Still Rafters

An Eccentric Anomaly: Ed Davies's Blog

Still putting up rafters.

The weather theme since my last house report has been wind and rain. It's rained many more days than not, without, I think, two consecutive dry days, and when dry it's often been sufficiently windy to restrict what can sensibly be done.

In my neighbour's memory, going back to the early 1960's, it's been the worst harvest except for 1985 (when it rained for the whole of September).

I wrote:

I've now got another dozen rafters prepared to go up (8 for the north side and 4 for the south) but I'll do a couple more before asking for the digger again - maybe at the end of this week though the weather isn't looking helpful.

I did prepare a few more for each of the sides and had the digger round on September 20th. We put up 7 more on the south side and 8 on the north side. I actually had a couple more ready but, being aware of how much more nailing I'd have to do to make them properly secure, called a halt about 14:30. Still, 15 more wasn't too bad. While I was moving the scaffold tower from the south to the north side the digger extended the parking area a bit making turning round practical avoiding reversing in or, worse, reversing out on to the road.

With the weather, progress was slow for the rest of September and a lot of October, just putting up the dwangs (noggins) between rafters, putting up ridge boards and preparing more rafters.

Over a few days starting October 20th I put up the rafters on the east gable on my own. These are the ones in the “nailing round corners” post. The purlins at the end should have stuck out by 45 mm to overhang the end posts allowing the outside faces of the end rafters to be in the same plane as as the outsides of the cross beams but I made a mistake two years ago and cut them off flush. To work round this I nailed on pieces of structural timber to make up the difference (the yellowish wood in the nailing round corners post).

Rather than nail to existing weathered surfaces I sanded off the posts first. It was quite cheering to see how little sanding was needed to get to clean wood - overall the timber looks a little sad now so it's good to remember that it's rather superficial.

A couple of days later I got the digger back again. The day didn't go well. Firstly, the only dry bit of the day was up to about 11 o'clock but the digger didn't arrive till then because of a lack of communications at the builder.

I had four rafters left to do to fill in the south-east corner of the house (the south side of the main bedroom) and five to do on the north west corner to complete the north side. The north side ones were, in a way, higher priority as with them up I could finish off the ridge beam completely but the scaffold tower was to hand in the SE so I did those first.

Two went up OK but with a heavy shower approaching and with rain on my glasses I managed to nail the top of one of them in the wrong place on the ridge beam. It's almost Escherish the way the middle rafter here drifts leftwards:

The top rather fails to line up with its opposite number on the north side.

I didn't have any bright ideas how to deal with this as 90 mm ring nails are very difficult to pull out non-destructively. I did think, though, that having extra rafters in the way could only make the job harder so I decided to abandon the SE corner for the day and move on to the 5 remaining north-side rafters.

By the time I got the scaffold tower over there, though, the next shower was arriving and looking very big and wet so I gave up for the day. It turned out to be the right decision - I went to Thurso for some more nails and it was torrential all the way there and back.

The solution, actually, was pretty simple: leave the nails in the wood but cut them by pushing a multitool blade between the rafter and the ridge board.

Still I'd paid for a day's digger work (well, I will when the builder gets round to invoicing me) and only got two rafters up and a bit of spare hardcore spread. That's not an economical way to build a house.

The next day I went to have a chat with the chaps building a house a bit further down the road (for my neighbour's nephew). They had two diggers on site, one bigger and one smaller than the one I'd been getting in. I'd been reluctant to get involved before as the owner hadn't been happy with progress there and I didn't want to get off on the wrong foot with a new neighbour but by then things were going better.

They weren't happy with the idea of tracking a digger up the road but they were getting their telehandler on site the following week and that'd be better. Great, rate agreed, sort out details next week.

Actually, the telehandler didn't arrive until Friday (November 3rd) of the following week but after lunch they popped up and put up the last five rafters on the north side very quickly. It had so much more reach than the digger that it was all very simple.

Here they are a couple of days later, after I'd put dwangs between them but hadn't yet added the ridge boards at the top - something that needs a reasonably calm day:

Looking towards Scaraben just after the sun set that day showing the clearance which allowed the aurora to be seen later.

With the ridge beam added about a week later:

I'd have liked to have got the telehandler in again the day after that photograph (15th) but the builders were too busy with it - understandable as they were being put back by the weather just as much I was. There wasn't another chance until the 22nd when we arranged that they'd come up after lunch again.

When they did arrive they rather omitted the telehandler as it was bogged in mud behind the house they're building but they brought a large crew and we put up nine rafters by hand: the two remaining ones on the south side of the main bedroom and seven more across the living room, kitchen and bathroom.

In the process, though, I put my back out. I don't know how, exactly, as I wasn't doing any heavy lifting, just positioning the bottoms of the rafters and nailing them. Maybe it was leaning down to grab the moving target of the rafter bottoms as one of the builders dragged them away. Whatever, I didn't miss much weather, just Sunday when it was plausible to have got much done but I didn't want to risk it. It's annoying, though, as I haven't had any such problems since the beginning of last year. I doubt it's because I'm any stronger, just got into better habits with respect to lifting things squarely.

So far this week I've got 6 of the remaining 8 rafters prepared and the weather looks reasonable to do the last two tomorrow. Not sure when they'll get put up but it looks hopeful for one day early next week.

The original builder (supplier of digger) quoted to do the sarking, etc, but his first quote wasn't right at all. I had a very useful chat with him which got us communicating much better and gave me a couple of useful hints but he never provided another quote.

I asked the more local builders. At first they said they were too busy but then they came back to say they could do it between finishing the nephew's house in mid-December (two weeks, gulp) and starting their next build in the new year. They've estimated and I've asked them to go ahead on that basis so hopefully the house will be a lot more rain proof and house looking before too long.

My plan is to do the floor, then the west gable then the east gable to allow likely strong winds to blow through freely right up to the point it starts getting sealed up.