Beginning Again….Where Were We Anyway?

I can’t believe you’re back. It’s as if the whole idea of building a Hobbit house has mysteriously disappeared into this unending white out of winter in the Empire state. As Theoden stated”What can men do against such reckless hate!”

Thanks for bearing with me and the setback of winter. I never really expected it to be this bad for so long. It’s bad enough with all the snow but the cold has been a real downer. I have a pellet stove at my house and this is the first year that we have ever run out of pellets. My fault again. Terence told me we only had 6 bags left and I should have could have went to the store and picked up 10 bags or so. It’s funny when I picked up my original ton of pellets there were like tons and tons of pellets lined up at Tractor Supply. I’m thinkin’ there’s no way they are ever going to sell all of these pellets. Jim’s wrong again. Basically every wood pellet supplier in the Northeast is out and they have no idea when the next shipment will be in. Apparently when the last shipment came in there was a feeding frenzy and everything was sold out within a few hours. The lady at Tractor Supply said when the next shipment comes in they’re going to shoot a flare into the sky with a flare gun. You know like the ones they have on the cruise ship life boats. That sort of thing. So we’re all taking turns watching the skies to our south for the signal flare. We have a system in place. If the flare goes up the “watcher” immediately starts the car and sounds the alarm. The alarm is one of those horn in a can things. Then we arm ourselves and head over to Tractor Supply. (I wanted to use fire beacon alarms like they did in the Return of the King but nobody wanted to collect the firewood.)As you can tell this is pretty serious….my wife hates being cold. I think it went along the vein of ” I can’t believe I’m freezing in my own house!!!!” ( It wasn’t that cold though.)

A little concrete humor there. You do get used to the pellet stove. It really makes the house toasty. It’s 68 degrees in the living room right now and my wife is wearing a coat and scarf. I’m not kidding either.

Thank goodness the winter storm that’s coming Monday is going to be just south of us. Friday they were predicting 8-12 inches. That would have been a bummer.

What say yea? A Hobbit house to build? Let’s get restarted shall we? With any luck this winter will be ending soon and we’ll be able to shift it into a higher gear.

I’ve sort of been picking away at a couple of items now and again nothin’ to write home about so I haven’t. I worked about 6 hours or so Saturday and that was really satisfying. So what I figured I’d do is just get back into the swing of building again and showing you the finer points of Hobbit house building.

So if we go way way back you’ll remember I was last working on the corner extensions of the house. The initial framing was done on two of them but since then I have completed 3 of four. The fourth being the dreaded Northeast Corner which I’m hoping to tackle next weekend God willing. Here it is in all it’s wretched glory.

The Dreaded Northeast Corner rears its ugly head yet again.
The Dreaded Northeast Corner rears its ugly head yet again.

This is definitely going to be a challenge. Anyway, I wanted to complete the decking on each corner 100% before moving to the next one. I completed the southeast corner after work over the last couple of weeks, and so today I wanted to finish the two west corners north and south. Check out this picture. See anything wrong with it?

What's wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong with this picture?

The first thing that’s wrong with this picture is that I took a bad picture. Its taken too close. But, if you look closely you can see that the plywood side is raised up above the snow encrusted 4×4. The 4×4 is level…. A little background. When I originally framed  this I used a 4×4 that was only about 32 inches long. I forgot when I was doing this that we are going to need something to stand on when we pour the concrete. So I switched out the 4×4 with one that was 5 foot 4 inches long. (You get three for one if you cut them this length out of a 16 foot stringer…. There’s a method to my madness if you will.) Anyway that turns out to be a good length. I can get the support I need and fit two planks and a protection bracket on the 4×4 as well. So when I put the longer one in and leveled it the plywood side wasn’t even close to coming in contact with it. That’s a problem. The 4×4 is what is going to take the weight of the concrete when we pour so the plywood side is supposed to sit on the 4×4. How do we get the plywood frame to stay down? Hmmmm.

I think what happened is we had an ice expansion beneath the leg supporting the 4×4. When the water froze it expanded and pushed the whole framing system up into the air about an inch plus or minus. When I tried to pull it down with my body weight it came down a bit but there was no way I was going to be able to keep it in the right place. (I went to the store and bought a king sized Twix bar and downed that…but it still wasn’t enough.) What to do. It was then my eye spied a small piece of friendly banding wire sticking out of the concrete footing! (Buried beneath the snow but actually waving at me nonetheless.)

Friendly piece of banding wire attached to the footing.
Friendly piece of banding wire attached to the footing.

Banding wire, tensioner, crimper. That’s the ticket. I would attach a longer piece of banding wire to the piece sticking out of the footing wrap it around the plywood and use the tensioner to “pull” the plywood down onto the 4×4 where it needs to go. Once it’s in place I’ll just use the crimpers to secure the banding wire exactly where I want it. It worked like a charm. Check it out.

Pulling the plywood into place with the banding wire.
Pulling the plywood into place with the banding wire.

So once I had everything level it was a simple matter of  putting in the 2×4’s and decking out with the 1/2 inch plywood.

Southeast corner : Protction in and 2x4 framing installed.
Southeast corner : Protection in and 2×4 framing installed.

This picture shows you how important the planking is. It’s always better to have a good base to work off of. It makes everything easier and, more importantly, a whole lot safer as well. After this I nailed off the plywood. Which sounds really simple but in this situation is really not as easy as it seems. At this junction we have a plywood deck with tight seams. So when we nail our plywood down we want the plywood seam as tight as possible…. Get it…. Got it…. Good. We also want, however, to have the joint between the plywood and the existing retaining wall to be as tight as possible as well. (This way we have little to no drippings coming through that joint.) Anyone who tells you it’s easy to get everything plumb, square and level hasn’t done a lot of construction. It’s close but it’s not perfect. This means we’ll have to scribe the plywood into place. Scribing plywood is really not that difficult you just have to take your time and it means an extra trip up and down the ladder. I’ve seen Norm do it on “This Old House” but for the uninitiated they’re so quick you’ll miss the finer points. Maybe next week I’ll take a couple of pictures of how I do it. Here’s a shot of the finished product.

Southeast Corner decked out.
Southeast Corner decked out.

 You can see the joint at the retaining wall is pretty tight. I also checked the spandrel sides at this point to see if the curvature of the roof is aligned properly. That’s why that 1×4 is nailed to the deck. So I was able to get both the north and south sides done which was great. I’m really looking forward to getting going again. I might have the Crash brothers give me a hand next week to prep for the following weekend.

Definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! Have a great week!


…..And in his underground fortress of Angband, Morgoth’s plan was nearing completion. He had not forgotten his defeat at the Dreaded Northeast Corner and his wrath would soon be unleashed….on the Free Folk of Middle Earth.

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