Heat

It’s hot and humid this week, with highs around 90 and scattered thunderstorms each evening. And working down inside the basement, where white foam walls reflect the sun and no breeze can get through, is particularly grueling. I haven’t sweated this much since I worked as a mover nine years ago. Fortunately we finished all the load-bearing basement walls early this week and raised first floor joists, so we’ll be out of the oven soon.

Everybody makes sure to drink plenty. Each day we pack a giant cooler bag full of reusable water bottles and ice packs, plus a 3-gallon canteen for refills, and we pretty much finish it by day’s end or run for more in the afternoon. We replenish electrolytes with sugary drinks and we always refuel at midday with a proper lunch. For all the discomfort, there’s remarkably little whining. Seems to be an unspoken code of construction conduct: get the job done, take care of yourself, and don’t bother anyone else about it.

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End of Monday. Terry, Carson, and Colin reflect on their work… or dream of jumping in a pool.

As I’ve mentioned, the first floor joists are prefab trusses. Getting them in their proper place took several steps. I set up the transit and surveyed top-of-wall elevations. At high points, Colin used a planer to shave sixteenths of an inch off the double top plate until we had a level surface for the floor joists. Some joists we cut to fit; others overhung the supporting wall on one end. Carson and I raised each joist one end at a time with the help of a ladder, same method we used in the Barn. Meanwhile, Terry and Turner installed rim boards along the edges, laying out the correct joist locations as they went. Finally we nailed the joists to the rim boards, and the rim boards to the top plates, checking that the whole assembly was straight and square.

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Colin planes down a top plate.

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Terry and Turner install rim boards.

A few unique conditions varied our sequence. The main interior load-bearing wall contains one full-height opening, and we built up a header beam to sit atop the wall… which prevented the floor joists from bearing there. Terry solved this problem elegantly by installing joist hangers, metal corbels which nail into the header beam and provide a platform for the joist ends. He doesn’t like to use joist hangers when he can avoid it, but we definitely wanted the high header beam here to keep the basement open and airy.

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Nailing joist hangers into a high header beam.

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Blocks let two adjacent joists share their load. They’re made of scraps cut from the truss ends.

As we build, we need to think ahead, or rather above. Any point load from the roof or upper floors needs a path to the ground. Terry built a beefy column into one of the basement stud walls after careful consideration of a roof line. And I spearheaded a surprisingly time-consuming project installing blocks between the two outermost floor joists to help them share the exterior wall load. Meanwhile, Pillsbury continues grading and landscaping around us, improving our access to the basement every day. The walk-out looks splendid.

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Todd from Pillsbury masterfully stacks boulders into a retaining wall.

By the way… if you think I shouldn’t complain about the heat, if 90 degrees doesn’t sound so bad compared to where you come from… then great, come on over! We’d love your help!

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