Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Trials and Tribulations of Building a Wall

If you want a wall built then you call in the mfking A Team, or in our case Seb J, Dead Seb, Eve and Noodles. In case you’re wondering this is my excuse for being late with the review for the HRT volumes!!

 So people always ask about building a wall and in this post I’ll talk through our process for Seb J’s new garage wall, what went right and what went wrong with what we did. Now after many years and many many walls I’m kind of a dab hand at building them, I’ve learnt a lot from past experience and I now know how many braces are needed for a certain span of climbing surface. Seb J is a big guy, not only in height but also weight so when I’m building and planning I took this into account its something that people over look at it's one thing that is a hard learned lesson... build it right first time

Always have a plan, most people make mistakes early on in the process. I suggest using Google Sketch Up to make a simple 3D model of the wall you intend to build. We skipped this part, Seb J sent me some images and sizes via email. There were some contstraints that needed to be met (there was an old chimney exhaust that needed to stay) and a few discussions on angle. I sent a simple reply…. “steep on the left, less steep on the right and flat the rest”

Someone is going to need to be the foreman when theres more than one person building, man up and be that person! Make the decisions that need to be made and solve the problems that need to be solved otherwise work doesn't get done and you'll never be finished

So back to planning, after a drive from Montreal to Quebec City we grabbed a beer and headed to the garage. We drew what I said we should build on the top of a box. Had a crap load of beer and went to sleep. But the plan was solid and I went to sleep dreaming of what framing needed to be made to pull this project off; we'd planned for 2 days of building for the space; always give yourself more time than you think

The next day was the build day, so we reviewed the plan that we’d made and made a note of what needed to be brought from the store (wood etc). Now it helps that Seb had already nutted our sheets so that saved us probably half a day of drilling and hammering!!! Count what wood framing you need, guestimate the length needed and then add a few feet…. If you think it’s about 10ft buy 12ft… you’ll be thankful because NOTHING IS SQUARE and a few extra inches will save you return trips to the store… and therefore wasted time

Eat a good breakfast, get a bunch of coffee into your system, hydrate and then send someone to go buy what you need.

Whilst the owner of the property is spending money get to work quickly before they can make any changes. As this is an outside garage and the floor is totally crap so we framed the bottom of the walls level with some 2x3’s so the wall would a) sit off of the floor b) will give you something slightly square to build from.

Then you start with the hardest bit to build. In our case it’s the steep section (LHS); it’d need three frames, the easiest being the one the hits the joists on the left as you can just cut it to length and screw it to the wall thus setting your angle. I guessed the night before that this wall would be about 40 maybe 42 degrees. So cut your kick board and set it in place…. (We decided a 2ft would be good) and then hang your first frame. Then you need to build the other two frames, now this is tricky as you’re hanging them in thin air and you want the wall to be as square as possible. So we cut the 2x6’s to length and then used 4x4 to come off of the roof… the more people you have for this the better as you’re holding a bunch of wood and trying to screw them together…. I’ve done this with wood clamps but it’s a pain in the ass!!!
Use a level as much as possible; make sure your support from the roof to the beam is level…. Tack it in place and then attach your frame…. Repeat. Don’t be afraid of taking this down again because you’ll probably have to cut an angle somewhere to make it flush. REMEMBER to mark where the wood was before you do take it down so you can slip it back into place easily

Once you have your three frames up (this wall is only 5ft wide btw) don’t get all tempted to sling your plywood up…. NO NO NO, get the rest of the frame up and done first. This wall goes from 40 something degrees to vertical, so frame that up and then whilst two people (we kind of ran two teams) cut the face wood the other two can frame up the other wall (RHS wall) Splitting your people to do jobs makes life super easy, it’s more efficient.

We noticed that we needed to box the top of the right hand wall because it was between two ceiling joists, so I set the other team to do that whilst Ded Seb and I  reinforced the roof and got the shallower angle frame into place. Once the RHS box was done we cut the face wood and set it into place.

Here's a top tip for you as nothing is square you know that your plywood sheets are going to overhang the edge and make for a crappy finish.. tack the panel in place and then get a pencil line down the areas that need to be cut. TAKE THE PANEL off of the wall and cut it properly, for more information see WHAT WENT WRONG. You're going to do this probably more than once, grin a take one for the team, trust me the finished product will be nicer looking, yes I know you're tired and covered in dust but just do it and stop bitching :)

By now everyone is tired, stop and have some food and chill for an hour. Look at your team and see if they have anymore life left in them... tiredness not only makes for sloppy work but it also makes it bloody dangerous when you're playing with power tools. Be wise, stop before you mess up your wall or one of your buddies!!

After dinner and a refreshing hose to the face break we knew that we only had the top face of the LHS wall and one part of the ceiling to cut. We wanted to be done, we've been going since 9am and since it was 7pm it'd been a long old day :)

We measured and cut the final roof pieces, being super careful to take measurements every 6 inches. You know how I say that nothing is square? Well it's NOT, so don't just take the measurement from both sides, draw a straight line and think it'll fit, because it won't and you'll end up having gaps like a homeless persons smile in your wall. Measure, measure, measure!!!

Get the last panels up, grab (another) beer and admire your handy work. In our case I started setting and we climbed until 2am... and then go for a well deserved nap :D

  • The planning, I made a plan everyone agreed on and we didn't deviate from that plan
  • Tools, you can never have enough tools. By this I mean tape measures, pencils, drills and saws. We had a table / chop and circular saw (and a few others) and a really good drill. Crap tools makes work go slow. Hire them if you have to!
  • Take regular breaks. Yeah I know you're excited but go and eat some food, play with the kids... stop and chill regularly
  • The team! I know how to build walls, Seb J has rebuilt a few houses, Ded Seb installs exhibits and Eve is bloody handy with a chop saw and a drill. If someone doesn't know how to use a tool, take the time and show them; if they look sketchy using that tool (like the table saw) then tell them to not use it. A trip to the hospital will really mess with your planning
  • Getting you're measurements right, even though you've made a model always buy longer pieces of wood
  • Have someone that dishes out the work, it means the wall will get built faster
  • Oh, last one, know how to shim properly because somewhere when using wood you're going to want to shim something up :)

  • Not much to be honest, although we've never worked together we all asked questions and went about our tasks as needed. Seb J cooked food, we all made the beer run and when someone asked for help they got it.
  • Rip Saw; rather than take down the panel that needed trimming, someone (Seb J) decided to just cut the panel in place. He now has a bunch of sanding to do because the line that was cut is really shitty
So there you go, a bunch of information on how we go about building a wall... that's the reason why the HRT review didn't get finished and published last week. 

Sit back and relax!!

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