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Attic Update 1

May 5, 2010

Insert lame apology about the lack of posts here. And now that we have that out of the way…on to bigger and better things.

When I first told my dad about our plan to build an attic above the garage, he politely said that he was a little concerned that the existing structure might not have been built to support heavy loads.  I, politely, smiled back and said, “Oh, we’ll take care of that,” while in my head having absolutely no idea 1) what that really meant or 2) what we would have to do to fix it.

Enter my husband on a shining white horse.  No really—he drives a White ’66 Mustang…I’m one of the few women that can really say they were swept off their feet by their knight with a white pony.

While I was busy in New York and Kansas City (yes, bragging a little!), and Chris had a little time off from school (yes-we were like ships passing in the night since he has about 3 weeks off from school each year and I wasn’t home), he set to work.  As I pulled into the driveway after he had worked for two days straight, he said, “It might not look like much, but it was a lot of hard work.”  This is what I saw:

I was about to get a dose of reality when my help was recruited for the following weekend.  And, I’m pleased to announce that my “slave driver” husband did NOT live up to his name.  You can learn about how he got that moniker here.  While we worked from 9am-6pm, I was allowed bathroom breaks, food breaks, a phone call with my friend break, and then a quick “company is coming—vacuum fast!” break.  And, I was let off my shift promptly at 6 pm, though I thought it was generous that I ignored the fact that I worked past my scheduled shift which ended at 5:00 pm. 🙂

I highly doubt that anybody would read this post and expect to be able to build an attic as a result, but I’ll give some key tips, pointers, and anecdotes.  And of course, pictures—because that’s really what you care about!  So, for those of you not wanting to really read about how we did it, skip ahead to the “Key Things I Learned” for fun stories and pictures.

Tools: Tie Plates, Miter Saw, Framing Hammer, Standard Hammer, Framing Nails, Nails with Glue (they make those!), Hurricane Brackets, Corner Brackets, Level and of course—ladders!

Tools That Would be Useful for Next Time: A protractor (okay, I’m sure there is a “construction” equivalent…but we definitely needed one—more on that later!)

Basic Steps:

1)     Our existing garage supports ran across the two bay garage and lengthwise.  Between every two existing garage supports that ran across the bay, we placed one in the middle.  That was done by using a 12’ and a 8’ board, using tie plates and framing nails to tie the pieces of wood together. (Picture below is an example of tie plates on angled piece of wood that was used in step #2).

2)     After these boards were added, we built in supports going up and down.  The up and down supports then, by nature, were attached to the existing supports in the roof using tie plates at the top and then nailed to the 12’ or 8’ board at the bottom. (See “Key Things I learned” #2).

3)     Then we nailed supports going across from the existing boards into the new support boards. (In this picture, we also ended up moving the supports for the garage door).

4)     And it wouldn’t be a true home ownership project unless we were derailed, which we were upon discovering an existing roof support was warped and split in half (grrr…why don’t I have a picture of that?).  We had to run to Home Depot, purchase a new support, and then wield some manly and womanly muscle to lift the roof (yes…we went outside and it was sagging) and get a new support in place.  Amazed.  This probably added about 2-3 hours onto our project time as our brains struggled to figure out how to solve the problem, and our bodies struggled to implement the solution.

5)     While I was gone, Chris had built in a couple of supports and laid a couple of sheets of plywood.  He did this because he needed to get enough stuff off of the garage floor to actually be able to work.  We haven’t laid any more plywood yet because we still have 2 main supports to build—probably another day’s work.

6)     We also wired in electrical, and  I got to nail in the light holders and screw the holes for the electrical wire to be passed through.  With his great foresight, he also wired electrical into the attic and connected it to the garage switch—which means that if you come down from the attic and have forgotten to turn off the attic light, you can just turn off the garage light and the attic light will turn off as well.

7)     Don’t forget to leave a hole for access!

Key Things I learned:

1)     Let the hammer do the work.  I don’t have this perfected yet.  From working on Habitat for Humanity, I knew that you do not “choke up” on a hammer the way that you do on a bat for softball.  Instead, you should hold the hammer closer to the end and let it operate as a fulcrum.  Unfortunately, even while doing this, I seem to think that I need to “bang” with the hammer.  Trust me—it’s harder than it looks.  You should actually let the hammer “fall” on the nail to avoid sore muscles.  Plus, framing hammers seriously weigh like 15 pounds.

2)     It’s important to triangulate weight.  Read basic steps above if you’re interested.

3)     My husband is a patient man.  I can’t tell you how many times I threw up my hands in despair and wailed, “I’m not good at this!” He just kept teaching me and showing me.  He literally looked at me at one point and said, “It’s not like I was born knowing how to do this!”  I guess it’s a learning experience.

4)     I can build things and use a saw…without supervision.  Seriously.  I was pretty proud the first time I cut a board that was the right length.  For those of you that are observant readers, you’ll notice that I didn’t say “the first board I cut was the right length” but instead, “the first time that I cut a board that was the right length.”  Extrapolate from there. =)  Either way, I can successfully use a miter saw without supervision, and I still have ten fingers.  And…here’s a picture of how pro Chris is at using the saw!

5)     It’s possible to think outside of the box.  When we didn’t have anything to measure the angle that we needed to cut (see “Useful Tools for Next Time” section), I decided that I could take a piece of paper and fold it to the angle we needed, and then trace that angle onto the board that we were using.  Lest there be any doubt, I’m pretty darn clever (and modest, too).  It worked!!!!

We’ll still need to build those two other supports, lay and nail the plywood, and then drywall the whole bit.  We’ve got quite a few hours of work ahead of us…I’ll be back with updates!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    May 6, 2010 5:37 am

    WoW! Very impressive. And, HUGE kudos to Chris for his patience with you and the insight to let you know he too had to learn how to do it! You two will have a wealth of experience after all you are doing with and to this house. And what a blessing that you discovered the roof support that needed replacement – I can just imagine what a mess that could have been!
    Love you two.

  2. Jen permalink
    May 6, 2010 7:05 am

    Katie:
    You are too cute. I love your humor and wit in the post. I can imagine that your project was A LOT of work, but fortunately you have a great husband who is super handy. Can’t wait until you all get out here in about a month so you can give me some tips. Love you lots, and I am so proud of you two!
    –Jen

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