It’s been a while since our last post. We can blame some of that on the holidays. Drinking with the family while singing “Fireball” was a merry way to slow down construction. As was traveling halfway across the country to support two of our best friends as they got married. But neither of those truly needed that much time. The real culprit was trying to figure out what the hell we were doing.
Framing walls isn’t hard. There are multiple resources that quickly taught us the basics. Andrew and Gabriella’s video series was excellent as were many youtube tutorials. They all gave us the confidence and excitement to head out to the shop and start building. As we got under way, however, we realized there were a few lessons, little bits of knowledge, that we had to learn as we went.
Lesson #1: Not all jack stands are created equal.
Before we could start building we had to level our trailer. In our haste, we ran out and grabbed the first jack stands that had the proper weight capacity. We didn’t notice until later, however, that the stands changed level in specific increments: about half an inch. For the trailer to be level the stands needed to be smack in the middle of where they would not go. Haste makes you feel really stupid. Luckily we were able to return the stands and found proper ones online, trailer stands that changed elevation via a screw so we could raise them to any level. We had to wait seven business days for them to be delivered. We’ve started to notice a trend about finding things we actually need online and then waiting.
Lesson #2: Working with 2×4’s requires a strong practice in stress management.
First, 2×4’s are warped, twisted and crowned. All of them. We had to learn to be picky about choosing 2×4’s before putting walls together. Rather minor warps didn’t look so bad until we stood a wall and tried to make it level. Reading a level placed against an uneven surface is not very effective. And few things boggle the mind more than getting slightly different results from every adjacent 2×4. For a moment it’s fun to think your house is altering the fabric of three dimensional space. Then you realize that’s practically useless. In that instance, the law of averages took effect in which we got each board as close to level as possible. For the following walls, we made sure our corner studs (where we would read the level) were as straight as possible.
Second, not only are they misshapen but 2×4’s also tend to split. Pneumatic nail guns lessen the chance that the lumber will taunt you but at some point, near one edge or another, it’s bound to crack an evil, lopsided grin. Our frustration increased until I contemplated tossing the boards into the fire. But while we would then be warm, we also wouldn’t have anything to build a house with. So I wised up and did a little extra research.
Cracking 2×4’s is not a rare occurrence. Luckily the fixes are easy. First, make sure your air compressor isn’t too high. We had already turned ours down but ended up turning it down further and finished tapping the nails in with a hammer. Second, blunt the nails. If nails are too sharp, they’ll act like a wedge and split the grain. Blunting the nails will cause them to crush and push through the fibers instead. Last, shoot the nails a little further away from the edge and at a slight angle so they still get a good purchase into the attaching stud. After applying those three bits of knowledge, we had no problems.
Lesson #4: Order of operations.
When assembling the walls we decided to keep things simple. For the first section, we started to attach the studs in order from left to right. It worked well enough. We got all the studs secured where they needed to be with no lopsided window frames. Then standing back and admiring our work, we noticed a problem. Anywhere one stud stood next to another, for example a king stud and trimmer stud for a window, we needed to not only attach the studs to the bottom and top plates, but we needed to nail them together as well. Having not considered that along the way, there were a few places we no longer had enough room to easily drive nails.
We were able to drive the nails at an angle but decided to plan ahead better. For the rest of the sections, when we needed to tie two studs together, we did so first then attached them to the plates. This ensured that the studs had a solid hold on each other and could act together as one larger support. It also meant we didn’t have to smack our knuckles trying to drive nails at an odd angle.
All together building our walls took about a month. No doubt we could have done it faster if we weren’t lacking in this little thing called experience. Also, for some reason our bosses wouldn’t let us stay home and build. But with a little finagling, a lot of learning and a bit of anger management (aka, learning to laugh at our mistakes), the bones of our house are standing.