Building My House

I have always wanted to build my own house. I am retired now, so I have the time. I found some land, designed a house that would fit the land and my needs and got started. I am doing all the work myself, so progress will be fairly slow. To read this blog from the beginning, start with the oldest archive and read posts from last to first.

Friday, May 29, 2009

59: The Outside Corners

I have avidly watched houses being built my whole life. Even as a kid I remember going by construction sites and watching the carpenters turn a pile of lumber into something special. I still remember the day we went by a site and a carpenter asked us if we wanted some nails. He must’ve sensed that’s what we wanted but were too timid to ask. He allowed us to take one handful of nails each. When we walked away with that treasure, you would have thought we just found a way into an Egyptian pyramid. Now that we had some nails, we could build something ourselves.

So, in all this construction watching over the last 50 years I’ve seen enough to be able to ask, why did they do it this way or that way. More importantly, I’ve been able to ask why “didn’t” they do this, or do that. So many little things, that would take almost no time to do, and very little (if any) additional expense…but would yield so much more. So, in my house I vowed to DO those little extra things… the outside corners are a good example.

I said previously that my outside corners have 5/8” sheathing on both the inside and the outside; thus making them a form of a shear wall (also known as a diaphragm wall). They were installed to increase the house’s ability to withstand the racking forces of high winds. The inside sheathing was installed when the wall was framed, which left the outside sheathing to be installed after wiring and insulating the space.

I wired the space with two runs of 12-2 (2 conductor with ground) so I would have an extra wire if ever needed. Then I caulked all the seams of the inside of the wall with painters caulk. This is part of the “airtight drywall approach” which reduces the amount of air leaking into the wall assembly. Less air infiltration means the insulation works better. Kraft (paper) faced fiberglass insulation batts came next. Then, the outside sheathing went on and because it is part of a shear wall it was nailed with number 8 galvanized nails at roughly 3” spacing all the way around. In case you’re interested, that’s about 120 nails on each fullsize piece of sheathing. Thank goodness for nailing guns.

Number 8 nails at 3” spacing on 5/8” sheathing provides a LOT of shear resistance. Most contractors use number 6 nails at 6” spacing on one layer of ½” or even 7/16” OSB. That’s not good enough for me; and the cost increase of using more and better materials was insignificant; rough estimate, $25 for the whole house.

While the dollar cost of these modifications is small, there is an increase in the time it takes to build them, sometimes a significant increase in time. So, I can see why most contractors don’t routinely build this additional protection into their product unless required by building code or as a special request by the owner. Since I have the time, including these little improvements in my home is a no-brainer.


At 9:11 AM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

Perhaps you know the answer to this question. Since you have 5/8" sheathing on the inside plus I assume a layer of drywall eventually, will you be able to locate studs for attaching heavier things later?

The reason I ask is that I have foil faced insulation on the perimeter walls of my house and I have yet to find a stud detector that can find my studs. The one I use now has a metal detector which SOMETIMES is able to locate the screws used to attach the drywall but isn't very reliable so I end up going by feel of the screw going in.

Also another question. Why sheath the inside versus the outside when putting up the walls? Was there an advantage to doing the insides?

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Tony said...

The inside sheathing is only in the corners; four feet in each direction. I don't know if I'll be able to locate a stud under the inside sheathing; I hadn't thought about that yet. However, since the corners will be 1/2" drywall over 5/8" sheathing I think I'll have adequate thickness to hang anything I want.

The studs with the inside sheathing have been "notched" so the wall isn't thicker there than other places.

At 9:54 PM, Blogger mark.jacob said...

To whom it may concern,

We are the editors of OZ, an award winning student-edited journal published by the
College of Architecture, Planning, and Design of Kansas State University. Each year we
compile an issue exploring a theme in contemporary architecture. We invite you to
consider contributing to our 31st issue: ?untrained.?

The theme of this issue was sparked by an existential dilemma. It has been said that 98%
of the world?s population has no need of architects. Many building projects today are
executed without an architectural agenda. At the same time, architectural education seems
to attenuate the distance between architects and others in the allied building
professions. Maybe society needs buildings, but do buildings need architects? What is the
application of architectural training to the fabric of society in real terms? Bluntly,
how relevant is the institution of architecture?

One section of this years journal will be an expose on the resources available to the
do-it-yourself home builders via the internet community and easily accessible/affordable

We would ike to ask permission to publish a few screen shots from your blog in our journal this year. These screenshots will be used to help our readers understand the resources availiable online to the
do-it-yourself homebuilder.

We would be honored if you would be interested in contributing to the OZ31 journal and
eagerly await your response. You can visit our website at to see
information on previous journals. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

Yours truly,

Mark Jacob Long
Co-editor, Oz


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