Thursday, September 15, 2011

Roof installation, Day 1

To explain the first day, I need to take a step back many months to the day that I towed the house down into the woods. There was a snow storm predicted that night so I did all I could with the help of a couple of friends to throw the rafters into place and roll a tarp out over it. It was getting dark and there was no time to fit the rafters or batten the tarp properly. We finished it by the light of headlamps, but it was not pretty. That snowstorm was the first of what seemed like a continuous fall of snow that winter. I never got a chance to fixing the tarp properly, but it somehow held tight as roofs all over New England were collapsing from the snow load.

Jumping back to the end of August, I found myself back up on that roof on a rainy Saturday, a day before hurricane Irene was expected to make landfall. It seemed strange to be spending so much time redoing the tarp only a week before the actual roof would be ready to install, but I did not want the predicted ten inches of rain soaking through my floor. Thankfully it did hold through the hurricane and two weeks later I was up there again ripping it off for good.

Saturday was devoted to finishing all of the details that I forgot or procrastinated on. I started be removing the rafters, purlins and ridge beams one by one to fix up the tight joinery. I did not cut the rafters at the same time as the rest of the frame, so things tended to dry and move differently. It didn't take much to make everything match up though- just a thin shaving with the chisel here and there. Next time I am giving myself a little bit of wiggle room. Instead of making my mortices and tenons exactly two inches wide, the tenon will be a hare smaller and the mortice slightly bigger.

Another small detail I forgot when I was cutting the timbers was to chamfer the to edges of the ridge beam and outside plates to match the roofline. This would have been simple while the timbers were still on the bunks, but was it was a bit tricky making a beveled plunge cut while balancing 12 feet up in the air on a four inch wide beam.

Originally I wanted a skylight on both sides of the roof over the loft but decided to limit it to just the south side to make everything a little simpler. At some point while laying in the loft I changed my mind again. This has not been a simple project, why start now? I want two skylights. To accommodate another window I needed to slide the purlin on the north side down by about a foot. I had already mistakenly cut a pocket in this location on one rafter so it was a simple matter of chopping one to match on the other rafter. It was not a long list, but it definitely kept me occupied for a full day and for part of Sunday. Pleasant work though.

Saturday night I slept on the loft under the stars, twisting my mind around the task of lifting four 150-pound plus panels sixteen feet into the air. As my thoughts darted from overhanging tree branches to medieval gantries and physics lectures, an idea started to formulate. Now I had a plan and help scheduled for noon the next day. Time for some sleep.


  1. I've been following your blog for some time now and am pleased that you started posting again. You small home is something to aspire to.
    Great work. Keep it up.


  2. Looks like you had your hands full with the work on the roof! Well, it's great that you put a lot of effort on it. The rain from Irene would have been pretty bad on your floor and your installation efforts.

  3. How’s living in this little house? When did you finish the construction? You must be proud to have built this all on your own. How many rooms are in here? I’m curious to see the whole interior. Ruben @ ARRoofing