Ridge Beam and Rafters

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ridge Beam!

Ridge Beam!

Another big day! Today, we installed the ridge beam and the rafters. The collection of wood in my front driveway is starting to look more and more like house.

Who helped today:

  • Andrew
  • Sabine
  • Sheila
  • Leo

What we did today:

  • Yesterday, I laid the ridge beam and the two 16 foot beams out in my garage next to each other, measured and marked them for length and drew lines where each rafter would attach.
Measuring and Marking Ridge Rafter Support Beams

Measuring and Marking Ridge Rafter Support Beams

  • I cut all of the above beams to size. I have to say it was a little bit scary cutting my 20 foot Parallam ridge. This was something I really did not want to make a mistake on. I calculated the length at least three times and probably measured four times before actually making the cut.
  • Sabine added screws downward through the 2×4’s around the perimeter of the house into the 4×4’s that support the loft. The 4×4’s not only support the loft, but also hold the walls together against the force of the roof and rafters trying to push them apart, so it’s important that they are well attached.
  • Sabine and I finished adding the two by fours around the perimeter of the house forming the 3 inch riser, gluing, screwing and nailing them into place.
Building the Riser

Building the Riser

  • As there was time, Leo and Andrew added more nails and screws to the interior of the house to attach the top plate of each wall to the stack of wood between the top of the walls and the bottom of the rafters that now forms the ceiling and the riser.
  • We glued, screwed and nailed the 16 foot beam along the top of each wall, making sure that the gables fit snugly between these beams.
  • We glued, screwed and nailed the gables into place.
Sabine and Russ with Front Gable Installed

Sabine and Russ with Front Gable Installed

  • We hoisted the ridge beam up, and set it on top of the gables.
Raising the Ridge Beam

Raising the Ridge Beam

  • We attached the rafters to either end of the ridge beam above the gables. Installing the first rafters was a bit tricky (see “problems we ran into” below).
Installing Ridge Beam

Installing Ridge Beam

  • We installed the rest of the rafters. As we progressed, we slowly figured out a good method for doing this, making them not quite easy but at least less and less difficult to install.

Today’s tiny epiphanies:

  • Andrew taught us today that there is a ceremony that goes along with installing the ridge beam into a house. It involves tacking a small piece of a tree to the end of your ridge beam as a reminder of the trees that were used to create your house. I really enjoyed this exercise and my appreciation for it has been growing the more I think about it. It’s very easy to forget that all the plywood and 2×4’s I purchased to build my tiny house came from parts of what probably used to be a rather large number of different living trees. It’s also easy to forget just how many parts of the universe had to be rearranged to create just 118 square feet of house. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that the raw elements that form all the pieces of my tiny house, from the carbon in the rafters to the iron in the nails, were created in the hearts of stars and spewed out into the universe by supernovae that occurred billions of years ago. When I stop to be mindful of just how long the universe has been preparing, assembling and delivering the pieces of itself to my doorstep as a gift so I could create this tiny house, it fills me with a rather significant sense of gratitude and awe. It was with this sentiment that we cut a small branch off of the redwood tree next to our house and attached it to the front of the ridge beam yesterday afternoon.
Ridge Beam Ceremony

Ridge Beam Ceremony

Problems we ran into:

  • We had some discussion before, during and after lunch about whether we need any kind of special bracket to attach the ridge beam to the Gables. I had been planning to simply toe nail the ridge beam into the Gables. However, other people on the group thought that a metal bracket might give it some more strength. We ended up going to two different hardware stores trying unsuccessfully to find a bracket that would work. Eventually we decided that we could use some hurricane ties like the ones used to attach the ends of rafters to the side of the house. We went to great lengths to attach these hurricane ties to either end of the rafter only to find that they got in the way of the rafter installation. Eventually, we had to remove the hurricane ties and go back to my original plan of simply toe nailing the ridge beam into place. We nailed the ridge beam into place after installing rafters on either side, to ensure that the beam was properly centered. Before nailing the ridge beam in place, we also nudged the gable back and forth until it was properly positioned under the ridge beam per the marks that I added to the ridge beam yesterday.
  • Installing rafters was probably the most difficult thing today. I don’t know why, but installing rafters is always a bit tricky for me. It was probably the hardest part of assembling the shed at our property last year as well. Here’s the process we came up with:
    • Before lifting the rafter into place, drill a hole for the screw that will attach it to the ridge beam. The hole should be drilled such that when the rafter is installed, the hole will be parallel to the ground. Then, get a screw started in the hole.
    • Lift the rafter into place, position to the top of the rafter against the ridge beam at the proper location and drive the screw into the ridge beam, pulling the rafter tight against the beam.
Screwing Top of Rafter into Place

Screwing Top of Rafter into Place

    • Pull the birds mouth of the rafter snug against the top of the wall and toe screw it into place with two inch screws, one on either side. Toe screwing the bottom of the rafters into the top of the walls is the most challenging for me. It’s just two screws, driven that angles opposite to each other. However, I always find it difficult to get the screws in at the right angle, without hitting each other, splitting the wood or pushing a rafter in off their mark. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good advice on how to do this well. For me, it was simply a trial and error process. Some of the rafters went very well and some of them required multiple attempts to get the screws to go in properly.
Screwing Bottom of Rafter into Place

Screwing Bottom of Rafter into Place

Favorite parts of the day:

  • Seeing all my friends arrive this morning and greeting them one by one. I not only appreciate the time everybody is putting into helping me build this tiny house, I appreciate the people themselves. They all enrich my life in some way and it brightens my day to see every one of them each time they choose to spend the day with me.
  • Having Leo and Andrew stay for dinner and enjoying their company after a really productive day of work.
  • Creating this blog entry, recognizing the gifts I have been given and remembering how much the universe which is God loves us.
Rafters Installed!!

Rafters Installed!!

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