Monday, November 19, 2007

More than a ceiling

Let's fill you in on what we did last week and over the weekend. Ready? Okay.

It took several nights and some weekend time to finish the framing in the kitchen so that the ceilings and drywall would go up properly. At the front wall of the kitchen, where the now-vaulted ceiling reaches its highest point, there are short 2x4 studs that support the kitchen roof rafters at about mid-span. These things are not plumb and usually don't line up with the wall. Rather than try to repair them, we decided it would be easiest to just cut all new studs and attach them to the existing ones, only aligned correctly. We did that Tuesday or Wednesday night, I think.



Next, we had to deal with the ends of the kitchen high walls. These wedge-shaped sections of wall up above needed all sorts of work if they were going to be turned into walls. On the sink-end of the room, we had to remove a mysterious electric receptacle and then cut away the 1x6 plank that runs the width of the kitchen so that it would be flush with the wall. This was done by standing on the counter and running the circular saw at eye level. I cut what I could and then the rest was handled with a chizzle (sic). The wood split easily this way and I was surprised by how quickly the work went.

With that board trimmed back, we cut and installed studs along that wall to use as drywall nailers. Then, we ran ten feet of 2x4 along the top of them, flush with the existing rafters, to use as a nailer for the ceiling.

Erika had also managed to cut and repair window trim in the dining room that was altered many years ago when someone needed to fit a window-unit air conditioner.

Erika here. Friday, I worked on bathroom window trim (it's now all puttied, primed and painted and looks amazingly good considering how crappy it was when we nailed it up), helped the delivery guy unload our beadboard and drywall, put up a couple small pieces of drywall around our replacement kitchen window, and finished
screwing down the porch steps. And took some pictures (more on that later).

John again. Friday night we would work on the opposite wall of the kitchen. This section, another wedge end, seemed the most daunting to design. But, being the experienced framers that we've become, we got it done that night. First, we had to trim an inch or so off the depth of a horizontal brace that crossed the lower plane of the rafters which if left untouched, would result in a lumpy ceiling. Done with the Sawzall and chisel. Needed to touch up another brace in the same way, though it wasn't as severe.

Then we ran an old 2x4 from the back wall to the kitchen beam to serve as the corner of the nook ceiling. Once it was wedged and screwed into place, we cut and installed vertical studs for drywall nailers. A successful Friday night.

Saturday, we called our local builder's supply store to ask about renting a nail gun but they had rented their last one for the weekend. We'll deal with that later. I dug out my notes from when I removed all the wiring and lighting fixtures from the kitchen. Erika painted window trim and windows in the bathroom while I installed junction boxes and re-assembled the kitchen electric system. We installed a box for a light above the sink, one for a central light/ceiling fan, and one that will be uncovered at a future date when we remodel the kitchen - not in use now, but we thought ahead the best we could. Of course, this took half a day.

Saturday, late afternoon, time to insulate! This didn't start off well. In order to get the properly rated insulation for our kitchen ceiling (R-21), we had to settle for 16" batts when we really need 24". We just ordered more of it and resigned ourselves to tearing the stuff lengthwise to fit into our old style wide rafter bays. The first couple of bays are oddly sized, so the flexible metal rods that we use to hold the stuff up weren't working well. It was uncomfortable and frustrating work, plus our friends' party was getting started around that time and we knew we were going to be late - really late.

After a bit of cursing and some minor lacerations, we figured it out. We insulated about 90 percent of the kitchen before we decided to just quit, clean up, and go party.

Sunday morning. Oh yeah, the nail gun. There was no way that we were going to attempt to hang 4x8 sheets of plywood on our ceiling using a hammer and finish nails. Too many reasons to list. So we took a Sunday morning drive over the mountains and bought a pneumatic finish nailer and some other supplies for the day.

Back at the house, we finished insulating. We had also realized that we were going to need nailers running lengthwise for our plywood ceiling. That meant measuring, cutting, and installing about 18 lengths of 2x4 across the ceiling, between each set of rafters. We are framing machines. We measured everything and wrote it all down on a notebook. Then we took the notebook to the basement and set up for cuttin''. Slap the board on the bench, Erika would measure and square up a line, I'd zing it off with the circular saw, repeat. We carried the armloads of cut lumber back to the kitchen, started screws in 'em on the floor, then got up on the ladders and put them in.

Ready to put up a ceiling? Almost...the ceiling here counts as an exterior "wall," so we had to staple up a vapor barrier of 4 to 6 mil plastic. We had just enough left over from the crawl space vapor barrier project to do this job with. But as we started putting it up, Erika noticed that since we were using black plastic, we wouldn't be able to see our rafters or nailers.

This would make ceiling panel installation most difficult. The hardware store was closing in 6 minutes. I flew down the road and made it just in time for some clear plastic. That was my third trip to the store since 11am.

Pop pop pop, the familiar sound of the staple gun. Vapor barrier up!

Alright, party people, now it's time to put up a ceiling!

We built our first "dead man," which is a length of 2x4 a few inches longer than the height of the ceiling, with a 3' length of 2x4 attached at the top like a T. You use this to prop the ceiling panel up, wedged between it and the floor. This tool was so necessary. Seriously. We love the dead man.

A quick note on our choice of kitchen ceiling: We wanted to use bead board, which is basically beveled and lapped narrow planks. To use "the real thing" would have meant spending about twice as much money and exponentially more time. Two things that we don't have. So, we went with "ply-bead," which is 3/8" plywood with the beads routed into the sheet, so it looks like individual planks. The long edges are still lapped, so the seams won't be visible along the long ends. For the butt ends, we'll either get creative with wood putty or we'll just use some narrow trim pieces. The sheets are 4x8.

I broke out the nail gun, loaded it up, and connected it to our air compressor. We measured the first length and cut the panel accordingly. We moved the ladders into position and visualized the process. We climbed onto counter and ladder with huge floppy sheet of plywood balanced over head. After a couple of dry fittings and adjustments, we had it in a position that we liked. Erika slowly let go as I held the sheet in place overhead so she could wedge the dead man into place. Once in place, Erika assisted the dead man with the lifting and I started nailing it up.

It went well. We've got the slightest wave in the first panel, but we'll be able to fix that. You've got to nail across the sheet so as to smooth it out. We got good quickly, though. One sheet needed two holes cut out for the light fixtures. I don't think we ever got this right on the first shot when we were drywalling, so I was really nervous about doing it with wood. We measured and transposed carefully, and the results were excellent. We did need to file a little bit off the edges, but we got a good fit. The beads and edges line up nicely, and I couldn't imagine doing this without the finish nailer. No way.

It was hard work. The wood is heavy and awkward and we're up on ladders and counters (and sometimes the stove). We were sore as soon as we stopped working. But we powered on because we knew that margaritas and enchiladas awaited us down the road. It was about 9:30. The house is trashed after this weekend. We just left it that way and headed down the hill and got our reward.

- John

Note: It just looks like plywood in the photos. But once it's painted, the grain will disappear and the "individual plank grooves" will be obvious.


KS said...

Hi. We are planning to do this in our kitchen as well. We have a sloped ceiling too, except sloped up the long direction. 9.5 wide by 19 long sloping up. So, how did you handle your sides butted up to your sloped wall? For me, it will be the ends butted up to the wall. Any recommendations? Am I leaving out any helpful info? Do you have any pics of final trim around those sloped ceiling? I saw the trim around flat ceiling in other post. Thanks! KS

John and Erika said...

Hi KS,

We trimmed out all butted edges. For the most part, where the ceiling meets the walls, we used 1x4 pine and beveled the lower edge with a block plane or router, real simple just to soften it up. We used 1x2 pine to cover up butted pieces of plybead, and again we planed off the corner. This post has some pics of the trimmed kitchen ceiling, and if you search "trim" on this blog you'll get a bunch of pictures from other rooms. Good luck!

KS said...

Thank you for the reply. I was also planning on doing the 1x4 trim around the edges as well. But, when you say "you beveled the lower edge," do you mean of the trim, or the 4x8 sheet? I'm just having an issue with a 4x8 sheet coming down the slope, hitting the wall at a angle and it is not flush with the wall. Then putting the trim under that against the wall up to the sheet, how do you get it to meet flush as if it was hitting a flat ceiling. Thank you again!