Chapter 89: Be Steel My Heart

June 23, 2017 • Written by Christina Berry

Once the concrete was in, we had a nice little dance floor out in the backyard, but a dance floor does not a building make. Obviously we have five more sides of the box to build. It was time for some heavy metal! \m/ \m/ And by “heavy metal” I mean steel!

Uhh…no, that’s Steelheart, and calling them “heavy metal” is a stretch. We’re not talking about them. Though can we talk about the crotch on that guy’s pants for a minute? No? Okay. Moving on.

What we’re talking about here is steel, as in really strong, really heavy ain’t-never-gonna-get-torn-down building material that has to be fastened using fire and stuff.

Like I said, suuuuuper metal! \m/

That’s right, because Errek is patently insane, he’s got some sort of beef against building buildings with wood. He explained “why steel” to me a few times but it just sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

After a while, I nodded and said, “Okay. Fine. Bring it.”

“Oh, it’s already been brought,” Errek quipped back, then quietly added, “It’s just really heavy and it’s taking them a while to offload it from the truck.”

Once the steel was off the truck and painted with Rustoleum, the crew got to work putting the posts and beams into place. How do you like that tree/beam framing in the photo? I was pretty proud of that composition.

More posts and beams going up. Woot!

Beams as far as the eye can see.

So we had the crew put up all the beams, but there was a problem. What? No way. A problem? Those never happen…unless you’re us and you’re on a tight schedule.

See, we had it in our heads that the steel crew would slap this stuff together lickity split and then Errek could get to work on his part of the framing, then get the roof on, and then he’d head back to work in order to more quickly pay off all the debt we’d accumulated with this beast.

Well, turns out, steel isn’t always easy to come by. Turns out, the ceiling joists are made-to-order using the exact specs of your project, and there’s like a six week waiting period or something.

Well, crap!

So the steel dudes finished all they could, and we waited and waited and waited. Finally, a few weeks later we were greeted with the early morning awesomeness of a steel delivery of joists and decking.

Finally, we were ready for an exciting step forward…

And that exciting step forward was a ceiling. Hooray!

And that’s exciting because it gave us a new surface to walk on, the second floor!

First selfie from the second floor!

Check it out, the view of the back of the house from the future office.

It’s like a treehouse up there, a really well-built treehouse.

It was cool finally having the second floor, but it was a pain to get to. Call me spoiled, but I hate climbing up onto high places using ladders.

To have a truly awesome and usable second floor, there was this all-important thing we needed to build — stairs. And stairs with actual steps would be most ideal.

Almost there…

But first we needed a concrete pad that the stairs would connect to on the ground.

Problem: we have about six pipes that will run directly under the spot where that concrete slab will go. These pipes will connect the main house with the second building in order to pipe electrical wiring, internet cables, and other cool stuff. So, before Errek could build a concrete pad, he had to make a trench for the pipes.

You know what that means, right? Digging! Oh, you know how much he loves digging…

And digging…

And digging…

Note the huge tree root between his legs (Get your minds out of the gutter, y’all). Remember in the last chapter where I mentioned that there was a $25,000 fee for accidentally or on-purpose killing a heritage tree within the city of Austin? Well, it meant that digging a trench between two giant heritage pecans became more of an archaeological dig or a game of Operation at times — very, very careful digging.

With the trench dug, he carefully slid the pipes into place below the massive tree roots, filled it all in with dirt, watered it good and proper, and then filled it in with more dirt so it would settle flat without hurting the roots.

With the trench buried again, it was now time for the concrete pad. Errek built a frame, wrapped some rebar into a support grid, and laid it all out.

Then it was time to mix and pour the concrete one bag at at time.

Thirty six bags of concrete later…


Okay, back to steel!

With the concrete base in place, we brought in the very talented Andrew Miller to build our stairs. He will also be making our railings.

And the structural steel crew moved to the second floor, securing the posts so that we’d be able to pour the concrete around them.

With Andrew’s help, we got some temporary steps in to make travel up and down a lot easier, which made everyone a lot happier.

Here’s Errek sittin’ on the new steps all 227-style.

Also, Andrew added a very metal \m/ railing made from the extra rebar we had laying around in the yard.

With the stairs up, it was time to lay the concrete floor up on the second floor.

Concrete floor, you say? Yep. We’d decided to go with an industrial look in this building, so concrete floors throughout. But on an upper floor, concrete is a bit of a pain because you have to basically defy gravity to get it up there. You can’t rightly pour a liquid up, now can you? Well, you can if you have a pump truck that pushes the concrete mix through a hose.

We hired Reyes & Son Construction for this floor and they did a great job. We recommend them. The guy with the pump truck could only fit us in on Saturday, so one Saturday morning they all came out early and got to work. First they laid the wire mesh for the concrete support.

Then using the gravity defying pump, they filled it all with concrete.

Smoothed it out.

And leveled it some more.

Bet these guys were glad we put some stairs in. Imagine trying to get that thing up a ladder. Not gonna happen.


Once the floor was dry, it was time to build the second floor walls and roof.

We covered the concrete to protect it from construction damage.

Then… Bam! First portion of wall up.

Another wall up. Look how majestic the sky and trees look up there. *sigh*

And next the roof rafters.

Then more ceiling/roof.

This ceiling/roof was a lot harder to get on than the last one because, well, it’s two freakin’ stories high and those panels are a lot heavier than they look. The process they used was pretty old school, or as Troy, the man in charge, called it “Hillbilly Style.”

Because this sort of thing can’t be fully conveyed with stills and prose, here’s a video.

Note the lack of f-bombs. That’s cuz they knew Errek was filming, but in reality there was a lot of cussing goin’ on. It was hard work and they kicked ass making it happen.

Et voilà! The second floor is mostly covered.

You know what this means, right? Time to climb the ladder to the next level. That’s right, because this roof ain’t just a roof. This top is also a bottom, the bottom of our third floor deck!

First selfie from the new deck.

Ermagerd! Look how high up we are.

First happy hour from the new deck. Cheers!

And here’s our view from the new deck. See that in the center there, that’s downtown.

Here’s a closer view. You can see the Austonian on the left (south) side, the Frost “Owl” Tower in the middle, and a few other buildings mixed in. We suspect that in the winter we’ll be able to see the capitol building, too.

And so there we are, topped out. But we’re not done. Oh no, never done. Next up, walls.