This project had its genesis from a two story cabin with a wall of windows facing a great view of unspoiled National Forest. It is dedicated to my wife Cyndi who decided we needed it, and my Dad, a master craftsman that unfortunately suddenly passed away right at the start of the project. I built it in hopes to make them both proud.The family room has a 22ft peaked ceiling with a stairs on one side, a fire stove, a ceiling fan in the middle, and the walls are made of drywall which is attached attached to studs. As I did my planning, Jeff at FauxWoodBeams.com was able to discern what I wanted to do very quickly with some sketches and was able to efficiently reduce the cost of my project. I ordered the beams unfinished and planned to stain them to match the wood on the stairs.
Overall, the goal was to fill in this dead-space, as well as continue the wood and rock theme that we used throughout the cabin. I was also in desperate need to add more light sources to the room since there were no ceiling lights installed and the room was dark, even with floor lamps on.
The biggest issue was the height of the ceiling. At 22 ft, it was almost impossible to even take measurements up there. I had originally planned on using scaffolding, but because of the tight quarters, tall ceiling, cost of renting the equipment, and that I could only work on this project when we went to the cabin (which was about once a month), renting scaffolding was doubly difficult, so I decided against it. I looked at some large ladders and again after talking to Jeff, decided that the Little Giant 17 ft ladder would work. They aren’t cheap but do condense smaller and can contort in to different shapes.
I made my orders and waited. They showed up in long skinny boxes, well protected, but took the whole length of my garage. One other note, don’t judge the beam weight by the box weight. The boxes are heavy because of the protective packaging, the beams are relatively light (but gets heavier the higher you have to haul them!)
First, I watched the videos on the web site that Jeff had; they were very good and gave me a sense of what I had to do. I started with the main cross beam, I was sure where this went so I installed it first thinking that it would be easy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. First, the ladder was very high and seemed rickety until I got used to it. Second, the U of the beam fit in to the peak of the roof. This meant that the little mounting boards (I used 2x4 pieces) had to be mounted at the peak. Clearly, they stretched over the gap at the peak, so I needed much longer screws and had to hunt around to find something besides drywall to drill in to. I used a stud detector and it helped identify where the wood was underneath the drywall, but it was very slow. I put blue painters tape wherever I found a stud , which helped me build a picture of where everything was under the drywall. I used a chalk line to try and mark this, but it was pretty useless. With only one ladder I had to install a hook at one end then move the ladder and chalk line up to pluck it. In the end, the chalk line wasn’t much help, as you could just follow the peak of the roof. I put another 2x4 block on top of the ones I installed up there so that there was enough depth for the beams to mount to. (This involved pre-drilling the boards as well.)
By The Way – use a rechargeable drill. A corded drill working from these heights will inevitably get caught on something. Use a tool belt with lots of pockets as well, it comes in handy. After mounting all the 2x4 blocks, I had to drill the bolts that would hold cables. This was Jeff’s idea, and it works well. When you have a truss, the bottom horizontal piece may have too much weight to be held on the ends which can cause it to sag as well as not stay mounted. Jeff indicated to use a cable to hold it up there. This worked perfect and had some other benefits as well, such as holding the electrical wires when they are snaked between the beams. I installed large eyelet bolts and made sure they were very deeply installed in to the ceiling wood frame. I had originally hooked some light steel cable to these, but that quickly didn’t work. I could never get the cable to tie off, even with special crimp connections, so I had no faith that they could hold all the weight. I abandoned that idea and just stuck a light chain with closeable snap links. This was a real key to the whole thing working as you will see later.
I installed the first half of the top beam by mounting one of the black beam straps to
a ceiling 2x4 block of wood on the end. These come from FauxWoodBeams.com and look like iron. I propped the beams up outside and gave them a quick stain and cut it to fit. I had one mistaken beam strap sent to us that was the wrong size. I shipped it back and they took care of it. These straps fit pretty tight, but will mold over time. I recommend you put them on part way and let them sit for a day before sliding them the rest of the way on.The beams are light enough that I could carry one (actually 1/2 length) up carefully and slide it in to the far side, then strap and attach it in the center strap that I previously mounted. The advantage of the strap in the center was that I needed room to steal
power from the ceiling fan to run wires through all the other beams. Also, the beam doesn’t have to be full length (because it is hidden by the strap) which means that it doesn’t have to be cut perfect several times before installing. (You will quickly find that the roof isn’t exactly straight and neither is the ceiling.) After the first half was installed, the second half went easier, although there was a smoke detector in the way that I had to replace.
Check back next week for Part 2 of this truss story!