|With the two halves of the main beam installed, I could start working the top half of each truss [Rafter Beams] that attached to the ceiling. This went a bit faster as I knew that each one would hook to the 2x4 pieces attached to ceiling beams under the drywall. I found each of these with the stud detector and again marked them with blue tape.
Here is another trick that may help you: mark with blue tape where the wood blocks are installed. Mark on each side and 1 ft from the center. In this way when the beam is mounted, you can tell where to drive the screws through the beam so that you always hit these blocks. Keep in mind as the beam is being installed, you lose visibility of where the wood blocks are and won’t know where to drive the screws. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but when you are standing on one foot, with a screw in your mouth, holding the beam up with the other and trying to get everything aligned, you will be glad for one less issue.
The trick with this portion of the beams was to make sure that the angle for how they fit in to the top beam was cut correctly. I used a large angle measure tool such that I could merely place it on the main beam and open it till it hit the ceiling, tighten it, and then carry it down to mark the line on the beam to be cut. You have to do this for each side of the beam. The cutting was done with a light circular saw and went quickly. Then it was up the ladder, press it tight with one arm and screw in with the other. This occasionally was harder than it sounds, but my lovely wife was a trooper and climbed the other side of the ladder and helped hold it up while I drilled, the dog barked and my little daughter wandered around below us, oblivious to the imminent danger above.
This process was repeated on the other side of the room. The trick on this part was making sure that they ended up the exact same length so that when you look up, they don’t look different.
The other sides of the top of the truss got ugly. First, the one to the west covered an old lamp fixture at the bottom of the stairs. I pulled the wires from the socket and ran another wire there so that I could use that power for the lighting that was attached to the side of the beam. Inevitably though I had to shut off power for the room to make these connections…..and then couldn’t see a dang thing. I ended up using a head mounted flashlight that worked out Ok.
The other leg of the truss butted up against a flat wall with no metal strap. This was a pain because I learned that even if the ladder would go in to a funky position on the stairs, the base of it was too wide to fit on the stairs! I finally ended up wrapping a throw rug around a 2x4 and bungee cable connecting it to the top of the ladder. I then closed up the ladder and tilted it over the stairs and it rested on the wall. I tied off the middle of the ladder to the stair railing so that it wouldn’t tip backwards and had my wife hold the feet of the bottom. Warning…..this is not an OSHA approved maneuver!
Now the top beam [Ridge Beam] was in, the top sides [Rafter Beams] of both trusses were in but now the of these needed to be cut flat and at the same height…even though they were 18 feet apart. I debated this for awhile and then picked a height that worked and gave ample clearance over the stairs. I measured for the height and then used a level with a laser in one end. Since I couldn’t be at both ends on the ladder at the same time, I placed several pieces of tape on one side of the room and then held my level up, turned on the laser and saw which piece of tape was closest. I kept moving these around until I could repeat the laser leveling and had each beam marked on both sides. I used a handheld jigsaw to cut these and laid a drop cloth below me for the dust on the floor. I still basically made a mess with sawdust as I cut these. By all means, wear goggles when doing this. This is usually being done above your head and once the dust falls in your eyes, you have a running saw in your hand and you are high on a ladder, so your options are limited…..
Now it was time for the main/ bottom cross beams [Collar Tie Beams]. As it turned out, the hole wasn’t big enough for me to get my hand in to attach a chain to the eyelets hidden in the center of the main beam. I had a small blade that cut a hole large enough to hook in a chain that reached 22 ft below. Each side of this beam had to be cut at an angle to align with the slanting roof. I used the same technique mentioned above, but now had to take length in to consideration. Again this needs to be done on both sides, but remember to measure a couple of times before cutting. You probably wont’t get a second chance. I stained these beams and then had to work the next issue...how do these attach to the chain in the middle? These were pretty heavy being full length long and I didn’t want to tear out the whole top center of the beam if it ripped. In the end I built a small frame of 2x4s inside the center and screwed it to both sides of the beam. In the center of the frame, I installed a large eyelet (pre-drilled hole) and attached a ring to it, then I attached an adjustable tensioner with eyelets on both ends. I had picked a chain and fittings that should support double the weight, but the last thing I wanted was for something unforeseen to break and have the beam come crashing down 20 ft. I took the conservative route and lifted the beam and hooked it to the chain so that it was suspended about a foot off the floor…….and let it hang there a couple of weeks until we came back up to the cabin. We have a network camera at the cabin so I was able to log on to the internet every few days and see if it had fallen or not…
In the end, it held up fine...and the excitement began! This is where the chain was a big help over a cable, as I was able to run a safety chain underneath the beam, grab the hook with the beam attached in one hand and climb the ladder. I hooked the beam up and adjusted it every few feet while my wife steadied the beam from swaying with another guide rope. I could never have done this with a cable as it didn’t allow me to hook up to it every few feet like a chain does. In this way I slowly brought the main beam up to the top of the ladder. After getting it to the right height, I used the adjustable tensioner to hold it exactly as it needed to be, then I swung it in to position. Here I learned of a new problems. The beam opening at the top did not exactly match the mounted ceiling beam opening (where I cut it) at the bottom. Here I used a couple small pieces of plywood to slide inside over the seam and screwed it in. This forced both sides to be smooth at the seam and align perfectly. I did this on both sides at both ends and on both beams. The bottom beam to the east mounted to the wall. There was a slight gap where it abutted the vertical wall, but I was very lucky and found some colored caulk that matched very well and this did the trick (but don’t ask how much caulk I had to use!)
Check back next week for the final part of this truss story!