What the Heck Was I Thinking - a 31x42 Remod

Started by Reninco, February 05, 2021, 09:40:32 AM

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When the cabinet order arrived a number of things came into play that are worth mentioning to the readers here.
The cabinet guy said it was going to be a two week delay, sooooo other work was scheduled and being done.
They showed up one week early. With no notice. One hour before sunset. No prep work had been done to clear the floor for the delivery. I am not sure what they would have done if I wasn't at the site...
It looked like rain. If the sky started falling, I wouldn't be surprised.
But I had cabinets. You need cabinets before countertops. I needed to set windows in relationship to the countertops. Did I say I was waiting for it to rain and it felt like snow.
Bad news – the truck was too big to snake down the driveway.
Good news – the truck came with a quasi-all terrain forklift. The driver was able to set most of loads quite near the front door. He also helped me drag the bigger stuff inside. The rain held off and felt as a milestone had passed.
Cabinet Delivery Consumes Floor Space

I made quick use of the new pantry cabinet. The other commander always wondered how those nicks got into the lower shelf 😊
Pantry tool cabinet

After the cabinets had been set I reclaimed some floor space and proceeded with my other projects. See pic for numbers
1. Removed temporary stair post/railing and started laying out the stair skirt board, this will be a tough cut with 45 miter cuts that can be seen. Its not something I want to do twice so I take my time and do many test cuts and fits. I think cutting the stringer took the whole day. Under the stairs is the finished window, a window seat will be built below the stairs in a few weeks.
2. Our wood stove-quasi-fireplace is in.
3. This odd step is for the future entrance to a new sunroom that will be built in two years.
4. Beam tails have been trimmed to "soften" their entrance into the room
5. Odd plywood with blue tape is a protective covering of the post
6. This is the cover/shield for the furnace vent, a must on house construction when the furnace is needed.
7. Stair tread for the winder
8. Beam held up by hidden knife blade connection into a header (see posts above for drawing)
Living Room by the numbers


Another ordering story.
The loft and living room will benefit from roof skylights. I have put in many skylights but of the kind that just slips in between rafters – pretty common to have this size in stock at some lumber yards and many big-box stores. The size I was hoping for was much bigger as my beam spacing is 42" oc. Searching the Velux catalog showed bigger sizes seemed to be made but I was concerned about availability "yeah it says we make em but those are a special order item..." was a term I was very familiar with.
Velux order sheet

In anticipation of a long order time or "sorry were out of stock" message I ordered 5 skylights very early in the project.
4 days later they showed.
I then had the joy of moving boxed skylights from one room to another as I demo'ed the house for the next 2 months.
Smiling and cursing at the same time.
The picture below shows the rough opening with the skylight installed. I just prepped the walls for the ceiling stain and seal in this picture. The ceiling along with the wall painting was a huge job of more than 3 weeks. Stain-here-paint-here-repeat... A lot of double masking around beams etc.


After the garage slab was done I had time to remove an odd hanging gable end "curtain wall".

The structure blocks the southern sun, by removing the wall it will allow light to flow fully across the inside.

It was a little mystery on how it was constructed or even why it was constructed as it blocked southern sun. Hey who the heck would block southern sun. As I began my project of discovery I was really thinking they just buried a beam under all that plywood, pull the ply, a little sanding and putty and TaDaa yur dun. Nope.

It was all 2x with a fake tail beam. A big freakin job and a big mess to remove as very little could be saved. A "rafter" beam that matched the rest of the roof beams will be sandwiched next to it.

I saved the last 9 inches of wall. From the outside it looks like BnB, from the inside it looks like two beams.
1. Plywood screwed to ceiling, the beam "tail" will be pushed through this area and it protects the T&G from dents and scratches.
2. "Boat winch" style of hoist, long cable but only can lift light loads – used on rebar cages in bridge construction etc.
3. Yep rolled the thing just like the Egyptians
4. Light colored dots are the cut studs - this will be the base for the outside "look"
1a. The beam has been measured and cut – the wrappings protect it from surface scars

I'll pull the beam above the scaffold and then assemble the scaffold.

1. I'll raise the tip to butt into this ridge beam
2. The rafter beam is now on top of the "plate"
3. Number not shown – wife says "I have chicken legs"

Following the beam up with scaffolding, I'll keep my planks somewhat parallel to the roof slope so I can muscle the beam with my shoulder. The remaining section of wall hooked to the ceiling can be clearly seen.

The beam has been flipped then jacked into place for the final inch or so. I also raised the roof at the plate area so the beam was easier to "roll" into place, once the seat cut was set I lowered the roof on to the beam at the plate line. You can just see the outside old wall studs as they run by the beam, red lines indicate the old post seen in other pictures.
Curtain Wall Finished outside view with post connection covered

Curtain Wall Finished inside view


After the curtain beam was finished I started on the garage. Notable features: 18'x7' door (had an 8' just never seemed to use its capability at the old house), 48" wing walls, 45 degree intersection with house, 3' change in plate heights, studs 24 oc, roof slopes = garage 3/12 – House 5/12, built-up truss tails for 2 layer facia detail. Garage roof slope is flatter on purpose so not to overshadow the house size, this also follows the flatter "swiss-style" roof which the house is becoming. Driveway pad has slope to drain water away from the door - a surprising concept to the old owners.
Garage Roof Framing

1. Wall Braces for gable ends. These stay in place until I brace the bottom cord of the trusses (see print above).
2. Blocking for faux batt detail, not needed by code but the batt nails grab a little better.
3. Roof over-fill (see print above) is 45 degrees, I think when the pic was taken I had just started on the back-side common rafters. That's a typical cut table that I use with rough framing as it will stand the abuse of heavy wet lumber. Foldable/adjustable leg saw horse – a little heavy but they work on odd slopes and can be tossed in the truck if needed.
4. Front side house gutter drain travels under the garage to daylight. I hate meter boxes on the front side of a house so I'll cover this in a later picture.
5. These are temporary boards to hold the initial driveway backfill until the retaining wall gets built. Also, it's a nice place for trash...
Garage Framing by the numbers


Contemplating exterior detail mockup with faux ridge beam.

New driveway with new base, not a blade of grass to be seen and I still have one or two thousand rocks to hide.

Most of the interior was done about this time.
Typical wood detail with a 5/4 x 6 header. Hemlock door and trim.

Window seat also has storage underneath

Bridge to loft office and "sewing station". Glass railing is captured by door jamb (trim then slid over glass). Other side glass captured by a half-post with buttons covering the screw holes. All glass is 3/8 tempered with eased edges. Max unbraced span is 39".

Loft bridge opposite side with glass post detail. Glass slides in groove then base trim is applied. Posts are fir to match the existing beams.

Post attached to beam detail – buttons hide screws


A key point is the post connection.
Hidden behind all that wood is the fastener detail.
The floor is 2x6 T&G (underlayment and carpet is not shown)

#2 screw location is high as possible to resist #5 load.
For this to work #3, #4 also have to have substantial carrying capacity.
#6 is an alternate placement but I like to have the top fastener on the post as high as possible to reduce the leverage from the load.
#1 Screw does not really resist the top load all that much but plays a part in side-to-side alignment and levelness. If I recall correctly I spent many hours with a hand plane shaving small bits to the posts so they were all in alignment and plumb...since I could see the tops as I walked up the stairs. My wife thinks their "pretty". I think she missed the alignment feature.

I use GRK structural rated screws... believe me they are worth every penny.


Sunroom design 101
The original design of the house had a "sunroom". I added quotes as the term was used with a broad artistic license with the original architect. The floor at this point was dirt and was about 2' lower than the stem wall. Yep... stairs needed to exit the room.
The south side (not shown) was the "gable" side and a 6' glass slider door was established to create the term sunroom... "hey look, all this glass creates a sunroom".
The west side did have a large overhang which was good for summer sun shade...unfortunately with the lower window header height and large overhang it created a "viewline" that was at chest level. Views were possible but you would have to sit to see. I'm pretty sure money or the lack-of became an issue at this point as the wall finish was definitely done by the homeowners...this would also explain the dirt floor. Now one could think that I was pretty mad at this point with all the issues presented. Not so. This was a pretty obvious complete tear-out with a design challenge to create a better space. In most respects the room was insolated from the finished portion of the house so the impact was minimal.
Picture is funny because of the interior finishes of the room it created these weird dark areas.

Here is a side view, the dirt floor is about 5' deep with fill material of an unknow origin. Also shown: viewline and house floor level. The depth of the fill (and corresponding house wall height) actually was a bonus as I felt I could create true basement storage, which is very rare in this part of the country.

I started with a blank page and was only constrained by an existing foundation wall.  Top view of the key features that existed or I wanted such as: wind, sun orientation, view angles, deck and some type of entry into the finished living room.

Drawing a simple beamed gable wall (that mimicked the house) then adding the southern sun winter and summer angles - it became apparent this design would not allow much sun...in the sunroom. Used an online sun angle app, too many to list here.

Keeping with a beamed ceiling I started back at step 1...this beam is needed...should be about here... can be this high etc. Still a basic box

Adding sun angles and using the beam as a pivot point (window header would have also worked) most would skip this step as it is pretty intuitive.

Adding an overhang to block most of the summer sun from the window area...most would also skip this step but the idea of a shed roof becomes apparent.

A really steep shed will work as the sun angles show, but the overhang length is well...hard to imagine.

I flatten the roof down to a 3/12 and with this the overhang it becomes a more manageable design.

Establishing the window top is controlled by an existing roof intersection, the lower edge would look best to match the existing sill elevation.

The windows (south side) can exist between outer wall and shear panel, spacing is then determined by maximum roof/beam spacing, then that is divided equally. A single shearwall panel is needed on this wall... there is just enough room to sneak a 3' door into the leftover space. One wall is now done. Small header for the door opening is attached directly to the shear panel with a Simpson LUC hanger.

Windows (west side) height is determined by the logical locations for interior trim as these will be full height windows. The bottom will be at the top of the floor base trim and the window top is as high as a full piece top trim will allow, giving full wall height windows. The window width was all the space in between the shear panels minus double trimmers. Shear panels are connected with a drag-strut similar to a garage door opening.
With a considerable wind load all the window framing was also connected with Simpson a35's to the drag strut and shear panels. The rule of thumb with this region is if you can see the sunset you should detail for higher wind loading.

Design Done with wind block and southern sun and west views all established.
Simpson shearwall panels attached to epoxied high strength all-thread in the existing concrete stem wall. Took forever to drill the holes but you can get high loads with a pretty small panel so it was well worth the time.
New wall plan

New rooms vs. existing


Glass and interior finishes removed from future sunroom, bottom is window/door layout.

Dismantled piece by piece to save beams. Hole in wall leads directly to dumpster. Gravel on floor is the top of 4' of dirt/something fill.

Demo done

Removing fill with sprinkler attempting to provide some type of dust abatement. TJI rafters to be cut later. At this point I still don't know if they buried or covered huge old stumps etc in the fill. One thing that I do know is that all the old foam scraps from the roof went into this hole. As each bucket was unloaded a shower of white foam chunks escaped into the neighbor's yard. Ah the joys of remodeling.

Lines on concrete marked for future door entrance, if you look closely you can see some of the foam bits that will make it to the neighbor's yard. Good news is that the fill was digable and removable.

Concrete cut was done with a chainsaw cutter, a lot of work but little cost...the two slabs will be used as retaining walls – see below

Slab poured, holddown bolts set, orange spots on wood are the ends of the long shearwall panels. 2x under slider is reference for floor as the existing house floor is "out-of-level". Total construction site with dust and odd bits of important wood everywhere.

Foundation is not square and is also out-of-level so I made a gentle transition with every single stud to a level floor at the front shearwall. I call it "the stuff ya never see on TV floor" – tedious and time consuming but worth it as nobody knows of the out-of-level transition...well except for the ones reading this.  I'll build a floor and put the shearwall panels in last.

Stub shearwalls in place shown (blue arrow) with pocket for taller shearpanel (pink arrow).

I pulled the panel into place. Why not use a boom truck? In this case there was a lot of fussy detail work with elevations and angles then bolting down with each panel, it would have been too much standby time for a boom truck. Arrow is winch. Roof is braced (not shown) for winch load.

Panels in place, windows framed. Rocks for sale. You can see the beginnings of the basement storage.

All the panels in place with the first sheet about to be placed. Ladder looks sketchy but is solidly placed and pinned above the window header. I tack in 2- 16d where I want the sheet to set then push the sheet up the ladder on to nails then tack the sheet into place then air nail the rest. Ladder must be solidly set for this to be less risky.
Full sheets across all key connections, then piece-in the rest.

Shearwall and sheeted, I lift the roof beams into place – arrows show winch and lifting arm. I would caution anyone attempting this as you must be fully aware of the capabilities of this system. At this point the "2nd" 2x4 insulation wall has not been built as this wall needs to wrap around the beams.
Also shown are 2x for the beam post load...the load on the trimmer/post is actually quite low and the post is horizontally reinforced at the top and bottom so the "unsupported section" is small and they are also screwed and glued.
Caution should be taken when building with long posts of this smaller dimension as they can buckle or flex in a manner not suspected. The odd looking trimmer stud spacing is just 24" oc mixed with roof beam spacing. The odd "flat" 2xs at the window edge are for trim.

I re-sanded all of the construction markings, stained and sealed the beams and roof decking while praying for no rain during the process. Notice the beams do not protrude as this was an insulation detail I was using. Protruding beams act as radiators and the newer insulation ideas are suggesting different methods of detailing – see drawing below.

Upper beam connection detail

Outside is done and I am putting on a short "sunshade" roof (beam just at the top of the scaffold) for rain and direct sun mitigation. Admittedly the room looks top heavy or blocky, but adding to the foundation triggers a new set of permits and fees related to more square footage. Orange jug on top of the scaffold is orange juice my wife felt I needed as this was going to be a pretty hot day. Rocks under the ladder are still for sale to the highest bidder. Deck shown gets removed and rebuilt in a later picture set.


Exterior beam detail
I repurposed the old beams into exterior faux beam tails as these would match the existing house beams and are a slightly different dimension than the inside beams. These were installed after the panel siding and soffit T&G was attached but before the batts were installed. In looking back, it seems like a quick detail but really was a huge job; scaffolding, planks, up and down the ladder a bazillion times etc.
Green is the pine soffit and red indicates the nail pattern on the beam tail.

I used a large bevel gauge to establish a precise cut on the wall side, used a dummy piece of plywood for test fits and to get the exact length.
Purpose build bevel gauge – large type


Sunroom interior framing details - just finished setting the windows. I left-off one sheet of exterior siding so I could slip the windows from the truck directly inside for storage. One of the few ideas that worked as planned. Windows tipped out from inside then set into rough openings. For those that like to zoom...the "back yard" has fire-starter cheat grass 3' tall. Fun stuff that I will remove in the upcoming years. Beam pile is the salvage that I will be reusing for the faux tails. Shear panels can't be seen because they are covered by the thick walls and "flat" king studs.

Odd red and white stuff in walls is foam packing and sheets I had as leftovers. Boxes just to the right of the window are for TV futures. Interior/exterior wall is not connected at the window by a typical plywood buck as I have found them an unnecessary detail. Insulators cover the crack with their netting before blowing. Odd stud layout is 24oc + beam posts for exterior and 21oc interior. Top plate is beveled so sheetrock lays flat, layout lines on beams were done with a laser pumb/level. Huge time saver worth every penny.

Peeking outside, the old facia ends at window edge. Air sealing was quite a challenge with many cans of foam and tubes of caulk as shown with old roof intersection. Red stud bay is a shear panel with 4" of rigid insulation. No headers over windows as trimmers and ceiling framing grab all the roof load. The king studs are turned sideways for trim, this also makes the assembly much stiffer.

Drywall done and painted. Cheat grass and burn pile is now 4' tall. You can see the insulators stapled netting across the wall openings. For trimming windows: I set the bottom trim in place and transfer trim and edges of stile cutouts (seen as notches) and sill "horns". Top is put in place temporarily and I repeat the process. Trim "box" is on blocks as bottom sill is wider.  Fit box in place, shim to best correctness then stuff cracks with insulation. Da Taa yer done. Cant be seen but the opening in the lower left has the "work-door" that I used on the front of the house and was the best $20.00 I ever spent.


Frontside water management and landscaping
As I mentioned in an early topic post - My wife, bless her heart and smart brains suggested front door placement. She said with a bit of weary sarcasm along with exasperation of me fussing with details... "why don't we just put the front door in the center of the house". 
This makes a good starting point of what I call "the front landscaping". Some pictures have already been posted but it will make it easier to follow these upgrades.
If you notice at this point the front tire of the truck is at least 3' above the foundation (A). As I mentioned before there were many drainage "challenges" to tackle – this is a what not-to-do picture. At this point I had figured out to move the dumpster as close as I could to the front door (B). My new windows have been installed, the front door with jamb and trim are "fake work stuff" to be removed after we have moved in (C). I did a quick ramp across the "moat" (D). The ramp was a good place to cover the stinky chainsaw (wife words not knowing all chainsaws smoke) E. Most of the rocks covering the "snake den" water box are now gone (F). I suspect the wheel barrow helped with rock removal (G). Still pondering how to eliminate the power splice pedestal (H).

I have done some improvements at this point by upgrading from a gravel entry path to a full plywood path. Also, the dumpster has been "repositioned" to better highlight the entryway features.

With even more improvements it's hard to notice I have upgraded the entry path to carpets, this also came with an upgraded water box and the optional removable weighted cover. ::) Most of the larger rocks have been placed in the fill for the driveway pad. Thankfully the ever-present dumpster is now gone.

A large monolith appears just seemingly sitting out in the middle of nowhere. Confusing my assistant, she mentions the concrete "block" is blocking her driveway.

Moat walkway has been disassembled along with the removal of the upgraded carpet walkway. Large packages appear seemingly scattered in random patterns. Concrete monolith is hidden behind packages.

Monolith purpose along with a path with bridge over moat becomes apparent. I spent many hours to calculate the correct elevation of the last step.

Monolith still seems high and out of place. Entry way bridge ¼ done and backfill is in progress.

Monolith is for stairs (red arrow). Last course of wall block has been shimmed to be flat for the cap stones. Still needs another foot of fill for the trusty plate compactor. Hot that week so I rigged a tarp for shade.

Just need some grass and a handrail at this point

Almost done. The upper retaining wall gives a flat slope, any running water percolates into the soil rather than continuing to flow down the hill. The grass in the upper retaining wall has not yet sprouted when this picture was taken. Blue lines are slopes for water flow.


Rear deck
With the new sunroom (and wind blocking capabilities – grill blew off the deck one night) done it was now time for the back deck rebuild. Actually this is a full tear-out, I'll raise it 3' and extend it to the edges of the new constructed walls. The deck wood itself was that beautiful tight grain red cedar, unfortunately 45 years of no maintenance along with no gutters does actually start to rot any wood. I was lucky enough to save some for kindling...splits with a butter knife 😊 I am under no illusion that the current generation of wood will last nearly this long.

Typical demo, trying to keep everything big as it will go to burn pile. Deck furniture starting to look for a home. Stake in the foreground marks the end of the drain for the front gutters. Last bit of foundation on the right that you can see is covered with 6' of fill...lot is sloped at bit, as they say.

Footers for deck are based on soil type, in this case I had solid rock to loose sand fill. Quite a selection; you look at footer load and soil pressure then calc for the final size. I don't get too anal about the exact shape, bottom must be flat and I always add a bigger top than needed -around 8" tall to avoid wet conditions when they occur. Bigger top part of the pier is to give a little fudge for alignment with the adjustable post bases.

I was able to get "top of deck" delivery, these are restacked to make my selections easier. Joist blocking is ripped ¼ as not to interfere with decking. I hold-off on the rim joist to make sure I have a nearly full board for the final course then I cut the tails. Joists are 24" oc. Wafer is walking/work platform. Composite decking was considered but due to its inherent density, heat absorption is too high i.e. it gets too damn hot. 

All the post connections have shear plates as I need a positive connection to the footers due to wind uplift loads. If you enlarge this picture you'll see that I outlined a beam "stretcher" as I was literally 3" too short on my last beam; yes, measure twice cut once.

Positive attachment from joist to beam is a long timbertech screw, I also could have used hurricane ties but the screw was in-stock at my house 😊

I like to keep the layout "repeat" at least 4' spaces or every 3 boards from each other as this gives a more random pattern and less of a stairstep look.

Privacy Screen
A privacy screen and lower deck shield is next. Privacy screen height is just a touch above eye level while sitting. Screen partially hangs from joists and is also supported vertically with smaller piers and horizontally (wind load) by bracing back to the post footers.

Stud spacing mirrors joist spacing. Taller wall is built first as it stands to the outside. Temporary ledger for it to sit on to assist during standing isn't shown in this picture.

Finished framing, flat studs are where the panels will connect or are the batt nailers.

Prepainted before install, those are the 10' panels.

Almost done, 4x6 post with groove for glass. Post spacing matches roof beam spacing. Here are the glass installers just finishing with cleaning. They said it was the first job that summer where everything fit which I thought was a pretty good compliment for the builder. Deck seems pretty large in this picture...and it is. We think of it as an enlargement of the living space of our smaller house.

Snow load test, it snowed with absolutely no wind which is unheard of in this region.

Fog in the meadow

Overhangs protect the ever important grill station. Beam is wrapped to cover the gutter downspout. Screen and beam wrap caps are deck boards. Birds are cold and looking forward to spring.


Stove Tile
Much anticipation of removing the "plastic door" which had been in place for about 6 months. Our tile order for the stove finally arrived and we are looking at layout possibilities. Apparently the tile fell off of the donkey that was transporting them down from the high Italian Alps quarry and the donkey had to make another trip...or so that was the story that was given to us. In this picture I don't know what's more annoying the huge tv blocking my view or the plastic covering the sunroom opening.

First things first, I know from past experience is to make the tilers have the best possible working conditions. You want my garage, you got it. Your truck in the garage, you got it. You want the garage heated, you got it and what temp would you like. You want doughnuts, what kind.

Adjusting layout, I believe the tilers are discussing different versions of a tiler's joke.

Tile now done, carpet in, TV moved...


Some detail pics
Stove backsplash returns into the window jamb. Tile is slightly proud of trim as this will cover the vertical trim end-grain. A full-length wall shim (plywood) was needed to establish that offset. Mockup helped with the details. Tile looks better if it wraps into the wood rather than a big smear of grout.

Cross-section of tile details.

Bar track lights are a hidden fixture from primary view side. Thought and mockups were tested to solve supply wire routing issues. Triangle shape trim with no reveal hides track from view side. Triangle shape seemed to work best as it gives no shadow lines and visually blends into the beam.

Cross-sections of track light details.

Searched for what seemed like years to find the right fixtures for the stairs, placements seem a little high in this angle but look right when viewed from the center of the room.

Countertop ended between the windows so I just continued it to finish at the jamb. Slight mistake on length but it was pretty close considering the top is cut and set before trim. We call it the bird watching station.

I really dislike receptacles in a beautiful field of tile, came up with this idea of a track under the upper cabinets. Another side benefit is that it hides all the chargers and provides more outlets. GFI requirements are controlled by a circuit breaker.

Shower glass cuts across the window. Would have liked to center it slightly more to the left but I had structural and exterior considerations that placed it at this point. Splash is not an issue. Nice to have fresh air vent in the summertime.


Before and after pics...some are not quite at the right aspect but I usually include the same reference points.
Bad Load Drop

New Driveway

Front Entry

Front Right

Front Left

Garage Digout

Street View

Old Kitchen view

Old Staircase

Sunroom Inside

Sunroom Outside



Just read through your entire thread. Love how you took problem areas and turned them into attractive assets.
Very much enjoyed your writing style!