They say it began with a citation for rotting soffits

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Well, actually, the citation from the city was the straw that broke the camel's back. It all began many years ago, before I ever bought the house and garage. The previous owner, you see, wasn't exactly a civil engineer. Having had a hella garage built in about 1970, he found himself short on space. Breaking out his hammer, he decided to span the 24' space with overlapped 2x6s. He Took a pair of sixteen-foot 2x6s and overlapped them by four feet. This appeared to be quite strong, so he made three sets of these, and stretched them across the main space of the garage. Then, he hung 3/8' inch chipboard from them and called it a ceiling.

Over time, he added further reinforcing, tying this makeshift ceiling into the 2x4 rafters. Once this was finished, he put in a stairway (hinged at one end, so the sixty pound stairway could be moved out of the way of the main floor), and started storing things upstairs. Not just things, mind you, but Things. Heavy Things, like engine parts. Most likely, in fact, entire engines.

Mind you, the American Lumber Assocation doesn't certify such 2x6 quarter-overlapped 'beams' for much, and certainly not for small block Chevys. Over time, they sagged. Being tied into the roof rafters, the roof sagged, too. When we bought the house in '98, The garage had a noticeable sag in the roofline. After I spent the first week of home ownership with a floorjack, a screwgun and some plumber's strap, I had the roof sag down to a mere five inches (from the previous fourteen inches), and the garage wasn't quite as swayback as it had been. I intended to fix the garage within two years. After the reinforcement, the garage looked like this:

Time came and went. I changed careers a couple of times. We had kids. The garage, as it always is, was the farthest thing from this homeowner's mind. Occasionally, over beer, I'd comment to a friend or neighbor that I should rip that cursed roof off and put on a second story.

In the fall of 2006, my neighbor Erik built a massive garage. He's the owner of that red house in the background of the image above. When the inspectors came out to check code compliance on his Monster Garage ™, they saw that my paint was peeling, the shingles on my roof were little more than loose piles of asphalt, and the soffits were rotting. They cited me.

The city is actually pretty decent about such things. They said I had a year to remedy the situation. Since it was late September, I called and mentioned that it might not be done by spring. They told me that what they really wanted was for me to start working on it within a year.

Over the winter, my wife and I discussed our options. The garage's structure was compromised: the roof rafters were a structural component, the very component that was intended to keep the walls from tipping over. Putting a new roof on top of cruddy structure seemed a waste of money. Several of our neighbors (including Erik) had recently scraped their questionable garages, and put up nice new ones.

As a teacher, scraping and having a new one built weren't really an option, unless I started counterfeiting $50s. I also had a LOT of stuff in that garage, and couldn't fathom where I'd put it all during a reconstruction. To put the icing on the cake, my garage had a BIG furnace in it -- the old one from the house. I wasn't sure I could get the city to agree to let me put a furnace like that in a new structure. As an existing structure, however, I was grandfathered in.

It became obvious that my only real option was to pick up with my beer-fueled fantasy and put a second story on my garage. Pencil, paper, ruler and crappy flea market architectural software all conspired to generate a semi-feasible set of plans which I submitted to the city in the spring of '07. The city politely asked what I'd been smoking. I thought they were commenting on my plan in general. It turned out that they didn't like my choice of rafters: 2x6s weren't strong enough, and weren't available in the necessary 18-foot lengths anyway.

Major rework happened. My idea looked like this:

With revised details, such as shorter sidewalls (nine foot was maximum allowable), and heavier rafters (twelve-inch I-joists), the plan was approved, and I trekked to the lumber yard for parts.

The gents at Scherer Brothers lumber declared me insane for not using pre-built attic rafters, but I wanted the extra space. I knew this method would cost more and take more time, but I was saving on labor: I'd do it all myself (with help from my friends, naturally). With minor adjustments, Scherer Bros sold me what I needed, and I proceeded to wait for supplies. June came and went.

On July 2nd, I got my floor trusses: eighteen inches high, twenty-four feet long, and somewhere over a hundred pounds each. It was time to strip off the roof, remove roof boards, and start sliding the trusses inbetween the rafters. John Moser and I started tearing off roof boards. The original plan was to leave the old roof until the new roof was in place.

John and I are here, fitting trusses into place. Note that we haven't removed the gutters or all the necessary roofboards yet. You can see the box for the 7.25' circular saw behind me (I'm the guy in the fatigue pants), and my dad coming out of the garage.

I got lots of help on this project from John Moser (he did massive amounts of work ripping the roof off and tearing off shingles, and helping floor, et al), my dad (he was the expert assistance, and the general climb-on-anything-nail-anything-in-place guy), Dirk Koenig (my vote for world strongman) and Patrick Sanchez (his help was invaluable fitting the I-rafters into place), my neighbors for loans of tools and ladders, and most importantly: My wife, angela, who watched the little monsters all summer and let me work on this.

As we slid in the trusses, we screwed the existing ceiling to the new trusses. This got us out of pulling out the garage door and the ceiling. Note the powered screwdriver in my hand here and here. This is what the inside looked like as we slid in the trusses. Note the aforementioned 2x6 'beam' between me and the truss. It was in the 90s as we worked, and quite humid. All of us were drenched, but we didn't dare work without pretty complete coverage. Sunburn, slivers and abrasion wounds were a near immediate result of insufficient cladding. Note how low the ceiling is in the previous picture, and the spike of jagged 2x6 sticking down from the ceiling. That had been a partial support, but we tore it apart to make room for the trusses.

Here I am, getting out to the edge with my rip hammer, still pulling nails and making room for trusses. We couldn't just rip off the roof at once, or the ceiling would have no support at all. Here's a three-man crew moving a truss into the yard so we could slide it up. My mom and Gunnar (and neighbor Bill) look on as we maneuver that beast. stop and pose for the camera, and make sure not to knock over the suntea. Alley-oop 1, Alley-oop 2, John, get under that thing with a 2x6!, Jeremy, get yer lazy but up here and muscle this thing into place..

Time passed, and we got all of the trusses up, tearing out existing supports. We quickly found that the remains of the roof were far too unstable to walk on, so off it came, and the roof boards were stacked in the yard. Once the roof was off, I could run 2x4s into the notched edges of the trusses to stabilize them, and start roofing. Here's me on the partially floored garage. Note the Armored BX Electrical cable which we didn't have to move, and the permit in the garage door window. The flooring was 4x8 sheets of 3/4' sturdi-floor, which has to weigh near a hundred pounds a sheet. I got them up the ladder by myself, for the most part, since I could work during the day, and Moser had this dayjob thing.

I'm showing off my new flattop in this shot, and Thorwald made the climb up the ladder to see the new flooring.. Wade Schmelzer and John Moser helped me get the eighteen-inch LVLs onto the roof, which was a bear. We can smile for the camera, too. As wade and I discussed what to do about the cable TV line (which the cable company refused to relocate) and the phone lines, the pressure finally got to John. The garage was a lot flatter by this point.

Thorwald was a champ this summer, pulling nails out of boards so we could reuse them

Rain became my most sincere fear as we worked, and this tarp helped me sleep at night. I'm sure some of the neighbors got tired of the Blue Amoeba, but it worked. As we made room in the garage, we moved supplies inside the garage. Roof boards were reused as sheathing on the East and West sides of the garage, and we began to consider the challenge of raising the ridge beam.

The ridge beam seemed simple enough on paper: Two twenty-four foot, 18x1.75' LVLs, bonded with sixteen-penny nails into a single structural member. This beam would be supported on two posts, ten feet above the floor. This was a fairly simple design, but it begged the question: How do you raise a beam somewhere around four hundred pounds and fit it on top of two 3.5 by 5.5 inch posts?

Smart guys would use a crane. Smart guys don't build garages around the powerlines in my neighborhood. A crane was out, and there was no safe way to get the beam up using ladders. The answer? A fourteen-foot high sawhorse, nailed to the flooring and reinforced. Another view of our beloved Trebuchet. We planned to use a ratcheting web tiedown, as featured in this picture, but had not counted on the elasticity of such a thing.

Attempt 1a, and attempt 1b, after which we changed plans. We switched to a cable come-along, rented from the local redi-rents for about $30, and had more success raising the beam, even though we had our hands full handling the bucking beam.. We jockeyed around the stepladders quite a bit, as we brought the beam up and into place. No sooner did we get the beam put together (we assembled it on top of the posts), did the weather roll in, and the tarp had to go back up.

Rain or no, we were drenched by the time I knocked the phone lines out of the house. They still worked, but now they were laying on the ground. Another project for another day. John, I, Dad and Patrick, proud of our coverage work. We had a hard time keeping Moser away from the kids' toys, too.

Mounting the I-rafters required (for a while), someone sitting on the ridge beam. Dirk and dad muscled the I-joists into place, while I scrambled up with the nail gun (a nice Bostitch F33PT), and put in a quick dozen nails per hanger. Here I'm screwing in small scraps of 1x2 on which we'll set the rafters when nailing them up. More hangerstrips going up.

Thankfully, the rafters were put on 24' centers, so we could fit the ladder and a guy between them for mounting nailing down the joist hangers. Note the bits of spacer put on the rafters, and the premounted hanger fitted to the rafter leaning against the garage in the previous picture. Cutting those spacers and fitting the hangers was more time-consuming than I had ever thought it would be. You can also see the Devil's Fork on the north side of the building -- the smaller LVL designed to hold the picture window. Even with two feet between them, getting the nailgun and my shoulders in that space was tight.

Slowly but surely, the garage took shape, and we were amazed at how the whole structure stiffened up. A view from the North as the structure takes shape. On goes the 40'x60' tarp, lest it rain. The tarp was a necessary evil, but an evil indeed. The first and last forty minutes of the workday would be spent wrestling that monstrosity out of and back into place. Argh.

Thorwald loved climbing the ladders, much to his mother's horror. And, he figured out how to dunk.

Half-inch plywood, even in 4'x8' sheets, was a LOT lighter than the sturdifloor, and sheathing the roof progressed rapidly. Scherer Bros had drastically underestimated how much sheathing it would require, and I opted to buy the next batch at Home Depot, since their prices were marginally better. I'd bring the sheets up, and Dad and I would wrestle them into position. Rather than roofing nails, I used a screw gun and 1 1/4 inch drywall screws to mount the sheets. Since the rafters weren't all exactly on 24s, I had to do some custom cutting to get the sheets to line up.

My sister and her girls (and my parents), while out of focus, had fun taking Thorwald up to the new attic. Thorwald has no discernable fear of heights.

After sheathing, the skylights went in. Note that I'm down from four skylights to two skylights. Budgetary concerns, and the fact that everything had cost twice as much as my original estimates, resulted in minor cutbacks. Still, the garage was sheathed, the fascia (fibercement) was hung, and we were ready for roofing.

After days of working at twenty-one feet, I decided that I wanted the roof on now. Eight hundred dollars (plus materials), later, the roof was tarpapered, IceGuarded, flashed, and finally, shingled. This roof was put on by Aurora Roofing, and they did a rockin' job. If you want their number, go ahead and drop me a note, and I'll put you in touch with them. They papered, flashed, and shingled in less than five hours start to finish. Damn.

The south wall needed to be sheathed, so I used old roofboards. This gave it an 'old barn' look that I actually love. Covering the south wall with Tyvek was a pity, really. Through the whole project, the interior of the garage has been horrifically cluttered. Note the old ladder, laying useful-side down, between the motorcycle and the table saw. Remember how I said the south wall has an old barn look? Even with the Tyvek on the outside, the south wall looks great from the inside. Those 2x4 studs are ALL salvaged from the old roof.

The North wall was the last to get built, because I really didn't know where to start. Instead, I framed in around the skylights. Eventually, the north wall DID get built (2x6 studs on sixteen-inch centers), the old roof peak trimmed, and the North wall sheathed.

Note the patchwork of chipboard and plywood. All of the North side was sheathed with half-inch wood salvaged from the neighbor's dumpster, and leftovers from the roof. The south wall, mind you, was all sheathed with thirty-five year old 1x10s. Talk about structural strength! The chipboard on the far left (the one with the notch) came with the garage when I bought the house. Good riddance. This time, I'd bought eight-penny nails for the nail gun, so I used those to secure the sheathing. One the south side, I used 10d framers, because that's what I had at hand.

Here's a detail of how the window hangs from the LVL, and how I left portions of the old wall in place. Why reinvent the wheel? (or wall, as it were)

The picture window even opens, though it weighs about eighty pounds. It's actually an old sliding patio door, retrofitted to a hinge-hanging system by my dad. Here's my dad, grinning at our accomplishments that day. The red stuff on the Tyvek is housewrap tape that I got at a garage sale for a quarter! Note how the car fits in the garage now? We had moved all the lumber upstairs.

Cedar shakes are beginning to be applied. 4d galvanized nails do the trick, and the shakes are salvaged from the heighbor's house and garage. They're having Hardiboard™ put on, and I couldn't bear to see the good thirty- and sixty-year-old cedar shakes just thrown out. I gave up on using 4d nails shortly after I discovered my father-in-law's Porter Cable narrow crown pneumatic stapler. Once adjusted for proper depth, it fires quarter-inch wide, inch-long staples at a surprising pace. Using that better than tripled the speed with which I could apply siding.

With winter fast approaching, It was time to build air chutes along the roof for ventilation. A flip comment from an inspector led to this handywork: Salvaged Thermax insulation from the neighbor's dumpster, cut to twenty-four inch widths, and put into place with drywall screws, serves the same purpose as prebuilt styrofoam air chutes. In the lower right of the last picture, you can see the metal brackets my dad fabricated for securing the above-window LVL to the posts.

I didn't have a lot of the thermax insulation, so I installed the bottom two feet of each homebrew air-chute before I ran out. Note the salvaged cedar shakes, and the relocated lumber pile. When you're putting six-inch studs above a four-inch wall, you need to cut some fill-in pieces. I'm sure they have a fancy name, but I just cursed and cut the danged things. Polyisocyanur insulation insulates well, but it STINKS. I ran out of thermax, and fell back on salvaged blue Dow styrofoam. See, Dirk? I DID use that stuff!

Since the rear (South) rafter space was only about twenty-inches wide, I knew that prebuilt chutes wouldn't work there. Hence, they got priority for being sealed up.

In order to safely use the full-size furnace which is installed in the garage (compliments of Lyle, the previous owner), we had to install a double-walled chimney. I cannot lie, my dad did pretty much all of that, while I ran around and sided and did other miscellaneous tasks. I put up the rest of the siding on the West side, and got his help putting up the F-channel for the Soffits.

In this view from the East and this view from the northwest, you can see the soffits have been installed, and sealed to the North. I still have to seal them on the south side, and get the south sided.

Insulation has suddenly become VERY important. It was snowing on us as we worked on Friday (Nov 2nd, 2007) getting the soffit installation finished. We weatherstripped the north window (using some Menards Jamb seal molding, which cost about $13 for a 9' length. We also installed some extremely high-technology window latches, one on each side of the window.

Still, even with the window now weatherstripped and the north side sporting a double-coat of cedar on the outside of the Tyvek, it was cold upstairs. There was a 4-inch wide, 24-inch deep gap between the big LVL which runs above the garage door and the north wall. This gap runs the entire width of the building. Some loose-fill cellulose, fluffed and installed by hand filled this gap, along with the strangely shaped spaces which were created by my retaining the original roofline (visible in the above pictures)

By the end of November 5th, the north wall was almost fully insulated, using a mixture of faced R-19 fiberglass batts, loose-fill cellulose, and even some homebrew cellulose (crosscut shredder + newspaper == insulation that fits odd spaces). The northeast side of the wall even got the internal vapor barrier applied, so that we could install one of our built-in dressers.

The next task was getting the window opening system finished. We really hadn't counted on how heavy the window was, nor realized that a single man couldn't really open it and latch it open at the same time. Using a pulley, some rope, and some antique harness clips, Dad and I (though he did most of the thinking) ginned up a functional system which allows one man to open the window and latch it open. Here's another view of the rig, and of the partially insulated NW wall.

We're already beginning to take advantage of the design's storage capacity.

* TO BE CONTINUED *

Major work completed:

Major work left:

Current EXTERNAL Status:


Status Updates

December 1, 2007 update

June 24th, 2008 update

July 6th, 2008 update

July 19th, 2008 update

July 24th, 2008 update

July 31st, 2008 update

August 3rd, 2008 update

December 1st, 2008 update