Custom plans, drafting + Design

pergola construction

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

Shawn A. Dehner

Today is a very strange day because I am at home for the day…the first day in ages I haven’t been on the building site. We are at a transitional point in our build and must take some time to build the eave bracket components of the roof assembly. There are twelve to build so it will take a couple or three days to do it. Frankly, we are having a west coast heat wave and it’s not such a bad thing to be able to work from home in the shade, so that’s what we’re doing.

This week we wrapped up some various projects. Shawn did a tremendous amount of blocking, installing bird blocking (no holes drilled yet, but all installed and waiting final preparations) and also blocking the entire first floor. I did a lot of caulking and air sealing while Shawn was installing 1 ¼” 20 gauge metal strapping over the rafters to tie the rafters to the ridge (performing a function similar to collar ties in that it prevents uplift). This was a preferred method for us as it will allow us to have unbroken bays for insulation. We also built dummy rafter tails and installed them under the north and south dormers. Dummy rafter tails are non structural but important aesthetically as they allow the rafter tails to continue on despite the fact that the actual structural rafter tails only appear above the dormer (where they are performing). Once those were in, it was time for me to apply their two coats of primer in preparation for painting later this summer. I needed to do this before we install the decking over them and it becomes too hard to do. We ordered the ⅝” plywood sheathing for the roof, though it will be a bit before we can install that. We also have the eave decking on order and will get that into place once the brackets are built, primed, painted and installed. This week we also built the gable end walls, installed the second floor plywood up to the point where we can put the brackets on. It was so amazingly easy to do with a framing nailer that I found myself thinking the absolutely bizarre thought that putting up plywood sheathing was fun. The building being square made the installation easy and straightforward and it’s nice to have things getting closed in upstairs. Lastly, we visited a local cedar and fir mill and officially placed an order for the materials for the pergolas and the front entrance. Building these will be an exciting and enjoyable (and very useful) experience. We think the wood is going to be just beautiful and amazing!  The cedar pergola timbers will be gorgeous - can’t wait to see them!

It feels as though we did a lot of little things this week. It’s awfully strange to be at home for a few days but nice to catch up on component building in the shade at our rental.

More to come next week…hope that you will join us again.