Gutters!

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You can’t hardly see the gutter in this photo

I didn’t think I would do gutters. In some parts of the LHBA world, gutters are a dirty word. The thinking goes like this: with enough roof overhangs – usually 4′ for each story, and 8′ on the gable ends, gutters aren’t needed. I’ve mentioned before that the finished home will have wrap around porches, thus the reason I only have 4 foot overhangs on my two-story house.

I found out about a month ago why, when the wind blows, the rain still comes in – even though I have the roof finished. Mosseyme says without the chinking, the gaps in the logs are big enough that when the wind blows, there’s nothing stopping it from going right through the house. It makes sense if you think about it- wind is forced to go around a solid wall, but it blows right through a fence – therefore, if there is rain along with wind, it’s going to go right through the “fence” (log walls) until I get it chinked.

In my last post, I talked about installing a porch. I even dug some preliminary foundation holes, and then foolishly thought it would stop raining long enough to pour concrete. I was a fool. Sure, last weekend, we had our first full 2 days without rain this year (it’s the middle of February). But when I checked the forecast last weekend, I saw that more rain was predicted this week. And that made me mad. Ok, not mad, just frustrated. I already knew gutters would cost a bit, but they also install pretty fast. So I bit the bullet and bought a bunch of 5″ gutters and the hardware. And some flat black paint because – really – white gutters on a log home look really tacky.

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I hadn’t quite connected two gutters together in this photo. I fixed that. Also note the porch post holes in the ground below…

Preparation

I was surprised at how far spray paint has come in the last few years. The label on the can specifically said, “dries in 10 minutes”. I was thinking, “yeah, right. Maybe ‘tacky in 10 minutes’, but I doubt ‘dry’.” But it was cheap. And it was dry in 10 minutes, just like they said.

A ten foot gutter takes almost an entire can of spray paint. I had 6 gutters and 4 cans of paint, and barely had enough. I didn’t paint the inside or the top edge because the paint will eventually flake off in the rain, and you’ll never see it from the ground.

Pre-install

I researched gutters carefully. I wanted something cheap, yet durable, and with availability for replacement parts. I have done a vinyl gutter on a previous home, and the while the main hardware (gutters) seemed inexpensive at first, I got nickled and dimed to death with the special hangers and foam/plastic connectors.

Having them professionally made is intriguing- they come out with a machine and make the gutters in one piece out of a roll of sheet metal. They are bent into the correct shape by a machine with rollers. But it’s not economical for the guy to come out and make them and then let you install them. And you can’t buy a single gutter in a 60′ length and have it delivered, either. (It’s a great business model, actually….)

I ended up settling on good old fashioned aluminum gutters- light, strong, won’t rust, can be painted, hardware available almost anywhere. Also stupid proof.

Install

I put a nail in the middle roof on the eve board, about an inch down from the shingles. I stretched a mason line from one end of the roof to the other and used a mason string level (it shows declination angles of 1/8″, 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ per one foot of length). I stayed just this side of the 1/8″ per 1′ line, hoping I could get it down to 1/16″ per foot. Then I nailed the blocks described below along this line for the entire length of the roof. This ensured the gutters are slightly angled (not level) so the water will naturally flow towards the downspouts. My mason string bubble with grade markings (the white one below) came in handy:

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My eves are actually on an angle compared to the ground, while the gutter instructions say to make sure you install the gutters so the top edge is parallel to the ground. Since my roof is a 6/12 pitch, this means that I could use blocks with a 30 degree angle to offset and make the gutters level, so I got out the chop saw and nail gun and put up blocks every 2 feet on the eves:

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Also, they say to install downspouts every 30 feet or so. This became a problem because to do this, I would have a downspout right in the middle of the house, and two on each end. I decided against this and came up with finding the middle of the house, and angling the gutters down on both sides from the middle towards the edges. Also, with 8 feet of overhang, there isn’t anything to tie the downspout to right at the corner, so I attached the downspouts near the corners of the log walls. The gutters angle down in a very wide ‘W’ pattern, with the downspouts attached at the bottom of the ‘W’, and the middle and corner of the roof being on the three high points of the ‘W’. You can’t even tell from the ground, since the grade has a slope of about 1/16″ per foot. Over 30′ of gutter on each side of the middle of the roof means the gutters only drop about 1 – 7/8″ over that span. Here’s an exaggerated diagram- red represents the gutters, blue represents water and downspouts, and black represents the logs and the roof. The downspouts ended up being in the outside, rather than the inside corners:

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Unintended and happy consequences are – since the roof already has a bit of a wave in it, adding gutters only help draw attention away from the roof. I can’t tell from the ground anymore that the roof has a bit of a wave in it. It’s the principle of art where the “eye loves a line”.  <- I read that somewhere in a history of mathematics book. Off topic: did you know that straight lines rarely exist in nature? It’s only humans that like (and make) straight lines. In nature, everything twists and turns- there are beautiful spirals and perfect circles, hexagons, elipses, etc., – but no long straight lines.

It was scary installing them with my scaffolding. The scaffolding instructions say to only use it on hard flat surface, but I threw the instructions away. I had to make do with rolling it around in the mud and dirt, which wasn’t always level. A few times I thought the scaffolding was going to tip over just from my using my air nail gun. But it didn’t, and I’m very blessed.

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18 feet tall scaffolding. scary at that height. Oh, and a gutter.

Downspouts

I used self-tapping sheet metal screws to hang the downspouts. Cutting and fitting at that height is a bit challenging, but doable. Eventually, the downspouts will lay on the porch roof. I’d like to attach rain barrels and use that to store water for the dry season at the end of summer.

Next steps

I’m pretty pleased with the results. It rained 2″ after I got them installed. I wasn’t there while it was raining, but came out later and saw where the water had washed out onto the ground. All the logs on that side are completely dry, and I’m pretty tickled about that.

I’ve sanded two outside walls, so they are ready for stain. I’ve sanded almost half the inside walls. I ordered some stain this week, but I need to wait for a few dry days where the overnight temps don’t drop below 40 before I can apply it. Carpenter bee season is in just over a month. If everything works, it’ll be slim pickings for them.

Porch needed

This might be another post where we are getting ahead of ourselves, but I wanted to capture this discussion as well.

The logs are still getting wet. You can see it in this video. This was part of the plan, even after the roof was finished. I was hoping to just finish the roof, move in, and then add the porch. But while filling bee holes, and with the heavy rains we’ve received lately along with wind, I see the bottom layers of logs still getting wet. This is somewhat expected. But they are also getting wet even when there’s no wind. If the rain is heavy enough, it is hitting the ground and splashing up on the logs. Even with 3′ of height from the ground. This is unexpected. There are a few factors I know, and some I recently was informed of:

  1. The roof has such a large surface area (56’x30′ x 2) , that it drains a lot of water. 3′ of height to the first log apparently isn’t enough to stop the splashing.
  2. This is “The South” where we get a lot of water.
  3. It’s a 2 story house. If I was not installing a porch, I would have planned on having 7′ overhangs (3.5′ overhang for every story).
  4. As it is, I have almost 8′ overhangs on the gable, and 4′ overhangs on the eaves. The plan was always to install a porch, so I didn’t see the point of overkilling the roof overhangs (longer rafters = longer sawmill track = bigger trees = more decking, more roofing, more osb, more shingles, etc.), because I knew a wrap-around porch was in our plans. Just not now.
  5. This was new to me, thanks Mosseyme: Without chinking, there is nothing to stop the wind from blowing right throw the house (gaps in logs). Over that 23′ drop (see #3) or so, rain has space for the wind to blow it off course and into the house. Normally,  (Ok, scratch that) I’m learning in the South that nothing is normal, and the weather can do whatever it wants.

So, I’m rethinking the “wait another year + before adding the porch” because the logs are getting wet now, and will be until I get that porch built. But all is not lost. My wife reminded me that we could just build the roof over the porch, and leave decking it until later, which would

  • get the lower logs protected right away
  • save me time on installing the porch decking

I like this idea. With that in mind, I started drawing to answer the question “What should our deck look like?” Here it is:

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Notes on this drawing:

  1. I was originally envisioning the West side of the house in this view. But I realized all four sides would have similar views, just with stairs or the carport. Ahh- the carport- more on that below….
  2. My biggest question is still how do you wrap the porch around the pass logs that stick out at the corners? I don’t know. I assume I’ll have to shave them off. For now, I’m going to build a “West Porch” and an “East Porch”. I’ll build them as far as the corners of the house, and not wrap them around just yet because my gables aren’t framed in. After the E-W porches are built, I’ll frame in the gables. Don’t need the porch getting in the way of my scaffolding and hauling materials up to the gables. After the gables are done, I’ll frame in the North and South Porches and figure out how to wrap the whole porch around the house.
  3. Gutters. I’ll get this out of the way- gutters do help direct all those thousands of gallons of water away from the lower (porch) roof. I’ll route them down the side of the porch beams, and eventually into water barrels for use in the garden or whatever. Yes, it still gets dry in August sometimes.
  4. Roof slope. The main roof is 6:12 pitch. But that doesn’t look right on the porch roof. And there is no hard and fast rule on matching the slopes of two roofs. Normally, the porch roof slopes slightly less than the house roof. I’m going with 3:12, which is pretty flat, I know, but you’ll see why below with the carport…I know 3:12 is below the recommended pitch for shingles, so I’ll have to add “special underlayment” to compensate for the lowered drainage rate.
  5. Carport. We’re tired of getting wet on the way to the house. However, I don’t want the garage attached to the house because fumes. Yes: “because fumes”. So, we need a carport and a detached garage. From my figuring, I need about 10′ of width for each car. But if we keep the carport roof slope the same as the rest of the porch, it would get pretty low before reaching the width needed for 2 cars. Julie had a great solution- park the cars perpendicular to the house- let the headlights face the house instead of parking parallel to it. This means the carport can be 14-17′ long, and we can just make it 30′ wide – enough for 3 cars.
  6. Dimensions:
    1. Porch roof height: about 9 feet, I figure.
    2. depth: 10′
    3. roof overhang: 12′.
    4. deck height vs inside floor: it’ll compare to the inside finished floor height in this manner:
      1. inside floor: 12″ (11.75″) joists, 3/4″ subfloor, 1″ finished floor = 13.25″
      2. outside deck: 10″ (9.75″) joists, 1.5″ decking = 11.25″. Later, we may enclose part of the porch into a large laundry room by adding 3/4″ subfloor, and then 1″ finished floor to bring the height to 13″. Trying to plan ahead….
    5. deck height vs ground: hoping for a deck height below 30″, so I can avoid handrails. Wife might override me on this one….

Here’s a bird’s eye view:

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Notes on this one:

  1. it’s a lot of roof. A lot. But you only live once, right? And we do want to see this thing still standing in 400+ years, right? Ok then. Roof it is.

I’ll let y’all know how it turns out….

Roof – Part 1: Decking

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Buying the Decking

I searched high and low for a good price on the decking. The plans call for 2×6 Tongue & Groove, preferably in 16 foot lengths. Yes, 2 inches by 6 inches. It sounded really thick, and when I started looking on Craigslist, I could only find advertisements for 1×6. I checked the plans- nope, 2×6. I called the orange box people – they don’t sell it, and can’t even order it. I checked local mills, but you need a large volume mill – the equipment to make it is expensive. I finally found a supplier in Guntersville- just a few miles down the road. They had it for about $0.95 per foot. I ended up paying about $8,000 for a bunch of it. They delivered and unloaded it for $25.

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Polyurethane

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I decided after talking to another LHBA member to polyurethane the boards before I put them up. Otherwise, you can crane your neck and do it after they are installed. That didn’t sound fun, so I laid out all the boards on the ground and bought 5 gallons of water based polyurethane. I actually bought every gallon of water based polyurethane in town. Went to 3 different orange box stores and bought them all out. The blue people didn’t have any. Then I spent 2 days painting them all. Then another day stacking them back up into piles.

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First layer is the hardest

If you set the first layer incorrectly, when you reach the roof, your decking will be all cockeyed and stuff. The only way I could figure to get it correct was to measure from the exact intersection of the rafters down to the ends of the rafters. I had to “scary climb” up to the Ridgepole, set the tape, throw the tape measure off the house, go down to the ground to get it, go back up the ladder and measure to the end of the rafter. I had to do this 4 times- twice for each end of the house.

Then I ran a string between these two points, and put a nail on the string at each point it touched the rafters. Then I nailed up the first boards, using these nails as stops. After about 6 rows, I had enough to stand on, and now had to think about getting the bulk of the 500 boards up on the roof.

 

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After all this, when I got up to the peak, it is still off by an inch or two. I figure this is due to not all the tongues and grooves fitting together perfectly. In my defense, there’s about 60 rows of boards on each side of the roof. Stuff is going to get out of wack over that distance. No matter, I’ll trim the last board a bit, maybe add some flashing just in case, and nobody will be able to tell.

Getting it up on the roof

 

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I tried sneaking it in through the gable ends, but as the rows got higher, I ran out of space. Then I tried with a pulley to pull them up using the ladder as a rail, and the tractor on the opposite side of the house. I finally just pulled them up with a rope and pulley and nailed a pressure-treated 2×8 nailed to the rafters to prevent the boards from gouging the already-installed decking. Video here.

Installation pattern & finishing up

The manufacturer recommends one nail per rafter, 4 foot spacing between rafters, and staggering the joints. The brochure shows a couple of options. I put 2 nails per rafter, and used ring shank nails and a nail gun and air compressor. I also used a skillsaw when necessary to cut the ends off. I still need to go back and trim the decking to a one foot overhang past the ridge pole and cap logs. That will be scary- out on the edge of the roof, sawing the ends off.

Since the rafters are 48″ on center (4′ apart), and the T&G decking is 16 feet long, things tend to match up nicely. Also doesn’t hurt that I made my rafters 5 inches wide instead of 4 inches wide- provides more surface to nail the decking.

 

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I left the rafters with overlap at the peak until now- it’s too dangerous to trim the overlaps before the decking is on. A friend recommended not trying to pin them until the decking was close enough to the top to provide a place to sit while installing them. It was good advice- even with the decking up close to where I could stand while I pinned the rafters, and even with being tied onto the roof- that 65 pound jackhammer could jump off the rebar at anytime and possibly throw me off the roof. It ended up not helping anyway- that ridge pole made out of sweet gum is very very hard- the jackhammer couldn’t pound the rebar into it. I had to resort to my sledge hammer. Even then, I bent a few pins trying to hammer them into that tough wood. Video here.

Underlayment

Underlayment is either tar paper or a synthetic sheet that allows the house to breathe, but keeps the moisture out. Water gets out of the house, but can’t come in. There’s a lot of debate over exactly where to place the underlayment on a built up roof. Talking with other LHBA members, I decided to place it directly on the decking. Tar paper is good stuff- it’s been in use for a hundred years and works great. But it only has a 30 day UV exposure rating. Knowing how slow I’m going, I needed something with a better rating- the synthetic I went with has a 90 day UV rating. I bought 4 rolls of it: 1,000 sq ft coverage per roll. It was about $60 a roll.

Installing the underlayment means we’ve reached an important point in the build: for the first time, my logs are out of the weather since I cut down that first tree so long ago. It is a huge, huge relief to reach this point. During the first rainstorm after installing the underlayment, I just stood inside the house, listening to the rain, but not feeling it. It is very humbling and satisfying to reach this point. We’ve got a ways to go yet to full “weather proof”, but I’ll take a little victory lap for now.

Next steps

Roof insulation and finishing the roof: I have to decide between solid foam and spray foam. Solid foam might be slightly cheaper, but I have to have a thicker roof- 12″ thick compared to possibly only 6″ thick if I go with spray foam. I also have to install “sleepers”, which are like ribs- they lay on the roof and provide a space for the insulation to lay in.  The sleepers can just be normal 2×6’s or 2×12’s. Or engineered wood I-beams. OSB goes on top of that (if using shingles), or furring strips (if using metal roof).

 

 

 

Rain, Rain, go away

 

I need about a week of dry weather. Here’s the story:

Contacted my excavator- he still says he can dig 31 holes for about $400. He came out to look at my site on March 3, and said he can dig the holes any time I want, but he did  point out that I should have the plywood forms ready to drop in the holes the day he digs them. Which, at the time, I didn’t have any built, but I did have the plywood for them.

That sets up a few things that needed to happen:

Pour schedule

Day 0: foundation is dug, forms are ready to put in ground, rebar is onsite, and cut to size.

Day 1: level holes, install forms.

Day 2: Orient forms perfectly so the rebar will be ready to accept logs. The whole focus is to ensure the line of rebar sticking out of the tops of the piers is within 1/16″  perfectly lined up along the center of each line of piers along each side of the house. This helps with attaching the dreaded first layer of logs to the foundation, which is a pain, from what I hear.

Day 3: get pre-pour inspection done. Not sure what to expect here, but this is one of the inspections required by the city. I assume they are checking code to ensure piers are a minimum of 12″ below grade.

Day 4: pour concrete and place rebar in the forms.

Day 11:? pull plywood off forms. I think I wait a week after the pour to remove the plywood.
I have to do this over a short time period (think: days), because I think my forms (due to winter water damage) probably can’t take any more moisture. I don’t want them sitting around in the rain in holes in the ground while my rebar is on order, or while I try to get them oriented correctly. I just want to get them in the ground, orient them, get them inspected, and pour the concrete- preferably over the span of 2-3 dry days.

I did a final calculation on the volume of concrete needed. It’s a little tricky to calculate the volume of a “truncated regular pyramid”:

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Fortunately, the internet is a fantastic place for letting someone else do the heavy lifting, and there’s a website that will calculate the volume if you provide the a,b, & h. Turns out I need 0.66 cubic yards for each of my smaller forms (28), and 1.28 cubic yards for the larger forms (3), for a total of about 23 yards of concrete (about $2300).

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Building the forms

I left the property after talking to Juni (the excavator) to go home and build forms. I built them all afternoon, and most of the next day (Saturday). Then I spent all week (when it wasn’t raining) building more. I almost finished building all 31 after a week of work. I need to put together the last three (which are the big ones- 54″x54″ base, 45 1/4″ tall).

My plywood was covered by a tarp all winter, but it still soaked up some water, which worries me. Concrete weighs about 3,700 pounds per cubic yard, and each pier is about 0.66 cubic yards, so I can figure about 2,400 pounds per pier. So the forms have to withstand 65 pounds per square foot (at least at the top). I also have to worry about the corners of the forms blowing out, or the bottoms, or maybe the whole pier will lift when the concrete is poured. I plan on using the extra dirt from the excavation to hold the forms down during the pour, and I’m adding collars to each one- found a cheap place (Mike’s Merchandise) to buy bolts – they sell surplus bolts and nuts for $1.00 per pound (13 nuts and bolts were a pound). I bought all they had in one size and ended up at about $20 of bolts- enough to do about 70% of the collars. If I had bought the same bolts at HomeDepot, it would have cost me $1.00 per bolt/nut, meaning, I would have paid about $372.00. So, my deal of $20-$30 is pretty cheap. Pays to shop around.

After building the forms, I have this huge pile of scrap leftover that I plan on using as part of the collars to strengthen the forms.

Getting Utilities installed

This has to be done before I can pass inspection- must have running water on site before you can pour concrete.

I went in January to get the utilities installed, but the utility company said I had to have a building permit. I went to the city to get the building permit, and they said I had to have utilities installed. Arggh! Will someone just please take my money so I can build?

I went back today, after getting the building permit- and they said, “Oh, do you have a copy of your building permit?” Well…..yes….posted out there on the property, like the city requires…. No matter- have to wait for the city electrical engineer to go out now (something else they didn’t mention last time….) and decide whether there’s enough power in the area to drop a line onto my property. She said she’ll take a picture of the permit while she’s out there tomorrow.

And I got the quote, too: normally, they come out and install a temporary utility pole with the meter on it. When you’re done building, you move the meter onto your house, and they come get the temporary pole. Of course, my build can’t be that simple, no- there’s no poles near my property – they are all across the street. So I have to pay for a permanent pole, plus a temporary pole (not sure why they can’t be the same). I also have to pay for a transformer. Expected cost: $5,000 for water, $385 for the temporary pole, and  $1800 for the permanent drop. Things are adding up…..

Sourcing Rebar

HomeDepot (hate to pick on them because they actually do sell 2×4’s for a good price, and they do have a lot of stuff in stock when you need it) sells rebar for about $0.50 per foot.

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On the LHBA forum, there’s a section for posting “Craigslist finds”. On there, I discovered $0.30  per foot is a good deal. And just the other day, an advertisement popped up in my search:

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I did the math- 7,000 ft for $1,000 works out to $0.14 per foot- a screaming deal. Except the guy (or gal, I guess), didn’t leave a phone number. Of course, 7,000 feet of rebar weighs 7,000 x .668 = 4676 lbs, so I’d need a bigger trailer (I think mine is rated for 2,000 pounds). But I only need 2600 feet for the cabin, and maybe half that for the garage. In the end, I could probably sell the scrap, and make my money back. In the end, the guy didn’t post any contact info- I pressed the “let poster know they didn’t leave any contact info” button. Several times. And again yesterday. And today. Twice. Maybe three times.

So I looked again for other ads, and found this guy in Decatur that says he’ll beat any price. I called him, and he did- $0.29 per foot. And he’ll cut it for free.  The old “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” holds true. And he spent all week last week cutting out plywood for forms for a house he’s building for himself. He wants the rain to go away, too…..

Summary

All of this adds up, of course, to a lot of money, time, and exhaustion. The main thing I’m worried about is that my forms don’t get left in the rain for days while I wait for an inspection, or the concrete, or the excavation. Getting all the materials, inspections, installations, and people lined up is quite an adventure. But once the foundation is done, the next adventure begins: getting ready to stack logs.