Soffiteering

Over at Colin’s house, the front porch proceeds at a steady clip. The porch’s ceiling, so recently a jumble of roof trusses and exposed cable, is now finished with a spread of white solid soffit. A narrow swath of vented soffit encloses the shed roof overhang and forms a sort of border.

Our support columns got wrapped in a neat product called a post sleeve. It’s basically PVC (low-maintenance all the way!) but manufactured in four 5½-inch-wide sections with flexible edges in between. In other words, it wraps around a 6×6 post cleanly and with very little effort. Terry installed the sleeves nice and snug, and he bent and cut aluminum to fit around the top beams’ as-yet exposed faces. Every bit of lumber above deck is now covered.

Meanwhile the screen porch begins to look less like a deck and more like a room. Colin built half-walls around the perimeter, added aluminum sills for the screens, and framed the doorway to the main porch. Still some work to do here, but it’s moving along quickly.

One seamless gutter. They surround the house and the Barn now.
One seamless gutter. They surround the house and the Barn now.

Of more practical concern: we have gutters! A team from the supplier came Thursday to furnish and install them all. With the ongoing drainage problems at Colin’s house (and the gloppy Champlain clay that continues to plague his yard), it’s a big relief to shed the water where we want it.

The big picture.
The big picture.

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.

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.