Roughing It

Now that the wall framing was up, it was time to start installing everything that goes inside the framing. That means electrical and plumbing lines, and in my case, data cables and fire sprinkler piping. In this entry, I’ll briefly address the rough electrical, plumbing, and data lines, as I will have a separate entry on the sprinkler system (because it’s unique and cool).

Rough service work begins with locating where you want to put stuff. For plumbing, that’s usually spelled out in the plans, e.g., where you want the sink, shower, and toilet, so that part is pretty easy, and the relevant dimensions of where the plumbing fixtures connect are standardized. However, there are some nuances that must be considered, and since I’m doing an entirely custom installation, I decided to get all of my fixtures up front. That way (a) I could look at the installation instructions and actually do measurements if I needed to, and (b) the fixtures all matched. It cost  quite a bit up front, but at least that expense is taken care of (!). So, I went ahead and marked where I wanted the toilet, sink, and shower drains and water supplies to go. Now, I had to learn plumbing.

Supplies 1

All fixtures and parts for the bathrooms, plus the toilet and sink for the MBR bathroom.

Supplies 2

The rest of the parts for the bathrooms. I also bought all of the tile at once to make sure I had it from the same run. Lots of stuff to warehouse!

As a chemical engineer and as an engineer on a nuclear sub, I figured I could deal with the technical aspects of a residential plumbing job. I had to review the relevant codes to make sure I was in compliance, but then I figured, how hard can this be? I was about to find out….

I decided to start with the toilet drain because it was the largest pipe and I found out I would have to be doing some tricky routing through the joists, which I had previously tripled to shore up the master bedroom floor structure. These extra thick joists turned out be be troublesome because the pipe had to be angled to get the slope correct and the hole saw that I was using was only slightly larger than the OD of the pipe. I eventually hammered it in but getting that last joint together was a bitch! I hope it doesn’t leak.

Toilet Drain

Toilet drain piping. See the tripled joists surrounding the pipe? I had to drill big holes through those and ram the piping in!

The next challenge was putting together the water supply system for the showers. I decided to ramp up the quality of the showers by installing a “smart” shower system that uses an electronic control in the shower to remotely control the mixing valve. I went with copper pipe because that’s what the house had to begin with, and I sure got some good experience in sweating the pipes together (turns out that it’s not that hard). The best advice that I got was to use MAPP gas instead of propane. The higher temperature of the flame makes the solder flow much better. Nevertheless, It’s a complex setup and I ended up gouging one of the press-fit O-rings when I inserted the pipe into the mixing valve, so it caused a bit of a mess when I turned on the water to pressure test.

Shower Mixing Valves Annotated

Diagram of the remote shower mixing valves. These are located in the garage directly below the bathrooms. The hot and cold water supplies connect to the mixing valves and the remote controller sets the temperature and volume through the controller signal lines. The water then goes directly to the shower head(s).

Remote Shower Control

Remote shower controller. This is all electronic and has a memory for 4 different settings (his/hers/morning/after workout/whatever).

 

I also found some cool water supply valves that were recessed into the wall and had a very clean look. They are called “stop pull boxes” and are made by a company called “LSP”. If you’re interested, here is their website: LSP Pull Stop Box

And some pictures:

Recessed Water Supply Valve 1

Recessed water supply valve. The valve is the brass fitting in the middle. If you look closely, you can see the ball valve itself (the silver thing in the middle). This is really slick because it’s behind the drywall and the valve is operated by a pushrod attached to the threaded rod on the left-hand side. Looks very clean after installation which I thought was important for a pedestal sink.

Recessed Water Supply 2

Recessed valve installed. The eustachon will cover the hole OK. The brand is “LSP” and the device is called a “pull stop box”.

Going on to rough in the electrical, the plans are important, but I decided I wanted to do some Human Factor Engineering to get the exact location of the switches and lighting fixtures. I imagined myself doing everyday tasks like going to the bathroom, going to the shower, getting dressed, getting ready for bed, etc., and that helped me locate switches so that (a) they would be easy and intuitive to reach for and (b) I could operate the lights from different locations to minimize going back and forth when I wanted to turn something on or off. I also put in extra wall receptacle boxes, especially near where the bed and home office would be. Receptacle and switch boxes are pretty easy to install, so with that done, I was ready to start running wires.

Rough Electrical Bedroom

Example of the customization that one can do if you’re doing this yourself. I added the data and power boxes for the flat screen TV at the last minute (at no cost to the customer).

Running the wires for the rough electrical is something that’s not typically in the plans, which only show the locations of the receptacles, switches, and fixtures. I guess I could have done a schematic diagram, but I figured I would only be doing this once, and as long as I was disciplined in labeling each wire, I would be OK. To run the wires, I did have to plan out where I would be bringing in power from the electrical panel, and then how that power would be distributed throughout the room. The bedroom has two circuits: one for the sink in the bathroom, which needs to be a dedicated GFCI circuit per code, and one for the receptacles and lights. The “current” electrical codes (pardon the pun) require that receptacles in living spaces (bedrooms, living rooms, dens, dining rooms) be AFCI protected, so I needed to take that into account as well. The dedicated GFCI circuit was pretty easy (one wire from the panel to the receptacle), but the other wiring was more involved. The first thing that I did was to bring in power to a receptacle box, and then distribute power to the other receptacle boxes from there. The lighting circuits then tapped off the receptacle boxes.

One thing to keep in mind is the number of wires you have running in and out of each box, and the number of “devices” (switches, receptacles, both of which are referred to as “yolks” in the trade). There is a limit based on the heat load, and there’s a fancy calculation in the NEC, which it turns out, is not trivial. Here is a link to an good explanation. To make things a little easier, I just always get the biggest box possible for the number of devices I want (switches/receptacles) and have not run into any problems.

Electrical Switches and Receptacles

Good example of tailoring the electrical controls beyond the minimum. I can control both lights outside the garage (front and side) and the garage work lights from this location. The front garage door light can also be controlled from the master bedroom and the front door because it is a security and safety feature. I’ve also installed smart switches, where necessary, to allow control automatically under given conditions (e.g., coming home at night, opening the garage door, fire alarm or smoke detector goes off to illuminate egress routes). The receptacles with built-in USB chargers are a must, pretty much in every room.

Routing the wire takes a little planning. The main idea is to drill as few holes as possible, which typically results in running the wires in the ceiling. The other “trick” is to unroll the wire so that it’s flat. If you just pull the wire from the roll, then it will come out twisted and be difficult to staple neatly to the framing. Unrolling it before you pull the wire takes some effort: you have to pick up this heavy roll and heave it ’round several times. But it pays off with a neat and professional installation.

After the wiring was installed, I needed to energize some circuits so we could continue to live normally (if you call living in a house during a remodel “normal” — I guess it’s the “new normal” for us). Despite my supreme confidence in my ability to install some relatively simple electrical work, I flipped on one of the breakers and there was a loud “pop” (“arcing and sparking” in the trade).

Electrical Boo Boo 2

I thought I smelled something funny. Better find out what happened here!

Turns out that I tightened down the cable clamp too tightly and the clamp cut through the insulation and caused a short.

Electrical Boo Boo 1

Forensic analysis showed that I had tightened down the strain relief so much that it cut through the insulation and caused a short. More is not necessarily better!

I felt pretty bad and embarrassed about that, but later, after doing some additional reading in my electrical “how to” books, I found that these sort of things occasionally happen even for the pros. I guess that’s one way to get experience! At any rate, I had to pull the entire cable and replace it because you’re not allowed to splice or patch an electrical cable. All interconnections must be in electrical boxes that have an opening through the drywall to prevent an electrical short from causing a fire behind the drywall.

Lastly is the data cabling. For my project, I’m running a minimum of 2 cat6e ethernet cables and one RG-6 cable per room, but the the master bedroom and home office, I ran quite a few more. I started with standard electrical boxes, but found that low voltage boxes are easier to work with, so from now on, I’m using those. Because these cables are circular in cross section, there’s no need to be too fussy with the unrolling. However, the installation should still be neat. I found some nice cable organizers that allowed me to create nice data cable runs, which was important as the cabling multiplied as I approached the wiring closet.

Data Lines Annotated

Data cables running through the attic. With a minimum of 2 Ethernet and one coax cable per room, that added up pretty quickly. I put a lot of these in the master bedroom because I wanted the cables for a flat screen TV and a home office.

Wiring Closet

Wiring closet replaces the furnace, which was relocated to the attic. All data cabling from the upstairs is run and neatly bundled (on the right). The loose stuff is the cabling from the living room and garage, which needs to be bundled later when I run the rest of the downstairs cabling.

Finally, I had to install draft stops. The inspector pointed this out to me, so that was something I was unaware of, but once I figured it out, it was pretty easy. Basically, wherever you have a penetration through the sole or top plates of your framing, you need to seal the openings. The best way is to use polyurethane foam that comes in a can. You can get a one-use can with an applicator, but I found that hard to control, so I ponied up for a pro applicator, Worked much better, and I figured I’d be using it for other things.

Draft Stop

Draft stop for the data lines coming into the wiring closet. I also had to accommodate the gas line going up to the furnace, which is now in the attic.

So with the rough work done, it was time to put in one of the true infrastructure “upgrades” that I planned for this remodel: a residential fire sprinkler system. Stay tuned…..

 

Framing The Interior Walls

Now that the exterior part of the addition was complete, it was time to start work on the interior. The plans (that I designed and produced) had an “en-suite”, meaning an adjoining bathroom and other facilities. As a matter of fact, the design reflected my predilection for the “process” of getting ready for the day: do your business, brush your teeth and shave, shower, and then dress. Well, that’s my order. My wife’s order is not the same, so that meant that if we had a scheduling conflict, one could be in private for the “business end”, and the other could take care of the rest. But I digress….

At any rate, I had to construct the framework which meant erecting a wall, and then putting in false ceilings and compartments to define the elements of the space. I had to make the wall that separated the en-suite from the rest of the bedroom, and a couple of smaller walls that separated the toilet area from the shower and dressing areas. These two smaller walls also had to accommodate pocket doors. The framing for these walls was pretty standard (except for the pocket doors — more on that later), but I had to do some detail work to make sure that I had all the correct structural components figured out.

Interior wall construction is similar to exterior wall construction but if it’s a non-load bearing wall, you don’t have the same requirements, meaning that you don’t have to use structural grade lumber, and don’t have to have a bunch of connectors. However, because lumber and drywall are produced to standard dimensions, the rules on top plates, sole plates, and stud spacing generally apply. Other than applying exterior sheathing, the techniques for construction are exactly the same.

Step One: Measure and Mark. The best starting point for wall construction is to lay out the wall on the floor. Professional carpenters do this for all the walls at once because it both speeds the construction process, and  but more importantly, it ensures accuracy and minimizes mistakes because you can see if everything fits together when you transfer all of the plan dimensions to full scale all at once. Not that there were any mistakes in the plans, mind you….(!)

(A) Locate the interior wall from a convenient reference. I used the existing exterior wall and the interior wall end that I had to marry up with.

Tools required for layout. If you’re doing this solo, then you need a handful of finishing nails and a hammer to hold the end of your chalk line (which I have in my belt, but neglected to photograph).

Plan for the wall. I drew this custom from my model. Typically you’ll just have a plan (overhead) view and have to figure out all of the vertical stuff, and I could have probably just done a quick hand drawing, but I’m also the designer, draftsman, and engineer, so I can do it how I want.

Location of sole plate from exterior wall framing.

(B) Check for square. Never assume that any previous work is perfect. Anything you build will have

errors that slowly build up and must be corrected for at each step.

Check marks to make sure they’re square before you snap the chalk lines. This is 63 3/4″ from the exterior wall.

Measure a convenient distance along the exterior wall.

Calculate the hypotenuse of the triangle using the good old Pythagorean Theorem which you learned in middle school (you did, right?).

The moment of truth. Dead on.

Once square is confirmed, locate the other end of the wall out from the reference (exterior wall). Wall baseline measurements in place with nails for holding the chalk line. Marks are also made at the other end of the wall (not shown here).

(C) Snap baselines for the sole plate.

Wall baselines snapped.

(D) Mark the openings and intersecting walls. I needed to mark the entrance to the bathroom and the two intersecting walls that defined the toilet area. I ended up changing where the toilet walls were located to match where the drain was, and also decided to change the door swing to make it more ergonomic. Once you lay things out in full scale, you will find you will need to adjust. The plans are never (exactly) right!

The red marks indicate changing the location of the partition walls to match where the rough plumbing for the toilet came in.

 

I decided to change the door swing to better accommodate ergonomics for entry and exit from the bathroom.

Step Two: Make a kit. Once the lines for the sole plates are marked out with the door openings and intersecting walls, it’s time to start marking out lumber and cutting. The key to framing any wall is to carefully mark out where all of the studs/jacks/cripples will be on the sole plate, and then transfer those marks directly to the top plate. This ensures that the ends of each stud/jack/cripple will be vertically aligned, making the wall relatively easy to square up and put in place.

(A) Cut the plates to size.

16′ lumber ready for marking. I will only use two pieces for the wall plates (sole and top) and the third will be a header for the false ceiling inside the wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measuring out the length of the sole plate.

I put the measurement on the lumber so I won’t forget!

(B) Transfer the marks from the floor layout to the sole plate.

Sole plate on baselines, ready for marking.

Marking where the header of the toilet enclosure wall will go. The marks are transferred directly from the layout on the floor.

(C) Transfer the marks to the top plate.

Sole plate and top plate clamped up for marking. You want to mark both at the same time for accuracy and efficiency.

Marking cripple studs on top plate. These will be transferred to the door header when framing up.

If you want a 16 oc spacing, you have to offset the first one from the end by 3/4″.

(D) Make a cut list. This is done by methodically going through each mark on your top and bottom plates and figuring out how many studs (vertical pieces of lumber) you need and of what kind. There are four kinds of studs:  Common (or just “studs”), Cripple, Jack, and King. Common studs are what you’ll have the most of. They are the height of the finished wall MINUS the thickness of the sole and top plates. For an interior wall with just one of each, that’s wall height -3″. With a double top plate, it’s wall height – 4-1/2″. In my case, the wall was going to meet the undersides of the trusses, which were angled to form the cathedral ceiling. So I had to use a plumb bob to find where the inside edge of the wall would touch the truss and measure from there.

Plumb bob lining up the edge of the wall to the truss. It’s actually pointing to the wrong line in this picture, (the correct line is the one on the lower right) but you get the idea.

Marking the bottom of the truss.

Mark on bottom of truss directly above the inner edge of the wall (i.e., the face of the wall towards the bathroom). Finish nail is in place to snap a chalk line.

Chalk line snapped on bottom of trusses to align the wall when it’s raised.

Back to the types of studs. Cripple studs are short studs that connect the tops/bottoms of wall openings to the sole or top plates. So, you’ll have a few of these wherever you have a door or window. In this case, I had a door and needed to place cripple studs between the door header and the top plate. Jack and King studs are what form the sides of the wall openings (windows/doors). The jack stud provides vertical support for the header while the king stud sits right next to the jack stud and provides stability to the header. The king stud is the same length as the other “common” studs but has a different name due to its function and location within the framing.

Door framing showing relationships between framing members. The cripple studs go above the header (where the hammer is). Note that the bottom of the door has the sole plate going right across. This will remain until after the wall is lifted and secured in place to make the wall assembly stiffer and easier to lift. It’s a simple matter to cut this out with a handsaw after the wall is up.

Once all of the various studs have been counted (and double counted), I put them into a table called a “cut list” to make sure that I didn’t leave anything out and that I had all of my measurements correct. I also put in the materials for the headers and the 4×4 header supports for the two smaller walls for the toilet area. Take some time to double check your work here because if you make a mistake and cut all your studs 4″ too short, you’ll have a lot of extra firewood and an unexpected trip to Home Depot.

Cut list. Makes it easy to get an assembly line going and helps keep track of where all of your parts are.

Cutting station. I couldn’t get my fancy (and too heavy) miter saw stand up here, so I improvised. Worked great!

All studs, cripples, jack studs, plates and headers stacked and ready to roll!

Step Three: Assemble the kit. This should be the easy part, right? Just separate your top and bottom plates, scatter your studs and arrange your headers and start banging away!

Kit components aligned on the floor, ready for assembly.

Well, not so fast. There are a few subtleties that bear mention when putting this thing together. First and foremost, you need to plan for a logical assembly sequence so that you avoid having to nail components awkwardly, or worse, have to disassemble a part because you couldn’t get to it. For this wall, I made several sub-assemblies so that I could accurately nail them together without interference from adjoining components. These sub-assemblies included the header, jack and king studs for the door, and header supports for the two walls separating the toilet area.

King and jack studs for door are pre-assembled. It’s a lot easier to face nail these two together when sitting flat then it is to try to bang it together when on its side and you have a floor and other studs to deal with.

Door framing subassembly with header, king, and jack studs. Also a partial assembly for the toilet wall header support (the one with the 4×4). I only nailed one king stud so that I could easily slide the header onto the support once the wall was up. I would then be able to nail the second king stud in place on the other side. This is a good example of thinking several steps ahead to avoid unpleasant problems in the future.

A good place to start is at one of the corners. I started with the sole plate.

Sole plate complete.

The other issue that you have to deal with are imperfections, both with your materials for the wall and the surrounding structures where the wall will go. Wood is rarely perfect. Some lumber can be badly warped. In some cases, you can take the worst pieces and use those for cutoffs, like cripple studs, where the warp won’t matter as much. Also, you can use warped lumber for the inner studs, where it doesn’t matter very much. Save your straightest pieces for the ends and the door framing, where that alignment matters most. You can also use leverage and beaters (sledgehammers) to “persuade” recalcitrant pieces of lumber into place.

Because of variations in the height of the floor (long story) I needed to put shims underneath some of the studs so they would be aligned with the plates.

Using a “cheater bar” to untwist lumber for nailing. I attached a 2×4 to the inside of the stud and then pulled like hell while I nailed the end to the top plate. I then removed the cheater bar.

Securing the top plate.

Wall complete and ready to raise!

Step 4: Raise the wall. Now it was finally time to raise the wall. Because it was inside the structure, I couldn’t use the wall jacks that I used for the exterior walls because the lumber used for the jacks would not fit under the ceiling. So I had to do this the “old fashioned” way with some helpers. The interior wall framing is lighter because it has no sheathing, and is also “flexible” meaning that I did not bother to perfectly square it up before I raised it. This is because it was going to fit between the floor below, lower truss chords above, and abut against an adjacent wall. So long as I had marks on the floor for the sole plate and marks on the truss chords for the top plate, and these two were plumb to each other, I could be reasonably certain that the wall would be plumb and in alignment with the rest of the framing.

Wall raised and in place.

Because the main wall intersected the slope of the cathedral ceiling, I had to make a few accommodations. Specifically I had to install blocking on the top plate between the trusses to lock in the top of the wall. See the following picture of the false ceiling.

Step 5: Finish the interior details: Lastly, I had to construct a false ceiling on the other side of the wall and add a couple of partitions. Since I wanted the toilet to be separate and isolated when necessary, I had to put in walls that accommodated pocket doors. Pocket doors require an entirely different framing system. There are many types of systems that use basic materials to do the framing, but from a DIY standpoint, I found it more expedient to just buy a kit. The instructions were pretty straightforward, and as long as you’re accurate with the measurements, it’s largely foolproof.

False ceiling assembly detail showing the header and the false ceiling cross members.

Hangers for pocket doors installed. The headers for the doors will rest on these and when the door kits are installed, these will form the walls for the toilet area.

Pocket door headers installed.

Pocket Door Kit Instructions. This is the easiest solution.

Pocket door installed. I couldn’t find a picture of the framework (!)

The last thing I did was to cut out that piece of sole plate that was interfering with the door. If you recall, I constructed the wall with a continuous sole plate to help hold it together when the wall was raised. Now that the wall framework was finished, it was time to clean up that little detail.

Door opening with sole plate in place. I’m going to take care of that presently.

Sole plate is now cut for the door opening.

Now that the interior framing is in place, it’s time to proceed to the next step: rough plumbing, electrical, and data lines.

A New Garage Door

I had been thinking that installing the garage door would be one of the last things on my list because I didn’t want to have to put drywall in and around all of the various hangers and fixtures that are a necessary part of the installation. However, putting in the door now would help finish off the exterior, and let’s face it, the old garage door was looking especially sad in the context of all of the other new work. Another reason was that the door was a swing-out slab, and when it was open, the bottom stuck out and was a head-strike hazard because of the way I changed my sidewalk. So, it was really time for it to go.

One last look at the old garage door. It lasted a long time, but it needed a reboot.

One of the main reasons that I wanted to replace the old garage door is that it sticks out when opened and you can hit your head if you’re not careful. I discovered this the hard way…

See?

I discussed this possibility with one of my co-workers (who also happens to help me when I need an extra pair of hands), and he told me that garage door installation was pretty straightforward. He had done several, but also cautioned that you needed two people to put the sections in place. Plus, he said he would help me out when the time came. I was sold.

Putting in a new garage door and opener is well within the capability of the DIY’er who has a reasonable amount of experience. Having said that, you really need to respect the loads and forces that will be involved. That means that you need to do your homework and read the installation instructions and watch a few YouTube videos on how to do the installation. It’s also important to understand how the entire contraption works, which parts do what, and why you are assembling them in a certain way and sequence.

Back to the job at hand. I got online and found a few places that deliver made-to-order garage door “kits”. It turns out that you can get these same garage doors from dealers and installers as well as big box stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco). Two of the popular manufactures are Clopay and Amarr. I chose Amarr because I liked the available styles and options. There was a 3-4 week lead time for delivery, so I placed the order and began scheming and plotting the installation. This included downloading and careful study of the installation instructions.

Read the instructions! Note that I’ve highlighted the specific sections that were applicable to my installation.

The day came for delivery and I took the entire day off because my plan was to do as much preparation work as I could before my helper came the next day. I started by cleaning up the garage (seems as that’s a constant task), and then installing some additional framing around the door opening (or “jamb”). This framing is important because you’ll be attaching the tracks and the torsion spring to it, so it needs to be very solid and securely fastened to the rest of the framing. I also took the time to furr out some of the door header and pre-install sheetrock so I wouldn’t have work around the garage door parts later.

First thing is to clean up the garage so I’ll have an area to work in.

Here is the new framing for the jamb. This framing needs to be sturdy because it will be taking a lot of force from the door tracks and springs.

This is the torsion pad. It needs to be securely fastened to the header. I used 4-1/2″ Simpson structural wood screws (SDS). They are easier than lag bolts because to install because you don’t have to pre-drill a pilot hole. Plus they’re stronger.

I put the sheetrock up behind where the torsion rod and spring would go to make finishing the garage easier later.

My delivery truck. This truck had about 8 other doors kits for delivery to other homes. I guess I was in good company today.

The garage door parts all delivered. The door sections are on the right and there is a big cardboard box on the lower left stuffed full of hardware.

Next was the assembly of the hardware onto the individual door panels. Each panel is 16′ long by 21″ high. They’re pretty unwieldy, but one can move them around if you get in the middle and move slowly. These were much easier to handle than 20′ 2×12’s that I had to tug about when I was fixing my bedroom joists. The time I spent in reviewing the instructions paid off here because I was able to quickly recognize which part was what and where it went. That’s important when you’re staring at a box of about 300 parts and you need to sort them out.

It turns out that installation instructions are sometimes only so good. In this case, I had to install “struts” which are basically longitudinal reinforcements on each door panel. It was not clear from the instructions how to line up all of the holes, and, indeed, it seemed that several holes were not lining up at all. After about 30 minutes of head scratching and going to the computer to get a magnified view of the plans (thanks to PDF), I was able to figure out how it all went together and that I simply needed to drill some holes where they “should” have been. Bottom line is that sometimes you need to be a little smarter than the instructions.

Door panels with hardware installed. They are stacked in in order so we can just flip them up and put them on top of one another.

The next day, my helper came and we pulled down the old door, reconfigured the side jambs for the new door, and then commenced installation. We got the panels in place, and then I spent the entire next day putting up the tracks, installing the torsion spring and lifting mechanism, and installing the opener.

Here is my colleague from work who is a very reliable helper. I couldn’t have done this project without him.

Track hanger installed. I needed to do some adjustments later when I pulled up the door.

This is the torsion spring. The winder is in the middle. It’s a really nice setup because you just chuck in a 3/8″ socket to your electric drill and go to town. Winding the springs was essentially effortless.

I won’t go through all of the details because there are many videos and how-to’s which show the process much better than I was able to document. However, I do have a few suggestions:

Take advantage of the fact that the hardware is designed to be adjustable. You will likely have to accommodate some degree of error in your door opening and floor in order to get the door plumb and square. The door can also operate with a certain amount of tolerance, so things don’t have to be super exact. But you want to do a good job, yes? So get things as close as you can. I had to tweak things several times after the installation was complete as I noticed that this or that didn’t align just right. Every time I made an adjustment, the door operated that much smoother.

Use SDS screws in place of lag bolts if that hardware is not provided with the door. Examples include attachment of the spring pad and the rear track support hangers. SDS screws don’t require pre-drilling and are actually stronger.

Cut the top of the diagonal back hanger support at an angle so it fits flush against the drywall.

Cut the end of your track hanger brace so it lies flat on the bottom of the ceiling.

Track hanger brace installed. See how the top of the angle lies flat against the sheetrock? Believe me, you won’t be able to get the holes to line up if you don’t cut off that little piece.

The door was misaligned a bit when I first operated it. I didn’t notice at first and ended up damaging the door seal on the right side. NBD, that’s something that’s easy to replace.

Take the time to do a neat and professional installation. This includes running the wires for the opener neatly, and hidden if you can. I mounted my opener button to an electrical box and ran all the wires where the would be hidden by sheetrock (eventually). These details caused me to run our of bell wire and bell wire staples (the opener didn’t come with enough material), but the effort was worth it. Don’t forget the safety stickers!

Door operating switch. I mounted this to an electrical box so the installation is clean after the sheetrock is in place.

When I do a job, I want others to think that a professional did it. Installing the safety stickers is something that the pros do (or should do).

I always sign my work. It’s a nice personal touch.

My opener is really slick (Liftmaster 8500). If you have a garage door with a torsion spring, this is the opener you want. Every door on the delivery truck had a corresponding Liftmaster 8500, so that’s what the pros are using.

The opener mechanism is very compact and operates the door through the torsion bar. This design eliminates the bulky motor and bar in the middle of the garage ceiling. If you get a new garage door installed by a pro. it will likely come with one of these.

The opener comes with an electric door lock. The bolt sticks through the track and prevents the roller from moving past it.

Pay attention to how you install the light beam transmitter and receiver. Make sure you place the receiver on the opposite side of where the sun shines. If you install the receiver on the side which receives direct sunlight, as mine does in the late afternoon, then the sun will blind the receiver and the door won’t work. The receiver is the device that has what looks like a big glass eyeball. I thought it was the other way around until I installed it incorrectly and realized my mistake.

This is the sender for the “light” beam that is a part of the door’s safety mechanism. It emits infrared light so you don’t see it. The amber LED shows that it’s on. This is located on the side of the door that gets sun in the late afternoon.

This is the light beam receiver. It has a green LED and if it is lit, that means that the light beam circuit is working properly and that the door will operate (or if it doesn’t, then that’s not the problem). I found that the light beam is usually the cause of a door operating problem.

Here is a video that summarizes how I did the installation:

A DIY Take On Garage Door Installation

The house exterior is almost done! The inside is another story……

Lookin’ good! I’m getting lots of compliments from my neighbors.

The General Part Two: Roofing.

Now that the stucco was complete, the roofers were next, but they were coming first thing the next week. The stucco folks had to remove the scaffolding, and we had it planned for a Saturday, but the scaffold guys were behind on another project and they had to delay. They promised they would come out on Monday to finish. Sure enough, when Monday rolled around, I had roofing guys having to work around the scaffolding guys to strip the roof. As the general contractor, I had to get this deconflicted in a hurry, so told the scaffolding folks to push the scaffolding back so the waste truck could park and then everybody was happy. The scaffolding guys came by the next day, removed the scaffolding from the front, clearing the way for the roof loader to load the shingles, and then they went about taking everything else down while the roofers worked on top. My experience in managing construction and maintenance in a shipyard on a submarine paid off in this case. (Actually, it was quite simple in comparison.)

Stripping the roof. These guys have this special truck which allows them to throw the junk directly from the top of the roof, making it much easier to clean up later. That process did not, however, work for the back of the house and the workers had to lug around a bunch of old roofing material around the yet-to-be-taken-down scaffolding by hand.

Stripping the roof. These guys have this special truck which allows them to throw the junk directly from the top of the roof, making it much easier to clean up later. That process did not, however, work for the back of the house and the workers had to lug around a bunch of old roofing material around the yet-to-be-taken-down scaffolding by hand.

After the old roofing material is torn off, the next thing that the roofers do is to waterproof with the roofing underlayment. Although not usually a problem here in Southern California, the reason that this is carefully coordinated is because if the home is left without at least a minimum amount of waterproofing after the roof is stripped, than any amount of precipitation will likely cause significant water damage. So the contractor usually plans on stripping the roof and waterproofing the same day in order to minimize his liability in case of rain.

After the old roofing material is torn off, the next thing that the roofers do is to waterproof with the roofing underlayment. Although not usually a problem here in Southern California, the reason that this is carefully coordinated is because if the home is left without at least a minimum amount of waterproofing after the roof is stripped, than any amount of precipitation will likely cause significant water damage. So the contractor usually plans on stripping the roof and waterproofing the same day in order to minimize his liability in case of rain.

Loading the roof. The shingles come in packages of 33 square feet each (1/3 of a

Loading the roof. The shingles come in packages of 33 square feet each (1/3 of a “square”, which in the roofing business translates to 100 sq. ft.). This portable conveyor belt is indispensable in getting these heavy hogs on top of the roof.

Roofing was proceeding apace, and the roofers had to replace some of the fascia boards. I was looking around and then thought about the back of the roof, which had no fascia board (none of the houses in the neighborhood to — a bunch of cheapskate builders!). The roofing company owner came around to look at the job and then explained to me that the wholesaler had run short of the shingles we were using, and they were going to have to stop the work until the following week. We then started discussing the missing fascia, and we agreed it was a good idea to put new fascia on. So, I was back in the carpentry business, with a deadline of Monday to get some new fascia boards up. Fortunately, I enlisted the help of my work crew (my generous co-workers), and we had it up in good fashion. I also took the opportunity to rip off the old patio cover roof and put up a proper deck with 5/8″ T1-11 siding facing upside down to make a nice pattern on the “ceiling”. I had to do this job anyway, but I figured it may as well be now so that the painter can come in, finish the exterior trim/fascia/vents, and then my roofing guy can come back and put in a proper low-slope roof and gutters.

The first shingles are up!

The first shingles are up!

Shingles are going up. The color of the roof was much lighter than I expected, but the color matched very well with the new stucco color. Having said that, we're going to have to reconsider the color scheme for the trim painting.

Shingles are going up. The color of the roof was much lighter than I expected, but the color matched very well with the new stucco color. Having said that, we’re going to have to reconsider the color scheme for the trim painting. This is where work essentially stopped because the workers ran out of shingles.

My own roofing project. I had to rip off the whole sheathing and roof assembly because it was all rotten.

My own roofing project. I had to rip off the whole sheathing and roof assembly because it was all rotten.

The detritus of my own roofing project. I'll get rid of it eventually....

The detritus of my own roofing project. I’ll get rid of it eventually….

The boss has a look. See how hard I'm working?

The boss has a look. See how hard I’m working?

My roofing contractor recommended that I use T1-11 siding for my patio roof sheathing. The idea is that you put it on upside down, and it instantly makes a nice overhead pattern for a minimal extra cost. Looks WAY better than CDX plywood! Truly a great recommendation.

My roofing contractor recommended that I use T1-11 siding for my patio roof sheathing. The idea is that you put it on upside down, and it instantly makes a nice overhead pattern for a minimal extra cost. Looks WAY better than CDX plywood! Truly a great recommendation.

The roofers came back but again they had a supplier delay. This time it was the ridge caps. So, a 4 day job ended up taking 2 weeks. Quite honestly, I’m not the least bit bothered by that, especially since the delays gave me some time to respond to emergent work (back fascia boards) and replace the roof on my patio cover, which I knew I need to do. All’s well that ends well!

House with new roof -- well, almost. The supplier did not order the ridge caps so we had to wait another week to finish the job. This stuff happens all the time, so you need to know how to accommodate if you're the general contractor.

House with new roof — well, almost. The supplier did not order the ridge caps so we had to wait another week to finish the job. This stuff happens all the time, so you need to know how to accommodate if you’re the general contractor.

New roof with ridge caps. Really looks nice and we're getting a lot of compliments.

New roof with ridge caps. Really looks nice and we’re getting a lot of compliments.

The back of the house looks nice. This shows the improved roof vents, as well as the new fascia on the main roof and my new patio roof structure. The patio roof will be covered with a special

The back of the house looks nice. This shows the improved roof vents, as well as the new fascia on the main roof and my new patio roof structure. The patio roof will be covered with a special “low slope” roofing system after the trim and fascia boards are painted.

The next thing I have to do is to schedule the painters, get the roofers back for the patio roof and gutters, and get the HVAC replacement done. I’d like to get it done in the month of December, and I think that so long as the painters finish on time, I should be good from a schedule standpoint. We’ll see….

California Sleepin’ — Finishing up the Porch Roof and Getting Ready For Roofing And Stucco

Alas, even though I had been working hard on getting the framing and roofing done, I still had to build the roof system over the porch. This was going to be some more fancy carpentry than what I did in the past because I had to put together a new roof structure and stitch it up to the existing roof structure. I did much of the work during the design phase, so my plans were pretty detailed. But, before I could proceed, I needed to build a proper structure to support the roof and the associated framing.

The first thing that I had to do was to replace the old beam and column which held up the balcony with a new structure. The old one was falling apart, and most of the construction was more of this slipshod crap from the original builder. I try to replace as much of this crappy work as possible without tearing down the whole house! This, however, was a no-brainer, and not very difficult when compared to building the main addition. I started with a bare foundation, then drilled holes and put in new anchor bolts secured with epoxy. I learned the proper way to do it when I did the seismic retrofit in the garage. Next was some simple vertical framing for the column proper. The main thing I had to consider was how to protect the top of the column from weather. I put in two sheets of building paper with some flashing on top, and made sure to have about 3-4 inches of overhang so that the stucco folks could tie it in when they did the lath.

New hold down bolts properly held in with epoxy.

New hold down bolts properly held in with epoxy.

Close up of the porch column with building paper (2 layers) and flashing installed. The stucco people will like me for this.

Close up of the porch column with building paper (2 layers) and flashing installed. The stucco people will like me for this.

I also had to tear into the wall of the house to get to the old beam and remove it. Good thing I did because the wall support for the old beam was totally inadequate. I replaced it with a proper 4×4 and fastened everything together with SDS wood screws. That baby ain’t coming apart!

New in-wall support column for the porch beam. The other one was a crappy little 2x4 that was all bent. Note the SDS screws which secure the beam the the wall structure.

New in-wall support column for the porch beam. The other one was a crappy little 2×4 that was all bent. Note the SDS screws which secure the beam the the wall structure. “SDS” stands for “Strong Drive Screw”, which is a proprietary name for these screws made by Simpson Strong Tie.

New column and beam for the porch roof. The old assembly was falling apart and the support column in the wall behind was just lousy, sloppy construction.

New column and beam for the porch roof. The old assembly was falling apart and the support column in the wall behind was just lousy, sloppy construction.

The next thing to do was to lay out the roof structure. Roof structures are made with either trusses, which I had to use over the master bedroom, or simple framing lumber put together one piece at a time. This is called “stick” framing when you’re doing it for a roof. Before I get too far into how I did this, I think it’s helpful to be familiar with some of the terminology. As with walls, each structural member has a name. The board going across the top is called the “ridge”. This is supported at each end by walls called “gables”, if they are straight up and down, or “hips” if the roof slopes at the ends, as well as the sides. The framing of the roof from the ridge board to the top of the walls is called a “rafter”, and the lumber going from the top of each wall across is called a “joist rafter”. For more complex roofs, you have “hip rafters” which are at the edges of hip roofs, “valley rafters” where a one roof line intersects another forming, well, a valley, and “jack rafters” which are the short rafters going between the hip rafter and the top of the wall, or the valley rafter and the ridge. Here is a picture to help sort things out.

Basic diagram for roof framing. There are all kinds of references and resources on the Internet.

Basic diagram for roof framing. There are all kinds of references and resources on the Internet.

My porch roof was a little different (naturally). The roof is only “half roof” that starts halfway up the second story wall and slopes down over the porch, so the ridge board becomes a “ledger” board. And, instead of intersecting the main roof with a valley, I have to put down lumber on top of the main roof. I came up with this idea by myself during the design phase, but little did know that my situation was not unique. In fact, I found that the proper terminology for this piece of lumber is called a “sleeper”, and because this happens a lot in California (God only knows why), it’s called a “California sleeper” — hence the title of this post.

This shows the structure detail of the porch roof.

This shows the structure detail of the porch roof.

Now that I actually had to start cutting lumber, I was faced with the conundrum of figuring all of those pesky things like lengths, miter angles, and bevel angles. I also knew from past experience that little errors are magnified when you start cutting angles. I did some research on the Internet and I found a REALLY GOOD roof framing website by a master carpenter named Sim Ayers who had a blog entry on EXACTLY what I was trying to accomplish. So I read with enthusiasm and discovered that calculating these lengths and angles directly from trigonometry was pretty tedious. While there are some handy-dandy roof calculators out there, I decided that I already have a “calculator” in with my 3D modeling program. Since I wanted to be as accurate as possible, I used some direct measurements, which are always good when you’re working with existing structures, and then fed them into a simple 3D model and took off the necessary lengths and angles (bevels and miters) from there.

3D model of the porch roof where it joins the main roof. I only took 3 orthogonal measurements (as shown) and constructed the rest of the model from there using the known dimensions of the lumber and the rafter spacing (16

3D model of the porch roof where it joins the main roof. I only took 3 orthogonal measurements (as shown) and constructed the rest of the model from there using the known dimensions of the lumber and the rafter spacing (16″ o.c.).

Close-up of the

Close-up of the “sleeper” rafter and how I measured the cut angles. The 3D modeling program gives me the exact angles.

I know this isn’t a really useful “how to” unless you have a 3D modeling program, which I highly recommend anyway, but really, if this is something you’d like to know more about, then visit Sim’s website (link above). Here is the link for his blog post on Off Angle California Framing.

Picture of a

Picture of a “pro” roofing job (by Sim Ayers) using a California sleeper.

My DIY version. That was some pretty fancy carpentry!

My DIY version. That was some pretty fancy carpentry!

Once I had the rafters and trim in place, I needed to get the roof on. I decided to use shiplap on the entire roof because the underside would be exposed and I wanted a nice look.

Underside of the porch roof matches the shiplap of the eaves.

Underside of the porch roof matches the shiplap of the eaves.

Front wall extends up to the last common rafter. Note the small space between the main roof, the adjacent wall, and the porch roof. This will be totally closed off when complete. Maybe I'll cut a small hole in the bedroom wall and use this as a

Front wall extends up to the last common rafter. Note the small space between the main roof, the adjacent wall, and the porch roof. This will be totally closed off when complete. Maybe I’ll cut a small hole in the bedroom wall and use this as a “secret compartment”.

I always sign my work. This area is going to be covered with plywood and stucco. I wanted people 2000 years from now to uncover my hieroglyphics during an archeological dig and argue for decades about what this find meant.

I always sign my work. This area is going to be covered with plywood and stucco. I wanted people 2000 years from now to uncover my hieroglyphics during an archeological dig and argue for decades about what this find meant.

Now, before I got the windows installed, I wanted to load the bedroom with any additional drywall and lumber that I might need because I sure didn’t want to haul it up the stairs! Fortunately, I could rent something called a “material lift” which makes it possible.

Drywall and lumber ready for loading up into the master bedroom. I wanted to get this loaded before I had the windows put in,

Drywall and lumber ready for loading up into the master bedroom. I wanted to get this loaded before I had the windows put in,

I rented a material lift to get all of the plywood and drywall up to the second floor.

I rented a material lift to get all of the plywood and drywall up to the second floor.

Unfortunately, I had some “learning” to do when it came time to actually use it as the following video shows.

Despite my failings, I was able to get the materials loaded and the windows installed.

Drywall and interior lumber loaded into the master bedroom. That was a LOT of WORK!

Drywall and interior lumber loaded into the master bedroom. That was a LOT of WORK!

All buttoned up and ready for the lath folks.,

All buttoned up and ready for the lath folks.,

The House That Frank Built

OK sports fans! This moment has been many years in the making. The moment when I, and only I, will bust out the structure of our house with the intention of EXPANDING our living space and making a fantastic en-suite (master bedroom-master bathroom) in a manner that puts HGTV to shame! Because this is a big task, and I needed to focus all of my spare time on it, I haven’t made a blog entry for a while. It’s either work on the house and generate material for the blog, or write the blog and make stuff up. I prefer the former. I took 2 weeks of vacation to accomplish this bodacious task, and I got most of the way through. At least I put up the walls and the roof trusses. But it took another 4 weeks of my spare time to finish the roof structure, put the trim on, and finally cover the roof.

Phase 1: Demolition.

As with most building projects, the first part is the demolition. I know I’ve been talking about demolition a lot, so I won’t bore you with too much more of it. As with most demolition projects, the best course of action is to work from the top down, and to disassemble whatever you’re demolishing in the opposite order that it was built. Because the bedroom extension will also result in extending the roof (sleeping under the stars is OK if you’re camping), I began by stripping the shingles from a portion of the roof. My biggest concern was roof safety. If there is anything dangerous in this endeavour, this is it. So I took some time to get the proper equipment: roof jacks, scaffolding, and a safety line with a harness. Yes, it cost a few bucks, but it’s cheap insurance. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I’m a bit obsessed with safety. The other nifty tool that I got was a roofing shovel. This tool has a notched spade that you ram underneath the shingles to get under the roofing nails, and a fulcrum that allows you to pop the nails right out. The technique is to start at the top of the roof, and after you pry off the ridge shingles, you get a start on the shingles at the top and then just go to town. That being said, even with the right tools and safety equipment, it’s hard, tedious, and somewhat messy work.

Safety harness and safety line. It's kind of a PITA to work with, but it sure provided me peace of mind. This is what all the pros use now.

Safety harness and safety line. It’s kind of a PITA to work with, but it sure provided me peace of mind. This is what all the pros use now.

Roof safety: Roof jacks to provide a solid base for working.

Roof safety: Roof jacks to provide a solid base for working.

Roof stripping complete. Took me all day.

Roof stripping complete. Took me all day.

 

Next was the trim. One might think that removing trim is no big deal. But it was to me because I had to get way up high and had to bang and lever stuff around, keep my balance while precariously perched on the scaffolding and ladder, all the while making sure that whatever fell down didn’t fall on me. The other bad news was that we were experiencing a record heat wave, so that meant that every push and pull was accompanied by beads of sweat in my eyes, lack of energy, and dehydration. I kept trying to drink as much water as I could, but there’s really no way to keep adequately hydrated while doing heavy physical labor in 96 degree heat.

Roof overhang and trim removed.

Roof overhang and trim removed.

Now, on to the messy part: Knocking down the walls. This part of the demolition worried me a bit. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time cutting stucco vertically on the wall, but I needed to get the wall down in pieces that were not so big they would damage the subfloor when they would inevitably come crashing down. I first had to knock down the gable wall, first by taking down the triangular portion of the gable by splitting it at the top plate, and then taking down the vertical walls. Since the side walls are load bearing, I had to build a temporary structure to accept the load. Also, I only took down one of the side walls at a time so only one side of the roof was unsupported. Because I didn’t want to have to cut stucco while precariously balanced on a ladder from the outside, I decided to pull the wall down from the inside. Since I know that the easiest way to cut the stucco is when the stucco is lying flat, I decided to yank the whole wall down and then disassemble it. Sure enough, with all of that weight of the stucco, it came down with a big crash! This turned out to be a very bad thing because I, like a dummy, did not think to put temporary bracing under the joists of the bedroom floor. Here is the result:

Gable wall demo complete. What have I gotten myself into?

Gable wall demo complete. What have I gotten myself into?

Temporary bracing to transfer the roof load to the floor. Too bad I didn't complete the job by constructing concurrent bracing to properly transfer the load from the underlying joists to the slab foundation below.

Temporary bracing to transfer the roof load to the floor. Too bad I didn’t complete the job by constructing concurrent bracing to properly transfer the load from the underlying joists to the slab foundation below.

Wall before demo.

Wall before demo.

Wall after demo.

Wall after demo.

Minor damage from the downfall of stucco. I had a surprise coming.

Minor damage from the downfall of stucco. I had a surprise coming.

Joist failure as a result of not properly transferring the load to the foundation. I'm going to put a bag over my head when I call my engineer for recommendations.

Joist failure as a result of not properly transferring the load to the foundation. I’m going to put a bag over my head when I call my engineer for recommendations.

Cracked joists. I needed to deal with termite damage anyway, so really no extra work. But I sure feel dumb!

Cracked joists. I needed to deal with termite damage anyway, so really no extra work. But I sure feel dumb!

Phase 2: Build the walls.

One of the tricky things about building on a second floor is that you actually have to get the building materials UP to the second floor. This meant spending the better part of a day tediously pushing lumber, mostly one piece at a time, up a ladder and onto the second floor. I had to plan ahead to make sure that I had all of the lumber for the entire build, including the interior framing and plywood, because I did NOT want to struggle hauling this stuff up the indoor stairs after I closed in.

Lumber delivered. Now, to get it up to the 2nd floor!

Lumber delivered. Now, to get it up to the 2nd floor!

Building a standard wall for a house is pretty straightforward. You layout and cut the lumber, build and sheath the wall while flat on the floor, and then raise it up. The easiest way is to start by carefully aligning your sole and top plates, and then doing the layout of the studs all at once. This not only saves time, but more importantly, helps to make the wall square because all of the top and bottom measurements are the same. The next thing to do is to make a “kit” for all of the framing lumber. This not only includes all of the studs, but also the headers, sills, cripple, and jack studs for the window and door openings, as well as the framing for each corner. From there, it’s a simple matter of separating the sole and top plates, scattering in the pre-cut parts, and then methodically nailing them together. It’s important to follow a nailing schedule, meaning that the prescriptive codes require specific sizes and spacing of nails for a given assembly. For example, a stud to sole plate or top plate can be two 16d nails driven longitudinally into the stud (“face nail”) or three 10d nails driven in from an angle (“toe nail”). Fortunately, the County of San Diego has a convenient summary sheet of all of these requirements, which the plans inspector “suggested” that I include as part of my building plans. I took the hint.

Wall lumber cut to length and organized to form a "kit". I did this for the lumber for all three walls.

Wall lumber cut to length and organized to form a “kit”. I did this for the lumber for all three walls.

All kit parts need to be labeled so you don't get confused. These are labeled "C/O" for "cripple" stud (window), and "outside" because the top is cut at a 5º angle to allow for water drainage from the sill.

All kit parts need to be labeled so you don’t get confused. These are labeled “C/O” for “cripple” stud (window), and “outside” because the top is cut at a 5º angle to allow for water drainage from the sill.

The next thing to do is to sheath the wall. In many building situations, it’s better to put the wall sheathing on after the walls are raised because you can do some adjustments for dialing in plumb and square, and you can apply the sheathing in a fashion that overlaps the structural assemblies to add some strength. However, it’s more difficult to fool around with large pieces of sheathing, particularly plywood, when you’re trying to hang it vertically. Putting the plywood on the walls while they were still on the floor was a no-brainer for me as a one-man-show. One thing I learned about walls is that 2×4 lumber can be pretty flexible on this scale. You have to use a big sledge hammer to bang stuff around, but it’s important to square things up before you put the plywood on, because once the plywood is attached, it ain’t movin’!

Lastly the wall needs to be raised. There are lots of pictures of construction crews all gathering around a wall, and with a mighty “heave ho”, the wall comes up. Not possible with just me doing the heaving. Fortunately, there is an outfit (Qualcraft) that makes something called a wall jack. This operates much like the old-fashioned car jack that you used to hook under your bumper to change a tire. But instead of a metal jack shaft with teeth, it uses a long 2×4 piece of lumber. It’s pretty ingenious, and here is a short video and some pictures:

Wall jacks in position, ready for action!

Wall jacks in position, ready for action!

Close-up of wall jack. 2x4 screwed into the floor prevents kick-out.

Close-up of wall jack. 2×4 screwed into the floor prevents kick-out.

 

Last wall up, ready for trusses.

Last wall up, ready for trusses.

Phase 3: Place the trusses.

Now that the walls were up, it was time to get some help. The trusses, by themselves, are not particularly heavy, but they are difficult to handle and are fragile if they are handled while they are flat. Fortunately, the same co-workers that helped me place the big beam I needed for my garage portal were willing to spend a morning yanking these bad boys up and securing them into position. I only had 4 of these, but we had a little trial and error at first, so it took a little longer. I also had them come back to help me with the gable wall. Now, it was up to me to finish detailing the front of the roof line with outlookers and blocking.

Last wall up. Things are beginning to take shape.

Last wall up. Things are beginning to take shape.

Trusses delivered.

Trusses delivered, ready for installation.

My "crew". Their help was indispensable in completing this phase of the project.

My “crew”. Their help was indispensable in completing this phase of the project.

Trusses are up!

Trusses are up!

Gable wall and outlookers in place.

Gable wall and outlookers in place.

Phase 4: Finish the roof.

Finishing the roof was actually a two step process. I first needed to get the trim boards placed on the ends of the truss overhangs and outlookers. These are called “barge” rafters, and these were particularly long and heavy. I spent an entire day messing around with scaffolding and engineering a “third hand” to hold the rafter while I put it in place. But when I found it impossible to even the the board up there by myself, I knew it was time to call my crew back for another session. Sure enough, in about 3 hours, we were all done. Finally, I was able to get the roof sheathing in place. If this were a flat surface, this job should have taken about 3 hours. But because it was on a roof, I had to laboriously move around and reconfigure scaffolding, haul materials up and install them, and then move onto the next part. Getting the plywood up for the roof sheathing was also challenging. I decided to make a simple lifting fixture from scrap 2x4s that I screwed onto the plywood, and then used a rope to pull up the plywood. I also set up a couple of long boards to help the plywood slide up to the roof. This lifting fixture also proved valuable in placing the plywood because it gave me some leverage. Note that I had to place on piece of plywood at a time using this method, so, again it took a long time.

Another thing I learned about working on a roof is that it’s physically hard! That’s because you constantly have to fight against gravity because you’re working on a slope. Plus, there’s no shade (duh!). So, in addition to it being hot, all of that up-and-down and muscling the plywood in place really wore me out. In the end it took about a week (!) to finish the roof. But I liked the result.

Outlookers in place, ready for the barge rafters. Note the "3rd hands" to the right and left of the scaffolding on the outlookers.

Outlookers in place, ready for the barge rafters. Note the “3rd hands” to the right and left of the scaffolding on the outlookers.

Barge rafters in place. Beginning to look like a house!

Barge rafters in place. Beginning to look like a house!

Shiplap appearance boards are on the roof overhangs to match the rest of the house.

Shiplap appearance boards are on the roof overhangs to match the rest of the house.

Roof all done! Looks nice.

Roof all done! Looks nice.

The inside. This is going to be a nice bedroom!

The inside. This is going to be a nice bedroom!

The proud builder and his creation.

The proud builder and his creation.

Phase 5: Install the connectors.

Actually, installing the connectors is something that I did as I went, but I wanted to highlight the fact that the days are gone when you can simply use nails to build a house. Modern house construction uses metal connectors almost everywhere, especially between major components (e.g., foundation to first floor, first floor to second floor, second floor to roof). There are hundreds of connectors to choose from, but that was taken care of during the design phase, so the ones that I’m using are all in my plans. Each connector has a specific fastening schedule (number and type of fasteners), so you have to be pretty meticulous. I made copies of the specification sheets for each connector that I used, and highlighted each one and keep them in my permit book so that when the inspector comes by, I can show him what I’m working to. I really did learn something when I prepared for my inspections in the Navy!

Metal connectors for the roof, studs, and top plate.

Metal connectors for the roof, studs, and top plate.

Connectors between gable and front wall. I still need to add connectors between the wall and the rim joist on the bottom.

Connectors between gable and front wall. I still need to add connectors between the wall and the rim joist on the bottom.

I’m hoping the pace will now pick up with the roof, windows, stucco, and HVAC contractors coming in. Stay tuned!

 

It’s Electric!

While waiting for some more vacation time to accrue so that I could take a couple of weeks off and do the master bedroom buildout, I had a few weeks with nothing planned in particular. So last week, I decided to get some of my electrical work in. I’ve been researching this for some time and came to the conclusion that I would get the new service entrance panel and breaker panel all mounted and connected, and then I could call the city inspector. After passing that inspection, I could then contact the electric company (SDG&E) at my convenience and have the upgraded services connected at a time convenient for me. So I figured I could at least get the panel installation done.

The first thing was to order all of the parts. I had figured out most of this during the design phase of the remodel, so all I had to do was to re-familiarize myself with the work I already had completed, and then go back into the manufacturer’s catalog (I chose Eaton), get the part numbers, and then type them into the Home Depot website and put them on order for home delivery (that was free). 3 days and $1,000.00 later, I had all of my panels and breakers at the ready.

The next step was to open up the panels to see exactly how they were laid out so I could figure out what would go where, what knockouts I would use, what types of conduit and fittings I would need and what kind of wiring to get. I didn’t need a lot of wire because the panels are back-to-back, but it needed to be pretty hefty wire because it carries all of the house loads. One thing I had to figure out was how to lay out the grounding bus and neutral bus. If this means nothing to you, then you can (a) read my previous blog entry on grounding, (b) go to this website (http://www.wireyourownhouse.com) which does a pretty good job of explaining the terminology, or (c) skip ahead and forget the technical stuff. Since I like the technical stuff and it’s my blog, then I’m going to tell you all about it.

My brand-new meter panel. This is just like Christmas!

My brand-new meter panel. This is just like Christmas!

In most panels, the service (main) breaker and all of the feeder breakers are in the same enclosure. This arrangement allows you to install grounds and neutrals on the same bus. However, once you have a panel which is fed from another breaker (called a sub-panel), you now have to electrically separate the ground from the neutral. The reason for this is because if you have a unbalanced load running, such as a single 120v appliance, then there will be current running on the neutral, and if that neutral is grounded, it will be running through the grounding wire as well, which can be dangerous. It also can screw up the operation of your Ground Fault Circuit Interruption (GFCI) and Arc Fault Interruption (AFCI) breakers.

So, the way I have my panel wired up, with the main service breaker as part of the meter panel, I have to wire the panel with all of the circuit breakers as a sub-panel. Yes, it’s a little more complicated, but I wanted to be able to COMPLETELY de-energize the circuit breaker panel so I could work on it safely. All in one panels are NOT de-energized because you still have live voltage at the cables coming in from the meter into the top of your mains.

No big deal. All of these panels come with a neutral bus that can be separated by removing a jumper bar, and you can now have a separate neutral and ground bus. BUT, I had one problem. Nowadays almost EVERY breaker is going to have GFCI or AFCI protection. Out of the 21 circuits in my design, only 3 use conventional breakers. The GFCI and AFCI breakers have a “pigtail” which forms part of the sensing circuit and connects to the neutral bus. But I really couldn’t see trying to wire the panel with just one neutral bus without having pigtails on the opposite side making a complete mess and a wiring nightmare. If there is anything that I know about electrical work, it is that neatness counts. Big time. Yeah, you can get it to work if your wiring is a rat’s nest. but it will be difficult to work with later, especially if you have to troubleshoot or add a new circuit.  What I really needed was a neutral bus and grounding bus on each side of the panel so that I could have some flexibility in routing the wires.

Well, it turns out that the panel manufacturers make individual grounding busses that you can screw into holes in the panel that just so happen to match. So, I left the jumper between the existing ground and neutral busses and just didn’t connect them to ground, making them both neutral busses, and then installed two of the add-on grounding busses above and connected it all up with proper grounding wire.

Indoor distribution panel modified for neutral and grounding bars on each side.

Indoor distribution panel modified for neutral and grounding bars on each side.

With that problem solved, it was time to locate the panels and figure out how to attach them to the wall. I also had to make sure that it was vertically located to make it easy to work inside the panels, and met the utility company specifications for the height of the meter. The last part was to figure out how the wires would be routed so I could identify the correct “knockouts” to, well, knock out.

After some preliminary fitting, I temporarily attached the indoor breaker panel between the studs and marked the hole for the wires coming in from the meter. I then removed the panel, drilled the hole with a hole saw, and installed a short piece of threaded pipe, or conduit in electrician’s terms, so that the wires would be protected as they passed through the wall.

Closeup of the through-wall conduit, which is the silver pipe on the lower right. The yellow water seal is visible.

Closeup of the through-wall conduit, which is the silver pipe on the lower right. The yellow water seal is visible.

Turning my attention to the meter panel outside, now could locate it using the conduit coming from the inside as an anchor point. After some trial-and-error and trimming of the conduit coming up from the ground for the main power lines and ground wire, I marked the location of the mounting holes in the back of the panel and drilled holes for the mounting bolts. I chose to use carriage bolts for mounting the panel because (a) they would provide a good anchor to the plywood of the wall and (b) they could protrude enough so that I could get a layer of stucco on the plywood before I mounted the panel. More on that later.

Exterior studs and conduit aligned for the outer meter panel. Yes, the stud on the lower left looks a little out of line, but I needed to "adjust" it to make it fit.

Exterior studs and conduit aligned for the outer meter panel. Yes, the stud on the lower left looks a little out of line, but I needed to “adjust” it to make it fit.

Lastly, I needed to fit everything together to make sure it all worked. So, out with the inside panel (again) to install the bolts for the outside panel, replace the inside panel and fit the conduit into the hole in the wall, fiddle around with the outside meter panel to align it with the main power, ground, and thru-wall conduits, and finally fit the panel onto the mounting bolts. How does it look? Ugh! The damned thing was leaning over! But, never a project without some kind of do-over, and because I do a lot of this do-over stuff, I’m pretty good at it. One hour later, voilá! Nicely done.

Outside meter panel temporarily mounted., Want to make sure everything lines up before putting on the waterproofing building paper and stucco.

Outside meter panel temporarily mounted., Want to make sure everything lines up before putting on the waterproofing building paper and stucco.

Well, maybe that wasn’t the last step. I needed to make sure that the wall behind the outside panel was properly waterproofed, and if I installed it directly to the plywood, that would be impossible. The correct solution is courtesy of my favorite stucco guy, Kirk Giordano (http://www.youtube.com/user/StuccoPlastering). He showed a video of putting up stucco behind a new electrical panel with all of the proper waterproofing. In his instance, the panel was already located, but In my case, I could remove the panel to get better access. The key is to properly waterproof plywood with 2 layers of building paper, making sure that you flash and counter-flash around the conduit through the wall and the mounting bolts. Then, it’s time to do some stucco work! I really didn’t want to do a whole lot of it — just enough to make a nice surface in back of the panel. The professional stucco people that I plan on hiring will feather in around the panel and it will all look nice in the end. My job was just to make sure that I left enough room for them to tie into the paper and the lath when they come in to do the finish work.

The studs and conduit are properly wrapped in masking tape to shield them from the onslaught of stucco mud.

The studs and conduit are properly wrapped in masking tape to shield them from the onslaught of stucco mud.

 

Meter panel mounted in the final position. I tried to make the wall in back waterproof, yet easy for the stucco contractor to come in and finish around the panel.

Meter panel mounted in the final position. I tried to make the wall in back waterproof, yet easy for the stucco contractor to come in and finish around the panel.

Closeup of the sealer locknut. This is a great installation.

Closeup of the sealer locknut. This is a great installation.

 

Now the fun part — wiring! To me, this is a fairly straightforward task that is not particularly physically taxing, and you aren’t under any time pressure, like you are with masonry, and it’s pretty clean work (no mortar, sawdust, paint drips, water, etc.). My primary objective when doing wiring, other than meeting all specifications (e.g., wire sizes, connectors, strain reliefs, grounding) is NEATNESS. Especially in the main electrical panel. Wires should not just cris-cross all over the place, but be neatly run, vertically and horizontally, so it is possible to easily follow where each wire goes. As with all projects, a little forethought can go a long way, and in this instance, I figured out that I needed to route the ground wires first because I had to snake the wire coming in from the meter panel in back of the neutral bus on the breaker panel. I then had to connect just 3 more wires: two hot and one neutral. But these were BIG wires. Well, cables if you want to be more descriptive. For a 200 amp service, 2/0 copper is sufficient. There are some techniques for handling this size of cable, and I learned a lot from the Internet, as well as a great book by Rex Cauldwell called Wiring a House (Taunton Press, 2014). But basically, all you need is a utility knife, a pair of linesman pliers, a hacksaw and a crescent wrench (you use the hole in the handle for bending the cable).

Here are some pictures that show some of the electrical details.

Elements of a meter panel. Cables from the transformer at the street come up through the big conduit on the bottom. The two power lines hook up to the bottom of the meter, and the neutral cable hooks up to the neutral bar. The meter goes into the base on the left hand side, The two cables coming out of the top of the meter base go to the main panel breaker. Cables for power and neutral will come down and feed back into the house through the metal conduit on the right. Everything on the left hand side is the responsibility of the utility. Everything on the right hand side is all mine!

Elements of a meter panel. Cables from the transformer at the street come up through the big conduit on the bottom. The two power lines hook up to the bottom of the meter, and the neutral cable hooks up to the neutral bar. The meter goes into the base on the left hand side, The two cables coming out of the top of the meter base go to the main panel breaker. Cables for power and neutral will come down and feed back into the house through the metal conduit on the right. Everything on the left hand side is the responsibility of the utility. Everything on the right hand side is all mine!

 

Everything all wired up for action! The feeder breakers are installed back-to-back along the center so they make contact with one (for120v) or both (for 240v) of the hot legs. Outgoing wires for the branch circuits are routed in along the "gutters" adjacent to the hot legs. What is it about the trades and their terminology? Male and female fittings, nipples, studs, hot legs? Sheesh!

Everything all wired up for action! The feeder breakers are installed back-to-back along the center so they make contact with one (for120v) or both (for 240v) of the hot legs. Outgoing wires for the branch circuits are routed in along the “gutters” adjacent to the hot legs. What is it about the trades and their terminology? Male and female fittings, nipples, studs, hot legs? Sheesh!

And here is a video of me putting all of this together.

All done. Now it’s time for inspection!