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high desert. small house.

Days 101-103: Second run of furring strips

First things first – purchase a wheelbarrow.

More gravel slinging while Brian finished up the caulking.  We then spent some time inside the house, attempting to determine how much overlap the crew had done between the sheets of insulation so that we could replicate it with the inside layer.

Using the scaffold, ladder and a flexible yard stick, we measured the length of a curved rib from the floor to the top.  It was 247 inches or ~20.5 feet.  There are 3.5 sheets of insulation that run from the top to the bottom and each sheet is 77 inches tall.  That means ~269.5 inches worth of insulation (77 inches x 3.5 sheets) have been attached in a space that can accommodate 247 inches worth of material.  The difference (269.5-247) is 22.5 inches – the total amount of material overlapping at the seams.  Since there are 3 seams, that means each seam is overlapped by about 7.5 inches.

Measuring the rib length on the ladder (on the scaffolding) was our first go-round at extending our reach.  It’s a little unnerving to see Brian doing a back-bend, on a ladder, on scaffolding, way over my head.  For the next course we will cut the furring strips down so we attach them between the cross beams, reducing the span we have to hold and giving us more control.

We will also have to cut the insulation at the points were the cross beams attach to the metal ribs.  After brainstorming these new tasks, we called it a night.

Before doing anything more with the furring strips, we had to do a mini-clean session.  We had to install the first two furring strips on the west side, which would be accessible from ground level.  After that, we’d have to use the scaffolding.  And scaffolding doesn’t work so great when the floor is littered with boxes of screws, empty boxes, caulk guns, tools, garbage, etc.

We also vacuumed the entire floor because there were still mud clods and rocks all over from the last storm.  We didn’t want the wheels of the scaffold to roll around and snag on them.

With a clean house and eager attitude, we immediately…..left to grab something to eat.  With Buckhorn closing soon, we have been branching out and revisiting places we tried when we first moved here.  We grabbed burritos and enchiladas from La Cocina – tasty, a little too spicy but great value.  The ‘pico de gallo’ was more like ‘chopped raw jalapeno salad’.

Upon arriving back at the house, we started patching rips and tears on the west wall of insulation.  Then, while Brian tackled caulking the lower seams, I started cutting pieces of tape to cover the overlaps on the outside layers of insulation (in order to minimize air movement in the insulating cavity between foil layers).  Because the insulation is interrupted by the metal ribs every 2 feet, this meant cutting 12 pieces per strip of insulation – 36 per side or 72 total.  We made the mini-mistake of installing the insulation on the first side prior to sealing the overlaps, so I then had to do a mega cookie-jar-reach behind the insulation to get to the seams.  I learned my lesson and sealed the overlaps on the second wall prior to us installing the new sheet of insulation.

With the walls cleaned up and the caulking done, we rolled out a sheet of insulation and started the roll insulation centering process.  While Brian finessed it, I started sealing the seams on the next run of insulation.  This required some fear conquering – I had to use the ladder on top of the scaffolding (see featured image at the top of post).  I later tried it with just a higher scaffolding surface, no ladder, and it felt much safer.  It’s kind of fun because you can use the cross beams (and unlocked scaffolding wheels) to ‘surf’ around the house.

We attached the insulation to the ribs and then installed the furring strips – one 16′ piece, cut a 7′ piece, then the next 16′ piece, and then the final 7′ piece.

The next run of insulation, on either side, will require muchos cutting to accommodate the cross beams.

Brian caulking the endcap to create a good air seal.

Brian caulking the endcap to create a good air seal.  Notice feet are on second-to-last step.

Brian on the top of the ladder. *gulp*

Brian on the top of the ladder. *gulp*

Full ladder shot of caulking the end cap.

Full ladder shot of caulking the end cap.  You can see the taped seams and the caulk lines.  And wow, what a clean floor and organized wall area!

Taping seams on the ladder-scaffold setup.

Taping seams on the ladder-scaffold setup.

View of east wall from atop the scaffold in the northwest corner.

View of east wall from atop the scaffold in the northwest corner.

We woke early, genuinely excited to figure out the cross beam puzzle.  I went to the house first, unloaded everything (3 tables, the extra 2x4s, the extra wood we store inside, the wheelbarrow and the curtains).  After some frisbee and chase time with the dogs, I returned to the house and retrieved Brian.

These are the tables we use to hold and cut the 16' 2x4's. Everything goes in at night and out when we're working.

These are the tables we use to hold and cut the 16′ 2×4’s. Everything goes in at night and out when we’re working.

It dawned on us that, with such a large work window, we could get several of the door trim paint coats completed.  Thus, we cut the trim and I primed the ends.  Coat 1 done.  In case you don’t recall from the earlier trim painting post, each trim piece requires primer on the cut ends, two coats on all surfaces facing up, is flipped and then gets two coats on the back side.  We put the trim on the wheelbarrow and parked it on the north side in the shade.

At some point prior to starting the insulation challenge, we shot spray foam into all of the cross beams to block air flow from the inside of the walls.

At some point prior to starting the insulation challenge, we shot spray foam into all of the cross beams to block air in-flow from the inside of the foil cavity.

Once inside, we began to readdress the puzzle of installing the next layer.  We had several options – cut the insulation above the height of the cross beams, then install it in two strips (one below, one above).  Or cut vertical strips and install them in between the cross beams.  Or cut slits that straddle the cross beams.  This option would require the least amount of sealing/repairing with tape.

We went with the latter, but prior to starting, we staged our furring strips.  We measured the space between each cross beam, cut the wood and set the pieces near where they would be installed.

Brian went up on the scaffolding with a roll of insulation and unrolled it on top of the cross beams.  I pushed him along like a kid in a grocery cart (or ‘carriage’ as they say in Manchester, CT).  Back on the ground, we pulled on the ends and measured the material hanging down to establish a rough idea of center.

Then, knowing we wanted 6″ of overlap between strips of insulation and that the previous run of insulation was 24″ below the cross beam, we measured 30 ” (6+24) along the insulation and drew a line.  We did this on all four cross beams, clamped the insulation in place, and finally, using a utility knife, slit the insulation almost the whole way to the edge.  We left about an inch so the sheet wouldn’t collapse until we were ready.

At that point, the only thing left to do was finish the cuts, remove the clamps, allow the insulation to fall way from the cut points (at which point it’s straddling the cross beams), gently lift it up and attach it to the wall.  [The pictures below should help clarify what we were doing.]

With the insulation taped in place, we centered the scaffolding on the wall, hoisted up the longest furring strip and two spacers and then secured the furring strip in place.  We attached the other four furring strips and took a breather.

After getting the dogs for feed time, we started on the next run of furring strips.  Now that we were above the cross beams, we were back to a 16′ piece plus a 7′ piece.  Unfortunately, we realized that the requisite 4′ spacing between furring strips put the next run right at the top of the insulation.  This eliminates the option for an overlap with the next piece of insulation.

What we decided to do was install the furring strips (in order to keep the insulation in place) but only use two screws per peice.  Then we’ll put the next run of insulation up, remove the furring strips, align the new piece of insulation to create a 6″ overlap and then reattach the furring strips.

It was a good work weekend.  We hit some rough patches along the way but they made the successful moments all the more exciting.

A few challenges –

  • Now that we’re working high up, the spacers (that we put between furring strips to obtain 4′ on center) seem to strive to fall out and go crashing to the ground.  Each time this happens, we have to undo all the prep we’ve created (getting into position with wood and tools), climb down the ladder/scaffolding, retrieve the wood and climb back up.  If we’re lucky, the spacer doesn’t rip the insulation during the fall.  Going forward, the spacers will be always be tacked in place.
  • Working high up is challenging – for spacing, stability and pressure on the impact driver.  We lock the wheels on the scaffolding so Brian can still lean with his body weight into the screw.  But it isn’t the same as working on the ground.  Additionally, putting the longer furring strips up are difficult because we are trying to hold the 2×4, balance on the ladder, hold the spacer in place and use the driver.
  • Everything we did over the weekend was done at the highest A-frame position on the ladder and the tallest position on the scaffolding.  The next step is probably going to be ladder on scaffold, with both of us on the ladder.  *bites fingernails*


We used...

We unrolled the insulation on top of the cross beams and used one of our tables to prevent it from sagging in the center.  The sheets are so large and unruly that centering it is super challenging.  The table idea was a real breakthrough.

After we unrolled the insulation on top of the cross beams, we centered it and then secured it in place with clamps on either end.

After centering, we secured the ends in place with clamps.  In order to prevent damage to the insulation, there is a small block of wood between the clamp and insulation.


We drew a 30″ line from the base of the insulation to the point where the cross beam would sit.  Then Brian cut the slits using the utility knife.  The last one inch was left until all 4 slits were cut.


One the four slits were cut, we carefully freed one.  We were testing the setup to see if the insulation shifted in a dangerous way.


We cut the two center slits first since the insulation was mostly supported by the table.  (You can see the little pieces of tape we have staged on the scaffold – we learned how helpful the tape prep was from an earlier insulation layer.)

The collapse starts

Once we cut the far right slit, the collapse started.  Now we had to be speedy and get the final cut done and get up on the ladder/scaffold to lift up and fix in place.

Insulation straddle

One we cut and lifted the insulation, it mostly fell into place.  We had to do some gentle rotation to get the top and bottom aligned but overall, the cross beams were quite helpful in maintaining center.  The reflective nature of the insulation makes details difficult to discern, but you can kind of see our 6″ overlap.

The second sheet is attached!

The second sheet is attached!  Each metal rib is connected to the sheet with a small piece of tape.  We put a 16′ 2×4 against the bottom to prevent the sheet from billowing out.


The 16′ 2×4 is still against the wall but you can also make out another 2×4 between the cross beams.  That was our first furring strip.  Then we did the two to the left and Brian is now prepping for the two to the right.

For a full summary of our experience with Arched Cabins, please read Arched Cabin Summary.


  1. Tables and ladders on a scaffolding is a very dangerous combinations..

    • Yes I agree. I wish little fairies would fly up and just finish the high stuff for us. I think we’re going to make scaffolding so we have a higher (yet still stable) platform. Figuring that all out is today’s project.

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