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San Juan Island Small House Update


For those of you who have been following along on this and previous projects, you will know that heights are not a favorite in our household. Working at heights is tricky and Shawn especially is not a fan. I don’t have much height to contribute to the effort, either! When we designed this house, we chose to build in pergolas on both the east and west sides, not only for the beauty of them, but because they provide us with structural staging for doing the finishing work on the second floor, both finishing the roof framing (bracket installation, merge and barge rafters, eave decking) but also finishing siding, trim, etc.


Local San Juan Island Lumber from EggLake Shake


We were able to go to a local mill and purchase island grown cedar for our pergola, milled to order, and the results have been wonderful. The pergolas are very simple in design and we like that they speak more through the wonderful native material than anything especially fancy in terms of design (though one could argue persuasively that simple design can be very elegant). We were able to do all the lifting of the wood ourselves (glad we used cedar instead of doug fir) and really the building of the structures was very simple and straightforward. We had one very large timber over the front porch entrance that was very difficult indeed to lift, but once we honed our communication on who should lift what end when we were able to finish the project. Still a bit of trim left to do (covering the ledger board, i.e.) but otherwise, we are close to done with all of our pergolas and porch work.

Today we cut the rafters that go over the front porch entrance and I primed them and got the first coat of paint on them. First thing tomorrow I’ll put on the second coat and after lunch in the afternoon they should be ready to install. Shawn will work on siting the brackets and this week we’ll be on to working on the bracket installation, barge and merge rafter installation and then the eave decking. Then it will be on to putting the plywood on the roof, though whether we’ll get to that this coming week remains to be seen.

The hand painted small house

Painting at times has been a side job for me this week while Shawn did a lot of the cutting of the cedar pillars, beams, rafters and battens. I am slowly getting all the coats on the carriage doors Shawn built last week. Should be able to finish that work sometime this week. Then we’ll have to make time to install the jambs and actually hang the doors. It has been a great week in terms of getting a great deal of satisfying work accomplished. We really like the way the pergolas have turned out and the porch entrance was a real treat to see up and installed. The pergolas round out and ground the building, anchoring it nicely and somehow all the beautiful island cedar just looks so appropriate with the rock wall. I guess they are all parts of our island and so thoroughly belong here. We feel very fortunate to be working with such nice material, it was a true pleasure to work with, even at its heaviest (which wasn’t really too bad) and to stand back from work like that just gives you a glow of satisfaction.

Thanks for reading! Hope you’ll join us again next week and see how we do with the last leg(s) of the roof assembly.

San Juan Island Small House Update


Plumbing, paint and pergola update

What do you do with leftover cedar scraps? Build a village of course!

It’s been a couple of weeks since our last update as we’ve been waiting on some material to arrive before moving on to more work on the roof assembly. When we last wrote, we had just placed an order with a local mill here on San Juan Island for delivery of the cedar materials for our pergola. They arrived on Wednesday but in the meantime, we took our in between time to catch up on several small jobs we’ve been needing to get to.

First, we finished up some outdoor plumbing, installing water spigots at the rear of the house, rear of the garage, and at the front of the house where the front entry is. We also connected the front porch downspout to the tight line drain system and were able to cover up the area where the lines are buried (they’ve been open since having the backfill brought in around the house, making some of our ladder tasks tricky up front, so this is a welcome change!). Then we installed shut off valves for the water to the house and the outdoor spigots.

We also primed and painted all the decking for our eaves using a nice yellow color from Mythic Paint ( The color is just as we’d hoped!  Nice and rich but not too fiery. We also got all of the eave brackets painted and the red and yellow should look really wonderful together.

Next on the list was to build the carriage doors - both the big double entrance set and the small side door. We opted to build them ourselves and did this from home, which was a nice change of pace because the weather was very hot (for the PNW) when we were doing this work. We got them built and assembled them early this week. Today I did all the priming on them so they are ready to paint in the next couple of days. We transported them to the job site using the very handy free truck rental offered by our local storage unit, Sound Storage of Friday Harbor. That made moving them easy. We also cut the first pieces for building out the jambs and got the hardware ordered for hanging the front carriage doors. They are heavy duty black steel straps (24”) and should look smart against the red trim.

And finally the big delivery of the cedar timbers arrived Wednesday (they are gorgeous!) and today we spent a lot of the day preparing to install them tomorrow. Shawn took measurements for the height of the 8 x 8’s and then cut them to the right size using his track saw and rolling the beams to make the majority of the cuts and then finishing the cuts with a hand saw. Then we installed the post bases. Once they were assembled, we brought them over to their individual pillars. We still have three more to cut and prep for the front entrance, but that will wait for tomorrow. Our next step will be to epoxy the pillars onto their threaded rod which is buried in the concrete footings. There will be a lot of bracing to install as well. Raising the pillars isn’t easy, and probably looks ridiculous, but it’s just doable for the two of us and should look sturdy and substantial once we are finished, unless we drop one on ourselves, in which case we won’t get to enjoy our work. :-) 

It should be an exciting couple of weeks of progress coming up. It’s sort of felt like being at a standstill for the last little while, but in order to move on to finishing the roof, we have to get the pergola built as it provides us with built in staging for the high work. Looking forward to seeing it come together in the next little while and moving ahead.