Wood floors

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I work on it at night. 

Yes, we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but this discussion has started and I wanted to capture it.

You’d think you just go down to the big orange or blue box store and buy some hardwood. But no, that’s not how we’ll do it- mostly because they don’t sell what we want. There is a confusing amount of choices to make when it comes to floors. For our cabin, we get the luxury of installing the same floor throughout the entire 1st floor BEFORE we ever install any interior walls. It’s a perk of a LHBA log home because:

  1. 1. we don’t have any load bearing walls on the interior like they do in every episode of HGTV.
  2. 2. cutting the floor material every time you need to meet up with an interior wall is a pain.

What is the best type of floor for the home we are building? And by “best”, I mean:

  1. Durable
  2. Easy installation
  3. Cheap
  4. Long lasting
  5. Beautiful
  6. Practical

There are a lot of options, but here’s what we’ve looked at doing:

Type of floor

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concrete floors – http://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete/interiorfloors/design-ideas/log-cabin.html

There are concrete floors– Ronnie (of LHBA) does this a lot- and they look great. He installs pex before pouring, and then hooks it up to provide radiant heating. This requires at least a concrete slab, so it wasn’t an option for us since we planned on having a pier foundation. Plus, I really did want the pier foundation for two reasons: 1. lots of airflow to keep things cool under the house during the hot, humid summers we have in the south. 2. Even though our property shows up on the FEMA map as being 600 feet from the outermost band of a 1,000 year flood zone, I’m still not taking any chances, and piers gave the house an extra 3 feet of height, just in case.

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tile floor: https://www.offgridquest.com/images/1596/Log-house-kitchen-with-stone-tile-work_7062.png

Tile floors– this would be nice for spills and leaks, but I worry about getting it right everywhere- it must be perfectly level everywhere. Also, I have a piano to roll in there- I really don’t want to break tiles with that thing. And even though we have hot humid summers, my toes told me they don’t like cold tile in the morning.

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carpet with wood

Carpet – Well, we entertained the idea, but when looking at cabins with carpet in them- we both decided it just looks ugly to us. Maybe for the upstairs, but not the main floor. I personally feel like carpet holds dust, dust mites, and is generally bad for the air, but I was surprised that there are studies on both sides of the issue, and there’s a lot of disagreement on this idea. Either way, we thought it looked ugly in practice, so we’re not doing it.

This leaves wood. But not so fast- what kind of wood? engineered? solid? Hardwood? Softwood? What shape of edge- flat boards? Shiplap? Tongue and Groove (T&G)? What type of attachment method? Face nailing? Blind nailing? peel and stick? glue or no glue?

Wood Floors

I asked around on the LHBA forum- Rod said even the engineered stuff isn’t staying flat- he installed it in his camper. That was surprising. I thought it might be better, but I’m actually a snob and want real wood. So that narrows our choice down to either hardwood or softwood. The heavy piano is a problem. Even though I believe shellacking it *could* make it hard enough, I’d rather just install oak or something and *know* it’s hard enough.

But still- not so fast. I put red oak in my old house in Utah- it worked out great, but the boards were only about 2″ wide. For this cabin, we both agree that we want really wide planks- like 12″ wide. But the orange and blue people don’t sell them in that width normally, so we are going to have to use a lumberyard.

That still leaves the attachment method and the edge- T&G would probably be expensive for the mill do for us. I imagine shiplap to be cheaper and easier. Or, I’ve heard folks just doing planks with no edge and face nailing the planks. LogHouseNut (LHN) did this, and then used tung oil to protect the wood.

And on the face nailing issue, Rod was a purist- advocating “cut nails” over standard nails from a nailgun. I looked into cut nails- there’s a company that makes them using civil war era equipment – no joke. But LHN said he’s been disappointed that even though he went through all the trouble to use cut nails, not one person has ever asked about them. Probably because once they’re installed, the average person can’t tell the difference between the head of a cut nail and a regular nail.

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This guy has 1″x12″x12′ oak planks. And the same in pine. 

On a not-so-satisfying-note about wood floors- everywhere I read, they all agreed that wood floors must be installed cross-wise of the floor joists. My floor joists will have to run N-S, due to the layout of my pier foundation, which means my finished floor will have to run E-W, which means when you enter my front door, the floors will run left and right- I wanted them to run front-back (N-S). Oh well. I mean, I can’t easily move the piers…. 🙂

Capture

And finally, there are a lot of determining factors on the width of the plank- some websites say they can only be installed in an area where the humidity only varies “a little”. They say Colorado is a terrible place for wide planks because the humidity can vary so much. But here in the south- we have high humidity most of the time- is this also bad? Nobody knows. And what do they mean by “bad”? Some say it doesn’t matter if you have an AC system. Also, they say don’t install wood floors before you have the AC working – need to keep the humidity level. But that would mean I’d need the house to pass the final inspection (can’t turn on the power until I get an ok from utilities), meaning – what? – I just leave the subfloor until I’m ready to move in? I don’t think so. No. I’m thinking these ‘experts’ might not be so expert when it comes to the real world.

Summary

We’d like to go with very wide – hopefully 12″ wide – oak plank floors, made from rough-sawn lumber, installed E-W, probably glued to subfloor, face-nailed with ring-shanked nails, and then slightly counter sunk. Floor sanded, stained, and then sealed. Oh, and it’ll come with a “if you ever want to remove it down the road, good luck” guarantee.

One guy on C-list sells a rough cut oak board (1″x12″x12′) for $18 each. I’ll need about 1600/12 = 133 boards. It looks like I can get 1600 square feet of  the stuff for about $2400 or less. I have never seen pictures of a floor with planks that wide in a cabin. If I can get out to the local mall, I might take a few of a floor I saw there with very wide planks. When I saw it, I just stopped and stared. I don’t even know what they sell in that store, but the floors are awesome!

Roof – Part 4 of 4: Shingles

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yes, I know- it’s not 100% perfect. But it’s pretty good.

Whew. That was hard. I’m now officially “under roof”. I knew the roof would be a multi-part series, but it was more long and drawn out than I thought.

I am now far behind my goal for finishing the home in 2-3 years. In fact, I thought back in October that I might be able to finish the roof by the end of 2018. We are now halfway through 2019.

On the bright side, I’m still within budget, and now that the roof is done, I can take a breather and finish projects I left hanging like installing a motor in my pickup. Also, much of the remaining work can be done on the ground – no more dragging construction materials up to the roof. How much did I drag up there? I won’t bore you with the details, but I estimate about 35,000 lbs, not including tar paper, nails, screws and insulation. Along with the ~22,000 pounds of rafters, and the 10,000 pound ridge pole, this puts the weight of the roof around 67,000 pounds.

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The shingle elevator saved my back and knees. I put 109 bundles of shingles on the roof. Each bundle weighs about 60 pounds. With the shingle elevator, I was able to load three or four bundles at a time, hook the rope to the car and back up, and then climb the ladder and off-load them onto the roof.

Here’s the shingle elevator in action.

Also, since my roof is not exactly square, I had some issues keeping my shingle lines straight when I got to the ridge. But I noticed when watching some how-to videos that the professionals have issues with non-square roofs as well, so I feel pretty good about my not-perfect roof.

We still need to clean up the inside of the house- I’ve got scraps of foam in there, extra lumber, plywood and a lot of junk leftover from installing the roof. I noticed during a rain storm that the ground on the West side of the house is a bit higher right along the drip line than the ground is inside the house. The rain was running down to the inside of the house. I think I’ll ask the neighbor to bring his disc-harrow over and plow up that side, and then I’ll shovel the dirt to the inside of the house. That way, the inside will be just a bit higher than the outside, forcing the water to run the other direction.

I think the very next step is to trench the sewer, water, and maybe electrical. It’ll certainly be no fun to trench if I wait until after I get the subfloor in. And then I need the floor joists and the hangers, the insulation, etc., etc.

A guy I met in a sawmill group on facebook offered to make my second floor beams for really cheap. He’s in Georgia and said he’ll deliver them. I’m not ready for them, but the price is so good I can’t pass it up. I’d make them myself, but I’m currently out of trees.

Other things that need to be done in no particular order:

  • frame in the gables
  • install 1st floor
  • install 2nd floor
  • stairs
  • interior walls
  • plumbing
  • electrical
  • doors / windows
  • chinking
  • porch
  • pass inspection

Sigh. The really cool part – cutting down trees, making pulleys, stacking the walls, installing the ridge pole, decking the roof- is over. From here on out, it’s almost all just normal 2×4 construction- framing, cabinets, hardwood floors, tile, plumbing, etc.

And sorry, but roof pictures are kind of boring:

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That smile is telling you I’m done shingling.

Cutting Rafters

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They are not easy to maneuver.

Background

I’m neck deep into using my sawmill. Back in February when it was raining and muddy, I welded up another 18 feet of track for it in the neighbor’s shed. I made dogs to hold the logs in place and squared it up very well. I thought I would be putting the roof on in June of this year. But, I’ve had several delays- the weather being the number one delay, but then my job sent me to Florida for a week of training, and then our LandCruiser needed a new headgasket. Finding, cutting, peeling, and installing the RPSL’s was another task that slowed us down. I also made a new trailer for hauling logs- works great for small ones, but I bet it would’ve collapsed under the wall logs. And then finding, etc., etc. the logs for the rafters was a major slowdown, but I’ll explain below.

A note on the headgasket- I was just raring to go on the rafters, and desperately wanted to pay someone else to do it- it was going to eat up two weeks of progress – one week to troubleshoot (I needed some help from my buddy, and our schedules didn’t line up), and another week to get it fixed. He diagnosed it (perfectly, I found out) as a broken headgasket between cylinders 5 & 6.  Knowing that I’m neck deep in the cabin and wanted to pay someone to do it, he called his Toyota buddy, who said “September, and probably $2,000  – $3,000”. Wow! I was thinking $1,000. Not $3,000. I’m not THAT desperate, I guess. So, I ordered the parts. My buddy got me hooked up with a bay in his old partner’s garage that they weren’t using (working on cars in the rain is a pain). I was very busy at work, but managed to get a couple half days, and a full day to “git-r-dun”. So that was a little set back.

Which brings us up to speed.

 

 

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Current status

I’ve got 23 rafters out of 28. I need to find about 5 or 6 more. The awesome neighbors keep offering more, even though I’ve already gotten about 20 from them so far. I cut them down, then walked off 30 feet on each log, and cut it at that point. I saved the tips, since many are 10″+ diameter and 20′ long- they will be used for the wrap around porch roof post supports (need 16 of them). I’ve got the milling process almost figured out to where it takes me about 2 hours to make a rafter- from pulling the log off the rack, to stacking the finished beam on the rack. I hope by the end of August, I’ll have them done and ready to go.

Problems and solutions

As usual, as I go from a total newbie on everything to a “pro” (I use “pro” very loosely, ha, ha), I’ve learned some tricks.

My engineer calculated that a beam with a minimum 10″ tip, and a 12″ middle and bottom has the same strength as a 4″x12″ beam. You would think that to make a rafter, you just lay the log on the track and cut one side to be 12″ thick, and the other 4″ thick, and you’re done. I wish. My logs are crooked and tapered, so I have to massage a 4×12 out of them. I’ve been able to, on some big logs, coax two 4×12’s out of them. But mostly, I only get one rafter, and a lot of nice 2×10’s or 2×12’s.

 

 

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I found early on that the taper of the logs makes it necessary to jack up the log on the track before cutting it. The track has a very hard time keeping up. But back to the tapered log problem. I found that if I jack up the narrow end to be level with the fat end, I can then run a flat cut with the sawmill down the entire log, ending up with at least one flat side. My idea is that the flat side will face up- that the roof T&G needs only one flat side on the rafter- the bottom only touches the house in two places- at the Ridge Pole, and at the cap logs. So I’m not wasting my time making the bottom flat.  Once I have one flat side, I turn the log on the side and begin milling it down to 5″. This may take several passes because the log might be crooked, and won’t initially sit flat on the track.

A few logs have been large enough to get two rafters. I jack up the small end as above, but then I just cut the friggin’ thing exactly in half. Then I work on each half to get it to the right size.

Don’t forget we’re talking about a 27.5′ x 12+” diameter log that probably weighs 2,500 lbs. It is very difficult to turn the log for each cut. I’ve even turned some of them with the tractor because they are too heavy. They can also roll off the track. I keep having the scary thought of getting my leg crushed inside the track when a log decides to roll, so I never ever put my legs or arms anywhere a log could roll and crush something.

Eventually, the rafter behaves, and I get a pretty good 4×10 -> 4×12 by 27.5′ long rafter.

 

 

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Here’s a video my wife took of me cutting a rafter.

Next steps

After I have 28 rafters, I’ll treat them with borate solution, then put on my math hat. The math hat is going to be tricky: To get the roof perfectly flat, I have to consider a few things:

  • Ridge Pole (RP): This log is what holds everything up. It is 56′ long, 29″ at the base, and about 15″ at the tip, so it has some taper. To make it level, I have to shorten the RPSL at the back of the house by 29″ – 15″ = 14″. This will make it level when it’s installed on the house. But then it’s not perfectly flat on top- it has some bumps and waves. I have to work this in when I place rafters on top of it. I may have to notch it to get everything perfect.
  • Rafters: They are not all exactly 4″x12″ on both ends. Most have a 4×12 butt. But the tips vary from 10″ to 12″. All of them are 5″ wide. I may put a 10″ on a part of the RP that is “high”, just so the rafters are all level.
  • Cap logs: This is where the other end of the rafters connect- these are the top wall logs. They are not perfectly level either. I have to consider this when placing the rafters on them.

With all this fitting and figuring, it seems like I should do it as I place the rafters and RP on the house, but that would mean measuring and fitting and chiseling while up 30 feet in the air. So, the plan is to do everything on the ground in advance:

  • Run a string line down the RP and level it on the ground.
  • Mark exactly where the rafters will go on the Ridge Pole. Note and mark the diameter of the Ridge Pole at each point the rafters will attach. Use the string line to get the height exact at each rafter attachment point.
  • Do the same thing on the Cap logs.
  • Use some really bright colored chalk or something to label the rafters, “AE or AW” through “IE or IW”: ‘A’ – ‘I’ designates the position, from back of the house to front of the house, of the rafter, while ‘E’ or ‘W’ designates whether it is on the (E)ast or (W)est side of the house. Each rafter on the East is paired with a rafter on the West- there are 14 pairs, spaced 4′ apart, so ‘A’ – ‘I’ makes sense.
  • Match the short rafters (less than 12″) with the tall part of the RP (where a bump or a bow sticks up). Match tall rafters (at least 12″) with the low parts of the RP (where it bows down).

When complete, I’ll have all the rafters laid out on racks in order, bolted together in pairs, next to the ridge pole, and all ready to lift by the crane when he shows up. If all goes well, the whole lift operation shouldn’t take more than about 5 hours. We are so excited for this part!