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high desert. small house.

Days 73-75: Finishing the Flattening

For most people, Friday evening is the start of the weekend and more time can be taken away from sleep for leisure activities (or building a house).  For some reason, every Friday, we go into house mode thinking we can stay up late and make super progress.  But after a few hours, it always dawns on us that the next day is still a 4:45am wake-up.  It’s nice to realize the house project is still so engaging that we want to spend all of our time on it.

Anyway, we put in a few hours before the requisite bedtime.  One corner that the floorsman had sanded could have been taken lower.  Brian had seen this and signed off on it, thinking it was within spec at the time.  However, when we swept the corner using our borrowed wood beam, there was just too much area to fill between the center (reference) and the corner (little too high).  If the corner was knocked down to the reference height in the center, then the layers of fill needed would be less.

Thus, we mapped out the corner area of highness and then started mapping out low areas.  It was SO easy to do with the new straight edge!  As the light dimmed, we mapped out a big low spot that existed near the high corner.  Then off to bed.

Big fat lizard visitor at the shack.

Big fat lizard visitor at the shack.

With the installation of the underlayment in sight, we applied ourselves to the floor with gusto.  Upon arriving after work, we sanded down the high corner, vacuumed the whole house, double-checked our previously marked low spot and then got started with the roofing felt.

We described our flattening process in a few earlier posts (Days 49-55 & Days 56-57) and you probably felt some of our frustration with the do-overs and slow progress.  Well, forget about that!  Having the flooring guy knock down all the high spots (he removed ~35 lbs of material, by the way) made the rest of the work very straightforward.

We swept the wood beam in a circle from the center point, mapped out the low zones, cut roofing felt and then attached it with tiny wire nails.  Once an area was complete, we checked it with the beam and added more felt if necessary.  By the end of Saturday, we had filled in most of the northern most third of the house.

Prior to calling it a night, we uncovered our stack of plywood that has been outside for more than a month (boy, did we miscalculate how soon we’d need it), assessed the boards that had been in contact with the tarp to check for water damage (thank goodness – only one corner had some moisture due to a small hole in the stupid tarp) and then moved everything inside the house.  We spread the boards out inside the house, leaning against the ribs and cross beams, to allow any moisture to dry out.


Northern-most third of house with low spots filled in.  The plywood against the wall is the underlayment.

With enthusiasm, we attacked the rest of the floor project and we finished filling the low spots.   With such instant gratification to the fill process, it was actually fun and easy to keep going.  The hardest part was the fatigue on our joints that resulted from holding a pose for an extended periods of time.  Brian squatted the whole time because he’s amazingly mobile.  I alternated between squatting, sitting on my bum, kneeling, half squatting and bending from the waist.

We had one unfortunate surprise.  Around midday, we visited the hardware store to pick up more roofing felt, nails and chalk (used to map).  When selecting our 30 lb roofing felt, we had to switch to what that particular store had available.  When we were investigating the brands, we noticed there was a 30 lb fiberglass felt and we made sure to select the option that was not that.

Second roll of roof felt

Second roll of roof felt – Tamko Super X 30 Underlayment – marketed as an alternative to the usual asphalt saturated paper version of roofing felt.  In terms of thickness, weight and workability, we prefer the standard Tamko No. 30 ASTM D4869 premium roofing felt over the SuperX 30.  The only upside of the SuperX 30 seemed to be that there’d be no tar accumulation on the blade of the utility knife used to cut it.

Later, upon re-commencing work at the house, we realized that the felt we just got was maybe a little thinner than our original stock.  It wasn’t the end of the world, but it did require some modification of our approach.  Additionally, AFTER having nailed down the rest of the felt, we both felt like we had a few splinters in our hands.  Upon closer investigation, we realized it wasn’t wood; it was fiberglass!  Because they had stored or transported the new felt near the fiberglass versions, there was fiberglass all over the roll we brought back.

My hands were (and still are) encrusted with fiberglass.  For that roll, Brian did most of the cutting and I did most of the nailing.  That meant I was close to the floor, with my hands all over the paper.  Not only that, but because I SIT and KNEEL while working, I had fiberglass in the backs of my thighs and in my knees.  When I later had to reassemble my ponytail, pulling my hair up felt like I was breaking chips for a taco salad; except that the chips were made of glass.  It was terrible!

We attempted to get the fiberglass out of our hands by rolling butyl rubber around, hoping the chewing-gum like material would suck the splinters out.  It kind of worked but didn’t get everything.

Northwest corner with roof felt - you can see the blue lines indicating the next layer needed. On some spots in that corner, we had to nail down 6 layers of fill!

Northwest corner with roof felt – you can see the blue lines indicating the next layer needed. On some spots in that dark corner, we had to nail down 6 layers of fill!

We ended the night by laying a piece of our underlayment plywood down and figuring out where we wanted our first board to be – striving to minimize the amount of cuts we’d have to do while also overlapping the seams appropriately.  We were excited to attach a board and determine how long each one would take (with us screwing in one screw every 6″ – about 130 screws per board).  Unfortunately, after attaching two screws we realized our 1.25″ star-drive screws did not have enough thread to bite their way fully through the subfloor below.  We confirmed that the length was a problem by driving in one of our 2″ star-drive screws relentlessly without ever stripping.

Southwest corner with roof felt complete. Upon sweeping this portion of the house, we were excited to find that large sections of floor were perfectly flat and needed no additional work.

Southwest corner with roof felt complete. Upon sweeping this portion of the house, we were excited to find that large sections of floor were perfectly flat and needed no additional work.

Southeast corner with roof felt complete.

Southeast corner with roof felt complete.

The screw experiment concluded our work and we drove off to buy groceries and take care of normal Sunday chores.  It was perfect timing as the lunar eclipse was under way.  What an awesome sight!

Deer spy on our north hill. Hey deer!

Deer spy on our north hill. Hey deer!

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

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