Building at the Ledge – Part 8 (Roof Installation)

The house now has a roof! Or at least part of a roof, anyway. It’s changing the feel of the project dramatically.

T.B. and Don spent most of last week finishing infrastructure, installing hip rafters, and straightening walls, and then put up the first roof panel last Friday, August 20.

The roof panels are supported on the outer end by the walls, and on the inner end by a ledger board attached to the gable walls. At the corners, the hip rafters run on a diagonal to support the roof.

The hip rafters and ledger boards will all be visible elements of the inside of the home, so we are trying to figure out how to finish them.

Roof Panel Installation

T.B. has suggested several options. I’m leaning toward the simplest, which is just to round the corners, sand them smooth, and clear coat. With the concrete floors, every little bit of wood trim in the home is welcome.

Inside, I’m now able to see how the hip roof will feel. The outer walls of the "hip rooms" will be 8′ tall, and the inner walls will go to 10’8".

There are skylights in the bathrooms, kitchens, and master bedroom closet (it has no windows.) The photo below was taken from the master bedroom, looking down through the closet and bathroom. The second, larger skylight will be over the shower and tub.

Rool Panels Viewed from Interior

Working with the roof panels is a challenge (photo below), as they are pretty heavy and awkward. On a larger project T.B. would have brought in a crane, but it would have added a lot of cost. Since this is a relatively small, one-story home, we are using muscle power and leverage instead.

Preparing Rool Panels for Installation

Metal straps fastened to the panel faces give us something to grip, as the OSB can be slippery. When walking on the roof, we have to avoid stepping on nails, cords, or sawdust, as they could act as ball bearings and send us sliding down.

There are billions of nails to drive into the roof panels to hold them together, so I’ve kept busy the past few mornings. I bought a new hammer last week. My old hammer is all metal, so the handle weighs as much as the head does, and it transmits a lot of shock through to my wrist. The new one has a lightweight graphite handle and a 20 oz. metal head.

Besides putting all the weight in the head, the graphite acts as a shock absorber for my wrist. I’d probably be better off with an 18 oz. or even 16 oz. head, but this model didn’t come in a lighter weight. And after hefting all the hammers at Home Depot, it was the clear winner in just plain feeling good. It makes driving the nails SO much easier and faster than with the old mallet.

Working on Roof Panels with New Hammer

For the underside of the panels, T.B. will let me use the nail gun. The disadvantage of the nail gun is that it has a tendency to smash right through the OSB. T.B. will set it to its lowest compression, which should help but will mean that sometimes I have to finish the nail off with my hammer.

As before with the walls, adding the roof brings me closer to an understanding of how the house will look when it is done. I like it more and more every day.

House Takes Shape as Roof Panels are Installed

It’s taken almost exactly two weeks to put up all the roof panels. Some of that time was spent straightening walls and installing the ledger boards and rafters on which the roof panels rest.

A bit too much of the time was spent planing the roof panels, many of which were cut too long. Half an inch or even a quarter of an inch might not seem like a large amount but it might as well be a foot when it comes to fitting the panels in place.

I’m still working on the job site regularly. Usually I’m driving those previously-mentioned billions of nails into the roof panels to hold them together, and also backfilling some of the places on the walls that were skipped or needed some beefing up. The new hammer is working out great, and I’m getting a little better with the nail gun.

I don’t know why it should be so hard to fire the nail gun properly. You have to press the tip of the gun hard against the spot where you want the nail, and then pull the trigger very briefly. If you’re not holding the tip hard and steady, it misfires or only goes in halfway. If you pull the trigger for longer than a fraction of a second, it fires two nails instead of one. And the thing weighs 50 pounds (just kidding). At first I needed to hold it with two hands. Now I can fire it with one hand sometimes, but still need the second hand to steady it if I’m holding it at an awkward angle or reaching out to a spot.

Theoretically you can just propel yourself (and the scaffolding) by pulling on the purlins (the beams up near the ridge). But in fact this is just another of T.B.’s myths. It assumes that one has a hand that can grip a six-inch wide beam and pull hard enough to roll a couple hundred pounds of scaffold, equipment, and worker along. My hand is perfectly adequate for most tasks, but not this one. I was able to pull from the skylights or push off the walls and move a few feet, but the rest of the journey required me to climb down and push from the floor.

Because the roof panels define the ceiling lines as well as the roof lines, I can for the first time feel how spacious the rooms will be. The great room feels much "greater" than before. It’s hard to capture on film; you’ll just have to trust me that it’s beautiful, or come see for yourself.

Completed Roof Panel Installation

The other excitement last week was the arrival of the windows, French doors, and skylights. The windows and doors are made by Loewen, a Canadian firm, from vertical-grain Douglas Fir, clad on the exterior with sage-green aluminum. Because the wood is so beautiful, we will clear-coat the insides. The aluminum-clad outside should last a long time with minimal upkeep. They are "low-E", double-pane filled with argon gas to minimize heat transfer.

We should be able to begin installing skylights this week. Once I finish nailing all the exterior panels together (and T.B. finishes a couple of small jobs as well), we can call for an exterior nailing inspection and then start installing the windows. I guess that means I’d better sign off and get some sleep so that I can be nailing bright and early tomorrow!

If you want to know more about our home’s roof panels, you can learn more about roofing and roofing materials over at Roofing Articles website.

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