framing. and a new dormer too. (in service of a roof)

12Jun10

So, we decided that our roofing situation was getting a little desperate. Even more desperate than the window situation, which is also pretty bad, and even more desperate than the siding situation, which is just plain ugly. We decided that if we didn’t get a new roof on the house, we were going to start doing irreparable damage to the whole structure, particularly since we’ve been testing the physical limits of a few pieces of  Titanium roofing membrane on our addition for <ahem> several years now.  Plus, all the UV damaged shingles from the south side of the house were blowing in the yard, and we all know that it’s a bit embarrassing to have parts of your house blowing off and hitting passersby.  So, anyway, we decided that the first order of business was to get a new roof on the entire house.  And it’s always a simple decision involving a money pit (aka renovation project) that starts one down the slippery slope commonly known as “scope creep.”

It turns out that before we could put a new roof on the house, we needed to add a dormer to make space and light in the (future) upstairs bathroom.  Because you wouldn’t want to put on a brand new roof and THEN start cutting into it to make a new dormer.  But it turns out that before we could add a dormer, we’d need some kind of permanent structure to hold up the dormer, since our house had been propped up on a motley assortment of beams, posts, and hydraulic jacks ever since we poured our concrete floor. (If you don’t remember the concrete floor– believe me, it happened a long time ago). So, we needed to rebuild the central structural wall downstairs in order to support the 2nd floor which would be necessary to support the new dormer.  Except that we were also planning to bolster up the over-spanned floor 2nd floor joists by sistering the existing 2×6 joists with new 2x10s.  And it turns out that the only good way to get the 2×10 sisters into place was to put them up before adding the new central structural wall. Now in order to do this sistering project, all we needed to do was rip out some old knob & tube wiring, and spend about $700 at the lumber store. So we did that, and set about doing the sistering that would allow the framing upon which the new dormer would sit so that we could re-roof the house so that the house wouldn’t be such a damn embarrassment.  (Yes, a match and a gallon of gasoline would be much easier, and we have considered it– but people do tend to frown on such things– even more than they frown on old shingles blowing off and hitting them in the eye.)

So, we framed up a bunch of stuff.  And we don’t have a new roof yet.  If I haven’t lost you yet, here’s a few pictures of the progress.

In this picture, I am laboriously removing the tubes from the old knob & tube wiring, so that we can get the new floor joists flush up against the old joists, so that they can be tacked together. While extremely old, this knob & tube wiring is not original to the house. They had pried up the T&G floor boards on the 2nd floor to thread in the knob & tube wiring  between the original plaster ceiling and the 2nd floor. This might be a sad little old house, but it is no stranger to renovation.

In this picture, Luke & Jim remove a temporary beam that was holding up the 2nd floor because the new structural wall needs to be put in the same place. The house is temporarily held up by another beam that is hidden behind the one shown. You can see the temporary columns sitting on jacks in the center of the picture.


I’m nailing up joist hangers on the west end of the house to support the bottom part of the new sisters.  Since the original joists are 2×6, and the sistered joists are 2×10, there is roughly 4 inches of joist hanging below the top plate. In order to prevent the sisters from splitting out and becoming effectively 2x6s, we added joist hangers to catch the full depth of the joist.  And if you’re thinking like a builder, you’ll realize that this means there will be no upper nailing surface for the drywall, since the joists extend below the top plate.  Sigh. This is just part of the renovation fun.

Most of the new structural wall is in, and we’re lowering the trusty beam that held up our house for longer than we care to admit. In case you’re wondering where one gets a beam that is approximately 12 inches deep and 16.5  feet long, the answer (in this case) is not at your local lumberyard.  If I remember the story correctly, this beam came out of some sort of chicken house that my father-in-law tore down in the 1970s. Probably because he knew that someday he’d need something to hold his son’s house up with.

This is the upstairs where the new dormer will go, as a result of lots of lovely new framing downstairs. The kneewall framing has been removed in this photo, in preparation for some major demolition.

Luke and Curt take the first cut out of the roof. This small and dark space is about to get a whole lot nicer.

The roof has now officially been compromised, thanks to 5 minutes work with a couple of sawzalls.  There’s no turning back now.

Luke enlarges the hole with his demo skill saw.

The roof gets dropped piece by piece to the dump trailer below (hopefully not on passersby), as the hole gets bigger…

It’s now a totally different space than it was a few minutes ago. Gotta love framing: quick and satisfying progress!

The rain of sawdust, as the hole extends above the collar ties.

Framing the new dormer end wall on the floor.

Luke hangs off the beam that will support the old roof rafters & the new dormer rafters– just to prove it is strong enough. (This picture isn’t taken from the optimum angle, because it looks like he’s got his feet on the ladder, but really he’s showing off is pull-up skills.)

Luke tests our new beam from above. The new dormer rafters are now framed in.

Men working above.

More pictures of people’s butts, as the people are trying to get the roof sheathing done at the end of the day.

The dormer from the front of the house.

Well folks, that is a smattering of the work we’ve been doing lately. Before I sign off, I should note that these photos don’t adequately depict our secret weapon. Actually, we have 2 secret weapons that don’t actually show up in this blog. One is my mother-in-law (Ruth Ann) who has faithfully kept us fed with scrumptious food whenever she’s around. She also re-stained the porch floor in the picture above, and has done an amazing job of making our yard look less like a toxic dumping ground, and more like a verdant garden. If I had a picture of her enchiladas, or her sushi salad, I’d post it here, but I have neither. I’ll have to remember to take pictures before eating one of these days.

Our other secret weapon is my Uncle Carl, who has served as my personal adviser / structural engineer/ adhoc architect, sometimes on an emergency basis.  He has faithfully taken all my emailed scribbles and scribbled on top of them with lots of advice.  I did listen in structures class lo these many years ago, (I actually loved structures), but I don’t use the principles on a daily basis, and never in real-life, so it has been amazing to have Carl at my beck & call to answer all my questions, and remind me about all the things I’m forgetting about.  Building your own house is quite an education, and I’m grateful for all his support & guidance.

A few readers of this blog may have surmised that our little renovation project is actually kind of  out of control, and that we’re sort of in it for the long haul (like it or not), so it is great to have some secret weapons. Thanks!

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3 Responses to “framing. and a new dormer too. (in service of a roof)”

  1. Good Work! It looks awesome. You did very hard work for home renovation. and Of course I like it.

  2. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that there roof! Just put some plastic over that hole, it’ll be fine.

  3. The front is really cute. The porch column in the picture doesn’t seem to match. I’d bet the original was a turned 6×6 post, possibly with gingerbread work between. Get on that.


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