Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Arnold Cabin Project Part 2: Planning

Hi there!  Cindy and I are getting ready to fly to California for two weeks to work on the Arnold Cabin.   If you missed Part 1 of the Arnold Cabin Project, click the link to read all about it.

 Now, before all you mashers and thieves out there in Internet Land get excited about pilfering our television while we're out of town, settle down.  The upstairs tenants will still be home, and we have additional people cat sitting and looking after the green roof.

With the home front in good hands, I'm getting nerdy-excited about our trip.

Here's the plan:  We're going to fly into LAX, rent a car, drive up and spend a night visiting Cindy's twin sister, Jodi in Lancaster.  We can't wait to see the school where she teaches and the new house where she lives. The next day, we're going to drive a bit further up and spend the night visiting Daron and his wife Marianne in California City.  Daron is one of my three fathers, and if you don't know what I mean when I say that, check out this previous blog post: Three Fathers. One Me.  Cindy hasn't met Daron and Marianne yet, and I'm very excited to introduce them!  The following day, we'll head up to Carmel Valley and settle into our housing at Hastings Natural History Reservation.
The Barn at Hastings
I spent this past Thursday night, and all day Friday and Sunday researching metal roofing systems and suppliers for the cabin.  I think I found the right thing - corrugated sheet metal.  It'll stop the rain, last a long time, give the cabin a few more minutes of time if a wildfire comes through, and it'll be in keeping with the style of the cabin.  I have the heart of a loyal restorationist and preservationist, so I really thought hard before moving away from a shingled roof (which is what is currently on the cabin), but I've seen photos of other family cabins with sheet metal on them, so I think my ancestors would approve.

Another thing to consider is the delicate nature of the land and the fact that it's used for natural history research.  Most metal roofing systems these days, it seems, come either coated in paint or a polyvinyl fluoride stuff.  I didn't want to risk all that paint cracking off or the PVCF chemicals leeching or peeling off the roof and getting into the environment over time.  So I chose a product that's as safe and environmentally inert as I could find: 7/8" corrugated sheet metal coated in "galvalume".

From the manufacturer's web site:
The Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification program, administered by the International Living Future Institute, takes a broad view of sustainability and embraces the philosophy of a restorative future by looking at a building’s performance over time.  In fact, certification is not granted until the building has been occupied and its performance documented for one year.
The Institute’s Declare Label is an ingredients-based eco-label around the Red List of “chemicals of concern” that have human health and toxicity impacts.  Declare aims to provide transparency and open communication by allowing manufacturers to voluntarily share their product sources, materials and manufacturing locations.
Metal Sales™ is the first metal panel manufacturer to be included in the rigorous and exclusive Declare™ program. Metal Sales has fully disclosed all of the ingredients in the Acrylic Coated Galvalume® roof and wall panels through Declare, and they are designated as being Red List Free on the Declare Label. 
For more information, please visit www.declareproducts.com
Are you still with me?  I know.  Corporate writing is snoozeville.  I could hardly get through that stuff myself, but I googled around, and it doesn't seem like greenwashing.  Here's hoping I'm making a good choice!
Since I've never built a metal roof, I had a lot of questions in my mind about how to deal with the corners, the roof ridge, the line along the roof where there's a change in slope (which I now know is called a "pitch break"), how the flashing and the roofing panels go together, how to deal with the little gaps under the corrugation, how to cut corrugated sheet metal... 
The internet is a marvel and a wealth of free education if you take the time to poke around and always verify things across multiple sources.  It seems us Americans cut sheet metal with power tools - nibblers and grinders.  In the Phillippines, Australia, and New Zealand, they just snip a nick in the panels and rip them by hand.  Since we won't have electricity (or water, for that matter) at the cabin, I'm excited to give the snip-and-rip method a try.
Well, the metal manufacturer had a bunch of installation diagrams and stuff on their web site, so I downloaded and read almost all of them.  If anyone ever wanted to prove that I'm not normal, they need only point out that I really loved spending three days reading about how metal roofs go together.  
But, before I could order the roofing materials, I had to know the pitch angles of the roof.  There are 3 roof sections on this cabin.  Clearly, the original 12'x21' cabin got too small for my two great-great-grand parents and their 5 children, so they added a section onto one side to make a 21' square cabin.  The new addition - let's call it the West wing - created a second pitch angle.  I took some rudimentary measurements of the cabin when we were out in July of 2013, but there were a couple of critical measurements I didn't think to take.  In order to find the slopes of the roof, I had to trace them off photographs I had taken.  But then I wanted to double check my tracings, so I ended up making a model of the cabin in SketchUp and matching some photos (taken on two different days) to my measurements.  If I did the photo-matching correctly, my measurements were pretty close.  If I didn't, I hope my metal order included more (rather than less) than I'll need - there's a week's lead time for orders, and we'll have to drive to Watsonville for the pickup! 
Arnold Cabin in SketchUp
Arnold Cabin in real life - July 2013
While I think the cabin is pretty square, it's clear from matching the model to the photos that the walls aren't perfectly plumb.  For a roof, square is pretty important so your eaves and gables - the parts that overhang the walls - aren't all crooked.  I'm hoping plumb won't mess me up too much, since I won't have time to starting fiddling with the cabin's foundation.  Someone else worked on that back in (I'm guessing) the '80's, around the last time the roof was replaced.  Want a picture of the foundation?  I'm sure you do:
Family lore has it that the boys slept down here - under the floor of the cabin.  The girls, I gather, slept up in the West wing.
And while I'm trying to impress you with this little cabin, here's a shot of the interior.  That's the front door on the left.  I'm guessing this would have been the living room:

Here's what the ceiling in that room looks like - just shingles on purlins on rafters.  Like my nifty new roofing lingo?  You can see the spot where the wood stove chimney used to be.

And last-but-not-least-ly, this is the West wing with the back door.
So, the plan is to strip off the shingles, sweep out the wood rat poop, nail tin over the rat and wood pecker holes, put the metal roofing system on the house, and replace the missing redwood batons and a couple of broken floorboards.  
Speaking of redwood, I found a guy who salvages old growth redwood logs down in Big Sur.  He's going to be our redwood supplier.  Here's his web site: http://bigsuroldgrowth.com/
Oh, and if there's time, we'll replace the broken window panes and re-glaze the rest.  My Aunt Trish is flying in from Phoenix, my Aunt Lynda is coming down from San Francisco, and a handful of cousins will gather at Hastings for a little family reunion and visit to the cabin on our last weekend.  And for our last night, we'll be heading up to San Francisco to take Lynda home and have a nice visit with my cousin Robert.
I'm looking forward to a great trip.  New roof or bust!!

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