There’s Always Something to Do

As I mentioned last post, we ran out of siding for Colin’s house, and we’re awaiting a new delivery. We were getting so close to the peak of the Barn’s south gable end, and psychologically it was difficult to change gears leaving this face unfinished. But never fear. Terry has a strong work ethic and keeps a list in his head of projects that need attention. I’m trying to adopt the same mentality – both at work and in life – so I don’t waste time.

To stay busy I installed F-channels and wide J-channels along the top of nearly every wall of the Barn. The J-channel is very visible (unlike the F-channel, which gets hidden by the soffit), so I overlapped the seams between pieces, much like the siding. To make the seam, um, seamless, I took my snips and cut off the last two inches of the “behind” piece, leaving only a tongue that slides into the “front” piece. Angle seams (like around the top of a door) required more ingenuity but followed the same concept.

Lots of channels (plus some siding and soffit) on the Barn's backside.
Lots of channels (plus some siding and soffit) on the Barn’s backside.

I also took on the tricky task of preparing the soffit returns. These are the places where the roof underside turns a corner. The soffit comes in from each direction, and to look good it needs a pair of channels back-to-back along a 45-degree angle. I had to cut narrow J-channel to exactly the right length, with an angle cut on both ends leaving no protrusions or gaps. Sometimes I then found nothing to nail them to, requiring me to install a short 2×4 or two above. Fussy work, but it was great to gain the confidence that I can do it.

Soffit return in the southwest corner of the Barn: two narrow J-channels back-to-back.
Soffit return in the southwest corner of the Barn: two narrow J-channels back-to-back.

Less rewarding was knocking down all the wasp nests in the gable ends, before we covered them with soffit. Standing on a ladder rung as far below as I could reach, I used a long rigid pole to scrape the underside and detach the nest. Then I made a dash for it. Surprisingly, the wasps seemed unconcerned with chasing the aggressor who destroyed their homes. I never got stung or even followed. But I couldn’t shake the fear.

One wasp nest, shortly before removal.
One wasp nest, shortly before removal.

Oh well. It had to be done. And the channel and soffit work is looking really good as this week closes out.

Miscellany: Terry made great strides installing aluminum trim, and Colin put up some lanternlike outdoor light fixtures. Indoors, a painting contractor and a tiling contractor make the house more livable by the day. Always something to do.

Channel Surfing

There is an essential component of the siding that I’ve never explained very well. Look at the edges of any house, every place the wall turns a corner, meets a door, window, the roof, or the ground. You’ll find some sort of border material. Like the mat around a framed photograph, this border makes the house look good, cleanly defining the edges and hiding any rough cuts of the material inside. It also prevents water from getting in under the siding.

At Colin’s house, the siding is vinyl, so the border material is also vinyl. Our siding and soffit “die” into long channels, which are named after the shape of their cross section.


We use the wide J-channel for our overall border, including the bottom and top of each wall. We use the narrow J-channel for less prominent borders such as door casings. (Our windows have grooves already built into their casings, so they don’t require any channels.) And we use the F-channel below our roof overhangs to hold pieces of soffit. We need the downward flange on the F-channel because the horizontal soffit dies into a vertical wall.

A finished soffit, surrounded by channels and aluminum trim.
A finished soffit, surrounded by channels and aluminum trim.

With so many walls and soffits yet to complete, I jumped from place to place based on where Terry was working, what materials and ladders were available, and (admittedly) where the sun shone. I installed F-channels and soffit above the grill deck, then installed F-channels and J-channels on the south gable end of the Barn, then worked with Terry to install siding on that end. Later I moved to the remaining three sides of the Barn.

Terry adds more siding to the Barn's south gable end. Lots of ladders.
Terry adds more siding to the Barn’s south gable end. Lots of ladders.

Terry has picked up new materials almost every day this week: more F-channels, more solid soffit, more vented soffit. I made a hardware contribution of my own, resupplying our 1½-inch nails today. Most recently, to my surprise and horror, we ran out of siding. Our latest order should come in early next week, and then we can pick up with the last few walls.

SO MANY BOXES of siding were delivered last October. All covering the house now!
SO MANY BOXES of siding were delivered last October. All covering the house now!

Need a Lift?

At Colin’s house, we finally conquered a mighty adversary: the rear wall. With a walk-out basement, two more stories, and a 12-on-12 gable peak, this wall measures some 40 feet bottom to top. Ladders just wouldn’t cut it at this height. No, sir… to install siding and trim on this bad boy, we needed a lift.

Terry rented a boom lift from Richmond Home Supply and towed it to the site. I helped him to position and level the machine, and I put plywood under each outrigger to spread its load. The lift is a lot of fun to operate. Inside the bucket you have four controls: one for each of the three connected arms and a fourth to pivot left and right. It has an impressive reach – we could access any point on our wall from the one spot we parked – and it’s remarkably stable. It does wiggle a little when fully extended, especially if the wind blows, but I felt much safer than I do high on a ladder.

Maxed out the ladder... Terry installs siding from the lift.
Maxed out the ladder… Terry installs siding from the lift.

Speaking of ladders, we used them in tandem with the lift until they would reach no further. It’s easier to install siding with a buddy, especially a full-length piece, which measures north of 12 feet and flops around a lot until you click it into place. Above the second-floor windows, it was Lift Only, and Terry called down measurements which I cut at ground level for him to pick up when he descended. I worked solo for a while as well.

Actually, siding is the fast-paced part. The tedious part is setting up J-channels and F-channels along the perimeters, giving the siding (and soffit) a smooth frame to hide unsightly cut edges. Previously Terry has done this job, but Colin suggested I give it a try, and with some thought I puzzled out the order of operations. The goal is not just to look pretty but also to prevent any wetness from sneaking inside the vinyl façade. (Terry’s advice: “You need to think like a drop of water.”)

The rear wall, fully sided. Still missing some aluminum trim.
The rear wall, fully sided. Still missing some aluminum trim.

Later on I folded some flashing with the aluminum brake, and Terry installed it along those vertical faces between the soffit and the roof. He put up several more bits of aluminum trim, installed soffit in all the high spots, and that was that. Our nifty lift is back at Richmond Home Supply now. It was fun while it lasted.

Terry installs aluminum trim - the lift's last hurrah.
Terry installs aluminum trim – the lift’s last hurrah.