Monday, December 31, 2012

The Honesty of Time

I want to make a New Year's resolution, and I want to still be in the same frame of mind 5 months and 29 days from now. After that, one could say the year is not new anymore, being half old and getting older by the day. I'll deal with that reality when it comes, but for now it's about the New side of the year. It seems to me that New Year's Eve and New Year's Day get too much credit or at least too much focus. I've made resolutions before but somehow lost sight of the usually singular direction of each attempt after a few days. You could say life gets in the way.

This time I'm going to keep it simple. "This is a New Year" will be my mantra. Not a new day or a new week, but a new year. Stuff happens in a year, or should I say stuff can happen in a year. In a day it's easy to be forced off course. For me it might be a snow storm; 8 to 10 inches in a night means everything else is put on hold and the snow blower, tractor and snow shovel take precedence. Recently I took a fall off of a roof. That really shook things up. For over a month, every day was about the basics of getting healthy again. But today is a New Year again. All the little pieces of time have collected and become more than they were.

Notice, I haven't made any grand promises of what I will accomplish in my New Year. This time it's going to be about optimism, letting the glass refill again when necessary, and especially letting the honesty of time frame the collective days and weeks into a positive life view; looking forward with support from the past.

And if you ask me, that is about as 'Smarter Than The Wood' as I'm likely to get. Happy New Year everybody!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Timber Frame Renovation

Remodels are always interesting to say the least. You never know what is behind a wall or under a floor until you tear into it. The job we are working on now also has an addition to the existing home. To make it even more challenging, the original home is a timber frame design. For those who are not sure what timber frame really means, think of a building with only a skeleton of large vertical posts, horizontal beams and rafters. Think of this 'frame' as a finish detail of the project, to be left uncovered as a strong visual element of the final product.

Timber 'Frame'
Now build another standard stud framed wall and roof outside the 'timbers' to carry the plumbing, electrical and insulation required for a modern residence and you get a feel for this style of building. This 'post and beam' construction goes back many centuries because of it's ability to accommodate the fairly crude framing members demanded by the tools available at the time. The term "barn raising" is appropriate here. With good organization, a weekend work party was often used to assemble a complete frame in one long weekend.

Fall Progress

But enough about timber framing history for now. This post was supposed to be about the challenge of a good remodel/addition. Partly because of our late season start our first priority was to complete any roofing details. In most modern timber frames the visual ceiling is made with 2x6 tongue and groove material nailed on top of the rafter timbers. A frame of 2x rafters is then built up from here. The main purpose of this sub-structure is to hold rigid insulation and provide the base for plywood sheathing, roofing paper and finally the roofing itself. For us this phase meant removing the metal roofing from above the two covered porches we were converting to living space and filling the hollow cavities with insulation. Considering the relatively small areas we were working with it was more cost effective to install sheets of 'Thermax' foam insulation (polyisocyanurate) instead of the spray foam used in the original construction. With an insulation value of about R-7 per inch this material rates as high as any material available, in our case allowing an insulating value of about R-38 (a little above code for cathedral ceilings in our area). Once the new insulation was in place we covered the joints with foil tape and sealed the edges and any gaps with spray foam. After reinstalling the plywood sheathing we replaced the outdated tar paper with a self sealing rubberized asphalt material commonly used in our area. The version we are now using (Titanium PSSU-30) has a fine grid embedded in the surface that provides excellent protection as well as a non slip surface durable enough to work on without damage.

Converting Covered Porch
For safety and efficiency, the siding on the second floor walls needed to be installed before the lower level roofing was reinstalled. The existing siding was cedar shingles but the birds, especially wood peckers and flickers, had been having fun destroying portions of it for years.

'Tasty Meal'
After considering many options we settled on replacing existing shingles with a hybrid product based on high quality natural cedar shingles pre-installed on a plywood backing 8 feet long and 7 5/8 inch tall allowing a 7 inch finish cover. Though much more expensive than regular shingles the savings in installation time and the unique construction of the panel itself made the decision easy enough.

Cedar Shingle Panel

In a standard shingle installation the layering of one course of shingles over the next leaves a small gap between adjoining shingles. This gap creates a protected pocket, hidden from view, but accessible to over-wintering insects. Birds can sense this available food source and are more than happy to remove any wood separating them from a very tasty meal. The construction and installation  of these shingle panels eliminates this hidden food storage pocket. I would be surprised if the developers of this labor saving product had bird damage in mind but we are happy to take advantage of this reality. Smarter than the wood. And very nice to look at as well.

Finished End Wall