It’s raining today so we are getting a much needed break and maybe I can finally write this post. Eric has been working like crazy, and so much has been going on around here, I hardly know where to start. So let’s just jump right into it, and hopefully I won’t leave any of the details out. I’ll try to include a lot of pictures in this post, but also be sure to check out the Picture Gallery to see even more detailed shots of the process. The last post talked about finalizing framing plans and the tedious details involved in that process. Not long after that post, Eric wrapped up the plans, and it was time to get to building. Looking over everything and realizing we shouldn’t put it off any longer, Eric set out to level the trailer so the walls could go up.
I have to admit that both Eric and I were pretty nervous about framing. This was the real deal. Where mistakes actually matter. Where miscalculations mean our house falls apart. Where we might realize we’re in way over our heads. It was daunting, and if Eric had decided to put it off another 3 weeks, I really wouldn’t have blamed him.
But, of course he didn’t put it off! He marched outside in the 102 degree heat and started leveling the trailer so we could build our walls on a flat, level surface. Now, don’t be surprised but, leveling the trailer turned into a real headache, where Eric was getting (rightfully) extremely frustrated, and I was getting even more nervous/anxious/uncertain/panicked (even though I tried to hide it). While we expected leveling the trailer to take a good amount of time, like maybe 4 or 5 hours, our trailer took 2 full days to get even.
The process of leveling a trailer is pretty straight forward. Jack up each corner of the trailer until they are even with each other and rest them on cinder blocks. Simple enough. Except we kept running into the problem that 3 corners could be leveled, but when adjusting the the 4th corner, the whole thing would go wonky. Because the trailer is so rigid, when trying to raise one corner to meet the height of the others, the whole thing would raise up. Talk about frustrating. It’s a lot of back and forth measuring, and every little movement of the jack means everything has to be remeasured and readjusted. Over and over and over. So, after 2 days of back and forth checking, Eric was ready to torch the thing. Again, I wouldn’t have blamed him, and what a twist that would have been for the blog!
“Sorry folks, it’s over. Eric set our trailer on fire.”
Fortunately, he kept his cool and finally figured out how to proceed. We never could get all 4 corners leveled because there is a very small bend where the axles are connected to the trailer, so we had to form plan B. What we realized is that the front rectangle of the trailer (in front of the wheels) could be leveled, and the back rectangle of the trailer (behind the wheels) could be leveled. They just weren’t level with each other. The back of the trailer was about a 1/2 inch higher than the front. So, we had to add a 1/2 inch board to the bottom of the sole plate for all the walls touching the front of the trailer. That meant we needed to start building from the back of the trailer and work our way to the front, and after building over the wheels to reach the front rectangle of trailer, we would add an extra board to the bottom so all the top boards would line up. I doubt I’m explaining this the best way possible, but look at my diagram below, and hopefully that will help:
As if we weren’t already nervous enough about building, the leveling difficulties really made us sweat. Thankfully, we finally had the trailer “semi”-leveled and ready to go. Since we needed to start from the back of the trailer and move forward, we also lucked out in starting the bathroom wall, which is the easiest wall. This was a great way to get the hang of things and build our confidence. (See what I did there? Build our confidence as we build the wall….Ok, moving on.)
Building on a trailer is a little different from building on a solid foundation. Besides the whole leveling issue, a trailer is a moving foundation so the chance for walls to wiggle apart and eventually fall down is much greater. Because of those risks, we use screws instead of nails. Vibration from being towed could possibly wiggle the nails out of place. Screws can withstand that vibration. The downside of using screws over nails is actually having to spend the time screwing everything together. I’ve never used a nail gun until a couple of days ago, and while slightly terrifying, it’s also super fast and easy. Drilling screws takes a lot more time, but it’s definitely the best way to go.
A few other differences is that we use liquid nails like crazy. Liquid nails is basically cement for wood, and anytime two pieces of wood are touching, you can just assume we’ve liquid nailed the junk out of it. This is just one more way to help the structure withstand the vibration of moving. There are also the metal threaded rods the trailer manufacturer put on the trailer at the very beginning of this. If you’ve read other posts, you’ve heard about these before. Now more than ever, I appreciate the role they play. I’ll talk about them in more detail later, but once the wall is placed over the rods, we put on 1/2″ washers and nuts to bolt the wall into place and securely on the trailer. This isn’t the only way of securing the walls to the trailer, but they are a huge part of it. The last major difference (I can think of in this moment) is having to worry about a vapor barrier. A vapor barrier simply keeps moisture out of the home, and is placed on top of the subfloor. They are used sometimes in a traditional structure, but not always.
At this point I will give a quick run down of what we did for the walls. A lot of the steps repeat, so I’m going to go over the general steps, and I’ll go over the details for each wall later. Here we go:
First, we measured and cut a 2×4 to the correct length for the bottom and top plates. Then, we carefully lined up the board to mark where the metal rods are, so you can drill out holes. Later the wall will be able to fit on the rods and be bolted down. Once the holes are drilled in the bottom plate, clamp both plates together in order to mark where all the studs go. By clamping the boards together, it’s easier to map out the stud measurements evenly on each board. Then, we measured and cut the length of each stud. We had “2 foot centers” which is a term I heard thrown a lot, and I just nodded my head in agreement with whatever was said about them. (Definitely the right way to help make decisions when building a house.) Basically, all that means is we had a stud every 2 feet. The importance of this is that later on we will be adding the sheathing (plywood boards) around the entire structure, and those boards come in a length of 8 feet. We want to allow the edges of those boards to meet and butt up together at the center of the stud, so we can attach both boards to the same stud.
Once everything was cut, we laid out the boards to line everything up. We apply the liquid nails, and line the studs up exaaaaactly right to be screwed into place. This is one way Eric and I are very different. I once told my mother-in-law that I’m too lazy to follow recipes. If I’m missing an ingredient (or two or three), or it’s something expensive, or something I’ll only use for that one recipe- I just leave it out. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” So, please believe me when I say, someone with that type of personality really shouldn’t be allowed to build a house. We’re 1/16 inch off? Who cares! Why are we worried about 3/8ths of an inch?! I’m not! Well, I guess it matters, although I’m hardly convinced. (I mean seriously, 1/16th of an inch? That’s so small it shouldn’t even count.) Eric, however, wants those lines to match up exactly right, and I mean, Exactly. Right. Admittedly, I’m sure our house is all the better for Eric’s strict adherence to measurements, even if I do zone out at the sound of a fraction.
Once everything was screwed together, we laid down the foam vapor barrier and placed the walls on top. Again, we have to be very careful that the bottom of the wall is lined up just perfectly along the edge of the trailer. If we’re off even just a little bit at the beginning of the wall, then we would end up way off by the time we got to the end of the wall. Once it’s all in place, then we bolted the wall down to trailer using the metal threaded rods and drilled in 4 inch screws to hold everything securely. Finally, we needed to square the wall, make sure it’s level, and brace it into place. To square a wall, you measure diagonally from one bottom corner to the opposite top corner and then vice versa on the other corners, and simply adjust the wall to the left or right until those two measurements are the same. Then, we used the level to make sure the wall wasn’t leaning in or out, and finally braced the wall to keep everything in place.
Those were all the general steps that we went through for each wall. However, obviously, there were other things we needed to do for windows, the loft, the wheel wells, and the door. I’ll go into those details in the next post, but for now, enjoy looking at some pictures below of our progress.