The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Squaring and leveling

After raising the frame on Labor Day weekend, the first thing to do was to make sure the frame was square and level. In order to square it, I had to move one bent forward a few inches, another bent toward the back an inch or two, and move the center line of the house toward the west a couple of inches. If the frame had been set on a sill with mortises to accept tenons on the bottom of the posts, there wouldn't be a need to square up the frame. Having the bottoms of the posts sitting on concrete piers allowed for some things to be out of square depending on how close to the center they each stood on the piers.

The first thing to do was to insert pieces of aluminum under each post to act as a moisture barrier. I don't want moisture to wick up the piers and into the posts. Rot wouldn't be a good thing. I had plenty of aluminum from the siding off of an old mobile home that I deconstructed this spring. I used a hydraulic jack to lift each post just enough to slide the pieces of aluminum underneath.

The aluminum moisture barrier helped to provide a smoother surface under the posts for moving them into square. Mark the intern and I attached a come-along from the bottom of a post to the next concrete pier. Applying some pressure with it allowed a few judicious knocks with the 'commander' (aka a beetle -- a large mallet) to adjust the intended posts toward square.

After squaring the frame, we checked the level. I rigged a water level using a hose and some clear rubber tubing at the ends. However, it didn't want to work for some reason. The water in the level wouldn't stabilize. Something was going on. So, we used a line level on a taught string. This revealed two posts that were about 1/2" higher than the other 10 (it was level between these 10 posts). Rather than block up 10 posts with hardwood wedges, we jacked the two high posts about and inch off of their piers, and I then used a chainsaw to shave off enough from the bottom of the posts to bring them into level. This worked great.

Once the frame was square and level, we were ready to move on to the next project: purlins and first-floor floor joists.

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