Monday, July 28, 2014

The Bat Shed

The Completed Shed and Side Yard
This project started in August of last year, although I didn't know it at the time. In early September Christina told me she was pregnant and that all my stuff would have to move out of the office, now nursery, and into storage/the garage. I had been pondering this eventuality for some time, and I knew that I wanted to try and build a shed to act as a spare room, office, and man cave all at once.


Initial layouts and placement options
I began seriously thinking about the shed in December of last year. At that point I knew I wanted it to be roughly 100 SF, have a wooden foundation, and I wanted to build it myself. I considered multiple configurations including options with clerestory windows, french doors, and skylights. After discussions with my mother, an architect by training, I decided to simplify the layout and go with a simple lean-to roof with a relatively shallow pitch (being in Southern California torrential rains and snow are not a serious concern). I surveyed our lot and picked two locations for placement: in the yard off of the master bedroom, and on the patio off the kitchen. After considering the loss of usable yardage and difficulty of locating utilities to the yard I settled on a spot off the kitchen on the existing patio slab.

The basic final layout of the shed
In order to make certain this shed would be as legal as possible I trolled the internet for guidelines on the California and Ventura County Building Codes. I found some good news: any structure that's less than 120SF, and is not intended for residency (i.e. no bathroom/kitchen), does not require a permit and all associated headaches that go along with that. The only concern was adhering to the city's property line requirements. I made a trip to city hall, spoke with the planning department, and found what I needed. If the structure was 8' tall or less it had to be 18" from the property line, and greater than that would require locating it 36" from the property line. With that settled, I began to do the serious work of reading up on construction methods, general code/building practices, putting a Bill of Materials/budget together, and determining what tools I would need.

It Begins

The final design would be as follows: sitting on concrete block caps mortared to the existing patio, pressure treated (PT) 2x6's and PT plywood would make the foundation. A standard 2x4 framed structure would go on top of the foundation and be capped with a 3/12 pitched roof with standard asphalt shingles. A single door and two windows would provide entrance/egress and ventilation. Now all was left was to buy the material and build the thing.

On March 8th I drove up to my alternate Home Depot (the preferred location didn't carry PT wood), purchased about $1000 of lumber, rented a truck, loaded the truck (with help), and then unloaded the truck (without) into my garage (this would start a multi-month exodus of my car from the garage). The materials sat for a week before I could get any work done, and then when I was able to put the foundation together I had a business trip to Detroit and had to let the project sit.

Late nights
When I got back the work started in earnest. When we first bought Casa Knaz five years ago we spent two months getting it into barely-habitable status. We worked two to four hours every weeknight, and eight to twelve hours every weekend day, for two months straight. That pattern started again with this project. In relatively short notice I had the walls framed and lifted (which was a challenge by myself; I had to ask my 7-month pregnant wife to hold a wall steady just so I could run and grab my nail gun [no pregnant wives were harmed in the making of this shed]).

Working late into the night was a regular occurrence until Christina reminded me that A) we have neighbors, and B) your air compressor is really loud. Thankfully the neighbors were understanding and I quit working late into the evening from there on out (with a few exceptions).

I cut every piece of the frame with my handy Hitachi miter saw, which I love, and nailed it all together with my Harbor Freight nailgun, which I loathe. As reliable as the miter saw was the nailgun was not, and by the end of the project I couldn't get through a single clip without the damn thing jamming. That's the nature of cheap tools, they're one-project-ponies.

It Continues

After the basic framing was complete I moved onto sheathing. One thing I really didn't realize was how flexible a wooden frame was. Each wall frame individually could be pushed ±1" easily when by itself. Even with all four walls tied together, there was easily a 1/4" of flex before I added the sheathing.

Me in my trusty construction sandals.
I cut nearly all of the sheathing with my circular saw. I had started out using my table saw to rip the sheathing to width, but a friendly neighbor dropped by and gave me a two-piece, 8' long aluminum straight edge guide (more good reasons to cut wood in your front driveway). After the gift of that guide I tore through the remaining cuts. Thank you neighbor.

I had originally planned on having the sheathing be the exterior surface for the shed. As such I chose to use plywood sheathing in lieu of the cheaper particle board that is used in the prefabricated sheds you see at Home Depot. To provide moisture resistance I painted all six edges of each piece of sheathing with exterior grade primer. This is what I learned about exterior grade primer: it's expensive ($25/gallon), it's thick (2x that of regular paint), it's incredibly sticky (5x that of regular paint), it's physically difficult to paint on, and it goes quickly. The sheathing was nailgunned into place and suddenly the shed was much, much more rigid.

Cat on an unfinished roof
Next up was installing the rafters, and it was here that I was incredibly happy to have designed the shed entirely in AutoCAD. Laying out a birdsmouth cut is, in theory, simple but in practice it requires (GASP!) training and experience. Instead of having to manually lay out the birdsmouth cuts with a roofing square I was able to read the angles and dimensions straight from the AutoCAD geometry I generated and layout the necessary cuts (done with a jigsaw). The rafters were cut, hoisted, and secured to the main frame with Simpson ties. The overhang rafters were attached to the edge rafters with 2x4s that were screwed into the edge rafters (that's a lot of the word "rafter"). The roof decking (3/8" thick plywood) was then added. All that remained was the multilayered roof to keep everything dry. In case you didn't know, most all roofs with shingles are layered as such: rafters/frame, plywood decking, building paper (asphalt impregnated craft paper), drip edge, shingles.

Earlier I mentioned that I was using a 3/12 pitch for the roof. That's shallow, and for a larger structure elsewhere in the country that pitch would not be advisable. This being Southern California, however, the accepted building practice is to double up the building paper and build as normal. So that's what I did.

Roofing, if you've never done it, isn't that bad. The materials are heavy, the location gets hot, you're crouching a lot, and you can easily smash your thumb, but the work goes quickly. In two afternoons I went from bare rafters to a sheathed, papered, drip-edged, and shingled roof. All it requires is a strong back, dull mind, and a ladder.

The Final Push

At this point it was mid-April and the baby was due in less than a month. I was panicking a bit. And then I flew up to the Bay Area to surprise my mom for her 60th birthday. My mom, ever the architect, asked me about the shed and how the construction was going. I told her my plan to use the sheathing as the vapor barrier and she, well, grimaced is probably the right word. The sheathing was put on without a layer of building wrap underneath. Having read this and that on the internet I was convinced that any moisture that found it's way to the shed walls would evaporate inside the shed, and that would have been true if I didn't plan on insulating and drywalling the interior.

When you insulate and drywall a structure you are creating an environment that naturally carries a temperature differential to the outside world. In a situation where the relative humidity is elevated (i.e. not bone dry like this part of California normally is), and the ambient temperature rises, the insulated wall space will be cooler than ambient and the moisture in the air will have a chance to condense inside the walls, and then due to vapor pressure and the vapor barrier of the insulation blah blah blah water will stay in the walls and grow mold that will likely end up sickening or killing you or bringing great shame when the home inspector swings by.

Now I realized that I had to add $400+ dollars to the budget and 20+ hours of work in order to properly build this thing. Somewhat deflated I flew home, headed to Home Depot and forked over more money. I wrapped the shed in Tyvek, a semi-permeable vapor barrier preferred to ye olde building paper, and installed rough cut plywood siding. Like the sheathing before it, every edge of the plywood needed to be painted, and the rough cut nature of the surface sucked in primer. I determined that each 4x8 panel required 1/3 gallon of primer. When it was all said and done I primed over 1000 SF of siding and sheathing for the shed.

Having become thoroughly tired of the poor performance of the nailgun, and wanting to use smaller head nails on the siding, I drove every siding nail in by hand. I even took a half day off of work to get the exterior finished because I promised not to make loud noises after 8PM. To simulate a board-and-batten look I attached 1x2 furring strips every 16" on the shed face, and I trimmed the corners, windows, and door with 1x4 pine. All of the trim was attached with my 16ga finishing nailgun and primed the same as the siding.

At this point, in fact before I completed the siding, I started the wiring and interior insulation and drywall. Now that I had a roof and walls up I could work late into the night doing relatively quiet work (my drill is much quieter than a hammer or air compressor). For the wiring I ran romex through holes bored in the framing (without an attic I couldn't drop power from up top, so holes were bored all the way through). To make this a proper man cave I put an HDMI cable, digital audio return cables, and surround sound wiring along with the power runs. I also added a power drop for an exterior light for the rest of the patio not covered by the shed. In order to power the whole thing I found a clever shortcut after talking with my boss at work; instead of trenching through the patio and wiring to a circuit breaker, I could run an extension cord from the shed to the house. In that way the shed was merely an appliance, and could be disconnected from the house at any time. I installed a liquid tight outlet ~8' up the wall on the side of the house and strung a 14ga extension cord supported by a chain between the house and the shed.

Windows went in, insulation went up, and thanks to my friend Justin, so did the ceiling drywall. It would have been a hell of challenge to install the ceiling drywall myself, so having a willing friend was absolutely necessary. Thank you again Justin.

Work continued. I spent many late nights installing, mudding, and sanding drywall. You may recall, from 5+ years ago, my friend Jeff helping us install our laminate flooring; well he did it again for me. Another big thanks goes out to Jeff for his help.

Pretty Much Done
The interior paint is called "Elephant Skin"

By May 1st I had completed framing, sheathing, roofing, siding, trimming, windowing, dooring, wiring, insulating, drywalling, laminating, and interior painting the shed. The baby was due in four days and I was running around like a madman preparing the nursery and house for our new arrival. As the fifth came and went I realized I had just enough time to eke out a bit more work on the shed. I painted the exterior, moved in the furniture, and even installed a custom sign on outside of the shed (the name comes from my best man Billy, always one for a good Batman reference).

I was exhausted, and I had a very pregnant (and patient) wife that needed increasingly more help as we waited for the baby to come. Knowing that the shed would be ready for its first real test, my mom spending a week living in it when she came to help after the baby was born, I called the project done enough and Christina and I celebrated with dinner, our last night out as a childless couple.

After George was born it took about a week for the sleep deprivation to subside enough that I could think. I started wrapping up the work on the shed; I painted the trim, I installed shelves, and added window flower boxes with the help of my mom. Since then I've continued to tweak and outfit the interior with more shelves, a fake bear rug, and all the other paraphenalia I've picked up over the years (posters and toys).

The shed project has been incredibly fulfilling. I don't if I would do it again (I said the same thing after I tiled the first bathroom). I found that I could, in fact, build something of this scale largely by myself with only my hands, tools, and back. It's a hell of a lesson and it makes me very grateful that I earn my living by exercising my brain and mouse hand. Thanks for reading!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Nursery Update

Here it is!  The room was already finished as our home office before, so it didn't take too much updating for the nursery other than painting the upper half of the wall blue and swapping out the furniture.  The dino decals came from Target, crib from Ikea, and the books and other decor from lovely friends and family.  We inadvertently went with an animal theme, it just kind of came together that way - but we're happy with how it turned out!

The cube storage unit, dresser/changing table, chair, and side table are also from Ikea.  We still have to add some lamps, clean out the closet, remove some nails, and touch up some paint - but it's pretty much finished.

Are we seriously going to have something that fits into these small outfits to take care of in just three weeks?!  Can hardly wait much longer!  :)

The next big project is that Ted is currently building a detached shed/office in the side yard.  He has all the walls and roof up already and it's looking good!  More to come on that soon!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ikea Dresser Remodel

Happy 2014!  We've been pretty quiet on here as of late...that's because we've been busy getting ready for a new addition to our family this Spring!  Nope, not another cat...we're expecting a baby boy! :)  We've got a major to-do list on the house before the little one arrives, and a huge thanks to Ted for cranking out projects left and right.  He loves this stuff...ok here's the latest!

We've been using our old college Kmart dressers for years now, and it was finally time to upgrade to something a little more fancy in the bedroom.  We made a big trip to Ikea a few weekends ago, mostly for nursery furniture which we will post more on later, but we also purchased this pine Tarva dresser for ourselves that needed finishing.  Ted painted the drawers with a subtle greenish gray color to match our bedroom, stained all the other parts with a medium color wood finish (called Early American), and installed stainless drawer pulls.  All in just 2-3 nights of work!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bathroom Remodel #2

Hi there, hope everyone is having a splendid Summer!  A few months ago we started the remodel of the "master" bathroom, and we are happy to report that it is finally fully complete!  To give you an idea, here's what the bathroom looked like when we first bought the house four years ago...

Not the most stylish decor, right?  We think they built the little blue cabinets to the left of the shower so they could use a standard size square shower pan.  We decided that we'd rather have a larger custom shower than the awkward cabinets to the left, so tore everything out.

After the tearout, I had a couple of very busy weeks at work, and Ted was a trooper in doing most of the tiling work himself.  Here are a couple in progress photos:

Ted putting up the water vapor barrier, setting up the floor basin, and putting up the first few pieces of tile.


Thanks to my Dad for hooking us up with the shower hardware and to Ted for making that sweet little shelf out of a cut piece of tile.


A close up of the different pieces of tile used.  The floor needed to be a smaller size tile to help with the slope needed to drain water properly.

We bought the sink and vanity from HD Supply in Ventura, similar to what we have in the other bathroom.  What we left to the pros this time was, we had the glass shower door custom ordered and installed.

And that's a wrap!  Until the next project...
--Christina & Ted

Sunday, April 7, 2013

DIY Headboard

Hello there!  Has it really been almost a year since we last posted?  Time is flying!  Here's a little project we did yesterday, a DIY Headboard:

We got a new king size bed a couple of weeks ago (so much roomier than the queen), and decided to build a headboard to go with it!  Making the headboard was pretty simple and took under 2 hours.  The most annoying part was the shopping and going to different places trying to find all the items we needed to make it!  Here's what we used:
  • Standard sheet of plywood from Home Depot ($30) that Ted cut down to 42" x 78" with a little curved edge on each top end.  It was quite the adventure tying this down onto Ted's roof rack and driving home.  It was a windy day, took multiple attempts, and we had to drive very slowly, but finally got it home in one piece.
  • The foam.  Oh, the FOAM.  We wanted the headboard to have a little bit of cushion and thickness to it, so wanted to purchase some of that standard 2" thick rectangular green foam sheeting.  Should be easy to find and cheap, right?  Apparently was going to be over $100 when you buy it by the yard at Joann's in Oxnard, and we weren't having that for some stupid green foam. So, we ventured next door over to the Walmart in Oxnard...not the smartest idea we ever had.  Not to sound elitist, but those of you who live in the area just don't go there unless you are really desperate for something you can't find somewhere else.  We didn't have any luck there (other than leaving with a new kite, a jar of Nutella, and crushed dreams), so had to revisit our game plan.
  • We read online somewhere that some people used egg crate mattress toppers instead of the expensive foam stuff, so we were pretty much immediately sold on this idea.  A quick trip to Target and we walked out of there with 2 queen size mattress toppers for about $50.
  • Spray adhesive glue from Home Depot to attach the mattress toppers to each other and to the plywood ($5).
  • Standard quilting batting to wrap around the mattress toppers and plywood - $12 from the trusty Oxnard Walmart.
  • Staples and staple gun to attach the batting around the mattress toppers and plywood - already had on hand.
  • After searching at the Oxnard Joann's, Walmart, Michael's, and finding out that the old fabric store in Camarillo is now a pet store...we found this fabric pattern at the Joann's in Thousand Oaks.  It was $45 for 2.5 yards.  We were pretty tired at this point after 4 hours of shopping for this little project, saw this one, and decided to go for it.  We always gravitate towards the simple grey or taupe colors, so it was a bit of a stretch for us.  We were also going to do covered buttons, but didn't think this pattern needed them.
And there you have it!  A simple DIY Headboard that should only take 3-4 hours including shopping - just plan out what supplies you need ahead of time, and just say no to Walmart...although we did fly a pretty sweet kite today because of that random shopping trip!  Total headboard cost: approximately $150 if you have electric saws and a staple gun already on hand.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happy Three

Three years ago we closed escrow on this little house, and started shaping it up to make it our own.  We started out that first night the house was ours by scraping off the popcorn ceilings after work.  Three years later and we still have more projects yet to tackle, but house you've been good to us and you really do feel like home.  We celebrated by refinishing and repainting the fence by the garage today (the roll-up garage door is also nice to finally have a clicker).  Here's to hopefully another three pleasant years here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

DIY Redwood Garden Bench

What a bench. Rawr.

A couple of weekends ago I felt the itch to make something challenging but still simple. Basically, if it took more  thought than making chili I would have ditched the project midway and gone back to finishing Mass Effect 3 (20 hours and counting...). Luckily Popular Mechanics had the prefect spring time project: an outdoor bench.

The bench design is simple and requires only structural lumber, threaded rods, and stain. Well, that and a table saw which I could have really used back when I made the entertainment center. The nice thing about doing a project out of a magazine is that there isn't much to think about. No figuring out sizes, cut and drill locations, or assembly instructions. I went to the local big box and grabbed some redwood (the instructions say to use cedar, but that's hard to come by out here and redwood will weather well enough for my needs).

The cut pieces
That does make this a little less interesting to write. Basically all I did was cut the 2x4's (main pieces), 1x4's (spacers), and 4x4's (legs) to length. And then I used the table saw. And I cut, and cut, and cut, and cut fins out of the 4x4's, notching the legs and creating the central building points that the bench would be formed from.

This took a lot of cuts to get it down to this point
 So this really did take a good 20+ minutes of just passing legs over and over the saw blade. Finishing  followed by breaking off the "tabs" and cleaning up the edges with a sharp chisel.

All that cut wood needed to go somewhere
Cleanup was not fun.

The spacers (square 1x4's) were Gorilla-glued and nailed in set spots on the slats (2x4's). Holes for the threaded rods (which run through each piece of wood and hold the bench together) were then drilled through all the pieces of wood. A jig was utilized to maintain a consistent hole location in all of the pieces.
I glued and clamped the parts together to the point where I could fasten the bench with the threaded rod. Dowels were used to fill in the holes on the ends (needed for the threaded rod), the excess was sawed off, and the bench assembly was finished.
Assembled, before finishing.
The final steps were sanding and staining the wood. The staining wasn't especially hard, aside from getting into the narrow nooks and crannies, but the stain was much, much darker than I thought. So, not perfect, but honestly? I'm really happy with it. The design looks great, the bench is very strong, and the stain should keep the wood safe through years of weathering. And now I feel like I'm a decent plan away from making a whole furniture set.