Monday, July 16, 2007


Sunday, I woke up at 9:30 to a quiet house. John had been up since before 7, working on the path! He'd made it almost to the area at the back of our property that's relatively clear and open--the closest thing we have to a field, currently inaccessible with all the summer growth. But now it's just 10 feet or so of berry bushes between us and the field. It's pretty neat to be able to walk around on the land a bit.

Time to get back to joist work. We got the second one in place in the dining room, but when John started screwing the two together, he discovered a problem.

Saturday, John had done all the screwdriver work on the living room joists--about 130 screws. I'd tried taking a turn at one point but quickly got frustrated--I hate to admit it, but I just don't have the arm for that job: holding the driver overhead, putting 3" screws all the way through a new 2x6 and into the old rock-hard joist. When I try it the screw inevitably ends up not quite sunk, with the head partly stripped. So we had a real division of labor on this task, and John had killed his arms. When he started doing it again on Sunday he realized just how sore he actually was and that he really couldn't put in another day like Saturday. I knew it was serious when he just sat on the couch and looked bummed. So I tried a few more screws, but still no go. Hm. Here we were with a Sunday ahead of us and our bodies letting us down.

True to form, John had a backup plan: lag screws!

He zipped down to the hardware store and bought enough 4" lags, plus washers, for the dining room. These we could put in with a socket wrench: something we both could do. Only problem was, the first 4" lag got snapped by the old joist. Back we went for shorter screws, 2.5". These went in fine and, gazing at an entire joist held by lags, I was very impressed with the looks of it--like a bridge support. We also added 16d nails between the lags for good measure.

As we made our way across the room it became clear how much better this method was, not only because it's faster but because I could contribute so much more to the process. It's never a good feeling to stand around and watch John do all the work on some grueling task. We'd predrill, wrench in the lags, and then bang in the nails with our very wonderful framing hammer sent to us by Ellen and Scott: powerful! This job is like a dance, with the constant up and down ladders and changing tools and following behind the new joists putting the braces back in: many little steps coordinated between the two of us. Not coincidentally, we played the entire 4-hour dance mix from our wedding as we worked, plus a Herb Alpert album for good measure.

A couple of obstacles in this room: the header at the chimney, which had to be doubled; an extra 2x4 joist (why was it there?) which we took out since it was sagging badly, contributing nothing to the structure, and threatening to make ceiling installation rather nightmarish; and wiring through a topplate right up against where we were putting a new joist.

Finished up, cleaned the massive mess this job produces (dust, wood blocks, a zillion tools), and sat in the creek for a while talking about everything we want to do with the house and how much better things are now that we live there.

- Erika

No comments: