Saturday, December 29, 2007

Garage Building in the UP of Michigan, Part 4

Monday morning was another 8 below zero start. We planned to be finished on this day but we had a lot of work ahead of us. To finish we had the fascia to put on, the fly rafters (overhang) to nail together and install on the back of the garage, the flying gable overhang on the front of the garage, sheet the roof and put on the felt paper, and frame and sheet the gable ends.

The first thing we did was nail on the 2x6 fascia. We set up a 20' aluminum plank on ladder jacks to span the snow that was piled up along side the garage walls to make the installation easier. We let the fascia hang past the last rafter at each end of the garage two feet. This was to have something to nail the tails of our fly rafters and our flying gable rafters to.

I had cut the fly rafters and their blocking the day before. Tony and Jim nailed these together to get them ready for installation. These would be pretty heavy being they were made up of two 2x6's 16 feet long with six 2x6 spacers to make them 24 inches wide. While Tony and Jim worked on these I cut the rafters for the flying gable.

We installed the fly rafters first. Tim and Tony passed them up to Jim and I on top of the ceiling/floor joists. Tony then joined Jim and I to help hold and line up the fly rafters flush with the tops of the last rafters. After we nailed the fly rafter on one side, Tim would nail the tails to the fascia board. We repeated this procedure on the other side of the gable. I then nailed the plumb cuts together at the ridge to complete the installation to give the garage its 24 inch overhang on the back gable.

For the front gable we set up a scaffold under the ridge to be able to nail the flying gable rafters to the ridge. There were six rafters to make up the flying gable, three on each side of the ridge. Tim passed the rafters to Tony and I. Tony would nail the rafter tail to the fascia and I nailed the plumb cut to the ridge. The last rafter angled from the fascia, which was two feet passed the wall, to the ridge, which stuck out four feet passed the gable.

With the fascia on and our gable overhangs on, we could now sheet the roof. Tim got the plywood (OSB) ready by stacking it on horses and leaning it against the fascia. Tony and I snapped a line 47 1/2 inches up from the rafter tails to start our first course of plywood. This lets the plywood lap over the fascia without hanging out beyond it. Jim and I tacked the sheets down while Tony nailed them off behind us with a nail gun. After we got the first course down, we nailed a 2x4's flat across it for a toe board. This was for a little insurance to keep us, tools and plywood from sliding off the roofs 7/12 pitch. Between passing up plywood and toe boards, Tim also made any necessary cuts that had to be made for us.

The plywood went down without a hitch on the first side and went even quicker on the other side of the gable. We followed the same pattern for our plywood layout since it created very little waste. Even the numbers for Tims plywood cuts were almost the same.

With all the plywood on the roof, Tony and I started putting felt over it. Tim and Jim cut the felt to length for us rather than take the whole roll up on the roof. Tim probably won't shingle the roof till spring so he wanted to help protect the sheeting over the winter with the felt. Hopefully it will snow on the felt so it won't blow off.

It got dark on us quick so we had to quit. We still had to felt the other side of the roof and frame and sheath the gable walls. We would have to stay one more day to finish.

Next: Day 4, Finishing up

Mike Merisko

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Garage Building in the UP of Michigan, Part 3

Day two started out at 8 degrees below zero, but like the previous day there was no wind. It seemed to warm up rather quickly this day and was able to ditch the Carharts by 10 o'clock.

We started the morning with Tony and Jim Installing the garage door header and framing and sheathing the front wall. Tim helped me stack and mark the 2x8's to get them ready to cut into rafters. The roof was a gable roof with a two foot overhang on the back gable and a two foot overhang on the side walls. The overhang on the front of the garage was 4 feet at the ridge and tapered back to 2 feet at the side fascia.

To get my rafter lengths, I used what I like to call my "bible". My "bible" is the rafter table book, "The Full Length Roof Framer", by A. F. J. Riechers. All I have to do is go to the 7/12 pitch span tables and look up the span of the building, outside of wall to outside of wall, and this gives me the length of the rafter from the ridge to the back of the birdsmouth. Add four more feet to the span and I have the length of the rafter plus the overhang before deducting for the ridge and fascia.

As I finished cutting the roof, Tony and Jim finished the header and front wall and straightened and braced all the walls, getting them ready for the ceiling joists and rafters.

Tony and I nailed the ceiling joists to the tops of the walls with Tim and Jim handing them up to us. Because Tim wanted attic storage, the joists were 2x10, 24 feet long, 16 inches on center. Once all the joists were up, we ran two courses of OSB from front to back for a platform to frame the roof. We framed the roof with Tony and Jim working the walls while I worked the ridge. Tim handed up the rafters as we needed them.

We didn't quite get as far as I would have liked this day, but under the conditions we did okay. Each day we would stop and go inside to warm up and have a hot lunch.
Because we had only eight hours of daylight, we did about 7 hours of work, allowing for an hour lunch.

Day 3: Overhangs, Fascia, Plywood

Mike Merisko

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Garage Building in the UP of Michigan, Part Two

Woke up Saturday morning thinking it was gonna be warmer than the night before. I couldn't have been more wrong! The temperature that morning was 11 below zero! Fortunately I anticipated cold weather and packed my Carhart coveralls, long underwear, my insulated boots and spare gloves. What we had going for us was the fact that there was no wind. Don't think we could have built the garage if we would have had wind chills of 20 degrees below zero or more.

There was a good foot of snow on the ground but the 22x24 slab was already cleared of snow. All the lumber was there and was covered to keep it free of snow. It was stacked in the order we were going to use it except for the ceiling joists which were on the bottom and had to be dug out to be cut before being nailed in place.

When building a detached garage, I sometimes like to build the walls, stand them up, and then sheath them. I plumb the framing and let the plywood or OSB lock it in when its nailed on. Because of the snow piled around the slab we weren't able to do this.

After laying out the treated sill plates for the anchor bolts and drilling them out with a 5/8" spade bit, I marked our stud layout on them. I started the wall layout on the side walls from the front of the garage on 16" centers. The one sidewall had a 36" service door in it so I marked it for a 38" rough opening, then laid out my 16" centers. The back and front walls would be laid out from the center of the wall. Later, my gable studs will follow this layout and put a stud right under the ridge board.

Because of the snow, we would have to build the walls on the slab, just like you would when building a house. After they were framed, we squared the walls by measuring them corner to corner, racking the frame till both measurements were the same. We also wanted to keep our bottom plate straight. We did this by keeping the plate edge on the line we snapped for the sill plate, checking to make sure we stayed on it as we nailed the OSB on the frames.

While Tony and Jim (one of the locals and friend of Tim) framed and sheeted the walls, Tim and I dug out the 2x10 by 24' ceiling joists so they could be cut to length and have the roof pitch cut put on them.

As Tony and Jim finished framing, sheeting and wrapping a wall with Tyvek, we would all help stand it up. We laid 2x4 cutoffs flat on the slab near the anchor bolts. We raised the wall onto the 2x4's and lined up the 5/8" holes in the sill plate with the anchor bolts. With minimal lifting and persuading with a sledge hammer, we removed the 2x4's one by one as the holes fell over the bolts. We tapped the wall in place to our chalk lines with the sledge and bolted it down. We held the wall up with a-frames since the ground was too frozen to drive stakes into it.

While everybody was busy with the walls, I cut the ceiling joists to length and put the pitch cut on them. This cut is so they don't stick up above the rafters and get in the way of the plywood sheathing.

After I finished cutting the joists, Tim and I pulled out the two 18 foot, 12" microlams that would be used for the garage door header. I checked the opening in the concrete for the opening and it was 16 feet on the money. I wanted to put double cripples under the header so I cut the microlams to 16'6".

The first day we got the side and back walls up, the joists ready and the garage header ready. It was cold but as long as you were working you kept warm. I was able to takeoff my Carharts by noon as it had "warmed" up to the teens.

Tomorrow day 2

Mike Merisko

Monday, December 24, 2007

Garage Building in the UP of Michigan

Been a while since I posted any articles, but its been a pretty busy fall.

I was recently approached to build a garage in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It wouldn't happen till the middle of December so I was a bit hesitant to take on the project. After some thought I decided what the hell, I'm not that busy at that time, and committed to doing it.

My first move was to recruit some quality help. My first choice backed out because of the possible weather conditions (couldn't blame him). My second choice caught the flu the day we were gonna leave. Fortunately I found a replacement (Tony) at the last moment, just hours before we were scheduled to leave.

We met at the homeowners house (Tim) in the west suburbs of Chicago and left on a Friday afternoon for a six hour drive to the UP. As we drove northward, we could watch the temperature fall in the rear view mirror of the vehicle. When we left Chicago it was in the upper 20's. By the time we got to our destination in the UP, around 9:30, it was 0. I was thinking that wasn't bad, at daybreak when we start building, it has to be warmer. Boy was I wrong!

Tomorrow I'll tell you how our first day went and the conditions we had to work in.

Mike Merisko

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Speed Square: A Carpenters Choice

The most used tool in residential construction is the Swanson Speed Square. From laying the sill plates on the foundation wall to laying out rafter cuts and everything in between, the speed square is arguably the most important tool on a carpenters tool pouch.

The speed square is also a tool of convenience. It has replaced the cumbersome but reliable combination square as the carpenters choice. Its triangular shape makes it easy for the tradesman to keep on hand and in easy reach. Because of its shape, it can be kept in a tool pouch, on a hook on ones side, or even in your back pocket.

The speed square is packed with useful features and can be used for more than just squaring up lumber. Since its shape is a right triangle, one side is a 45 degree angle. This is convenient for quickly marking miters, 12/12 pitch rafters and anything else that might require that angle.

Another feature makes wall layout quicker. For instance, if your laying out a stud and cripple for a door or window, the speed square never has to leave the plate. Once the line is drawn for the stud location, there are marks on the inside of the square parallel to the plates edge from 1" to 3 1/2 inches in quarter inch increments, that can be used to measure over an 1 1/2" for the other side of the stud. This can be achieved by lining up the 1 1/2" mark on the previously drawn line and making a mark for the other side of the stud. Do this again and you've got an1 1 1/2" space for the cripple. By using the 3 1/2" mark one can layout the wall leads for wall intersections.

Along the edge used for squaring is a ruler. This has marks every 1/8th inch up to seven inches. Opposite the rule on the inside edge of the square, there are notches to put your pencil into to scribe lines parallel to the edge of your work. These notches are spaced at 1/4 inch, from 3/4" to 2 1/2". There is a diamond cutout at 3 1/2" for a scribe of 3 3/8", 3 1/2", and 3 5/8".

All these features are very useful but the main reason one would buy a speed square is for the rafter cut layout feature. Along the 45 degree angle edge there are marks for common rafters and hip and valley rafters for pitches 1 in 12 up to 30 in 12. Along the very edge are marks for degrees of angles. These marks start at 1 degree up to 90 degrees.

Along with the speed square a booklet is included with information on how to use the square, rafter tables to give you rafter lengths, and information on how to layout cuts for common, hip and valley rafters. The booklet alone is worth the price of the speed square.

If your doing any type of framing,the speed square is one tool you should not be without. The name says it all. It allows you to do many tasks quickly and accurately.
I almost forgot another use. I once saw a carpenter use his speed square to eat potato salad.

Mike Merisko (C) 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Alternatives To Wood Siding

When I first started building homes, the only siding I thought should be used to cover a home was wood. As the years went by I began to see the advantages of using the alternative sidings of vinyl and cement board. Both sidings are ecologically sound and economical.

Initially, wood siding can look great on a new house. Over time, Mother Natures elements can diminish the beauty of wood siding. The sun can fade the paint or stain on the siding. The sun can also dry out the siding, causing it to cup, crack, and split, sometimes to the point of replacement.

A wet climate can attract insects. Some of the most common critters are carpenter ants, termites, and silver fish. If these insects are present on or behind the siding, they can attract birds such as woodpeckers. They can peck away till there is a hole in the siding, giving them access to food and opening up a home to possible water damage and more insects.

Depending on the size of a house that has had wood siding installed, up keep and maintenance can be an expensive proposition. Eventually, a house sided with wood will have to be repainted. For the do-it-yourself weekend warrior, this could take a whole summer of weekends. Should one contract the job out to a painting contractor, the cost could run into the thousands.

Vinyl and cement sidings have virtually eliminated most if not all of the above mentioned problems that can come with a house clad with wood siding. Both are made of materials that seemed to be ignored by insects and birds.

Cement siding is relatively new to residential construction compared to wood, aluminum, steel and vinyl. Unlike wood sidings, cement siding will not crack, split,
cup or warp when exposed to the elements and should last a lifetime. One drawback to cement siding is the fact that it has to be painted. Being exposed to the weather, at some point a house with this siding will have to be repainted. Of the two alternative sidings mentioned here, cement siding is more expensive. It is also more labor intensive to install.

Vinyl has displaced all other materials as the siding of choice in residential construction. There are a variety of reasons for this rise in popularity and its easy to see why. Unlike the former siding champ, aluminum, vinyl will not dent and scratches do not show as much because the color is all the way through. Once one chooses the sidings color, it may never have to be painted. Vinyl will not split, crack, or cup like wood. It also does not attract insects like wood. Vinyl is economical, virtually maintenance free, and easy to install.

Everyone has their preferences when it comes to exterior finishes. With rising costs of natural materials, these preferences may change. As time goes on these alternative materials will keep expanding their place in the building industry.

Mike Merisko (C) 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

Cutting Common Rafters

Common rafters are, well, the most common rafter when it comes to residential roof framing. Gable roofs are built with all common rafters, as are shed roofs. A hip roof, depending on the length of the building, has at least four common rafters. The rest of the rafters in a hip roof are called hip and jack rafters.

The first step in cutting a common rafter is finding its length. To find the length one must know the distance the rafters must span to make up the roof. The span is found by measuring the width of the building. This measurement is taken from the outside of the walls including the wall sheathing. If the width of the building is 30 feet, and the roof pitch is a 6/12, these are the factors that will be used to find the rafter length.

There are several methods that are used to get the rafter length. Two of the most popular means of finding that rafter length are the construction calculator and rafter table books ("The Full Length Roof Framer" by A. F. J. Riechers). Both ways will give a precise number to cut your rafter to. The book "The Full Length Roof Framer", is also full of roof cutting secrets.

For our example we will use the 30 foot building width and a pitch of 6/12. This means our rafters will rise 6 inches for every 12 inches of run. Using the book "The Full Length Roof Framer", and opening it to the rafter tables for a 6/12 pitch, you will find all kinds of information about that roof pitch. Under the common rafter table and the span column in feet, read down till you find 30 feet. Next to it you will find the length of the rafter which is 16'9 1/4". This is the length of the rafter but there are a few more calculations to be factored in.

To lay out the rafter cuts on a 2x, I like to use a framing square. I feel its more precise than a speed square, which is a great layout tool in its own right.

To start, pick out a straight 2x to make your rafter cut layout on. This will be your pattern to cut all your common rafters from. If it has any crown at all, that will be the top of your rafter. Lay the 2x on a pair of horses with the top away from you. Since our roof pitch is a 6/12, these will be the numbers we will use on the framing square.

Starting on the left end of our 2x, lay the framing square on the 2x with 6" on the outside edge of the tongue on the bottom edge of the 2x. Put 12"on the outside edge of the body of the square on the bottom edge of the 2x. Move the top of the tongue till it hits the upper left hand corner of the 2x. Scribe a line along the outside edge of the framing squares tongue. This is your plumb cut. If there will be a ridge board, the rafter will have to be shortened half the distance of the ridge. We'll get to that a little later. There are brass stair gauges that can be bought that clamp onto the square at the pitch you are using. Instead of lining up 6" and 12" every time, all you need to do is bump the gauges to the bottom of the 2x.

To get the length of the rafter to the birdsmouth, hook your tape measure to the upper left hand corner of the 2x. Pull the tape and mark 16' 9 1/4" on the top edge of the 2x. Put the framing square at 6" and 12" on the bottom of the 2x and line up the tongue of the square with the mark on the top edge of the 2x. This line represents the outside of the wall and the back of the birdsmouth.

The level cut for the birdsmouth is usually the thickness of the wall. If it is a 2x4 wall with 1/2" sheathing, the level cut for the birdsmouth will be 4" long. To mark the birdsmouth, put the tongue of the square against the line. On the outside edge of the body, put 4" on the bottom edge of the 2x and draw a line on the outside edge of the square. The birdsmouth should end up being 2" deep.

Say we want to add an overhang to our rafters. In this instance lets say we want to add 12". Since we are adding 12" to the rafters on both sides of the house, we need to add two feet to our 30' span. Again we go to our rafter table book ("The Full Length Roof Framer"). Open the book to the 6/12 page and look up the span for 32 feet. The overall length of our rafter will increase to 17' 10 5/8".

To mark the plumb cut on the rafter tail, pull the tape from the upper left hand corner of our 2x (long point of our plumb cut). Mark 17' 10 5/8" on the top edge of the 2x. Again put 6" and 12" of the framing square on the bottom edge of the 2x and line it up with the mark on top of the 2x. Draw a line along the squares edge and this will be your tail cut.

Two more things must be considered to complete the layout of our rafter. As mentioned earlier, our rafter must be shortened to allow for the thickness of the ridge. In most cases the ridge board is a 2x or 1 1/2" thick. This means we must deduct one half the thickness of the ridge from our rafters or 3/4". On our 2x mark another line 3/4" to the right of our original plumb cut line. Do not measure along the top edge of the 2x but rather off of our original line. Either make one mark and draw a 6/12 pitch or make two marks and draw a line through them. Either way will work. This is your new cut line. Mark out our erase the original line so as not to get confused.

The other consideration is shortening the rafter tail to allow for the thickness of the fascia board. If the fascia is to be a 1x, shorten the tail 3/4". If its a 2x, shorten it 1 1/2". Shorten the tail cut in the same manner as the plumb cut. Make a line the thickness of the fascia parallel to the original rafter tail cut line. Again cross out the original line to lessen the confusion. The bottom of the tail cut may have to be clipped so it doesn't hang below the fascia board.

You now have the layout for a common rafter. You can now cut the lines that are marked on the 2x. When making these cuts, make them straight and with precision as this will be the pattern for marking and cutting the rest of the common rafters. When cutting out the birdsmouth, its okay to overcut the lines to completely remove the material.

I like to nail stops to the top of my rafter pattern. I use scraps of plywood about 4" long and about 3" wide. I nail one about 3 to 4 inches from the plumb cut, letting it hang over 3/4" on each side of the rafter. The other stop is nailed just above the birdsmouth, hanging over 3/4" each side of the rafter. Now all one has to do is put the stops against the crowned side of the 2x and trace the cuts to be made. If you laid out all your rafters individually, it would probably take 4 times longer or more.

It might sound like a complicated process, but after you have done this a couple times you can see how easy it can be.

Mike Merisko (c) 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007

Framing A Hip Roof

One of the two most popular roof designs, if not the most
popular is the hip roof. Not only does it add architectural
lines to the design of a house, but it also offers more
protection from the elements to walls, windows, and doors,
when framed with a generous overhang. It also lends more
to the structural integrity of a home with its rafters
tying off to all four corners and walls of the structure.

A hip roof is a little more complex to frame than a gable
roof. Besides a ridge board, a gable roof has only common
rafters (all rafters the same length) as its only components.
The components of a hip roof are the ridge board, common
rafters, hip rafters, and jack rafters. The hip roof does
not always have a ridge board. If the building is a square
with all four walls being the same length, there will be no
ridge and the roof will resemble a pyramid.

When cutting the common, hip and jack rafters, their lengths
can be determined by using a calculator or a rafter table
book like "The Full Length Roof Framer". Not only does it contain all the necessary rafter tables, but also the secrets to cutting a roof. The length of the
ridge can be determined by subtracting the width of the
building from its length. For example, if the building is
30 x 24, the ridge will be 6 feet in length. If the ridge
board is 1 1/2" thick (which is usually the case), then 1 1/2"
needs to be added to the ridge length. This is because all
common rafters are shortened half the thickness of the ridge
or 3/4". This allows the top of the common rafters to line up
with the top of the ridge at each end.

When framing a hip roof, always start with the common
rafters. This will place the ridge in its proper location.
This part of the roof is framed like a gable roof, but the
similarity ends there.

Start by nailing common rafters on one side of the ridge at
each end. Now raise the ridge and nail two rafters on the other
side of the ridge opposite the first two rafters. Once this is
done, push the ridge up so the birdsmouth cuts pull in tight to
the walls on each side of the building. These rafters can now be
nailed to the wall in their corresponding locations in relation
to the ridge. Now nail the two common rafters to the center of
the end walls and to the ends of the ridge board. This will lock
the ridge in its exact location. The rest of the common rafters
can be nailed to the wall and ridge board.

The next parts to be installed are the four hip rafters.
These are nailed on the outside corners of the buildings walls
and in the intersection made by the end and first common rafter
where they meet at the ridge. With the hips and common rafters in
place, its easy to see why this makes for such a strong and solid

With the hip rafters in place the jack rafters can be installed.
Before nailing on the first jack rafter, a string must be run from
the plumb cut on the hip rafter to just above the birdsmouth. This
can be done by driving a nail in the center of the hip at the above
mentioned locations. Tie the string to one nail, pull it tight, and
secure it to the other nail. This is to ensure the hip rafter stays
straight during the jack rafter installation. As the jacks are
nailed on, the string should be kept at the center of the hip. To
help keep the hip rafter straight, the jack rafters should be nailed
on in pairs, first one side of the hip, then its mate on the other.
This process is continued all the way down the the hip rafter till
all jack rafters are installed on both sides of the hip. Remove the
string and repeat this procedure on the remaining three hip rafters
to complete the framing of the roof.

Collar ties and fascia boards will need to be installed before the
roof can be sheathed, but these are the basic steps to framing a
hip roof.

Mike Merisko (C)2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nail Guns:To Use Or Not To Use

Whether you call them nail guns, air nailers, pneumatic air nailers, or just nailers, these tools have become a big part in the homebuilding process. Many if not all aspects of framing a house can be accomplished using a framing nailer. Most framing nailers shoot a wide range of different size nails, from 2" to 3 1/2" nails (6d to16d). Not only can these guns save time in framing a house but they can also save wear and tear on a framers wrist, elbow and shoulder.

Starting with the sill plate, the nail gun can be used to nail the floor joists to them. With the right nose on the safety, the joists can be toe nailed to the sill plate. The safety has a sawtooth configuration which allows it to dig into the work and not slide off during the toe nail shot. The nail gun can then be used to nail on the rim joists using 16d nails.

After the joists are nailed in, its time for the tongue and groove decking. To nail this down by hammer can be labor intensive. Time and labor can be saved by using a nail gun. The plywood or OSB can be tacked in place and one person can follow and nail off all the decking (using 8d nails).

When it comes to walls an air powered nailer can really be put to the task. A framing contractor may want to utilize two guns in this situation. Nail guns also come in handy when nailing the door and window headers together. A header for an opening as small as 36 inches can have as many as two dozen nails. A house can have 20 or more headers that size or larger. That can be a lot of 16d nails to drive by hand, not to mention the time it would take.

If the walls are to be sheathed with plywood, nail guns can cut your time down here too. Just like the plywood on the deck, time and labor can be saved using a nail gun.

Even though walls may be framed a little quicker using nail guns, there are still carpenters and contractors who still would rather frame walls by hand nailing. The reasoning behind this is they feel the joint between the plate and the stud ends can be drawn up tighter than with a gun. In some instances this is true.

When it comes to ceiling joists and rafters, hand nailing may be the preferred framing method. Ceiling joists and rafters involve a lot of toe nailing to fasten them to the top plate. Some carpenters feel it is easier to draw joists and rafters tighter to the plate and to the line nailing by hand. Using a nail gun could be awkward working at that height (two story) and dragging a hose around the framing could be a challenge. The hose could be a trip hazzard. Nailing the rafters to the ridge board is easier with a nail gun, especially if it involves nailing overhead, but there is still the hose to contend with.

Like the plywood on the deck and walls, nailing the plywood off on the roof is quicker with a nail gun. It can be done just like the deck. Tack it down and then have one man nail off the rest with the nail gun.

Nail guns aren't the answer for every homebuilding task,but they definitely have their place on the job. They can save time, labor and wear and tear on the body on certain parts of the process.

Mike Merisko (c) 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Installing An Exterior Door

Installing an exterior door is one of the easiest of all door installations. Whether the door is installed in new construction or in a replacement situation, there are a few factors that make this an easy task.

The biggest reason this is a simple operation is that these doors come prehung. What this means is the door is already hung in its jamb. The hinges are mortised into the door and jamb and screwed in place. The door is held in position by the hinge pins, leaving the perfect reveal around the door and the jambs top and sides. The holes are also bored for the lockset and if necessary, for the deadbolt too. Exterior doors come in wood, fiberglass, and the most popular, steel. The two sizes are normaly used for exterior doors are 32" and 36". With the sizes of todays furniture and appliances the smart choice is the 36" door. The standard height for a door is 6'8" but taller ones can be special ordered.

The exterior trim comes nailed to the jamb. This trim, called brickmoulding, is mitred and already installed, saving the installer(s) another step. These doors also have an aluminum threshold already attached to the legs of the jambs. All these things make the door and jamb one cohesive unit.

The standard jamb size is 4 and 1/2 inches wide. With the demand for a higher insulation R value in exterior walls, 2x6 framing is being used more frequently. Jambs to fit these walls, 6 1/2 inches, are becoming more common. Jamb widths can be made to order for whatever a projects needs are and would cost more.

To install an exterior door, first check to see if the rough opening is correct. The width of the opening should be 2" wider than the door itself (38" for a 36" door, 34" for a 32" door). For a rough opening height 83" will suffice for most door manufacturers. Also check to see if the framing and floor is reasonably plumb.

Door installation is easier with 2 people but can be done alone. Put the door in the opening from the outside. If you are working alone, tack the door to the wall through the brickmoulding, not driving the nails home. I like to use galvenized ring shank splitless nails that are used for cedar siding. They don't split the wood and the smaller heads are not as obvious to the eye. The ring shank feature gives them great holding power.

With the door tacked in the opening, go to the inside of the door and check the reveals around the door. There should be about an eighth of an inch all around the door. Shim the jambs of the door so the reveals are right. Check the door jamb on the hinge side for plumb. If it is not plumb, then the floor is out of level. One jamb leg or the other will need to be shimmed so the threshold is level. Now readjust the reveals by moving the door and jambs sideways in the opening to a point where the reveals are right. Once the door and jamb are in position, shim the jamb at each hinge and at the strike, top and bottom on the strike side. Nail the shims in place by nailing through the jamb, through the shims and into the framing. Check the door swing to see if it opens and closes properly. If all is well, go outside and nail through the brickmould using the splitless nails to nail the door frame to the house.

Most door manufacturers provide long screws that replace some of the shorter screws in the hinges on the jamb. The top hinge is the most important place to use one or two of these screws.
These screws go through the jamb and into the framing and keep the door from sagging over time.

Most doors come with an adjustable threshold. This may have to be adjusted up or down to create an airtight seal.

With the door securely in the opening, it is ready for door hardware installation.

Mike Merisko (c) 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rafters - The Three Most Common Types

For any carpenter in residential construction that cuts roofs for a living, day in and day out, there are three types of rafters that he will constantly see. These are the common rafter, the hip/valley rafter, and the jack rafter.

The common rafter is the main rafter in any roof. The common rafter sits on top of the wall, its length meets the ridgeboard at the center of the building, making up half the span. The best example of this type of rafter is the gable roof. The gable roof is made up of nothing but common rafters. A gable roof is the easiest roof to cut and frame of any other type of roof. All common rafters are the same length from the plumb cut to the birdsmouth, and usually all have the same length tail.

The second most framed roof is the hip roof. The hip roof uses all three types of rafters mentioned here. The hip roof has no gable end to frame, but instead, has a roof that slopes to all 4 sides of the house. The main element in a hip roof is the common rafter. The amount of common rafters in a hip roof varies with the length and width of the building. For example, if a building has four equal sides (20x20, 24x24, etc.) the hip roof would resemble a pyramid and has four common rafters, one on each wall. The longer the length of the building the more common rafters there will be and the longer the ridgeboard will be.

What makes a hip roof? The hip rafter. If a building is square or rectangular there will be four hip rafters. The birdsmouth of a hip rafter sits right on the corner of the building. Its length slopes up at a 45 degree angle to where two commons meet the ridgeboard and make a 90 degree angle. The size of a hip rafter is determined by the size of the common rafter. If the common rafter is a 2x8, rule of thumb and most building codes call for the hip to be the next size up, in this case a 2x10.

A valley rafter has the same characteristics as a hip rafter except instead of originating at an outside corner, its birdsmouth sits where two walls create an inside corner. This situation is created when roofs run perpendicular to one another. These roofs slope to the valley rafter which bisects these roofs at a 45 degree angle.

Where there are hip or valley rafters, there are jack rafters. Jack rafters complete the framing on a hip roof from the hip to the top plate, starting a the common rafter down to the top plate or tail of the hip rafter. The tails of the jack rafter are cut the same as a common rafter. The plumb cut is the same pitch as a common rafter but cut at a 45 degree angle (compound angle) to match up with the angle of the hip.

With valley rafters, jack rafters usually start at a ridge and terminate at the valley. The cut at the ridge is a normal plumb cut. The cut at the valley is a plumb cut but the long point is at the bottom of the rafter and cut at a 45 degree angle (compound angle) to match the valley angle.

Mike Merisko (C) 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

Building By The Square Foot

How much material is it going to take to do the job? What is the labor cost for the project? These are questions a contractor asks himself when bidding a job. In most cases a contractor will use the square foot method to determine the answer to those questions.

This method of take off is particularly handy in figuring sheet good type materials such as wall sheathing, plywood decking, roof sheathing and drywall. To find the square footage for one of these areas, multiply the height or width times(x) the length. For example if you have an eight foot high wall by 40 feet long the square footage for the wall would be 320 square feet. Most sheet goods are 4 feet by 8 feet or 32 square feet. The square footage of the wall is divided by 32. It will take 10 sheets of plywood or insulated sheathing to cover this wall.

This same method can be used to figure the plywood or OSB for the house deck and roof. To figure the deck simply multiply the width of the deck by the length to get the square footage and divide by 32. Figuring the square footage of a roof is similar but with a twist. For the roof multiply the length of the rafters by the length of the roof. Take the result times 2 for the total square footage for both sides of a gable roof, then divide by 32 to get the amount of plywood to sheet the roof. The square footage of a hip roof is figured the same way.

Drywall is also figured by the square foot. This can be an involved process. It can be broken down into two parts. First the square footage for the ceilings can be figured. Like the deck this is figured length times width. Then the lineal feet of all the walls is taken times the height. Interior walls will be added in twice because they have drywall on both sides. Labor to hang, tape, and paint the drywall is also figured this way.

Besides drywall and painting, many other labor costs are figured by the square foot. Roofing and siding are figured by the square. A square is 100 square feet. For example if a roof is 1200 square feet, it will take 12 squares of shingles to cover it. The same unit of measurement goes for vinyl, wood, alumimnum, steel and cement sidings.

Carpentry makes use of this measurement also. The cost to frame a house is usually figured by the square foot. Costs to build a whole house are estimated this way to help people determine if a house or its house plans are affordable for them to build.

Flooring is also among one of those things that use the square foot method to figure labor and materials. This includes ceramic and quarry tiles, hardwood, laminate, and vinyl flooring, and carpeting. Most contractors and installers use a price per square foot for their labor when calculating their costs for installation.

This information will help you understand contractor estimates and help you do your own calculations for projects.

Mike Merisko(c) 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Vinyl Siding: The Misunderstood Finish

For the last 20 years vinyl siding has been the exterior finish of choice, ahead of wood, aluminum, and steel. Besides being virtually maintenance free, it is also chosen for its colors, style choices and durability.

Many of the myths about vinyl siding stem from its early years when cracking, fading, and buckling were part of its characteristics. Technology quickly caught up with these faults and made it a more viable product for an exterior finish.

Another false read that people may have gotten about vinyl siding is seeing a poor installation on a new or re-sided house. Installers not knowledgable or not following the manufacturers recommended installation instructions could produce a poor job making one think its typical of all vinyl siding jobs.

One of the most common mistakes made when installing vinyl siding is not allowing room for expansion. During warm weather a 12 foot panel can expand up to 1/2 inch. Because of this, the siding is installed 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch short of J-channels and corners depending on the temperature its installed in.

Another no-no is nailing the sidng tight to the wall. Vinyl siding has a slotted nailing strip along its top edge. When nailing the siding on, one must drive the nails as close to the center of the slot as possible and leave the nail heads no closer than an 1/8 inch away from the strip. This will allow the siding panel to slide left to right and expand without buckling.

Another complaint is not being able to match and replace a damaged panel. If one installs or has installed a reputable brand name vinyl siding chances are it will be available should the need arise. After installation its a good idea to keep a small piece of the siding and to write the color and brand name on the back with permanent marker.

Whether installing or having vinyl siding installed, do your homework. Research some of the different makers of vinyl siding and their products they have available. If you are installing the siding yourself, follow the manufacturers installation instructions. If you hire a contractor to do the job, ask for addresses of jobs he's done so you can see his work.

Mike Merisko (c) 2007