Sunday, December 30, 2012

Half a roof

Plenty done today, even with the wife & kids and visitors on site :)

There's no rain forecast for the next week at least, but I'm going to cover this up in plastic anyway just in case. It's F11 structural ply and so should be fine to get wet, but I'd rather not take that chance...

I also managed to strip a little of the bark off the bush poles we're using for the post-and-beam truss support in the garage - there's an off chance that we might have a go at erecting these tomorrow, if Peter is available to help. I seriously can't wait to get these up! :)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The roofing begins

Now that I have my full complement of tongue-and-grooved ply, I thought I'd make a start on the dwelling roof. But before I could start that, I needed to make safe the space around the walls since I'll be trafficking around here quite a lot.

First off, I needed a safe platform at the corner of the building above the battery / pump room - not only to install the roofing, but I'll need it when I come to put the Hebel in place. A few 90x45 bearers and the top (scrappy) sheet of ply and bingo, a safe work space.

Now, the first sheet of ply I lifted onto the roof using a ladder - if only to see if I could, or whether I needed another system.

I need another system :)

I did get it up without injury or mishap, but I'd not like to lift 40 of the buggers this way, so I spent a few minutes exercising the brain.

What I came up with is a very similar process to that which I used to skid the trusses up to the top plates - a couple of long 90x45 lengths anchored to star pickets, but this time I included a couple of "stops" to allow me to rest during the lift. These are just offcut blocks nailed to the skids at an angle, resulting in a "sawtooth" which allows me to slide the sheets up easily, but once over the block they won't come back down.

The rest was left to the trusty ratchet straps :)

I managed to get about half of one side of the roof done today, but neglected to take a photo of the work-in-progress. You'll just have to wait until tomorrow :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Back into it

After a few days away from the site with the family, I'm semi-reluctantly back into it today. To warm back into the swing of things, I did a bit of a site cleanup and a tip run, then a big supermarket shop to stock up for the week ahead.

The esky box I made up out of cool room panel off cuts does the job nicely - there was still some ice in there after 4 or so days away, so I'm in little danger of a warm cider at all. Oh, and fresh veggies should be easy too, but they're less important :)

One actual real job I managed today was to cut up the 150x100x10 steel angle lintel I had left over into 100mm lengths, to use as anchors for the bush poles. These will be bolted firmly to the slab, and I'll make a chainsaw slot cut into the end of each post so that they slot over the steel angle, anchoring the pole to the slab and preventing any chance of shear movement at the base (they'll be prevented from tipping when they're fixed to the trusses).

My first attempt at cutting this steel the other day was with the chop saw and angle grinder - slooooow going, and hard on the cutting discs. So with the total fire ban day behind me, I broke out the oxy set and taught myself to cut with it. Pretty successful I must say, and much, much easier work than the grinder! :)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Too bloody hot!

It's been a bit of a bitsa day today with the heat. I made a very early start to get the best of the day, and managed to get all of my bottom plate holes drilled and cleaned, the allthread rod cut to length, and that chem-set into the holes all before it got too hot.

At this point I ran out of chem-set and realised that I don't have enough nuts and washers to secure all the framing, so I made the best of the heat and jumped in the Hilux for a trip to Bunnings, the only place within an hour which would be open on a Sunday.

While I was there I bought myself a Christmas present, a little AEG cordless circular saw (which happily takes the same batteries as my cordless drill). I put this to work when I got back to cut slots into the internal wall frames in order to install the angle bracing. I can't explain how good it is to NOT fire up the generator to use a power tool! :)

So the current state of play is that I have all my walls braced and secured to the slab, the upper storey trusses installed, braced and strapped down and all my ducks aligned to begin erecting the bush pole frames to support the garage trusses. I'll take a break for a couple of days for Christmas, then it's full steam ahead with the poles and garage trusses!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bush Poles

So with Jenna's log giving us three posts and mine already on site serving as the short beam beside the shipping container, we still need the long 9m beam supporting the half trusses beside the rammed earth wall, and posts to support it.

I have just the log :)

A year or so ago I walked around the property looking for suitably straight trees of the right diameter, and found a blue gum which was just about perfect - 350 to 300mm in diameter, as straight as you'd like and a good 14m long to the first fork.

I always have mixed feelings felling trees, especially beautiful tall, straight ones such as this. I'd much rather leave them standing and appreciate them from the ground but in this case, I'll get to appreciate it far more frequently and up close as it forms part of our building.

If I was religious I would have said a prayer for it before I felled it, but instead I just gave it a few words of thanks and an apology. They'll make a greenie out of me yet :)

Anyway, this log has been left to season where I felled it and so today's job was to cut it to length and bring it down the hill to the house site. Peter was here to lend a hand and between the two of us we managed it easily - Peter with the straps and chainsaw, and me in the bobcat dragging them down the hill backwards.

So here we have them, a full complement of logs for our post & beam framing.

Until today I'd been unsure how we were going to erect these frames. I'd spoken to a crane operator from Seymour who came out to have a look at the site, but he would have been unable to get his truck in and out and so reluctantly passed on the job. His recommendation was to hire a Franna crane - one of those wheel-at-each-corner, centrally articulated cranes you see on the roads - but while we had the bobcat running today I thought I'd try a little experiment.

As it happens, I was able to safely and successfully lift one end of the long 10m log pretty much to the full lifting height of the bobcat, which is easily over 3.0m without the machine feeling anywhere like it wanted to tip forward. I was fully prepared to wind up hanging from my seat belt but there was never any risk. So, it looks like we have the solution to these frames. We'll use the bobcat to erect the posts, fix them into position and brace in three dimensions, then lift the beam into place one end at a time.

The plan is to get stuck into these next week, after Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Road Trippin'

Only two things on the agenda today: fetch a fallen log from Jenna's place just down the road for poles, and make a quick dash up to Myrtleford to pick up a supply of 15mm plywood for the BAL-FZ roofing.

Easy :)

First up, the log. It was 10am by the time we all made it to Jenna's, but it didn't take long to sort it out. The log is a 7.5m Messmate (Stringybark) which fell in a storm a year or two ago, between 250 and 350mm in diameter over its length and perfect for posts. It's not the straightest, and so we won't try to use it as a beam, but it'll give us three 2.5m poles nicely.

First up - drag it out to the driveway so we could load it onto the trailer. Peter strapped it to the bulbar of his Hilux, and did a remarkable job of not pulling the bar off as the log slid out from its home.

A little maneuvering with a few crow bars and it slid onto the trailer with little protest. Two ratchet straps later and it's ready to go.

A leisurely drive up the hill and the log found its new home. Getting it off the trailer was pretty easy - I simply drove a star picket into the ground, ratchet strapped the log to that and drove the trailer out from underneath it.

So with the log dealt with, it was off to Myrtleford to pick up the roofing ply. $50 in diesel and half a day of my time, for a $2000 saving over local supply. Hard to argue with that :)

The aim was to pick up three packs of 35 sheets, but as it turned out the trailer wasn't either large enough nor rated for the weight of three packs and so I drove away with two. We're there again for Christmas, so I'll pick up the third then.

Another two hours on the road, and the next challenge was unloading the packs. I wanted them off the trailer out of the way, so that meant maneuvering the trailer past the unloaded timber down to the back of the garage. Easier said than done, and it was a very, very tight squeeze...

With the trailer finally in position, I had originally planned to lift one pack with my engine crane and drive the trailer out from underneath it, but the packs were just too heavy - even with both my trusty ratchet straps, the crane couldn't get even one end of the ply in the air.

Plan B, then - good old fashioned manual labour.

Half an hour later, and voila!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Final frames

Today was the last of the wall framing in the garage - three sections in total. The first was supposed to be relatively straightforward, but after cutting the timber to length and laying it out on the slab, I realised that I'd made a small error with the layout of the studs surrounding the doorway.

Over this length of wall, I'm able to use a single top plate as all the trusses land directly over a double stud at 1200mm centres. In order to achieve this spacing I'd moved one window in the model from its position on the plans, but it turned out that I'd neglected to move the doorway as well. A a result, one truss lands above the doorway itself, which meant I'd have to install a lintel over the door to distribute the load to the double studs each side.

Not a big deal, as I had an off cut LVL lintel from the upstairs doorway which is perfect, but it meant cutting a rebate into the studs in order to fit it. Just as well I did this now with the wall still on the ground, rather than realizing after I stood the wall up...

So instead of taking an hour or two to get this frame section up, it took all morning. And I still have two to get done today, before the road trip tomorrow.

So with no further ado:

So that's it for framing for a while. I'm certainly going to miss the rapid progress... but wait! We've got a garage!!!

So tomorrow will be a day of running around to get materials ready for the next phase - roofing!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

BAL-FZ Roofing detail

One of the complications which comes with building in such a beautiful spot as we are, is that we have to deal with the very real, very serious threat of very intense bushfire. We're surrounded on all sides by "medium forest", mainly comprising Messmate (Stringy Bark) and Blue Gums standing around 30m tall. This part of the world hasn't seen a bushfire for 35 years or so although the Black Saturday fires started just over there, but then took off in the other direction.

All this means that when it does burn (and it will, inevitably) it's going to be one hell of a fire.

With the experience of the 2009 fires behind it, the Australian building codes were updated to reflect the bushfire risk and the requirements for fire protection are now quite strict, especially in our highest risk classification (BAL-FZ, for Flame Zone). One of these details surrounds the roof construction.

Normally with a steel-roofed timber framed building, battens are fixed to the top of the rafters or trusses, and the roofing sheets are screwed down directly on top of the battens. However, this leaves the potential for burning embers to enter into the roof space through the corrugations, and so this method isn't allowed in a bushfire-prone building. Instead, plywood sheets are fixed to the top of the trusses/rafters, then the battens, then a fibreglass insulating layer and then the roofing sheets. This compressed insulation sandwich prevents any chance of embers entering the roof space.

All of this means I need about 100 sheets of 2400x1200x15mm tongue-and-groove plywood...

Road trip time! :)

"Nah, it won't roll"

Famous last words.

I didn't get my expected timber delivery yesterday, but when I called Bowen's to remind them that I'm waiting I was promised delivery this morning, and sure enough by about 11:00 the truck arrived carrying my last pack of framing pine, the LVL rafters for the roof and the OBHW roofing battens.

(That reminds me, I should explain the BAL-FZ roofing detail .. I'll do that in another post).

Anyway, Peter and his crew had arrived just before the truck to look at helping with the post & beam frames, or at least to lend some wisdom into how best to attack the job. As it turns out the logs I've felled are "too straight to cut up for posts" so we're going to look at using a log at a neighbours place half way down the hill, which fell in a storm last year. We'll attempt to fetch that on Friday...

But I digress.

Usually when Bowen's have delivered my timber orders they've sent them on tipper tray trucks, which makes unloading pretty straightforward - it just slides off the back. This time however, they sent a fixed tray with no crane, and although I have the bobcat here it doesn't have fork tynes nor would it be strong enough to lift whole packs of timber in any case. So that left us with the sole option of rolling the timber off the side of the truck, which actually isn't all that uncommon as it happens.

Anyway, Peter set up my brickie's trestle planks as a ramp off the side of the truck to slide the timber off, rather than just dropping it onto the slab risking damage to either the timber, the slab, or both. The driver reckoned he does this all the time, and "it'll just slide down, mate".

Famous. Last. Words.

Not only did the pack not slide off as promised, as it rolled to a rest it took my wall framing with it!

Thankfully no permanent damage was done -- in fact, aside from pushing the bottom plate off the slab, no damage was done at all; the bracing and props did their jobs admirably. Once we levered the timber back with a crowbar, we tapped the wall frames back into place with the sledgehammer and you'd never know anything happened.  Had I already fixed the frames to the slab however...

So with that little adventure behind us I set about to frame up the next wall sections. However, before I could do that I needed to move the "too straight" log as I'd parked it in the corner of the garage out of the way.. which it has been until now, except it's now decidedly in the way.

With Peter and gang having gone, I was left to move it myself. I'm sure I've said this before, but damn if there isn't a job which can't be done with a ratchet strap, I don't know about it. Using a bottle jack I lifted one end of the log up to towbar height, and strapped it up to the Hilux. Then, using a little log round under the back of the log, I just eased forward and rolled it to its new and very temporary home. Easy peasy! :)

So with the log out of the way, I could get to work on the next frame section. With all the timbers already cut yesterday, this went pretty smoothly although being at the end of a pack of timber, I tend to find that many of the lengths have twist or bow in them. The 4.8m top and bottom plates for this section were no exception, but again it's ratchet straps to the rescue.

Seriously, I'd like to meet the inventor of these things and buy him a beer!

Looping the straps over the top and bottom plates and cinching them up tight, I could nail up the frame perfectly straight.

But not quite perfectly square, as it happened.

This isn't all that uncommon - I measure the diagonals of each frame as I assemble them, and usually I need to tap it square before temporarily bracing it to hold position. On some occasions however (like this one) a tap isn't enough, and so again I turn to the ratchet straps. With a block temporarily nailed to the top and bottom plates at opposing corners I simply join two straps together, loop them over the diagonal and tighten them up until the frame is perfectly square. I don't know what I'd do without these things :)

One square frame and a lift later, and voila!

Three more wall sections to go. It looks like I'm not going to get my post & beams up this week after all, as I need to make a dash to Myrtleford (home to the Carter Holt Harvey mill ;) ) on Friday to pick up a stack of roofing ply. Which reminds me.. BAL-FZ roofing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Garage framing

I made a start on the garage framing today, after finishing up a few little bits upstairs. There are still two things to do there:
  1. Install the internal wall brace; and
  2. Fix the frames to the slab.
There are basically two ways I can fix the frames down - either by drilling a bunch of 14mm holes, chem-setting 12mm allthread in there and bolting them down (lots of work when they need to be done at 1800mm centres) or I can concrete nail them.

I thought I'd try the concrete nails. How hard can that be?

Did I mention how bad I am with a hammer? The problem with concrete nails is that although they're hardened, it takes a serious blow with a heavy hammer to drive them into the concrete and unless you strike them perfectly square, they bend. I've got more bent nails in my bottom plates than I have driven ones.. and even then, I'm not convinced they're actually going to prevent the walls from lifting with a serious wind.

So it looks like I'll be chem-setting allthread, then...

... another time.

In between a trip to Seymour to pick up the internal wall brace, some more speedbrace for the external walls and a few other bits & pieces, this is what I got done.

I'm really excited with this bit.. although I've now pretty much finished the dwelling frame it's the garage that I've really been looking forward to and so seeing the walls come up is just fantastic.

Still a lot to do, though. I still hope to get the post & beam frames erected by the end of the week, although I still don't know how I'm going to do that...

Monday, December 17, 2012

The big week begins

... with a bit of a whimper. I didn't make it to the site until around lunchtime, but then made myself busy installing the truss bracing and all the cyclone tie downs on the upper level.

I learned today why man invented the nail gun. My skills with a hammer are sorely lacking (pun intended) and as a result my left thumb is looking rather the worse for wear after having been struck about a dozen times. Owwww!!

I'm expecting another timber delivery tomorrow, so I plan to make an early start on the garage framing to use up the rest of this pack of pine and make space for the new. The aim is still to have the garage framed and the bush pole frames up this week, if not a few trusses too.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Last of the trusses

With the promised heat, I made a (very) early start today and got the last two trusses up pretty quickly, then spent the rest of the morning fixing everything off permanently - bottom chord ties, truss noggs, internal wall ties and started on the cyclone ties to stop the whole thing flying off with the wind :)

It's now beginning to feel like a very stiff structure, even without the speedbrace installed on the trusses!

I'm pretty happy with how it's all gone so far - no major hiccups at all, and I'm especially pleased with how accurately the trusses have lined up - there's been no more than a few millimetres under- or overhang at the top plates, and I've been able to pull that in pretty easily when fixing them off. The result is a beautifully crisp and straight roof line which I'm sure will look awesome when the tin goes on :)

The plan this week is to gear up for the couple of weeks I'll spend on site over the Christmas break - I plan to completely frame the garage, erect the bush pole frames and get the garage trusses up and the whole thing ready for inspection. I want to keep the timber out of the weather as much as possible, so I'm aiming to get the roof on and the Hebel installed as soon as I can.

Now, if only we are able to dodge the bushfire bullet before I can get to lock up.. it's promising to be a serious year for fire - a pretty major fire broke out just on the other side of the Tallarook ranges on Saturday night, but thankfully the wind sent it north, not south. Had it come south, things may have been worrying...

Friday, December 7, 2012

The day of the trusses

A pretty straightforward day today, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Two more to go which I'll get done early in the morning. Going to be a HOT day, so I'll start at first light and get it all done before the heat.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas is coming!

2012.. blink and you'll miss it!

With Christmas fast approaching, I'm planning my list of things to get done during my break. With so much accrued annual leave, I'll probably spend the second half of December on site full time, so I want to make sure I've got everything planned out and materials on hand so I'm not left sitting idle.

Here's what I'm hoping to get done:

  • Finish installing the roof trusses to the upper level;
  • Fix all the wall frames to the slab and finish my tie-down and bracing;
  • Tidy up the earthworks along the side of the garage. When I excavated the blinding footings, I just left the spoil piled up alongside the slab, and this needs to be levelled off;
  • Excavate the little spur of hillside which remains beside the pump room, and design and build a little rock retaining wall there;
  • Frame the external garage walls. I've spent some time in SketchUp this week to finalise the frame design, so I should now be in position to order the remaining timber I'll need to finish the frames;
  • Erect the bush-pole post-and-beam frame in the garage which will support the jack trusses and the full trusses at the northern end, beside the shipping container;
  • Install the garage trusses; and
  • If I get all that done, think about beginning the installation of the Hebel panels (if I can get the frame inspection done over the break).
It sounds like a lot when it's written down, but really if I'm there full-time I should be able to get through it all.

Famous last words...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Truss installation, round #1

So this is how I plan to get the trusses up onto the top plates, now that they've been delivered 30m from the building site (and not to the top plate like I had .. optimistically hoped). It doesn't come through too well in the photo, but the hillside comes up to about half way up the wall frames, so this is a good point from which to launch the trusses.

I plan carefully place each truss on my "skids", then attach three small-to-medium sized rocket motors with cable ties, light the fuses more-or-less simultaneously and watch the truss slide gracefully up onto the top plates.

Yeah, right. Like everything in this build, sweat equity will pay their way to the top.

Ratchet straps, is there anything they're not good for?

(Yes, the careful observer will note that the piccies are not quite in chronological order.. I was in such a rush to get the first truss up onto the frame that I neglected to take a photo of its .. err, flight.)

Here's the first one in position, ready to be swung upright. I was just a little anxious about this one toppling beyond the vertical and actually flying, albeit briefly, so I tethered it to the frame with the ratchet strap so it couldn't over rotate if I messed it up. In hindsight I should have installed the temporary stays (you'll see them in a minute) before I stood this truss up, but hey.. you know what they say about hindsight.

That was easy...

... if not a teeny bit stressful, but slow and steady does it.

Up with number two, then.

Before standing this one up and attaching it to the first, I thought it best to install some semi-permanent bracing for the first truss to keep everything solid. This will be removed once the Hebel panels go up, but they can stay until then. I'll still be diagonally bracing each truss to the frame as I go, so there's zero risk of a collapse.

Oh, and in this pic you can also see my site radio. It's the red boom box with both doors open :)

So that's as far as I got this weekend. Two trusses installed, and a process devised so I should be able to scoot through the rest reasonably quickly, even working single-handedly.