Friday, September 07, 2018

Summer Projects

I can't believe that another summer has come and gone. It was fast and furious, and hot and humid. It wasn't exactly a fantastic summer for riding bikes, at least as far as I was concerned, but I did get quite a bit done on the ongoing camp remake.

The summer started slow with me struggling a bit to get back into the swing of things and get going on the projects. I always find that I struggle with not so much motivation but fear. Fear of breaking ground, moving into some new and uncharted territory and figuring out just how to do these many things that by and large, I've never done before. Luckily, it is getting to the point that I have experienced and encountered most of the challenges I face in terms of remodeling, at least now I have. 
We started off easy with some landscaping and road reworking. I got a load of fill and dropped it into a spot low on the hill of our property in order to level off a nice flat spot for a later project or for an emergency turn around. I then seeded and mulched it and left it for the summer to grow. I also did a bunch of pruning and thinning of smaller trees. Hundreds of them to open things up, promote healthy growth and get more light, particular up behind the camp. I even made a quick stab at a small stretch of MTB trail that I never actually got the chance to finish before things got going in earnest.

From there I moved inside and did a couple small plumbing projects which included adding a new kitchen faucet with a sprayer hose, which we'd not had in the past. Very minor but a nice touch compared to what was originally there. Next I moved on to the fridge and plumbed in the through door dispensed water and ice maker. Another small project that yielded huge practical benefits as I adore ice with water.

Making holes.
Filling them in.
From there things got pretty legit. I'd planned for a while to reside the camp. We'd done virtually nothing to the outside since we got it and it didn't look very spiffy. Certainly not as nice out as it did in and that made it a pretty ugly duckling in terms of first impressions. That project was pretty big but also had a couple of prerequisites. The first was to deal with power and telephone coming into the camp which was hung to the front gable peak. The last thing that I wanted to do was try and work around the live feed so instead, we decided to run the input underground. This included excavation to did a ditch for the power and phone lines. I used my brother's tractor and backhoe and dug the ditch so that the electrician and power company could switch the feed. Pretty simple and only took a day or so to dig the 100' of ditch from the pole up. Of course, the pole end was sitting right on ledge which I hit literally 16" down. Later I was able to get the full 4' of depth suggested. A day later the electrician came and ran the conduit and lines and we back filled it over and in a couple of days the power company came and made the switch at the pole and we were set. Some grass seed and mulch hay and one project was down, paving the way for the next project.

The next project in line, the second prerequisite to the siding was the roof. When they built the camp they went cheap and easy and the roof had no end eaves on the gable ends. This means no overhang to help pitch water and the elements off the building itself. It also looks like ass IMHO, so I planned to add wing rafters to get a full foot of overhang on both ends. To match, I needed to extend the roof rafters about 4" to get the common 12" of eaves all the way around and give a good straight surface for the fascia and square returns with soffit that I had planned to finish it off.

So as the weather started to get warm, I got started pulling the old fascia off. What I discovered behind it was decades of rodent leftovers, literally filling the space between the rafter overhang in the eaves. I figure I pulled close to a hundred pounds of material out. It was a mess and not an awesome job to have. Then came the gable ends and the trim boards and various layers of metal drip edge and flashing that had been used to try and seal things up. Deconstruction and prep took days and days to complete but finally I got it all done, pulled all of the old nails from the removed material and sorted and piled it out of the way.

Extension rafters.
Then I finally started cutting and hanging the rafter extension blocks, sistering them directly to the existing rafters with a whole lot of screws. 2.5 and 3" deck screws would be a common theme for the summer and my impact driver was in constant use. Just an inexpensive Ryobi rechargeable, the thing has paid for itself many times over and has built countless projects much like my trusted Makita skilsaw which was given to me by a good friend.

With the extensions on the back side of the roof I moved on to the wing rafters, deciding that the extensions would have been easier to align and level with the end rafters already in place. Regardless, I did the first end backwards but got the wings built in two pieces, one for each slope of the roof. They were 11' long and a foot wide and were blocked out every two feet. The result was a pretty heavy wooden structure that I needed to hang pretty high up by myself. That required making some braces to screw to the side of the camp and hold the wing in place while I aligned and sistered it to the existing rafter with lags and screws. Next I moved the braces and repeated the other side of the same end, typing the rafters together at the peak through the butted adjoining blocks to hold them as securely as possible and tie it all together.

Adding a helping hand.

Then it was on to the other end, which was easier in that I was working on the deck which was a nice flat and level surface compared to the ground around the camp, which by and large was not. I also had to pull the  chimney down to get at the peak, which was no problem and was a project that needed rework later on as well. As I was working on that side I found the remnants of the tree that I remember the neighbor had said hit the camp roof years before we bought it. Seems the previous owners just threw some tin over the hole and never actually repaired it. That made for a nice little side diversion cutting the old busted sheathing out, putting some reinforcement along the mangled rafter and then patching it all back up so as to be rodent proof. Seems I found at least one place where all of the mice had been coming in and out. Fortunately, that last wing rafter pair went up easier than the first and soon I was on to the final side, the long front side, which was also high up with the ground continually sloping down along it.

Raw wings going up.
This meant blocking the ladder up every time it moved, which slowed progress. It also meant working 16' off the ground at one point, further slowing and complicating the work. But with time and sweat as that was also the Southern exposure, I got the extensions in. Then I sheathed the wing rafters and it was time to start the trim, the fascia and barge. I was able to get the end fascia or barge boards up on the wings but my brother came over on his day off from the barbershop and helped me with the end fascia, which was a bit of a nightmare. Finally we got it done though and then I put the drip edge on and could move on to the roof itself.

Old roof and new wings and extensions.
The roofing in place was green tin. Because the roof was now longer and wider I needed to add new tin. I chose to go basic and run galvanized which is what I'd gotten for all of the other projects at camp. Consistency I determined was the best choice not to mention the tin was in stock, readily available and inexpensive at $2/linear foot for 3' wide coverage. The only drawback was that it came in stock lengths on 8/10/12/16' and I needed 11.5" which meant a hot date with the tin shears. I actually borrowed my brother's electric nibbler shear which worked awesome and was way easier than by hand. I'd tuck the cut end up at the peak anyhow, under the ridgecap where it was sheltered from the elements and wouldn't show rust. And with that the stripping of thew old tin began. Pulling screws and lowering the old sheets, saving them for later projects.  I pulled 14 sheets down and put 16 sheets up, adding one to each side.

For the roofing project, putting the tin on, I had my brother helping me again, luckily. We did one side at a time on two of the hottest days of the summer. It was pretty miserable work. The roof had a layer of asphalt shingles under the old tin and then strapping over it to affix the tin to. This is common if not ideal. The right way to do it would have been to strip the shingles to bare underlayment. The problem is what to do with the old material. The rural VT thing would be dig a big hole and bury them, but that isn't legal any longer and a dumpster would be expensive. It would also take a couple days of pretty miserable work to strip the shingles off so I caved in and followed suit, leaving the mess there hidden under the new roofing. We did go through and double the strapping to give more support and to anchor the roof deck to the rafters more solidly with, you guessed it, lots of 3" deck screws.

The first sheet is always the hardest, trying to get a square piece to fit into a not usually square area. The second sheet then start to reveal the true scope of the problems as you start to see just how much it is walking or receding. So then you stretch and bend that which is rigid and inflexible in order to make up the 1/8" which in three sheets will have you back on track just as the roof starts to walk the other direction. It's a fun game, one that I've had the chance to play half a dozen times over the past couple decades. On day one, a Sunday in July, we got one side complete. On Monday we finished the next side. It was equally hot but we got it done and it looked really, really nice.

Then began the prep for the actual main project of the summer, the one that all of the prior work was leading up to, the residing of the entire camp. First though there was the small business of removing the existing siding, old dried out weather beaten cedar shakes. If roofing was fun, this was a party. I quickly remembered why I went to college, only to retire and work as a laborer for fun. Yes, I'm simple.

It's going.
It took a full day to strip the one side of cedar. My folks came over and helped for a few hours. Well, my mom helped while my dad mostly sat there and supervised. He's not so good with standing up for long periods these days. It then took another full day to strap the side horizontally with 2x3" pine and then add 1.5" x 24" wide foam insulation to the side. I decided that since I had the space and needed to strap it anyhow in order to accept the 11" coverage x 7/8" thick rough outer surface pine shiplap board siding I was using that I may as well add insulation. I'd chosen to side all the way to just above ground level, which meant going over the concrete foundation as well.

Burn it!
As the shakes came off something had to be done with them, to dispose of them. Decades old, dried out cedar was simple to get rig of, just add fire. It was a constant job to pull the nails and then stack and bundle the shingles coming off the sides of the camp. Once bundled I'd stuff the fire full of them. The day was hot but the fire was an inferno with an endless supply of tinder. I burned all day, every day while pulling the cedar off. I filled four quart yogurt tubs with old nails, nails which I still have to straighten and reuse like back in my youth when nails came not from boxes at a store but in assorted conditions, lengths and shapes from an old rusty coffee can and oft required straightening first.Post apocalypse when we are on the rusty used nail barter system, I shall be a king among commoners.

Last summer I'd strapped and then insulated along the outside of the foundation with foam and put an exterior grade sheathing over it. The new siding would cover and level all of this making it look seamless. Problem was that it wasn't level or seamless. The foundation which we had added was square or darn close to it. the camp, well, not so much. That meant irregular and variable overhangs which needed to be compensated for. Much head scratching and shim shingles were required.

Almost there.
I also added a house wrap vapor barrier first to help tighten things up. The first side, the back side, had no doors or windows to trim around which made things easier, which is why I started there. On the third day I did the actual plank siding. Putting up pine, especially in long lengths, is never fast but I managed to get it done in one long day of work. It looked nice and for the first time, the camp was starting to look like something more.

Two down.
Next up was the back end. It had four windows to deal with. I also had to deal with a slightly different overhang which meant using one inch strapping and insulation board versus the 1.5" of the other side. Easy enough. Shimming and trimming the windows out proved a challenge in coming up with the best technique, which I didn't until the next side anyhow. regardless, I got it done in the same time frame, one full day for each step, three days for the complete side. Then onto the front side, with it sloping ground challenges, three windows a sillcock and a fan vent and massively weather beaten brittle shingles. A constant symphony of pulling nails out of dry sheathing was to be heard for days intermixed with the bang of an impact driver, the crackle of the fire that was consuming old dry cedar shakes almost as fast as I could feel them in. The weather was hot but that fire was an inferno, scorching skin as you tried to cram more fuel in. three more days and that side too was complete. Again, one inch strapping and foam was the proper width to mate with the foundation level.

One side left, the front gable end. Working on the level surface of the deck and only one window, one door and a chimney flue to contend with. This went faster because I decided not to strap and insulate. My reasoning was simple, I plan to tear it off again as soon as next summer for a future addition where the deck is. That said, I wanted to finish the whole project off rather than leave one odd, ugly side. Two days later all of the ancient cedar shakes were long burnt and the siding was complete. I was very very happy to start to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Functional corner lighting.
Now came the returns which I redid the first of three different times trying to get the best technique. Easy finish work though and then the soffit but first, I wanted to add some flair. I'd planned to add recessed corner perimeter lighting in the returns of the soffit. That meant a little electrical work, fishing wire, tapping into the existing line for the front entry light. It also meant running about 75' of new line up under the soffit in the eaves and wire in the boxes and light receptacles. Simple enough. Then I could start dropping in the assorted vinyl J channel and F channel to accept the vinyl soffit I was using. I'd used the stuff extensively in the past. It is clean, easy to work with, maintenance free and gives a nice tight finished look. Once I cut and fit roughly a million ~10" pieces of soffit and cut 6" holes into the end pieces for the recessed light to fit through, with the trim ring covering from the outside I was done. It looked pretty good and the corner soffit lights gave both practical lighting as well as nice accent. Things were starting to come together and it looked like a whole new place.

Chimney and stand.
It took some searching but I managed to find stainless double wall insulated locking chimney from the same manufacturer as what we had. I needed a few additional pieces to set the chimney out beyond the new 12" eaves and to extend it up above the roof line. In the past they had a short piece of regular galvanized stove pipe doing that. I extended it another foot higher and added an integrated cap. We also needed to extend the support bracket to compensate for the additional 12" of horizontal length from the camp side. Rather than retrofit the existing tin bracket I cut and welded a new one out of steel angle iron with rebar A brace supports painted flat black. When lagged in place to the side of the camp I could hang off the end of it so it should handle the 75# of chimney just fine. I also made a support hanger from aluminum banding that ties the upper stack back into the top of the gable fascia so it can't move.

The only thing left was to choose the stain color and then liberally apply it. On our vacation week, the final week of the summer, during one of the hottest stretches all year, Cathy and I stained the camp, semi-translucent natural cedar tone for the main color and a cream color for the trim. It took us a couple of full days which we spread out over a few days, saving some time for bike rides. And just like that, the summer was over and our projects were complete, whether we were actually finished or not.

From the day we first looked at the property.
From the day we first looked at the property.

Now, minus a corner board that is now installed.
Finished product as it sits now.
I came up short on time for being able to start on the slick new dual axle 8x17' trailer frame and deck for the tiny house project. I'm kind of bummed as I'm really excited to do that. The trailer and deck was the start of a tiny project that my brother was planning but lost interest in. I built a 2x4 frame and roof over it with some of my used tin to keep it sheltered until I can get after it. Also threw a tongue jack on it to make it easier to deal with than sitting on blocks.

Future project.
So that is where things are. It was a great and super productive summer. It was also hard and long and isolating. I didn't ride my bikes nearly as much as in the past. I was also exhausted by the end, running frantically in crunch mode for well over two months. It was the first summer we both were glad to have end and to move on to fall and back to MA.

I'm very happy with the projects and love the way they turned it. I can now look at the outside with the same pride that I take in looking at the inside.

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