Upward Mobility


Rafters dwarf everything else.

The Barn continues to grow. Yesterday we wrapped the first floor in plywood sheathing and laid the final row of subfloor upstairs. And today the height of the structure more than doubled when we installed our first rafters.


Terry and Colin fit a piece of sheathing. Tough slope to stand on.

Yeah, the rafters are more exciting, but first a word about sheathing for the sake of completion. It’s half-inch-thick plywood versus three-quarters for the subfloor, and the lighter weight makes it much easier to handle. Terry took it upon himself to plan a layout that staggered the joints and minimized the wasted material. Then he cut the pieces as necessary (many 4×8 pieces went up whole) and directed Colin and me where to attach them, using ladders to lift the top row into place. Proving again that he’s done this before, Terry marked stud lines in advance on the outside of the sheathing so we knew where to nail. Sometimes the sheathing overhung a rough opening and I had to check that I wasn’t about to nail into open space, but far trickier was toe-nailing two pieces into a single stud at every joint. We easily went through over 1000 nails, and I’d guess I wasted more than 50.

Colin would be upset if I didn’t include a shoutout for his handiwork on the last row of subfloor. With sheathing sticking up, we couldn’t slide the plywood tongue-and-groove together as before, so Colin took a circular saw and shaved a half inch off every piece. A little nudging with Sluggo and they wedged in perfectly.


Making the last row fit.

Rafters! They’re sloped 12-on-12, so a 30-foot width corresponds to a pair of rafters peaking 15 feet above floor level. A carpenter’s ingenuity – and brazen comfort high on a ladder – allows us to raise the rafters sans machinery or even scaffolding. Also some serious muscle. We cut the rafters from 22-foot-long 2x12s, by far the heaviest pieces on site and among the largest a lumber yard even sells. They’re a lovely strawberry-blond which Terry identifies as probably Douglas fir. But hard work just to carry them around, let alone lift them over heads diagonally to rest against the ridge beam until somebody nails them tight. That ridge beam, by the way… held up by temporary posts, braced both ways and with a little oarlock at the top for guidance.


Not a gallows, but a ridge beam ready for rafters.

Cutting the rafters was also hard but in a different way: we had to solve a tricky geometry problem. One end gets sliced at 45 degrees to meet a ridge beam at the apex; the other end gets notched to form the bird’s-mouth and rest on a base plate. We fretted awhile over the calculations (I was no help thanks to my unfamiliarity), then cut Patty the pattern piece and used her to trace the remaining 41 rafters. What a relief when we raised the first rafter and found it fit perfectly. With Colin and Cole cutting and Terry and me raising, we got into a nice rhythm and finished well over half the rafters by day’s end.


Rafter cut. In the field this drawing was done on a scrap of wood, of course.

One thought on “Upward Mobility

  1. Pingback: Two Hundred Fifty | PERCH ENGINEERING PLC

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