Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Writing Shed, Part Two

I’ve had a lull in my brainiac works, so I’ve been able to get some work done on the writing shed.

I started off by disrobing part of my yard with a sod cutter. Once it was nude, I had to level the site, which I accomplished with a shovel and rake. I then located the first foundation stone. I used some cinder blocks I’ve had sitting around for a few years; they’re good enough for what I’m doing. I dug ‘em down a few inches and made sure they were tamped in well, and level.

Since I didn’t have a transit handy, I used the straightest reclaimed piece of 2x8 I had on hand to telegraph the elevation from the cornerstone to all the remaining foundation stones. I placed my four foot level on top of the 2x8 and voila: it’s a 12 foot level. Mind you, I wasn’t aiming to get each stone perfectly in position—just close enough to be able to shim the floor after it was built. The goal was to get all six stones roughly at the same elevation, within less than a quarter of an inch of each other relative to the cornerstone. The Egyptians would probably ridicule such lax tolerances, but this is good enough for who it’s for.

The next step involved the Pythagorean Theorem. In framing, we call it the 3-4-5 rule. Basically, in order to find the hypotenuse of a right triangle, pull measurements on each 90 degree leg that fulfill the 3-4-5 rule, like so: if one leg is 3 feet, and the leg 90 degrees from that is 4 feet, the hypotenuse (the side of the triangle that connects the two right angle legs) has to be 5 feet. If it’s not, you don’t have a right triangle, and your framing isn’t square. In my case, I pulled 6 feet on one side and 8 feet on the other, and moved those two legs until the diagonal (the hypotenuse) yielded 10 feet (notice that these are multiples of 3-4-5). I had to do this several times, confirming the placement of my foundation stones.

Once all the stones were reasonably situated (of course, one of them refused to cooperate, but that’s par for the course), I could begin building the frame. The reclaimed materials bundle that I have managed to procure came ready-made with a doubled-up 2x8 joist; perfect for the backbone of my floorplan. I cut it to length and began laying out the framing, nailing it together as I went. Now, lots of guys would probably tell you to use hangers, but I elected to save some scratch and toenail (drive nails in on an angle, one from each side) the floor joists together, gluing them after they’d been nailed. Cheaper and faster, and arguably just as strong. You’ll notice from the photos that using reclaimed lumber means putting up with random holes (drilled for electrical in the previous installation), but they don’t affect the strength.

My next step was insulating the floor, which was interesting. I used 24” wide batts and installed them upside down, so that the kraft paper faces the ground. Hopefully that will increase durability. I had to buy insulation supports, which are just lengths of steel stock that you wedge into the joist spaces that act as a spring and support the weight of the insulation. It’s lame and I hate it, but it’ll do.

After all that was done, I busted out the 3-4-5 rule again and made sure my framing was reasonably square. Sure enough, it had gone slightly trapezoidal, but I could easily rack the thing into shape using a length of 2x4 as a lever, prying against the ground and moving the corners back into square. Further fine tuning was accomplished by using the factory edges of my sheathing (the OSB floorboards) as a guide. It went pretty quickly once I got the first sheet lined up with the framing and nailed down. I used construction adhesive, gluing as I went along, lining up the sheathing and then nailing it down.

Now that the deck is done, I should be able to run electrical pretty soon. Since this big 12x12 deck is nice and level and flat, I’ll be building my trusses before I build the walls, and then setting them aside until I’m ready to build the roof. I need something like a huge workbench in order to fabricate those, and the shed floor fits the bill perfectly. The next installment in this series will chronicle that. 

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