So I decided that this past weekend would be the walls, and the roof would come later. It was a tough call; in retrospect I probably should have done it the other way ’round. The monsoon season decided to start a little early so it has been raining some.

Monsoon rains around here tend to be in the afternoons and evenings but are otherwise unpredictable: torrential downpour or a drizzle, gusty and erratic winds or not much wind at all. Storms come up seemingly out of nowhere as it will be clear or only a cloud or two during the day, and around noon or one o’clock it can start to cloud over very quickly.

Dennis and MatthewDennis and his son Matthew volunteered to come out Friday for the day. They came bright and early to our house and we drove to Benson, arriving at the job site around 7:30. We got to work framing the walls, which was easy. I used 2×4 studs on 24″ centers since they are basically nailers for windows and siding; the structure is held up by the posts.

My able compatriots were a great help getting the half-inch plywood sheets hung. We nailed minimally so as to get them all up before Dennis and Matthew had to leave around 2:30. A good time was had bashing nails and cutting wood.

Pumphouse with no windowsShortly before my help had to leave, the batteries quit on the circular saw. We had had to cut many notches for the wall framing, so the studs would fit around the perimeter beam up top. So we weren’t able to cut out the window and door openings. I was a little nervous, since I really wanted to get the door and windows hung on this trip. I managed to finish cutting the door opening with a hand saw and it was clear from that experience that the windows would take far too long with what I had.

Fortunately our neighborhood excavator came to the rescue! He thought he was merely stopping by to drop off a receipt, but he was actually saving the day. “Can I bum some electricity off you?” I asked. Later that evening he was back with two charged batteries! Back in business!

SunsetI spent the evening nailing the plywood following a 6-8-12 schedule. That means a nail every 6″ around the outside edges, every 8″ where two edges meet, and every 12″ in the field (that is, in the middle of the sheet). Before sundown I pitched my tent in the valley and cooked fajitas inside the pumphouse. It felt very confining without the windows cut out and a narrow slit for a door… so after dinner I sat outside and watched the sunset, which was–as usual–spectacular.

Watching paint drySaturday morning I got up early, finished nailing the plywood, and cut out the windows. What an improvement! Then I started priming the plywood. Plywood does not like to get wet, and it really needs to be painted or sealed against rain. I decided to try using a green-seal certified product for the paint and primer (Yolo if you’re interested). It’s more expensive but non-toxic, ultra-low VOC, and completely formaldehyde-free. Yay! It was a pleasure to work with too. It was nice to know that it wasn’t toxic when I got it all over my hands or spilled a little on the ground.

Primed and with window openingsAfter that I hung the front door. We bought it used from a guy who had bought a very expensive ($3,000) door from a big-box retailer. The installers apparently damaged the door, so the retailer gave him this door as a temporary until the expensive door could be replaced. The retailer didn’t want the door back so he decided to sell it on Craigslist. We saw the ad and pounced! Nearly-new steel, pre-hung entry door for $50.

One window in and purlins upNext I set about installing the windows. Unfortunately I had left my caulking gun at home! So I tried caulking the windows by pushing the caulk out of the tube with a hammer handle. That was hard and awkward, and I couldn’t get a consistent bead of caulk. I had also purchased the wrong kind of flashing; it was the mechanically-secured kind (you nail it on) rather than the self-adhesive kind, and since I am not using housewrap I needed the self-adhesive kind. So I couldn’t finish the window or do the others. They would have to wait.

By that time it was getting late. The weather had been beautiful all weekend and I didn’t really want to leave. As night fell I listened to the sounds of the desert and was enchanted. But I knew I didn’t have what I needed to keep working productively and wifey would be expecting a call from me, so I packed up and went home after sunset.

I had been all along concerned about rain. Now that the walls were up and the door in place, if it rained the water would have nowhere to go and would stand on the plywood subfloor. Plywood, as I mentioned before, does not like to get wet.

So Sunday morning I got up and checked the weather. It said there would be a 30% chance of rain that day, a 20% chance the following day, and 10% each day thereafter. I plan to put the roof up on Thursday. I’m no math whiz but statistically it seems like there were better than 50-50 odds that it would rain before Thursday. And a thunderstorm in the southwest can dump an inch of rain in very short order.

I Googled how to put on a temporary roof. Take a sheet of plastic, wrap one end around a 1×3, nail that to a gable end, stretch the plastic over the roof, and nail the other end to the opposite gable (wrapped around a 1×3 of course). Then tack on 1x3s over top to keep the plastic down. Easy.

Thunderstorms a-comin\'I took off to the hardware store, bought a roll of plastic and lots of wood trim (I would need 1x3s, 1x4s, and 1x6s for trim later anyhow). I remembered my caulking gun and bought the right kind of flashing, too. And I was off… arriving at the homestead around 11:30. I immediately got on the roof and put up the purlins, then started stretching the plastic… just as the first thunderstorm blew in. I had gotten one gable end secure and had stretched the plastic over when the wind kicked up and the rain started falling. At that point I couldn’t let go of the plastic or it would get ripped off and thrown out into the desert (and likely shredded by its thorny vegetative inhabitants). So I held on for about twenty minutes, waiting for the wind and rain to stop. It was a refreshing experience!

Thankfully thunderstorms in the desert are often isolated and short. I was able to finish securing the first half of the roof when the second thunderstorm hit, and this one had hail. I spent the second one sweeping the water out of the house since half the roof was still open.

View from the insideThe second storm was harder than the first but shorter. I was able to get the other side of the roof done afterward, and nailed one of the plywood window cutouts into the west gable end to try and reduce the amount of rain entering that way. The other cutouts are a temporary loft floor that serves as a platform for working.

Before I went out to put on the temporary roof I had called wifey and told her, “I am on the land alone and working on a roof; if you don’t hear from me by 5-o’clock, something bad happened!” I finished the temporary roof at a quarter to five and had to book it in order to get cell phone reception!

Ready for weatherGood times. Life is an adventure. I didn’t want to go out on Sunday and had been looking forward to a day of rest. But I’m glad I was there, I’m glad I am doing something I love, and I’m glad our little house has some protection.

Thursday will be the next installment: the roof! And possibly the windows (properly caulked and flashed this time). Friday evening wifey and urchin return from Kansas and that will mark the end of my weekly exploits… at least for a while.