Chapter 50: Holy Crap, Roof Rafters!

December 16, 2010 • Written by Christina Berry

Sweet, the arborist was able to squeeze us in and cut the bottom branch from our Pecan. Guess we gotta get to work now.

Next up, raise the roof, woot woot!

You know, some adventures are more adventurous than others. I was about to find out that this roof would be the most insane, hectic, painful, trying, and necessary step we’ve taken in this little adventure of ours.

Why was it so much more adventurous? Well, for starters it’s really high up and dangerous. Second, roof framing is really complex. It’s one thing to cut studs for walls, they’re straight and uniform. On the other hand, roof rafters are angled, and have to be extremely precise. Also there’s these bird’s mouth cuts you have to make so they’ll sit on the wall flat…and did I mention that it’s really high up?

Okay, excited yet? Let’s get started! Rafter One! Damn, this is going to take a while.

These are those bird’s mouth cuts I was talking about. Not exactly easy stuff.

And these are those bird’s mouth cuts with hurricane clips on them. You know, because of all the hurricanes we get here in Austin. Did I mention that Errek loves the overkill?

Hurricane clips and rafters in place next to the ceiling joists.

Errek had to do this part of the roof on his own. I was swamped with genealogy research assignments…and also I don’t like standing on ceiling joists 8.5 feet in the air. Errek, on the other hand, is a natural Joist Walker, Texas Ranger.

And bam, just like that (after a whole lot of work for a really long time), the bulk of the roof over the addition has rafters.

Oh look, a pretty butterfly.

Oh look, our next injury. While clearing the yard, Errek stepped on a nail. And when I say he stepped on it, you’ve got to understand, Errek walks like a man with places to be. He doesn’t pitter patter, so when he stepped on this nail it shot up straight through the sole of his Red Wing work boot and impaled his foot. Ouch!!!! This would be Impalement Numero Uno.

Turns out, feet are really important, especially when you’re trying to balance on ceiling joists. So Errek was forced to take a couple of much needed days off.

Finally, when he was feeling a bit better, he climbed back on that roof to show it who’s boss. Sadly, I think the boss is actually the house, but I didn’t want to dash his hopes. Yeah baby, you da boss!

Okay, so we’d finished most of the roof over the addition, but the most difficult part still remained. As you may recall, our kitchen is taller than the rest of the house, 10.5 feet rather than 8.5 feet. This roof was a “shed dormer” which has a different pitch. All of our roof is 6/12 pitch, which means that the roof rises six┬áinches vertically for every twelve┬áinches horizontally. Well, the kitchen shed dormer roof has a much less steep pitch of 3/12.

The 3/12 and 6/12 would have to meet at some point, so Errek had to cut a header and do all sorts of other roofing madness.

To get the header in place He made it as one big piece and then pushed it up into place.

Next up was a really, really difficult task. And, surprise, surprise our friend Charles stopped in to lend a hand. Huge thank you to Charles! On his day of helping on PVR, the guys worked on the fly rafter ladder. I don’t know if that’s the official name. Basically, this ladder is what holds the fly rafter up on the end of the roof, the part that overhangs the outside of the house. If you don’t build it right, over time gravity will pull these fly rafters down, so one way to build it is to make a ladder like this which sits on the outside wall and cantilevers out to the fly. These ladders are a pain to build.

Here is the ladder sitting on its wall.

Next up was getting the actual fly rafter up. Errek pulled it up and using a 2×4 contraption managed to adhere it to the end of the roof without dropping it or himself. It was a bit of a nail biter though.

Now came another complicated piece of the puzzle. The roof over the breakfast room would have its own smaller gable. So, more ladders. Ladders on top of ladders. Fun!

This last fly rafter would have to wait though, because it “dies” into the roof and you have to leave a gap for decking, and we had no idea how much of a gap to leave.

Just out of curiosity, is this as exhausting to read as it was to experience? Cuz I’m tired just typing about it all.

Anyhoo, we were pretty much finished with the roof rafters on the new addition, but still had to remove and replace the roof on the existing house before the roofers could come out and put the new roof on, and we didn’t want to do that until we had a few days of clear weather.

Enter the second wettest September in the history of Austin. No joke, we had 13.2 inches of rain in September. A normal September has about 3 inches of rain. So this was just really bad timing…I guess…or a curse. A curse named Hermine.

Hermine was a big Tropical Storm which hit the Texas gulf coast in early September and came straight for Austin. We got soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much rain. It was like the clouds got lost and didn’t realize they were in Texas. They’re all, “Oh…whoops, this isn’t Brazil. Our bad. But hey, while we’re here, we might as well piss all over you.” But at least with this storm, we had a little warning. So we strung up some plastic and tarps and and settled in.

By now, the tarp had seen better days (it’d been up since June after all), and it was leaking tea all over.

We’d seen better days too. That’s not tea we’re drinking.

Our fly rafter ladders turned out to be a real headache, as far as rain collection. Check it out, Hermine’s got a pretty full bladder.

No matter how much Errek tickled it with a broom, nothing.

This calls for some surgery, aka stab it with scissors.

All the while, it was still raining cats and dogs.

Seriously, cats and freakin’ dogs!

Well what’s this? A roof leak? Guess it’s about time we replaced that old roof of ours.

But first, we had to get an inspection of our framing. We didn’t want to get all the framing done if we were doing it wrong, so we wanted to call out the city and see if we could pass muster. And to do that we had to finish up the walls, finish up the laundry room and get everything pretty much done. No easy task.

First up, the laundry nook. This “nook” was actually just a washer and dryer hidden behind cabinets in the kitchen. In order to have them match the depth of the other cabinets, we would push the washer and dryer back into the closet a foot, so we had to frame in the top and bottom of this space.

This was the bottom part of the wall, which pushes into the closet a foot in order to make room for the depth of the washer and dryer.

And this is the top half.

Tight fit.

View of the laundry nook from the master closet. There will be a space in the closet above the laundry nook, and we’ll be using it as a shoe rack, probably.

With that behind us, we tackled the wall between the shower and bath.

And the wall where the bathroom window will go.

Also, framed in our backdoor, and window in the breakfast room.

Lastly, we needed to cut the stud for the backdoor.

Okay, so the back of the house is mostly ready for inspection.

So we called the city. We were really nervous. Even though Errek has worked as a framer before, it was a while ago. He worked with a framing crew in high school in Delaware in the 1990s and then he helped his grandpa build a porch on his house in Nashville about ten years ago. Since then, codes have changed. And also, this is Austin, they have a rule for everything in this city. So yeah, we were nervous, and pretty convinced that we would fail and get a long list of stuff to fix.

The next day, our inspector (his name is Jesus!) came out. Without a note or a word, he passed us. Woot! Thank you, Jesus!