Wood & Bones: Chronicle of a Cottage, Part 12

Sep 3, 2010

Editor’s note: Here’s part 12 of Bill Smith’s blog chronicle about the restoration of a run-down cottage in Pasadena’s Historic Highlands neighborhood. Bill and his wife, Sheryl Scott, are both graphic designers and do-it-yourselfers who have expectedly found themselves headed for a year of home-improvement adventures. Look for a new post in the saga soon.

If you read the previous post, you know that the garage was in pretty bad shape. My goal was to reuse the frame and pad. After making some decisions on the exterior, I also determined to leave the original redwood siding. It’s in bad shape, but I’m going to sheet the whole garage in a board and batten style, leaving the redwood siding underneath. More on that later. The roof was in terrible shape, the rolled asphalt had served about three times longer than it was ever meant to. The planks were rotting and couldn’t be reused, and I was not eager to leave the old 2 x 3 rafters to hold up a new, heavier roof.

Years of wet leaves contributed to the rotten condition of the normally impervious redwood.

Shingles removed, exposing old planks

Before I took the planks off, I attached quick braces to the old, shrunken rafters so they wouldn’t collapse with me on the roof.

I drew my simple truss template on a piece of plywood.

Here are my basic tools for building the trusses. Normally I’d use a power saw, but there is no electricity at the site yet. I’m not an experienced truss builder, I know there are tricks and formulas for doing the slope. But I found my measuring tape, square and protractor pretty effective. I did cheat and use a power miter saw to cut the angles at my house (the one that we live in that’s not moldy and falling down).

I placed the first truss to see how it would look, and to measure the clearance of the design elements. The triple-brace motif was only used for every third truss. For the plainer versions between, I used a single center brace.

Since I’m working alone, I laid the trussed down on each other like dominos, making it easier for me to set them quickly.

Trusses set up attached to the walls. All are 24″ on center except for the two at the front of the garage, which are slightly closer.

Decking in place

I wanted skylights because this garage will be more of an office/workshop. This side of the roof faces north, so the light is perfect for most of the day. When I priced the pre-made boxes, I wasn’t very happy with their look, quality or cost. To install three, I was looking at $600 on the low end for ugly aluminum, plastic bubble skylights. So I built these boxes out of redwood. The most expensive materials were the plexiglass panels, which I found pre-cut to the size I needed — actually, I adjusted my design a bit to take advantage of the pre-cut dimension. Total cost of three: about $100. You can see the exterior below. I don’t think they look terrible. And they’re very solid and weather tight. My only trepidation was how the plexi would fare in the hot SoCal sun, so I made them so that the panels could be easily replaced if they suffered damage.

Below you can see one of the simple design motifs from the old house that I plan on using throughout. I’m not sure what it’s called — I’ve been referring to it as pickets or forks. It’s almost like a trident. That sounds kind of impressive.… So just below our trident, you can see one application in the new trusses.

Hey! So last post I promised videos. The sexy beach ones came out bad because of overexposure, and I’m not referring to the camera. But these experimental clips did okay. Well, the last one, the camera ran out of juice and so it only caught half of my effort, but you get the idea. I’m a fast worker, so I had to slow these down a bit so you can see the work getting done.

Next time: Passion for pergolas, or maybe a story about the assholes at the electric company!

To read more about Bill & Sheryl’s renovation adventures, and to see more photos, go to Bill’s Wood & Bones blog, or stay tuned here for a new installment soon.

1 Response for “Wood & Bones: Chronicle of a Cottage, Part 12”

  1. Anne Fishbein says:

    Nice Bill and Sheryl. Very ambitious. Very impressive.



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