Monday, September 24, 2007

The action is go!

Friday afternoon, our posts (well, three out of four) and our beams were ready for pick up at the mill. It was official: we'd be installing them this weekend. So, Friday night, we returned to light demo work in preparation. Erika removed door trim and drywall from the door frames by the kitchen and basement while I reconfigured and rerouted the light switches, sockets, and fixtures that passed through those sections of framing. We had just swept up the debris when Erika's dad arrived, 'round 10.

Here are your "before" shots of where the beam will go and what it will replace:

And here are some photos of the tear down from Friday night:

Saturday morning, crystal clear. Strong coffee and strong eggs. We hopped in the pick up and headed for the mill. My jaw dropped when I first laid eyes on those beams. They were much larger than I had imagined...drawing a 6x10 profile on a piece of paper is a lot different than looking a the actual profile of a 6x10 red oak beam. They were 12' and 14' long. Huge. Fresh. Heavy.

The three of us grabbed an end and lifted it up onto the tailgate of the truck. Then we lifted the other end and and swung it around. Marty and I got up on the truck bed to lift and pull and Erika pushed. We positioned both beams up on the cab of the truck and used some rope back down the other end to keep them from sliding back and strapped 'em down. The posts were tossed into the bed and we were on our way.

We stopped off at the hardware store just before getting back to the house, and those guys were like "hey nice sticks!" They were eager to share their tales of close calls and cheating death while installing beams. We picked up some new blades and other random hardware, and also grabbed a treated 4x4 to use for under-floor supports.

Back at the house, we unloaded one of the beams, then went inside to formulate our plan of action. First step was to build some support frames - temporary walls, if you will. This was far less involved than I imagined. We didn't have to frame out complete walls. Marty assured (and re-assured) us that we only really need a few 2x4s to make this work, and they don't even have to be nailed together, or to the floor. We looked at how the ceiling joists and rafters were configured, and decided to make just three little support walls. We made each one by clamping a top plate of 2x4s to the joists in question, measuring down to the floor and cutting a couple of studs, and then just wedging them underneath, tightened up with some shims.

Erika and I agreed that it felt great to be framing again. Saturday, midday, out on the back porch with the work bench, the circular saw, and the framing hammer. We had those walls up in no time.

With the new frames holding the ceiling and roof up, Marty picked up the sledge hammer and began to whack the studs out. Erika worked out other members of the frame with the crow bar. I carried the lumber out to the re-use pile. Studs and door frames officially gone.

I made a few cuts to the existing top plate (the existing "beam," just two 2x4s sandwiched together) with the sawzall. I got up on the ladder with the sledge hammer and pounded down on it, occasionally accepting the crow bar from Erika and using it to pry the top plate off. Through many a dinner have I sat at the table, looking up at the rafters and joists all nailed to this plate thinking, "it's going to be a lot of work just to separate all of that." Well, it only took about 20 minutes to accomplish. Switched out the blades and cut all the nails that were left pointing down into empty space. Now we were all cleaned up and ready for a beam.

Meanwhile, Dad was inspecting the beam, measuring for length, and planning the approach to cutting this thing up. Originally, he planned to do this all by hand. But after a handful of strokes of the saw, he made the executive decision: we need a chain saw. We checked with the guys down the road to see if they sold them, but they don't. However, our friend the owner generously offered to lend us his. Unfortunately, we found out very quickly that it's old blade wasn't going to give us the precise cut that we needed. This was the day that we would be lovingly gifted a sweet new saw. When Marty told us that we'd have this forever, I could appreciate it. I have so many fond memories of my dad's Homelite, a saw that I've seen him use and repair and depend on for my entire life. Where would we be in this without our family's help in so many ways?

By early evening, well before dusk, we were in good shape. We had a plan. We had support walls in place and on the job. Our joists and rafters were all cleaned up and the old top plate and studs were out. So we took the rest of the night to hang out, sit on a boulder, take some walks, and build a fire.

- John

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