Living Offgrid Affordably #13: Put The Lid On This Box

Reader Contribution by Jeff Chaney
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After making lots of headway last time in Enough Thinking, Back To Work, we are about to get ahead of ourselves. While sitting and looking around, I noticed a future problem.

The tops of the walls were not even with the loft floor. I would need to cut and install a double header to run the front half of the side walls and across the front wall, to create an even surface all the way around for the rafters to sit on. I was glad I spotted this before the tarp and plastic were removed, otherwise I would have had to scramble to devise a solution, with everything uncovered.

 While studying this dilemma, I realized that I had not anchored the loft floor to the walls. In years past, houses were just placed on top of foundations, particularly above basement walls. I can remember when I was a kid, a car hit a house and knocked it askew of the basement walls. This possibility could not be tolerated. I had bolted the main floor to the footers, and the wall sections to one another, so I needed to continue the philosophy with the rest of the building.

The solution was to cut 20 pieces of 2 inch angle iron, 6 inches long, with holes drilled one inch from the ends in both surfaces. I would affix these with two bolts down through the top plate of the wall, and two bolts through the headers. An angle plate was placed at the ends and middle of each 12 foot section of side wall, and at the ends and one-quarter distance on the front and rear walls. Now, everything is nicely bolted together, plus we have a uniform surface on which our rafters will sit. All we need now is a stretch of dry weather.

After waiting for a couple of weeks, the weather forecast finally came out that called for no rain or snow for the next week. This was the window I had been waiting for. The walls were ready, the rafters were cut, and everything was waiting on my decision. I made the call, and removed the coverings. Ready or not, here we went.

My wife had a couple days off from work, so I decided we would attach the first two rafters to the ridge beam and stand up the assembly on the loft floor. I had previously cut a brace to bolt to the end of the loft floor, to support the other end of the ridge beam. With the two rafters fastened to the ridge beam, we attempted to raise the assembly and place the brace. Bad idea! We did not have enough muscle. We were in the middle of the operation and could not go on up, or come back down, with the assembly without someone getting hurt. We were stuck. At that very moment, I heard a truck coming down the mountain that I recognized as a lifelong friend of ours, Louis Smith, now deceased, arriving in the nick of time, to help us get the mess in place. We were never as glad to see anyone as then!

 Next, I called my previous employer, Rental Service Corp. (RSC), to arrange to rent a 40 foot articulating boom lift to install the remaining rafters. I used hurricane brackets to fasten the rafters to the loft floor, wall headers, and ridge beam, installing 10 screws per bracket. This seemed sturdy enough to me. Installation of the remaining rafters was completed without incident.

 Now we needed plywood, and it up on the rafters. I decided to use the boom lift for this operation. We could have used ropes to lift the plywood into place, but I had saved lots of money thus far, and now seemed the time to splurge a little.

One detail I need to mention is that I used a plumb-bob, hanging from the ridge beam over the front wall, to center the roof on the building. In the past, I had observed roofs that were not plumb with the building, causing myriads of alignment problems later on.

With the roof decking down, we applied a layer of 15 pound felt. The decision was at hand about what type of roofing material to use.

 After lots of research, I chose a product named Ondura, purchased at Lowe’s. This roofing would be conducive to our plan to harvest rainwater, and was guaranteed for the life of the building when used in a non-commercial application. Also, by using this product, we would avoid the difficulty of having to filter out the pebbles that invariably detach from asphalt shingles, and would avoid the heating and painting associated with a metal roof. I despise painting! We installed vented seals under the upper and lower edges of the Ondura to let the roof “breathe”.

 I now decided to splurge even more by hiring some help. The roofing would be difficult to install on a 12/12 pitch, a 45 degree angle. I did not wish to use toe boards, so we used a climber’s harness attached to trees on either side of the building, that had supported the large tarp in the beginning. Paying two helpers quickly depleted the budget, but I had saved on everything thus far, to compensate for the expense.

To finish this phase, I had a company install aluminum gutters with round outlets, practically level. This was needed to accommodate my roof wash down system, before collection of rainwater begins. The gutter guy commented that this building was as square as any he had seen, one-quarter inch off. He said some he had dealt with were as much as a foot out of square!

Finally, we are now “in the dry!” After busting hump for two weeks, we could take a well deserved breather. There were a million things to think about and plan, but physical work could slow, except to reuse and recycle any and everything when possible.

All photos by: Jeff & Kathy Chaney

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