Living Offgrid Affordably 9: Finally, Something Goes Up

Reader Contribution by Jeff Chaney
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 After our last session, The Floor Goes In, we are tickled to have a flat and level platform to work from. The building inspector is happy and we know when to call him next. I should have expected some controversy, considering the fact that the government debates what the meaning of the word “is” is! One must remember that building codes exist to prevent unscrupulous builders from constructing and selling subpar unsafe structures. We had no intention of ever selling, and did not feel that we needed protected from ourselves. I would greatly exceed safety requirements because this entire exercise must be sustainable.

I continued with 2×6 pine framing lumber for the outside walls, building them in 10 foot sections for the front and rear walls, 12 foot sections for the sides. Construction was carried out per the “bible” instructions, using 93 inch studs with double plates. Extreme care must be taken when planning and laying out locations of windows and doors. The age old advice to “measure twice, cut once” I sometimes took to extremes, measuring three or four times. Lumber waste is unacceptable!

Each section was laid out on the floor, pre-drilled, then screwed together. Stud braces were installed, yielding a complete wall section laying on the floor. I simply slid the section into position, then stood it up and screwed it into place, having pre-drilled the sill plates and end studs. This single-handed operation is a little tricky, but highly successful. 

I erected the two sections comprising the rear wall, then each rear section of the side walls. The back half of the building now had walls, which would allow construction and installation of the loft floor.

The loft floor was built with 2×6’s using the same procedure as the main floor, in two 10×12 foot sections. I was able to do this single-handedly by first assembling the sill/headers, screwing them into place, then inserting the joists and braces. I used braces every 2 feet, which looks like “overkill,” as my builder friend commented. Since this was a storage building, I thought strength was paramount. It does look rather “extensive,” but will support lots of weight. At the front center of the loft floor, I used two 4×4 posts as supports, with the center x of the foundation being directly underneath.

The sub floor was installed next, using the same 5/8 plywood and screw procedure as the main floor. The loft sub floor also received water sealer. One piece of plywood was left out, where the post holding up the black tarp was located. Essentially, the loft floor was built “around” the tarp support post. I would not remove the tarp until the rafters were ready to go up, because we had daily rain during loft floor construction.

The next order of business was to get sheathing up on the outside walls. I would have preferred a different alternative, but using treated plywood was the only sensible option. I did not have any idea of when I could get the siding installed, so longevity was the main concern.

Here, we encountered the next unforeseen problem. I had intended to use 8 foot tall plywood, but it would be short. I wanted the sheathing to extend down to overlap the sill plate and foundation, to prevent air infiltration. To accomplish this, I needed 9 foot plywood. The lumber yard informed me that 9 foot plywood was special order by the pallet only. I did not need an entire pallet, especially at the cost involved. I panicked, then calmed down to analyze the situation.

When confronted with a problem, identify the solution that converts problem to asset. I decided to drop the sheathing 8 inches to provide sill/foundation overlap. This meant I had to go back and install braces in the studs 8 inches on center (oc) below the top plate, to fasten the top edge of the sheathing. Now, what should I do about the 8 inch hole at the top of the wall?

I chose to install plexiglass on both the inside and outside of the wall. This would accomplish two things. First, lots of natural would enter the building through the space. Second, the resulting “dead air” space would insulate well. Problem solved.

Since winter was almost upon us, I chose to caulk the sheathing joints. Two windows were installed in the end wall, two more at the front of the side walls, creating a closed shell except for the big hole at the front of the loft floor.

I solved the open front dilemma by standing up whole sheets of plywood side by side, and screwing them to the front of the loft floor, all the way across the main floor. I left the last sheet unattached, to slide back and forth to serve as a door.

Winter was almost here, but I now had a place I could call “indoors”. Even though I had protection with the black tarp, it failed to cover the main floor at the front, meaning part of the main floor was open to the weather. I decided to install a double layer of black 6 mil plastic over the loft floor, slanting down to the front edge of the main floor. I would enter and exit from the right side of the building, halfway back, stepping under the plastic then sliding the sheet of plywood aside.

We are now “indoors, you know!” I slept “inside” for the first time in about 8 weeks. Home is good. Other problems were on the horizon, I just hadn’t had time to think of them, yet. Even at this stage, it was not a problem to reuse and recycle any and everything!

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