Wednesday, September 3

Crooked, Twisted Girders

Today was long. And hot. And, believe it or not, not as fun as digging holes. Today, we started to lay the girders on the piers, supporting them with 4x4 posts. Our large pile of lumber arrived successfully yesterday, and of course, the girders we needed first were on the bottom of the pile. So our first order of business was attempting to organize the pile.

Since Erin & Bill met without me regarding this next step, I pretty much had to stand around with my hands on my hips for a while, watching Erin and waiting till I understood what the eventual rhythm would be. We started with the front row of piers, and two 20 foot girders, laying the first one right on top of the Northeast corner pier, sans 4x4. This set the level for the entire rest of the girders, as it is the highest-set pier and on top of the slope. We used the 8 foot level to bring the other end up to level, 20 feet away. At this point, we were planning on propping that end up with boards, but Erin's brilliance led us down a different path....

In case you can't tell, that's our car jack under the girder, bringing each end up to exactly the right height. Funny the things you think of when "normal" carpentry isn't your trade.

You might think that lumber is straight and true, allowing your job to be infinitely easy and pleasurable. But you would be horribly mistaken. The pressure treated lumber we received got worse and worse as we worked our way through the pile. These 20 foot girders were quite bowed, and we naturally placed the bow upwards so the pressure of the building will average it out and press down. So we worked with the crooked beams to the best of our ability, cutting each one mid-span about 2/3 up to create more slack over the run. I don't know if this makes sense or not, but if you need more info, let me know. It was about this time that Bill (thankfully) showed up with mom.

mom and bill playing catch in the shade while erin and i toil away

I think we had just pulled out the laser-level Bill lent us, and realized it is infinitely more accurate than our eyes and an 8 ft. level. We asked a lots of questions, discussed the crappy piers that our hardware store insists on carrying, and got on with our business. We used the laser level to cut posts to size for the second row of girders.

So jump forward about 3 hours and we're still in the same place because we're arguing about the elusive and contradictory accuracy of the laser level. I know that Erin's used to dealing in measurements where hundredths and thousandths can mean the difference between success and utter failure. We're learning that precision is relative, and our instincts to make everything perfect can slow us down slightly when our materials aren't so precise. In the end, we agreed to continue on and finish the second row of girders before the mosquitoes drove us back down to town.

We didn't make as much progress as we wanted to today. It was slightly discouraging and difficult to run into so many issues in one day, and to have to deal with so much twisted lumber. We decided that tomorrow we'll take back the really bad stuff to the hardware store and get replacements we can actually work with.

I'll be happy when these girders are laid straight and we can feel good about this part of the process.


charles said...

Aren't those really joists?

Linz said...

Well, technically the joists will go on top of the girders and will be more numerous, as you will soon see in the next phase.

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