Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.
Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.
This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.
It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!
Friday, May 31, 2019
After finishing detailed design drawings, I was able to order wood — lots of wood! Lumber and plywood and drywall and other goodies — more than you can see.
In between the bouts of rain, I built the four sections of wall, starting with the side walls (allowing the rain to drain out the front). I built the walls using 2x6s, considerably stronger than 2x4s, and able to hold more insulation. The first to go up was the simple west wall, with no window, and therefore not terribly heavy. All of the wall sections were built on the ground and then raised upright on top of the concrete stem wall, which is 10" high above the floor.
I was able to lift the bottom of this first wall section up onto the stem wall, but raising it upright by myself was not going to happen without some mechanical help. That help came in the form of my homemade skyhook (powered by a boat trailer winch), which I previously used to lift the heavy 20' beam spanning the old front of the garage.
The bottom plates of the wall sections are pressure treated 2x6s, securely fastened to the concrete stem walls with heavy anchor bolts (placed when the concrete was poured). The wall section was secured to the old wall with a bunch of big lag screws. You can see in the photo above that the old 2x4 wall was not covered with plywood sheathing, just the masonite (pressboard) fake shingles. Not at all good. I fixed that. I am using 19/32" plywood for the new walls (with stucco over that), as well as for the new roof decking (when I get to that). You can't buy plywood that is actually 1/2" thick anymore; I chose to go slightly thicker rather than slightly thinner.
So here's the wall (old plus new) covered with plywood:
The east side wall has a window, with significantly more structure (and weight — wet wood), and no place to raise it with my skyhook. A pallet of shingles blocked the inside, and a retaining wall was too close on the outside, so I recruited a couple of friends to just muscle it in place (brute strength in lieu of finesse — whatever works!).
The small west section of the front wall was built on the garage floor and rolled into position on a dolly, and raised into place via the skyhook. The larger east section was also built on the garage floor, then covered with plastic pending another rain. This was the widest section, and had a large window opening with a substantial header. Heavy.
I used a 2x4 to lever it up on the dolly and rolled it into position. No way I could lift the bottom of the wall up on the concrete, so I again used my car jack.
You'll notice the layer of pink on top of the concrete. That's a foam sill gasket to fill the imperfections and irregularities in the concrete (the "sill" is the bottom "plate" of the wall). The sill gasket comes in 50' rolls.
With the bottom of the wall in position (and holes drilled to match the anchor bolts), the skyhook again did its thing.
You'll notice the top plate extends out to the right over the garage door opening, and will meet the corresponding piece extending to the left from the other front wall section. They butt together, but not anchored to anything, so obviously need some reinforcement to make the top of the wall strong and straight. So another top plate goes on top, overlapping the left and right sections. In this case, a 16-footer that holds the two wall sections securely together.
Next up was the header over the nine-foot wide garage door opening. It's made from three 2x10s, which together gives a 4.5" thickness. Typically, you would nail this together on the floor and then lift it into place, but this one was too heavy for me, so I built it in place, lifting one 2x10 at a time.
Since the wall is 5.5" thick, (two) plywood shims are placed between the three layers. The shims need to be, together, 1" thick, or whatever is needed to make the header the same total thickness as the wall. Since my collection of plywood scraps came in various thicknesses, I picked pieces of two thicknesses that worked. They're just spacers, and not structural, so they don't have to be the same size as the 2x10s that provide the structural integrity to the header. Whatever works. The first spacer pretty much was the same size as the 2x10, but the second was an odd collection of scraps.
I added the requisite short studs (2x6s) between the header and the top plate.
The photo above shows the ceiling joists that I subsequently installed, as well as blocks used to fasten the ceiling along the edges. I have placed a short vertical 2x6 to illustrate where the studs for the roof's gable end wall will go (fastened to the top plate and the ceiling joists).
Ordinarily the structure for the roof would be built now, and with a framing crew that would go very fast (maybe half a day for a roof this size), but there's just me, and since I'm retired, my pace is significantly slower. My immediate priority is to close in the garage, for security purposes, so I can leave my tools out in the garage overnight, and set up my larger tools in the garage, without having to worry about them walking away overnight. 🙁
That means installing the garage door, which means putting up the ceiling, and finishing off the interior walls, and installing the windows. So that's what I'm going to do next. The nice roof will have to wait (I expect no further rain until October).
This is where construction stands now, from the front outside (big blue tarp now again covers all this):
And the view from the inside:
Next post will cover preparations for installing the garage door, and installing windows. Hopefully not as long a wait as for this post. 🙂