No Freakin Clue
When I gave Randy the dimensions for laying the foundation block, I failed to take into consideration the 2” wide header board we would be lag bolting to the home up there. This was going to push the structure 2” out past the edge of the front knee wall. No good. Panic! I mean we really haven't even gotten started and I find a screw up like this?! You can't just pick up and move the foundation and knee wall.
I called Randy…my go-to guy. He didn’t even have to come look. He just said, well cut out part of the 2x4 frame on the house and inset the header board! Construction guys. Think they know it all. He said this would be a simple task! He must have had a hangover and was forgetting who he was addressing. No projects of mine are simple tasks.
Funny thing is...lagging that big header board inside there probably made the house a hell of a lot stronger!
But this was one of the few moments where we might actually have talked over the plan before trying to execute it…or Harold agreeing with me that he also had no effing clue what do to next! Believe me. There were many such moments! But we were driven. Driven I tell you!
But this was most likely just one of many times where I sat back and thought: "Damn! There is a lot of shit to do and I don't have a clue for any of it." Like being deep in a cave and your only flashlight goes out.
Now…while my header board placement may have started out a fiasco, it actually worked out to be the better solution. Everything is now flush and later made putting down flashing and the siding much easier and professional looking. So some mistakes happen to work out. I wasn’t always this lucky though.
One Piece At A Time
I didn’t realize this at the time, but messing with this drip edge should have sent up some red flags. Obviously this is not all one continuous piece laid out. They had to be cut and fitted. These pieces were to overlap each other by several inches. This is not a perfect seam and it creates a gap where the structure will sit on this. Silicone sealant does not last forever and it can shrink. Water/moisture will take advantage of any weakness you provide. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have purchased the redwood. I would have used 100% recycled plastic lumber. I am now a huge fan of this.
I had no references for this at all. The company claims that many people use their 3/4 seasons rooms as greenhouses. But I doubt that they understand what this really entails. A sunroom is meant to be dry and cozy…not a high moisture environment. People utilizing a sunroom don’t go around spraying garden hoses inside them either…or any number of other things that cause moisture. I was liberally applying the silicone where needed too. But water and moisture is persistent and most often will win any battle.
Steady…steady now! Don’t let it drift dammit! That was pretty much the conversation for each of these things. Thankfully, one never got away from us. See the bracket up on the header board. There will be a total of nine across there. Each one has to be spaced just right in order for the glass panels to fit on top of the structure properly. Want to know how many times I measured before drilling and lagging them into the header? I would rather not divulge that number if you don’t mind.
I get chills thinking back to the number of times I nearly walked off the end of the scaffold. Tired, out of patience, and hurrying every move, your attention span starts to wan. Normally there were things below to break my fall…such as the grill, saw horses, ladders, various power tools. You know…things to help cushion the fall. Luckily I never did. Can’t count the number of times I raised up and connected with one of those damn beams either…probably can’t count because of the number of times I connected!
This was not only time for a breather, but a pow-wow on how to get that center beam in place. I wanted the sliding door in front and this caused a major restructure of the plans. There was nothing in the instruction book that covered this and we could not figure out exactly what the blueprints wanted us to do here. So the job was pretty much finished for the day...minus that middle beam.
I mean...you watch what he began doing and you're like "shit"! I see what they wanted now. Oh well. I might still be sitting out there scratching my head.
Didn't matter that I was making progress. The boxes never seemed to empty and there was always more pages to turn in the instruction manual. This was my world all summer. All weekend long. After work. No breaks.
Keep in mind that my wife was out there helping me for much of this project. Extra hands, fetching tools, measuring, reading the instruction booklet and yelling advice...sometimes curses. And speaking of fetching tools.
I mentioned earlier that I was pretty tired of climbing up and down the ladder and/or the scaffold. There was an afternoon where both of us were out there working. I was atop the scaffold and needed a tool. I hollered down to Bee to ask her to grab it for me. She hustled right up and I keep working. Damn if I didn’t need something else ten minutes later. This went on for a few more times. Now in all fairness, I’m not a professional and I was sometimes a little lax at thinking the entire process thru and what all I might need. Well…it started to dawn on me that my wife’s fetching was getting slower and slower. This last time I needed a tool, I noticed that the retrieval time of said tool had slowed down by quite a bit. I mean slowed down to the point where it was painfully obvious that the tool fetching had come to an end. Sort of pissed me off at the moment but when I watched her mosey her way to the tools, it became pretty damn funny. And we still have a good laugh about it today. I’m just a little more hesitant to ask her to go get me a tool!
He knew what he had to do and Harold and I knew...yeah, right! You all know better than that by now! All was fine until Dave started attacking the side of the house with the reciprocating saw. We could feel the throbbing and vibrations outside up on the structure. Thought we had done something and the house was coming down!
You need to understand that we all work together and give each other shit constantly. Bee would keep asking him if he knew what he was doing. Dave would just respond “yeah, pretty much…but it’s not my house”! His job went faster and smoother than ours and the only one who seemed stressed out was my wife!
And what about my inspections from the city? So far, we’ve been passing them with flying colors. The only ones left are the final for the structure and the electrical inspection. How could they not be impressed?
But we were really cruising thru these panels. No way in hell could I have made such progress without my brother there that day. It was most definitely a two person job.
There's Mandi in the shade bored out of her mind. Poor girl. But, when Bee wasn't running around helping me, she was out in the yard with Mandi or taking her for walks.
Would I do it again? Hell no! I’m into September before we got the actual structure completed. I now have to get an electrical permit. This is another nightmarish process and actually separate from the structure itself. I had to write up all the plans and draw pictures of everything we were doing for the electric out there. And there was to be plenty!
A greenhouse controller would monitor temperature and humidity. It would open and close one window and two vent fans in the ceiling. The top would open up and the fans would then kick on to draw out hot air. This worked in coordination with the automatic window…which would open first to allow the ceiling vents to draw in fresh air.
There was to be a ceiling fan with light in the middle as well as outlets and spot lights. Two large circulating fans were mounted in opposing corners and would run 24/7 forever. Then there were outlets in the knee wall. One outlet was dedicated for the misting motor. All of this electric ran behind the header board up on the house, down to the knee wall, and then all of the wires would run under the structures aluminum tray into the basement…on both sides.
The electrical inspection? The dude came out, looked at the professional and clean job that my cousin did just out in the greenhouse, and said he didn’t even have to look at what we did in the basement! Sweet!
Well, it’s now time for the final inspection. We are in the process of having the house completely resided and any wood trim covered up with aluminum…tired of painting anything. When I got home from work one afternoon. I saw a completely different type of paper taped to our sliding glass door. Instead of a white slip stating that the inspection was approved, there was a pink one with a number of things listed on it.
To say I was pissed would be a big understatement. Here are some of the items listed:
- The extension piece I had put in for the header board had to be covered up. Could not be bare wood. Well no shit Sherlock! I guess the blind SOB failed to see a team of effing people putting new siding on the house and had just not gotten to that part yet.
- The stairs leading into our home could not be temporary ones. Didn’t know what this had to do with the “greenhouse” structure, but okay.
- Here’s the kicker. I needed an engineer to sign off that the structure would support a certain snow and wind load and that it was okay to tie it into the home. Now this one really got my nuts in a vice! If they fucking needed this, why the hell didn’t they ask for this before they ever approved of my design??!!!! They knew damn well that the structure was attached to the home. You don’t ask whether the structure is secure after the damn thing is completed!
So I pretty much made the replies above onto that little pink slip the guy left…minus all the cuss words of course, and called for another inspection. The next guy that came out was a little more sympathetic and understanding. He explained about the steps. While not a part of the greenhouse itself, we still needed a more permanent solution in order to get past the final inspection.
He waved off the extension piece knowing the siding company would take care of that. As for the engineer sign offs? He agreed with me that if there was a problem with this structure being attached to the home, then those questions would have been raised in the beginning. But getting the snow and wind loads were necessary. Shit.
I went back and forth with Sunshine Rooms and in the end got them to provide engineering specs to cover the city’s concerns. This was a booklet made up of about a million calculations and all sorts of incomprehensible jargon. But it stroked the city planners like they wanted and that’s all that mattered to me.
I brought my buddy Randy back to put me in some awesome steps too.
Judgment day arrives and I must have scored the same inspector who came out the last time because we got the approval this time around! Yeah!! Knowing I was done with the city was an incredible feeling.
Yes, I completed it. There were a number of issues, lots of stress, loss of sleep, loss of sanity, and loss of time. Time I won't get back. Time spent working when I could have been out there playing with my girl Mandi. We lost her before the next summer and knowing I completely wasted this summer still haunts me today. I would gladly spent that $17K or more to have had that summer to do over again.
I am proud of the accomplishment though. It certainly challenged my meager skills. Would I do it again? I answered this already and again the answer is "hell no"! If I learned anything from this project, it is that time spent with friends, loved ones, or just oneself is much more important than money.
So my advice to anyone wanting to build such a structure on their own:
- Make sure you have the ability...and the time to waste. If not, hire it out.
- Take the time and research every exact thing you want.
- Don't attach it to your home unless you make some major commitments to keeping moisture out of your home.
- And think about moisture when you design and build. It will not forget you.
- Hire it out. Oh yeah...I said that already.