

On Wednesday as the sun cleared away the morning mizzle our Bob lorry turned up with a boatload of fire rated 5/8″ thick plasterboard. I had tried to order the ultralight variant, but it turns out that is not carried by any of our local Bobs. So instead we got the standard variety. Each of these is about 50kg and local planning requires our entire ceiling is done in fire rated boards.

It turned out for an extra $20 they’d deliver inside (fools!); but it also turned out that neither of the people seemed to actually have much experience of moving drywall and needed to be reminded that you can’t carry a sheet of 12ft drywall flat and unsupported, and the whole process was startlingly fraught. Still, apart from the corners of a few sheets, it all made it in to the house in one piece.

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So then we set to on putting up one sheet in the one and only area we had the stuff to put up. See, we have special clips and crack reducing strips that are required for the cathedral ceiling, which, despite my frantic ordering late last week did not arrive in time. But the hall had the advantage that it’s much lower…and doesn’t require any specialist stuff…

… So, we thought we’d just try doing one, just so we could learn a bit about the process, and so we could feel like we are making progress on getting to moving in. See, the other task that’s actually more urgent is to paint the soffit, and for that we need decent weather. But despite the sun having cleared the sky we thought we’d put up one sheet of drywall.

To say it didn’t go well is an understatement.

The first error we made is forgetting just how unsquare our house is. No, actually the first error was accidentally picking what, it turns out, is the most complex piece of the entire ceiling. Then we forgot how insanely unsquare the house is. So the first sheet didn’t fit and we eventually managed to break the edge of it trying to work out how much we needed to trim and shave. We remeasured, and eventually recut a fresh sheet which with some manoeuvring we got into place. Started screwing in place… And then heard unpleasantness.

Cracking unpleasantness.

I’m not sure why yet, but the corner of the sheet cracked, and having taken a solid 4 hours to get one sheet into place, we were both pretty much done for the day.

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We have a couple more ‘extras’ so hopefully once we have had some experience on some other sheets we can come back and replace it. And the clips (which save us adding in some extra framing and theoretically reduce the risk of cracks at the corners of the rooms) and the metal strip (which hopefully makes up for our slightly dodgy framing at the top of the 4m wall and reduces the propensity of that cathedral ceiling to crack) have now arrived and are sat in a large heavy heap in our apartment – so we can at least start on a fairly sane bit.

But that will more or less have to wait until we’ve painted the soffits, because the weather looks ripe for soffit painting.

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It feels like no progress, but I have to remind myself it’s really important.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t

So adding to our tally of inspections that are signed off, and good news on the house front, we had our insulation signed off. That means framing, plumbing, electrical, mechanical and insulation are all passed. What does that mean? That means we can put up drywall… only…well, let’s start back a little bit.

We also managed to drag our less than light 1940s (most likely), cast iron salvaged bath into position which meant that both the shower in the little bathroom and the bath in the big bathroom could have their drains connected. So we did that.

Now in that process we had to make a hole for the bath drain to go through before putting the bath in position. Well, we could have put the bath in position, then marked it, then moved it, made the hole, then moved it back. Did I mention it’s cast iron? And incredibly heavy?

So instead we went with measuring and making the hole, then “sliding” the bath into position, then passing the drain through the bath and tightening it up from underneath. But this came with a few caveats. I, for some reason (which currently escapes me) decided to drill a hole that was really the minimum size I could get away with for the hole. I think I had vague thoughts about trying to minimise weakening of the floor, and that there are a lot of extra joists we threw under there to try and add more support and I hoped to avoid cutting into them…

Who knows. I thought it’d be big enough… but…

And because the bath was too heavy to lift I just felt the rim of the drain with my finger and thought it felt okay. See, I couldn’t really see it very well through the hole which… wasn’t big enough.

So I thought I’d get away with it, and that the seal would be good enough…

I mean, I don’t know what possessed me to think any of these things. Because it has literally never been true. I’ve always had a mare of a time sealing salvaged sinks and baths well. I’ve always needed to clean them thoroughly with sharp blades. I’ve often had to have several goes.

So I threw some water in the bath and it seemed to be staying there, so I let it drain. I’d already got cold and filthy grovelling under the house and we had above-ground stuff to do, so I thought I’d recheck it the next day. So yesterday I threw a bucket of water in the bath and left it to sit for a while. It seemed okay…

….and then I went under the house an hour or two later and found… a puddle of water and a slow, steady drip from under the bath. Fuck.

So I got to grovel round in the filthy water (pooled on the muddy upper surface of the old, filthy vapour barrier). I ended up hacking the floor to bits with totally inappropriate tools, because the bath sits very low to the ground so the pilot bit of our big hole drilling drill bits would foul on the bottom of the bath – so I abused the hell out of my smaller Forstner drill bits to make a few holes around the original hole – which allowed me to pull out more floor, which allowed me to get the blade in to scrape the bottom of the bath and the pipe wrench in. I’m also not convinced the drain’s really the right size.

I ordered it based on it being the only one I could find that didn’t require a threaded hole and being roughly the right size, but I feel like a 1.5″ drain would actually probably fit fine, and possibly be a better fit. So that’s ordered, but they’re coming to spray foam on Monday, so if this one’s sealed and working I’m inclined to leave it unless the new drain is clearly going to be a way better fit. This is one of those – not being familiar with the stuff so it’s harder to work out what size to order things. At any rate, the rest of the plumbing’s fine, or at least appears so… so if I have to rectify this it shouldn’t be impossible.

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We’ve also put up the pocket door frames, which is quite exciting. It means all the framing is truly completed. Apart from any fixes needed when we’re drywalling… And it adds that final sort of definition to the spaces. The door frames to both bathrooms and the laundry were massive voids because the pocket door frames were missing… now they’re in, and finally the rooms feel more room like.

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So, we should be drywalling… only, you need the wood to be under 15% humidity…

Yeah, about that.

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We’ve known for a while that it wasn’t going to be that easy. But now the insulation’s in, we’ve thrown some heating in, and (freakily) turned on the “whole house fan”, so hopefully the house’ll be dryer. Weirdly, you can have two studs that are nailed together along their entire run and one will be 8% RH and the next one will be 17% RH. Mostly though, the new stuff is around 8-10% and the older stuff is around 12-17%. The ceiling trusses are tend to be in the higher end too… which is a pain, because that’s where we wanted to start. Anyhow, we’ve got to clear some space – both to space to work and space to store the drywall when it arrives. So I’ve gone back to working on the cedar:

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I’ve also been working on the bit of wood that hides the transformers for the hidden LED lights that lurk behind the cedar that will go around our front porch. Hopefully they (and it) will work.

On the drywall front, we’ve got a book, and we’ve ordered some funky things that apparently help deal with the drywall joints at angles on the cathedral ceilings (which apparently like to crack) and our clumsy framing at the top of the cathedral ceiling wall. Only now do I work out how we could have held the walls up and vertical while we faffed about to get something more accurately in-line than we did. Thankfully, you’re not meant to put screws in too near the top of the wall, so it may be that the worst of our bits of framing don’t actually matter.

And soon we’ll place the terrifyingly huge order for drywall. We also need to lay some of the heating pipework to feed the hot-water towel warmers – since they hang on the wall that pipe will need to go in before the drywall.

So there’s much progress, but it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be in by our vague and unspoken deadline. Sadly. There’s so much drywall to do… and this is our first ever attempt at drywall, so I don’t expect a lot of speed.