Monday, January 28, 2008

Final Saturday

There isn't a whole lot left on the list, people. The last of the tricky tasks was dealing with an exterior door install in the attic. Since we moved in, plastic and plywood have substituted for this missing door to the attic deck. Everything we had read on the subject said that framing and hanging and exterior door is tedious and often difficult work. So you know, we said what the hell, let's just buy a pre-hung door and nail that puppy in and be done with it. We deserve a little break by now, right? Well, our rough opening was only 79 3/8" and the standard exterior door, pre-hung, required an 82" opening. Of course.

So Friday evening I made it to the Habitat Store minutes before closing so that we could buy the old salvaged wooden door that we picked out the day before. I noticed that it was cracked all the way through. The guy who usually helps us at that store started looking through doors with me. Originally, we wanted a door with windows, preferably one large, full length window. Now, all we wanted now was a door that would fit so that this project wouldn't be delayed. We lucked out and found a steel door, insulated, with full-length double-paned insulated glass. The only problem is that it was going to be about two inches too tall. Nothing a metal cutting blade on the trusty circular saw wouldn't be able to handle. Sold.

Saturday morning, we took care of a couple of random things and then pulled down the plywood and plastic from the attic doorway so that we could have a look at exactly what we were going to be dealing with and assess what materials we would need to purchase. We decided that we wouldn't have to buy any lumber, aside from a pre-made oak sill/threshold. The rest of the shopping list consisted of hinges, a latch/knob set, and some weather stripping.

Oh, and here's a first: The header above the door frame is level! Seriously, we didn't do it! Imagine that...we hadn't run across a single level or plumb thing existing in this house since we started and now, starting one of the last big tasks of the project, we get a level header.

The oak threshold that I bought turned out to be too small. We needed a six or seven inch-wide one, and this was only five. Looks like we'll be building the threshold, as well. We had some treated 1x8 pine left over from the columns project that we thought would work just fine. You're supposed to use a hardwood for this because of the heavy traffic it receives. Well, the attic deck threshold won't be receiving that sort of traffic, so no problems there.

We cut away and pried up some subfloor that functioned as the previous door's threshold. Shortly after, our friends Matt and Emily arrived, down from DC to pitch in with the final push. And, they brought lunch! After filling our bellies and a short tour of the place, they took on the job of planing and sanding the porch rails and stair hand rails. It's amazing what their hand work did to these 2x4 rails. The corners have been shaved off, replaced with subtle, irregular contours. Very nice to touch.

Meanwhile, Erika and I had been slowly measuring, figuring, and doing some cutting. Our threshold turned out great. We shimmed it slightly so that it had a gentle outward slope, and cut a 45 degree angle on the outside edge of it for a smoother transition. It sits flush with the flooring on the inside.

Next, we cut a 1/2 inch thick, 6 inch wide piece of wood to run the height of the door, on the inside-right edge of the frame, and a similar piece across the top. We kept the previous frame's 2x4 in place on the left side. By our calculations, we had arrived at the correct frame size.

We measured the height of the opening several times and then measured the door and marked it for cutting. There was a metal piece running the width of the door along the bottom edge, a cap of sorts, held in by four screws. They all came out except for one, its phillips head quickly stripped. Hmm. Ahh..hacksaw. I cut a notch in the screw. There, now it's a flat head! Out it came.

Matt and Emily had been helping us keep morale up this whole time, entertaining us with third person observations and perspectives that we can't get when it's just the two of us, in a cold, dark attic, trying to remain focused and on task. It was a good boost. Plus, they brought us hot cocoa!

Now it was time to take a couple of inches off the bottom of the steel door. We propped it up so that the end to be cut was outside on the deck (in the snow) and Erika and I fell into our routine of lining up the blade and clamping down a guide. I triggered the saw and as it sliced into the steel, the sparks flew. Wee! But, the guide wasn't working out well and the blade started to travel off the mark. So we just took the guide off and I free handed it. No shortage of light, with those sparks. The blade diameter wasn't enough to bite all the way through on the first pass, so we flipped the door and came at it from underneath. A perfect cut.

The next step was to stand the door up in place and shim it up from underneath to keep it propped in position while we marked where the hinges would mount to the frame. This went smoothly, with Erika outside, keeping the door from falling that way, and Matt and I inside, shimming, tapping, and then marking.

Someone with more foresight than I - either Erika or Emily - suggested that dinner get started downstairs while Matt and I forged on. I was determined get this door hung. I didn't know what time it was and I didn't want to know. I traced the new hinges onto the door frame and carefully mortised the door frame (chiseled the shape of the hinges, 1/8" deep so that they will sit recessed, flush with the frame). The hinges fit perfectly so I put a couple of screws in each one.

Now for the moment of truth: Matt and I lifted the door and guided the hinges. The top one went it, the bottom one looked to be about a 32nd off, so I gave it a few light taps with the hammer and the door slipped right in. High five! Sweet! We tapped the pins into the hinges and called Erika and Emily upstairs to check it out.

Downstairs, wine was flowing and I jumped into the cooking fray. I noticed the time: 10:30. Yup, sounds about right. By 11:30, we sat down to home made mac and cheese and tomato, black eyed peas with onions and garlic, collard greens, home made biscuits, and some chicken fried up with cayenne and an egg/flour batter. Apple crisp for dessert! More wine, anyone?

The meal, music, company, and day of work: all damn fine. A memorable "final Saturday."

- John


matty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
matty said...

Thanks so much to both of you for a terrific visit. Emily and I had a great time and we're still talking about how impressed we are with your vision and dedication.

Your house is such a perfect mix of thoughtful decision-making and random beauty. The endless possibilities for growing and sharing - the way you work at it and enjoy it - the way you can see so far into the future with it but still be so present and careful with what's right in front of you - it's like a real-life parable.

If some spaceship landed on the roof of my apartment building and researchers from an alien race came out and asked me what the concepts of "home" and "love" were all about on my planet, I'd have them fly down and spend the weekend at your cozy cottage.

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