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high desert. small house.

Days 93-96: The Solar Overhang

A day of shopping and decision making.  We did a ton of research on pocket doors for the bathroom and finally ordered the knocked-down frame and pre-primed jamb.  We have been talking about the door for awhile now so it was good to get it out of the way.

The big hangup: We went back and forth on size – if we went with a small door (24″ wide), we’d maximize wall space; but a 30-36″ door would also an easier entrance for wider shoulders and visitors.  We only have one interior room, which has 3 walls exposed to put furniture against.  One wall will be for the kitchen counter, one for the piano and the other will have the door to enter the bathroom.  So a shelf, mirror, dresser, etc, only has a few feet available to go against/on.  Yes, we have the entire rest of the house as well, but we’d like to keep those walls relatively unassigned so they can have flexible use (i.e. tiger training sessions, backflip practice, frisbee, yoga class, etc).

We decided on Johnson’s 24″ wide door and upgraded to ball bearing hangers and a third stud via (the third stud makes the wall more solid in the door pocket area).

We also started investigating the solar overhang for the front (south side) of the house.  Instead of having an overhang for the door and a separate one for the windows, we are going to make use of the extra 15′ roofing panel that the crew left behind and make one large overhang.  We used handy internet tools to calculate the dimensions and placement necessary to get the most sun in the winter and least in the summer (links below).

Brian bought supplies after work, namely the 14GA 1.5″ slotted galvanized angle iron from Tractor Supply for the framing that the metal roofing sheet will attach to.  By the time we arrived at the property that evening, we were low on light.  We contemplated whether we’d be able to create the overhang before we lost all light and decided it was unlikely.  We called it a night.

More investigation into the overhang.  We discovered we had last used the online tool with the default (incorrect) latitude.  The correct latitude created an advantageous light situation  – Being near the equator makes it much easier to design a solar overhang that really does give you the ideal shade/gain balance year-round.

We bought a few more lengths of angle iron but decided to play hookey.  Since the Buckhorn Saloon will close in February (a truly sad development for the culinary life of Silver City), we decided to meet up with friends for a nice meal.

By the way, the two sites we have been using to work out the solar overhang are –
This website allows you to play with different window dimensions and solar overhang dimensions given a particular latitude, time of year and time of day.  As you adjust the season, you can see how the shadow changes.
A quick right angle calculator that solves for all angles and lengths given any two inputs.  Great for designing braces out of slotted angle iron when you require a certain slope and overhang.

After work, Brian started to prep the south face for the solar overhang.  He cut down the angle iron so they’d be the correct size for the braces.  He also determined where the end braces for the overhang would go and made additional 2×6 studs for their attachment.  Before installing the studs, he (finally) got to use the oscillating tool to finesse their angled ends for a beautiful connection to the arched rib.

We ended the evening by vacuuming off the remaining rolls of insulating, tidying up and watching Robin Hood.

Sunday was devoted entirely to the attachment of the solar overhang.  We double-checked our triangle math, cut the metal braces to the correct angles, constructed a brace at ground-level to check for issues, took it apart and finally secured it on the house.

First overhang brace complete, moving on to the center.

First overhang brace complete, moving on to the center.

While Brian worked atop the ladder, I brought him the next element in the brace creation. Having two people makes tasks move much faster.

While Brian worked atop the ladder, I brought him the next element in the brace creation. Having two people makes tasks move much faster.  This is my work table – butyl rubber roll, washers, metal braces and other tidbits.

Braces complete!

Braces for the solar overhang complete!

After all three braces had been securely attached, we decided to run home for a bathroom-snack-butter coffee break.  Unfortunately, we got hung up for about 1.5 hours due to the washer in our sink faucet deciding it was time to overcompress.  Our hot water wouldn’t turn off!  We called our apartment lady to come look at it and ultimately decided that we would worry about it later and get back to the solar overhang.  We turned the water off at the inlet source and went on our merry way.

Brian doesn’t share my ladder concerns but I found hoisting the giant piece of metal roofing material to be very nerve-wracking.  We each stood on a side of the ladder and using grip strength and shoulder strength, pulled the damn thing up with us.  The 15′ x 3′ piece of metal was between the ladder and the house.  The goal was to pull it up alongside the ladder, to the top of it, hoist it above our heads and then lay it on the braces.  Then one of us would hold it in place while the first self-drilling screws were placed.

Being high up was not the scariest part, per se.  It was having this heavy, floppy, wind-catching object pressing between the braces and the ladder.  My fear was that it was going to push us or the ladder over and like an episode of the Three Stooges, we’d go crashing to the ground.  The metal is very thin and challenging to grip so there is only so much brute force one can use.  It was an exercise in balance, strength and precision to get it up there.

We got it onto the braces and found the ends to be slightly too long.  Scary episode number two – metal sheet reverses off braces.  We got it down, cut the ends and then back up the ladder.  This time I pushed from the bottom and Brian pulled from the top.  Then I met him at the top with the impact driver and we secured the sheet to the center brace.

Working with such a large floppy object made it difficult to quickly establish level and center.  With the slightest movement the center brace would move left or right and until two screws were in place, the roofing panel might rotate.  The attachment process wasn’t without an f bomb or two.

We finished that at 5:15 and then, as if a race gun had gone off, we fled the scene.  The hardware store was scheduled to close at 5:30 and we still had to take the faucet apart to see what size the washer was.

I got to the hardware store at 5:24 and Brian texted me the image at 5:30.  I had hid in the back where I couldn’t be easily kicked out.  When the store clerk asked me if I needed help (and also made sure I knew they were closing), I quickly showed him the picture and said, “This!  I need this!”

After purchasing the washer, grabbing the week’s food supplies, making dinner and fixing the faucet, it was nearly 8:00pm.  We didn’t get to the furring strips yet but we will soon.

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

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