Monday, October 1, 2007

Solid as our oak

Friday I was home during the day and my mission was to fix up the heat conduit where it emerges from the trench and enters the foundation of the house. We have two conduits that end shortly before the house, and we need to join them into one and bring that one through the hole--essentially, we need to make a Y, and it must be waterproof. Then we'll seal it all up and backfill our trench.

I did some drawings and figured a way that, in theory, I could cut into the two conduits on oppposite diagonals so that they'd come together neatly. Laboriously sliced through the pipes with a small razor blade and scissors, then pushed the two together. Well, they sort of join up, but the ridges on the conduit will make it really tough to get a seal of any kind. I also pushed/pulled a short length of conduit through the foundation hole. So all the elements were there, but I decided to wait and discuss to get some better ideas about sealing and waterproofing.

That night my parents showed up for the weekend and we made fish burritos and talked about old times.

Saturday: Operation Beam, the Sequel, began. We of course already had our beam and posts at the house, and having done this a week ago we were ready to go much more smoothly through the process. This time we'd only have to build one temporary wall, not two--we had just enough overhang on our two sets of joists to make that possible. And we had some different obstacles: the stairs, the chimney and the end of a partition wall that runs along the staircase.

In roughly chronological order:

--Mom used the electric planer Dad had brought to finish the surfaces. Holy cow! This makes last week's beam and posts look rough by comparison. They come with a splintery surface, dates scrawled in crayon and various sawblade markings. And the electric planer just mows that right down to a nice smooth finish in a matter of minutes. Sawdust went all over the yard.

--We built our temporary walls, about a solidly as we would have built permanent walls this time. (Don't you just hate floppy supports?) Two sections, one on each side of the chimney. Toenailed into the joists and tucked right up against where the beam would go. Another useful new tool: this saw that lets you cut at any angle. Quite an improvement over our old method of clamping down a metal square to act as a guide to our circular saw.

--We took apart some of the staircase to the attic: trim came off that would have been in our way, and two stair treads.

--Where one new post would go was a group of three old 2x4s. We took them all out (at this point we could peer down the inside of the partition wall--odd) and then put one back in a different position. That was after Dad decided that slicing an old oak 2x4 in half vertically, with a Sawzall, was a ridiculous idea. True: It's kind of comparable to filing away at the bars on your prison cell with a teaspoon.

--We pulled down the old studs and top-plate where the beam would be. In the past, there was a load-bearing wall here. Years ago, some enthusiastic person took out about half of the studs in that wall, leaving the rest to strain under the weight of the entire attic floor. We've always looking at the sagging top-plate there and shook our heads; now, with our temporary wall in place, we could finally relieve those poor studs of their duty. Out you go!

--Dad planned a slick system of cleats and L-shaped supports to hold our beam up as we'd lift it into place, one end at a time.

--While Dad and John chiseled joints into the two posts, Mom and I caulked a bunch of cracks in the beadboard porch ceiling to get it ready to paint.

--A walk in the woods. One Queen Anne's lace still blooming.

--Steak, potato pancakes, green beans, champagne, apple pie.

--Fire and at least two screech owls.

- Erika

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