Military Tradition – History of Veterans Abused, Discarded

The history of this country’s treatment of its veterans has been dismal, starting with the very beginning of the country.

Revolutionary War

The Continental Congress of 1776 sought to encourage enlistments and curtail desertions with the nation’s first pension law. It granted half pay for life in cases of loss of limb or other serious disability.   But they had no money or authority so they left it to the states with lackluster success.  Only about 3,000 Revolutionary War veterans ever drew any pension, and it was limited to those who had been disabled and the payments were quite low.

A new principle for veterans benefits, providing pensions on the basis of need (indigent), was introduced in the 1818 Service Pension Law. The law provided that every person who had served in the War for Independence and was in need of assistance would receive a fixed pension for life. The rate was $20 a month for officers and $8 a month for enlisted men.

The problem was that the pensioner had to prove that he was indigent and many never received a penny. In 1858 Congress authorized half-pay pensions to veterans’ widows and to their orphan children until they reached the age of 16, generally paying $4.00 to $10.00 a month depending on rank of the veteran.

Civil War

By 1868 New York Governor Reuben E. Fenton (“the soldier’s friend”) remarked that homeless veterans in New York State “numbered by the thousands.”

After the Civil War, veterans organized to seek increased benefits. The Grand Army of the Republic, consisting of Union veterans of the Civil War, was the largest veterans organization emerging from the war.

Until 1890, Civil War pensions were granted only to servicemen discharged because of illness or disability attributable to military service.

The Dependent Pension Act of 1890 substantially broadened the scope of eligibility, providing pensions to veterans incapable of manual labor.  (Photo courtesy VA Dept.)

World War I

“The Veteran’s Bureau,” a columnist wrote in 1925, “has probably made wrecks of more men since the war than the war itself took in dead and maimed.”

After Dec. 24, 1919, all claims and payments arising from disability or death from World War I were regarded as compensation rather than pension. This was reversed in March 1933, when all payments to veterans were again regarded as pensions. It was not until World War II that the distinction between compensation and pension again was used.

The first director of the Veteran’s Bureau was relieved as director within two years and was later sentenced to prison and fined on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government on hospital contracts.

After returning from the Great War, many veterans faced destitution and did all they could to survive.  In 1924 Congress passed the World War Adjustment Compensation Act, giving one dollar a day for service and 25 cents more for service overseas.  There was a catch:  If it was more than $50.00 it was issued in certificate form not payable for 20 years and not over $1500.00.

The veteran’s called these “bonus” certificates and marched on Washington, (see last 2 pictures above), some 15,000 by some estimates.   They demanded immediate payments.   They camped wherever they could. Some slept in abandoned buildings or erected tents. But many lived in makeshift shacks along the mudflats of the Anacostia River. With no sanitation facilities, living conditions quickly deteriorated in the “shanty town.

The bonus marches revealed serious shortcomings in how America cared for her defenders as they transitioned from military to civilian life.  As a result, Congress passed the GI Bill of Rights.  (Photo Courtesy VA Dept)

In 1933 Congress enacted the Economy Act which repealed all laws giving benefits for veterans and gave the authority to Roosevelt who radically created new acts that radically reduced veteran’s benefits.

World War II

In 1946, the VA had beds for about 82,000 patients but the VA rolls swelled to 15 million in just a few months and the hospitals were virtually all swamped.  There were 26,000 non service related cases also on the waiting list. The VA was building new hospitals but had money for only 12,000 more beds.  They came too few too late.

Health problems associated with atomic radiation also have received belated attention. The Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act of 1988 authorized disability compensation for veterans suffering from a number of diseases associated with radiation, 42 years after the exposure!

This specifically included veterans claiming exposure to atomic radiation during the detonation of nuclear test devices or during the U.S. occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki between September 11, 1945, and July 1, 1946

Korean War

Photo Lulu Vision Creative Commons License     Find it Here

The Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952, called the Korean GI Bill, provided unemployment insurance, job placement, home loans and mustering-out benefits similar to those offered World War II veterans. The Korean GI Bill made several changes, however, in education benefits, reducing financial benefits generally and imposing new restrictions.

The effect of the changes was that the benefit no longer completely covered the cost of the veteran’s education.

Vietnam War

Photo eroksCom Creative Commons License  Find it here

A major difference of Vietnam-era veterans from those of earlier wars was the larger percentage of disabled.  Advances in airlift and medical treatment saved the lives of many who would have died in earlier wars.   There were issues of Agent Orange which took many years to address.  At first, the only allowable claims related to Agent Orange were for a skin rash, chloracne.  The VA waited until 1991 to recognize for claim purposes two other ailments, soft-tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  (Photo Courtesy erokCom (Creative Commons License)

Vientnam veterans make up the preponderance of homeless veterans.   42% of the homeless veterans served in Vietnam.  Many more served during the conflict but in non combat areas.

Many of these suffer from PTSD, alcohol and drug related illnesses that have not been properly addressed by the VA.  The VA still claims that PTSD has no relationship to military service.

Gulf War

Gulf War Vet


Gulf War veterans are among the new faces of homeless veterans.

Afganistan and Iraq

News Headline: New York– Americans were dismayed to learn that soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq — “fallen heroes” were being warehoused in Building 18, a rat-and roach infested satellite of the Armu’s Walter Reed Medical Center.

(Photo courtesy big gray mare A creative commons license
Find it here

In addition, injured veterans are going bankrupt and losing their homes because the Veterans Administration (V.A.) holds up their benefit checks for years on end.

The men and women who fight for our country deserve better.

Is this any way to “support our troops?”

Update March 2010:

A Start

Source Politifact

VA secretary announces plans for more housing vouchers at Homeless Veterans Summit

Updated: Monday, January 4th, 2010 | By Robert Farley

On July 30, 2009, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., introduced the “Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009.” The bill would authorize a major increase in the number of vouchers available annually for homeless veterans through the VA Supported Housing Program. Specifically, the bill would increase the number of vouchers available to 30,000 in 2010, and then 10,000 more a year until 2014, when 60,000 vouchers would be available. The bill now sits in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

On Nov. 3, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki convened the first-ever Homeless Veteran Summit in Washington, during which he unveiled an ambitious plan to establish new programs and enhance existing ones with the goal of ending homelessness among veterans over the next five years.


Note: Some of the history information and early pictures came from the VA History website, later pictures came from recent posts and news articles, with attribution to sources.  Link to Creative Commons License information.

For All Homeless Veterans Articles

Recovering Flooded Homes – The Process

When the rains come in too much abundance we sometimes find ourselves watching water rise up through the floorboards.   A woman told me recently that they saw the water rising outside and her husband tried to sandbag the doors and thought that would help.  Instead, they were surprised that the water just came up through the floor all around them as if the walls were not even there.   I told her that if the floor had not let the water through, it would have lifted like a boat and simply floated away.


Floodwaters are usually defined as water that touches the ground before it enters the house.  That flooded basement where water came through the cement blocks will not be covered by homeowners insurance.    You must have a separate flood insurance policy to be covered.   Water that came through a hole in the roof or window that was caused by falling branches or wind generally are covered by homeowners insurance.  

Apparently flood insurance  is sold in at least three varieties.  One that covers the house itself, one that covers only the contents (designed for renters) and one that covers the house and contents.  Most mortgage companies only require the first.   If you have flood insurance check to see if your furniture, carpets, clothing are covered or you may be in for a nasty surprise.  

What are the problems involved?

Every home is affected differently by flooding.  It depends on the type of construction and the height of the water in the house and whether it has been breached or moved by strong winds or moving water.

Breached homes (hit by floating debris or windstorm) and those pushed off of foundations have a high probability of requiring professional help or becoming not repairable.  

All homes affected by flooding have one overriding problem:   Water essentially ruins everything that it touches that is not waterproof.   Drywall, carpets, furniture (particularly fabric covered), clothing, anything made of paper or cardboard, family documents, pressed wood such as found in inexpensive cabinets and flooring, and electronics all can be expected to be headed to the dump.   

Most wiring, plumbing and some appliances survive, as does most of the framing if dried out soon and thoroughly enough.   You should be aware that floodwater damaged homes can have lingering  problems that may show up weeks, months, and even years later.   If not properly dried out, you can have a “sick” house, one that is harboring mold, mildew and other toxins that affect those living there.   Don’t take shortcuts. 

Recovery Time Varies

You will notice that in areas where there is heavy flooding, some homes come back to life in a matter of weeks and others linger for a year or more and those often end up being removed entirely.  If the home is salvageable, it is essential that work begin immediately and that a logical step by step process be followed.   The suggestions here should  help get a house recovered in the minimum time required to do it right.

 Much of this article assumes the damage has been done and the waters have subsided.   It is by no means all inclusive, but it is an efficient process to get your life back on track.   It will take several weeks at best for even the lightest hit homes.   Two months are about average for homes with water that rises above the baseboards.

Types of people affected.   In my experience working on more than a dozen homes as a volunteer after hurricane Dennis in 2005, there are three categories of people affected.   I’m going to address the rest of this article directly to them:

Renters.  You should immediately contact your insurance company to seen if you have renter’s insurance that covers floods and then find a dry place to rent.  You may also be eligible for assistance.  Contact your local Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, or other prominent local service agency and see what is available.   They should be able to direct you to a shelter until you get that dry place to rent.  Some will be able to give rental assistance.   Notify your church and your friends.   

You should know that bedding, stuffed furniture and electronics (TV etc) that have gotten wet in floodwaters are almost never salvageable.    Most lightly soiled clothing can be saved.  Do not take anything wet into your new apartment.  Take clothing to a commercial laundry and/or dry cleaners first.   Dry the furniture you are trying to save carefully and remove all traces of mud.   Put everything into storage until you find a new apartment.  Consider volunteering to help your landlord or neighbors.

Landlords are those that have tenants in the house that was flooded.  If you are a landlord, you should be aware that you will not get much priority in restoring your property except with paid contractors unless there are extenuating circumstances.   You should first contact your insurance company and see if you are covered with flood insurance and follow their directions if you are.   Let your church and your friends know.  You should then contact local service providers, such as the Red Cross, for assistance with relocating your tenants but don’t expect to receive much more than referral of volunteers (who also want to help homeowners first).   If you are old, infirm or disabled and this is your only source of income, then I expect volunteers to flock to help.  

Homeowners are people who both own and live in the house that was flooded.  Homeowners without flood insurance will have natural priority with service agencies and volunteers.   If your flood insurance does not cover the contents,  you may need assistance in replacing your personal property even if the insurance replaces your drywall for you.   Everyone wants to get you back into your own home.  You should first contact your insurance company and see if you are covered with flood insurance and to what extent (home only, home and contents) and follow their directions if you are.    Let your church and friends know.   

You should contact your local disaster relief agencies and service providers such as the Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, etc.  in your area for assistance in locating volunteers to assist in recovering your house.   The disaster relief agency may assist you in acquiring  federal and/or state funding to help pay for some of the costs.    If  you do have flood insurance, then the volunteers should only be asked to help with the emergency part of the cleanup such as removal of furniture, etc. as the insurance will take care of the bulk of the work.    If the contents are not covered, let the volunteer agency know and they may try to help secure donations to get you by.

As a homeowner without insurance, you will get the highest priority for assistance from volunteer agencies, depending on actual need.  Some will assign case workers to work with you to help determine the need.   If you have insurance, the need will naturally be less.   If you are uninsured, elderly or with several children, you will go to the top of the list.   If you are a retired banker, able-bodied and have good financial resources you will end up lower in the stack or left to hire your own contractor..    

Damage Varies House to House.

What kind of damage can occur varies from house to house even in the same neighborhood.   Some may be on concrete slabs and others sitting on cement blocks.  Some may have basements and others not.  Some may be further up the hill and get small amounts in the crawl space or onto the walking surface, while others may be up to the rooftops.  Some may have pressed wood siding, others brick.  Everything causes variations in the damage done and the cost of restoring the house.

Utilities and Government Actions

Condemned Sign Posted. You can expect your city or county code and health departments to pay a visit and may put a condemned sign and yellow tape on the door to your property.  That does not mean your house  has to be torn down or can’t be fixed.  It means you can’t live in it until they agree it is safe to do so.  You should make an appointment with them and be ready to outline your restoration process.   They will usually let you go inside and begin cleanup operations.  

You should be aware that there is a process whereby a house or neighborhood can be condemned and removed.   It does happen when the damage is so severe that it cannot be repaired or the risk of being flooded again is too high, often after repeated floods.   It is a long process and involves the government purchase of the land at fair market value. 

Utilities Turned Off.  You will also find that the various utilities will likely turn off the power at the pole and gas and water at the street or the meter.   They may even remove the gas or electric meter.   This is for your safety.  You won’t need them to begin cleaning the place up.  If you have equipment you need to use  (a commercial dehumidifier, for example) you can ask for an inspection of your wiring and they may restore it. 

Otherwise you can ask your utility for a “construction” or “temporary” meter and they will put one in your front yard that you can use to run power equipment.  Interior wiring, including light switches and outlets are not usually harmed by flooding waters.  This is because the circuit breakers often save them (and you).   Your local inspectors will look at them before they let you restore poser.

The Recovery Process

Concrete Slab Construction   Houses built on concrete slabs usually fare the best in the long run.  However they may also have the deepest water in their homes.  The furnaces and ductwork are usually above the floor and are more easily cleaned or replaced and since there is no crawl space, the flooring will not likely be damaged other than carpet and loose tiles or any wood flooring on the slab.

Crawl Space  and Basement Construction:  Houses built with craw spaces have a whole range of additional troubles.  Standing floodwater in the crawlspace or  basement will quickly cook up a brew of mold and mildew that will take a commercial service to kill it, if it can be done at all.   You need to work fast to avoid serious problems.

Often the furnace is under the house or at least the ductwork and usually both will be full of water even if the water did not reach the walking surface.   In addition, the sub floor (layer under your exposed floor) is often pressed-wood that has aged and will soak up water and begin to rapidly deteriorate.  It is a difficult and dangerous environment to work in and it should be professionally dried out before entering.

All Houses: 

Must-Do-Immediately Tasks

This list includes everything down to cabinet removal and sometimes power restoration, but it is critical to do it quickly.  A lot of this is do-it-yourself level work but get all the help you can get   It will take 4 to 10 people to just clean out the house.  20 would be a blessing and can be done in a few hours. 

Everyone should be equipped with gloves, mask, long sleeves, long pants and shoes with non slip soles and cover the entire foot.   There should be hand sanitizer available and lots of paper towels.   This can be a dangerous job from the standpoint that there may be hidden broken glass, exposed nails as the drywall is removed, and critters looking for refuge as well as toxins already brewing.

Explain safety rules and the process.  Start the day by outlining the safety considerations, then explain the process so that overzealous helpers do not get carried away and get ahead of the curve.   Ripping off the drywall before you take off the door and window trim and the switch covers can add to the expense of recovery.   Piling things in front of the doors  or walkways and interior traffic patterns will just slow things down for everyone.   Request that any nails in boards be bent over and turned down when thrown on the pile.  Boards to be saved that have nails sticking out should be placed separately out of all walk patterns, preferably standing in a garage corner or tucked against an exterior wall.  

The following instructions include all types of construction.   The object is to get everything wet out of the house ASAPThis includes furniture, interior doors,  carpets, baseboards and drywall to the extent it got wet.   Be aware that you may have problems not considered here.   Open all the windows and doors when you have workers on the site.   Keep the windows partially open until the house is dry.

Get the furniture and other belongings out of the house, or at least off the floor that was flooded.   Tag salvageable items and/or stand at the door to direct those things you want to try to save to a separate area well out-of-the-way, preferably dry like a carport.   You will want to put anything salvageable into dry storage, but clean and dry them first.  If the water made the carpet wet or if you can detect a moldy smell, it is not likely to be salvageable.   If there is the least doubt, you should get a professional cleaner to look at them first

Wet carpets from floodwater have tiny microbes and spores galore that will fester over time and promote sickness later, even when well dried.  Wet carpet will slow down your progress by a week or more if you keep it in the house.   Pull it up as soon as possible and also remove the padding and take it all out to the curb.  Most communities will do free pickup of flood damaged debris

In almost all cases the baseboard and wet drywall will need to be removed to prevent mold from growing inside the wall.. 

Remove the baseboards first.  If done carefully, some baseboards can be saved in a dry place.   However, old wet wood will often split.   Removal should be done with a flat iron pry bar, not a hammer.  Sometimes you can punch a hole in the drywall and simply pry the baseboard off with the pry bar.   Number the baseboards if you plan to try to save them so that you can put them back in the same place 

Remove the electrical trim plates.   Put them away in your car or a drawer somewhere with the screws or plan to buy new ones.   They have to be removed to replace the drywall later, so put them away now.

 Remove the interior trim on all doors and windows – number and save the trim.   Removing the trim will aid in removing the drywall and will also open up spaces for captured moisture in the hidden spaces in the casing to escape.  You may get the wet drywall out easily with the trim still on, but you won’t be able to get the new drywall in with the trim still in place, so remove it now..

Remove the interior doors and casings.  Number them and  remove to a dry place (garage or corner of a carport, for example) to aid in drying them out and to protect them.  Use a saws-all to cut the nails through the casing shims if you have power, else pry carefully in stages all around using the flat iron.   Doors with laminated wood facing (Luan) should be thrown out as they will just come apart later.  Hollow core panel doors will sometimes separate but sometimes can be glued back after they are thoroughly dry.

Remove the wet drywall.   Find the highest wet drywall level and go at least 4 inches above that.  Try to select a point 1, 2, or 4 feet from the floor to make your new drywall go further. draw a chalk line at that level, cut and remove the drywall from there down.   This is best done with a drywall hand saw.  Make the cuts at a shallow angle as there may be wires or even pipes or  air conditioner lines in the wall.  I don’t recommend a ”saws-all” except in the hands of someone very capable and careful.  I’ve seen a lot of cut wiring and pipes that greatly increase the cost of repairs.  It is an easy job with a good drywall hand saw.   If the cut does not follow the line carefully, it will slow up replacement later.  

If the water level was above 4 feet, remove all the drywall.  If the level is below 18 inches, take out the bottom 2 feet.  If below 8 inches take out the bottom foot.  Go higher if the drywall feels damp less than 4 inches from the lines mentioned here.   Doing this in 1, 2 or 4 foot increments will reduce the amount of drywall you have to buy and reinstall because the sheets are easily cut to narrower widths and will go further.  Take out all the drywall in a line all around the house.  Don’t forget the closets as they will be the worst to mildew.

Punch a hole in one of the wall cavities with a hammer or prybar below your cut line.  Grab the sheetrock with your hand and pull it off and have it carried outside onto a portion of the driveway.   Often sheetrock will come off in large sheets. 

Remove the nails.  Have someone come behind as each wall is cleared and pull the drywall nails and remove any screws.   Put them into a bag or can for disposal later.  Nails that break off can often just  be driven in flat.   Have someone check the studs by running the edge of their hammer up and down them and along the bottom plate to detect any missed ones.   Nails left on the wall will be snags for anyone working close by and will cause damage to new sheetrock if not noticed in time.   May as well be systematic and find them all now.

Remove all bottom cabinets.  Remove the bottom cabinets in the kitchen and bath, but start with the counter tops.   Counter tops will usually have screws underneath that you can find (use a flashlight) from the open areas underneath, often in corners and near the middle.  These hold the top to the cabinet.   Sometimes there is also putty.  Remove these screws, cut along the caulk along the back edges of the splash board.   

Verify that the water is turned off at the meter, disconnect the faucet lines and, if necessary, remove the cutoff  valves under the sink.    Take out the trap and tape a plastic bag over the drain line.   Remove the countertop by using a 3-in-one tool or flat iron prybar to lift the front and pull it away from the wall.   Decide if you want it saved or not. 

Remove the bottom cabinets.    If you desire to salvage them, look behind the drawers and inside the back and remove any screws you can find that are holding them to the wall.  Usually there will also be screws hidden behind the door edges in the front frame that hold the cabinets to each other unless they are built as one unit. 

Remove all the screws and then use a sharp drywall knife to cut through any caulk between the cabinet and the wall.  Slowly pry the back of the cabinet from the wall with a flat iron all around in stages so as to detect any missed screws.   Older cabinets are often below the floor level as new layers of vinyl have been added over the years.  They are seldom nailed to the floors,   Tilt them forward and lift them up with a prybar.

Usually you will end up finding that the cabinets cannot be saved, but it is worth a try.    Be aware that most modern cabinets have significant amounts of pressed wood and will harbor mold even if they don’t deteriorate during the flood.   The cabinets must be removed to get to the drywall behind them and to the open spaces below them anyway.    If the cabinets look good and the pressed wood has not deteriorated, Kiltz the back and bottoms of the cabinets (inside too if possible)   to reduce the chance of mold and mildew later.

In my experience any cabinet that is no longer sold as a “standard” cabinet will also require you to remove and replace the top cabinets as well.  Might as well do it, although I’ve managed to save two sets of top cabinets out of maybe 10 or 12 houses I’ve worked on. 

 Inspect the sub floor from the basement or crawlspace if you can get in there.   At least look at the area over the crawl space door.   If the sub floor is coming apart you will have to remove all of your flooring to get to it, remove and replace it all.   I was in one house as we were removing carpet and someone broke through the floor.   No injuries but the floor under the carpet was simply pressed wood (OSB) and was falling apart (it had termite damage too). 

Houses with crawl spaces will usually require professional help.  At the least, any trapped water needs to be drained from under there.  This can be done by carrying in dry dirt to fill pockets of standing water, and by using sump pumps for sunken areas of the crawl space and basements.  

Often the fuse panels and laundry are in basement areas. Furnaces are often in basements and many times in crawl spaces.   Duct work can still be filled with toxic water and must be cleaned or removed.  If it is flexible duct work, punch holes in the bottom of low spots, let the water drain, then remove them and replace with new duct work after the house has been dried out.   A commercial dehumidifier and/or large blowers will be required to dry the basement or craw spaces completely.  Any moisture remaining will just promote mold and fungi growth.

Mold and mildew will begin to grow on wet wood in the crawl spaces very quickly!  You will see white spots and some with “hairs”.  Black mold is the most dangerous and should be avoided completely.   It will take commercial products made for the purpose to kill them.  A thinned bleach spray will also work, but the danger to non-professionals doing this job is very high and loss of vision, lung and skin problems can be very serious.    Vapors from cleansers will seep into the living areas and can be dangerous to anyone working above.   Let everything dry and air out completely after using them.   Professionals have the tools and the safety clothing and hoods to do this with no danger.

Get power restored.  With any luck you can do that while you are still doing demolition  if an electrician and the inspector agree.   If not, there will be a point where you have finished the demolition where you can have an electrician and/or government inspector verify the safety of your house for electrical purposes. 

That inspection may allow you to restore power.    If the power system of your house  is heavily damaged, consider asking the power company to install a temporary meter and pole in your yard.   The point is that you need power to run fans and dehumidifiers to aid in the drying out process.  

Drying it out.  (1 to 3 weeks)  Many governments require you to be inspected to verify that the house is dry enough to begin reconstruction.   This means you can’t begin installing the new drywall until they say you can.   If you get ahead of your inspection curve, you may be required to remove the drywall, inspect and replace it again.   Work with your inspectors.  They are your friends looking out for your safety.

Be aware that some cities and counties require the drying out process to be at least two weeks before they will inspect it.   Ask them.   If the wood is obviously dry you may get them to make an exception based on hardship.   For your own good, it must be completely dry.  Be nice to them at all times,  very, very nice. particularly if you need some sort of exception, because they can make it easy or hard.  They are nice people anyway, just doing their jobs but they don’t have time to argue with you.   I am not and never have been an inspector if you are wondering.  I’m just going from experience.    Ask them what they expect you to do.  It is ok to negotiate some and tell them why it is important to you , but don’t argue.  Kiss of death.   Besides there are good reasons for allowing wood to dry for a minimum amount of time.

Keep the screened windows open during dry weather and open the doors as much as you  can.  I’m not recommending that the doors be left open when no one is there.  Close the windows partway up and lock them into place with a nail if necessary.  Move the equipment around until the wood is obviously very dry, not “kinda” or almost dry.  

Rebuilding – Get an inspection.   Your inspector will want to check the dryness of your home, and will also want to look at the wiring and pipes that will be hidden later.  If you had to have your flooring removed, then you will need them to look at the framing there too.   Install the flooring if necessary and have it inspected.  These inspections are for your own good.  Always insist a contractor get a permit.   While your inspector is there, ask him or her if they want to see the drywall nail pattern before you paint.  Some do.

Drywall first.    Once your inspectors give the ok, start putting up the drywall.  Recheck the studs and bottom plates for overlooked nails first.    Lay it sideways and make sure the thickness is the same.  We had one house with a mixture of ½ inch and 5/8 inch drywall and some volunteers put in all ½ inch.   I had to come behind them and replace a lot of it.   5/8 is typically used as firewall material, sometimes found in and outside furnace closets and walls that divide two apartments. and in flue chases. 

Be aware that you can now buy “paperless” drywall.  This is moisture resistant and does not provide anything for mold to grow on.  It uses a fiberglass backing instead of  paper.  It costs more but if you have a damp basement that you choose to not waterproof, then use the paperless drywall material.  Use “green rock” water resistant drywall in bathrooms.

Lift the drywall off the floor by the thickness of a scrap piece of drywall so the bottom never touches the floor.  This reduces the chance that mopping or minor leaks or knocked over mop buckets will damage your new drywall later.   The gap will be covered by the baseboard.   Try to fit the drywall close to your cut line.   Use a sharp edge or sanding block/rasp to remove rough edges and humps to get  a tight fit.

Tape, mud and sand your joints.  It usually takes 3 coats done over 3 days.   A good drywall man can do this at little cost and you will never see the joint.   Be aware that most off-the- street “expert drywall installers” may never have worked on drywall before, they just need a job or saw it being done somewhere.   They will not do the job you need.    Almost anyone can paint, but drywall mudding requires some experience.   Get references and only use someone who does it for a living, a professional.   A poorly done job will haunt you forever.  Every line will show.

When the drywall is finished – all 3 coats and sanding – run your hands over all the joints.  If you can feel the joint, it will show when painted.  Fix it. 

Prepare the door casings for reinstallation.   I don’t recommend knocking the nails back through the wood.  Use vice-grips to pull them out the other side (the side that never shows) or use a metal-cutting blade to cut them off flush with the wood (easiest).  Pull any that have heads showing on the edge of a board where the trim was peeled off, or drive them in flush.   Throw away the old nails and use new ones.  Knocking them back out always damages the wood.  The heads are embedded and split out ugly chunks of wood.  

 Install the doors.  Then begin reinstalling the door casing and window and exterior door trim.  Make use of the numbers you put on them when they were removed.  Most will fit back easily where they came from.  How the door closes and whether or not they stand still when opened is dependent on the door and its casings all being perfectly vertical.    Make absolutely certain that the door casings are vertical.  Use shims to get both sides vertical and spaced so that there is about 1/8 inch gap on each edge of the door, sides and top.  Do the base boards last or you will have trouble installing the door trim.

Install the kitchen and bathroom cabinets.   Do not install the baseboards on cabinet walls until you have the cabinets installed exactly as you want them.   Put the tops on last.   Make certain that plumbing hasn’t been damaged or clogged with debris before hooking the faucets and drains up.  You may want to replace the valves under the sinks with new ones.

Caulkaround all the new trim and new cabinets next to the drywall.   Use paintable caulk for everything.  Some caulk just will not take paint and will look bad when you are done.   Read the labels to be certain it is paintable.  Latex is good.   Sometimes large boxes of donated caulk show up.  Be aware it sometimes is donated because it has started to harden or is a non paintable stock that is moving slow.   They are a write-off for the company but not useful to you.   Don’t use it if it is hardening or wrong type.

Inspection?  Some inspectors want to look at the nail pattern in your drywall before you paint.   This applies mostly to new houses but you should check with them first.

Sand, fill nail holes, and Paint everything,    Painting is to beautify and protect your work.    Too often the paint is slapped on walls and wood work that are not ready and the beauty part is lost.   Visually inspect every piece of wood for nail pops and sink the heads with a nail punch.   Fill the heads with wood putty.   Sand any areas that have paint chips and thin coat  (even drywall mud will work) anything you can feel is rough with your bare hands, let dry and then sand again.  Prime the filled areas and all new drywall.

 Install carpets.  Let your carpet supplier do this for you.   Most people do not have the skills required.  After all this work, why have carpet with twisted with obvious wrinkles and loose areas showing?   People will think you just reused your old carpet.   Get it done right.

Get a final inspection and move back in.

Whew!  Get that flood insurance now!   

 It will cost you only a few hundred bucks a year.   Our area has had two 100 (plus) year floods in 4 years.   Three in 45 years.   It will happen again.  

Note:  there are at least 3 types of flood insurance.  One for the house, a rider or separate insurance for the contents, and one for contents only.   Most mortgage companies and any federally assisted mortgage requires flood insurance on the house (only) if  if it is in the FEMA designated 100 year flood zone.   This insurance can be purchased by anyone outside the flood zone, usually at a greatly reduced price.  Be aware that it does not protect the contents unless you purchase that additional flood insurance.  

It is my understanding that there  is a 30 day waiting period for flood insurance to go into effect.    You can’t hear a hurricane is coming and then decide to get flood insurance protection at the last minute.

Your homeowner’s policy does not cover flood damage to your home or its contents.   You may see words that seem to cover it, but those apply to water coming through the roof or from broken pipes inside the house, not anything that comes through a patio door, seeps under a wall or pours out of a crack in a wall from the outside because by definition, those waters touched the ground first and thus are flood waters not covered.

You may live high up on a hillside with one side of your finished basement or downstairs area embedded against fill dirt.   The nearest flood zone maybe 400 feet below you.    However, if you develop a leak in your block wall and your carpet and drywall, clothing, furniture, electronics, etc. get wet, your homeowner’s policy will not cover it.  Water that touches the ground first is considered flood waters even if it was not an overflow from a stream.    So get flood insurance for at least the contents of your home.   If your downstairs area has drywall, consider getting flood insurance for your home as well.  It is cheaper if you are not in a designated flood zone.

If you own and live in a flood zone or rent to someone and furnish  the carpet, etc, get flood insurance for both the house and contents in addition to homeowner’s insurance.

Renters can get flood insurance on their personal property.   If you rent and your apartment gets flooded, you need to have that flood insurance on your property.   The landlord is not liable in almost all cases. 

I hope you were reading this just-in-case.  If you are affected by a flooded house, my prayers go with you.  Take care.   Remember things are different case by case.  I do hope that this helped you in some small way.


Habitat Tutorial – Part 4 Roofing

This is the fourth part of a multi-part outline of what is involved in buildings a Habitat house.  This article covers the steps in installing roofing – felt and shingles and a few other roof line details such as building a “bird box”, installing the drip edge and vents.   The first part is Habitat Tutorial – Prepration for Build which covers some of the pre-build steps the Site Project Manger (SPM) and selected volunteers  go though just to get ready for the volunteers, the second is Habitat Tutorial – Part 2 which covers the first day where the walls go up and the third is Habitat Tutoial – Part 3 which covers raising the roof structure.    In addition, there are four sets of pictures with slide shows that have already been published that you may be interested in as they concentrate on people on the job site – volunteers.   The first is Habitat for Humanity – 2008 Dinner on the Slab consisting of 25 pictures including our future homeowner Nicole Combs and her son Elijah.  The second includes 115 pictures of the first day of the build – Habitat Build 2008 – First Day – Walls Go UP .  The third is: Habitat Build 2008 Second Day – Roof Goes On which has pictures and blog on the installation of the roof trusses and decking the roof.   The fourth is Habitat Build 2008 – roofing and siding.   If you want access to any of the tutorial pictures they are all in one place for all the tutorials to date.   Tutorial Slide Show – 146 pictures so far, including many not in this article.

Note: If you came here looking for the homeless veterans site, this is it!   If you came here looking for the homeless youth site, this is it!.   I’m just taking a break to help out on a Habitat House and once a year I post what I saw, experienced and learned.  Click on either of the two links in this paragraph or go to the side bar and select a category or search for what you want.  Also look above the banner or to the right for popular articles on Homeless Veterans.

Tutorial – installing roofing shingles

Roof Ready For Shingles

Roof Ready For Shingles

This is the way Habitat volunteers see the house when they arrive on the scene on roofing day.  Soon the roof will be covered front and back with volunteers.  It is essential that the roofing be done early in the day and that there is plenty of water available.  The felt and starter shingles are already in place.


 We need to start this tutorial a little earlier than that.

Drip Edge Installation

Drip Edge Installation

This drawing illustrates drip edge installation.  The drip edge must be installed in the order shown.  The drip edge is a metal extrusion that goes along the horizontal edge (eave) of the roof under the roofing felt and along the sloping edge (rake) of the roof above the felt.   Install the drip edge for the eave before the roofing felt is installed.  Install the drip edge for the rake after the roofing felt is installed.   Attach the edge using 7/8 ” roofing nails on 24″ centers.  Unlike shown in the drawing, the rake edge goes all the way down and overlaps the eave edge.   Trim the rake edge to match the eave using tin snips.   When two pieces of drip edge meet in a joint, overlap the joint by 1 to 2 inches by trimming the top of one as needed to allow them to overlap.   Joints on the rake drip edge should should have the upper one overlapping the lower one.

Also shown in this illustration is something called the “bird box”.  

Click here for the rest of this tutorial:

Continue reading

Habitat Build 2008 Third Day – Roofing and Siding

Saturday, May 31 was the third day of the Presbyterian Coalition, Cobb Habitat for Humanity build in 2008.  This is the seventh  article in this series, the first covering the Traditional Dinner on the Slab which includes a slide show of 25 pictures and introduces the future homeowner, Nicole Combs and her son Elijah.   The second article is the beginning of a tutorial “ Habitat Tutorial, Preparation for Build“ which covers some of the intense preparation that goes on behind the scenes before the volunteers show up.   The third article covers the actual first day of build: Habitat Build 2008 First Day – Walls Go Up .  The fourth article is the second part of the tutorial, Habitat Tutorial – Part 2 .  Look to the right hand column of this page and find Oldtimer’s recent posts for the rest of them or to put them in order for reading.

For those of you looking for the homeless veterans or homeless youth, this is also it. Click on one the links above the banner or on either of the two links in this paragraph, or maybe check out the right sidebar.

This article covers the installation of the roof shingles, Hardi Plank siding, and various other 3d day activities.   From any slide show you can access various sizes of the prints for free download (instructions further down – “Getting Copies”).

Link to slide show – 170 pictures Click on picture or here

Link to a collection of all Habitat pictures (2007 and 2008) organized one set per day!

Getting Copies

The pictures shown here and in the slide show do not have the resolution you can get if you download them from the Flickr site.   If you are viewing a slide show containing the picture you want, click on the link at the top left of the slide show to get to the full set at high resolution, or click on any picture in the slide show and then click on “View Main Page”.    If you are looking at the mosaic of of a set for a particular day, you can click on the picture you want.    Once there, you can click on the button above the picture “All Sizes”.   It will open in the large size, but you can download any picture in any size free, or can order prints through the site that will be delivered in about an hour to your nearest Target store.  It’s not obvious how to get to the Target option. First put a print in your shopping cart.  When ready for checkout, you can send your prints to Target for printing for about 15 cents per copy or have them mailed to your home. 

In addition, you can go to “Zassle” and have T-shirts, coffee mugs etc. made with your favorite print.  Enjoy.  Below are selected prints but only a small sample of what is available for free download.

The Third Day

It’s amazing what has been accomplished in the first two days!   Not only are the walls up, but the walls are all up, the roof is decked and dried in, the exterior walls are covered with OSB, the windows are in all in and all but one door has been installed.   Today the plan is to put the shingles on and get a good start on the siding.  

The day, as always, starts with an orientation for new volunteers, a pep talk, then a safety talk and an introduction of the homeowner by our SPM (Site Project Manager), Jeff Vanderlip.   If you peek through the tent above the person in the white tee-shirt, that is Jeff in the orange tee-shirt and floppy hat facing us.  You can see that a couple of workers are already on the roof even before the rest of us get started.  They are laying “starter” courses for us to work from.   More about starter courses later.

Nicole Combs is the future homeowner and also in the picture.   To the left of the tent is a man with a purple cap.  Nicole is on the far side of the picture just to the right of him.  She is also in the top picture right in front of the wheelbarrow (yellow shirt).  

And this is Elijah.  He is the son of of our future homeowner.  He has a keen interest in what is going on as he will be living here, but he is too young to work on the site.  When around, he is confined to the food tent or visiting inside after the work is done and helping clean up the property or just playing nearby.  A great kid.


This is essentually the way we found the roof this morning.  The starter edge courses are alrady in place and the bundles of shingles are on the peak of the roof.   The shingles you see along the edges were put there by the Gray Ghosts that I’ve mentioned a number of times in my earlier posts.    

The two people on the roof are putting on starter courses that run up the centerline of the roof in such a way that volunteers can work off each side of the centerline toward each edge of the house.  That way at least four crews of workers can work at any one time.  They’ve also started the porch roof and valley so that the valley shingles can be put in as a “weave” for good looks on the front.

To see the rest of this article and some great pictures, click here: Continue reading

Habitat Tutorial – Part 3

This is the third part of a multi-part outline of what is involved in buildings a Habitat house.  This article covers the steps in raising the roof and drying in the house and a myrid of little details going on at the same time.   The first part is Habitat Tutorial – Prepration for Build which covers some of the pre-build steps the Site Project Manger (SPM) and selected volunteers  go though just to get ready for the volunteers, and the second is Habitat Tutorial – Part 2 which covers the first day where the walls go up.    In addition, there are three sets of pictures with slide shows that have already been published that you may be interested in as they concentrate on people on the job site – volunteers.   The first is Habitat for Humanity – 2008 Dinner on the Slab consisting of 25 pictures including our future homeowner Nicole Combs and her son Elijah.  The second includes 115 pictures of the first day of the build – Habitat Build 2008 – First Day – Walls Go UP .  The third was released earlier yesterday: Habitat Build 2008 Second Day – Roof Goes On which has pictures and blog on the installation of the roof trusses and decking the roof.  If you want access to any of the tutorial pictures they are all in one place for all the tutorials to date.   Tutorial Slide Show – 146 pictures so far, including many not in this article.

Note: If you came here looking for the homeless veterans site, this is it!   If you came here looking for the homeless youth site, this is it!.   I’m just taking a break to help out on a Habitat House and once a year I post what I saw, experienced and learned.  Click on either of the two links in this paragraph or go to the side bar and select a category or search for what you want.  Also look above the banner or to the right for popular articles on Homeless Veterans.

This is a a drawing I made of a generic roof truss, not too unlike what is actually installed.  At least most of the parts are here.  Below are pictures of the trusses we actually installed and you may note some minor differences.  The major difference is the end trusses which have more vertical 2×4’s in the web so that there are places to nail OSB and siding.  None of the ones we put up have a King Post.

The trusses are marked with alignment marks while still on the ground. Each truss is marked 14″ from one end (only), that end being the end that goes on the longest wall, (in our case the back wall).   A line is snapped along the back wall exactly 2″ from the back edge of the cap plate.  The corresponding 14 inch mark on the roof truss allows for a 12 inch overhang and the 2 inch offset in the snapped line.   When the roof truss is slid into place a volunteer aligns the truss mark with the snapped line on the cap plate.   If one end is right, then both ends will be right on these manufactured trusses.

I was one of the two marking the trusses.  The other was Max, son of our SPM, Jeff Vanderlip.  Each truss also receives a mark along the top plate/top rail at 47 1/4 inches and at 9 feet.   These marks go on both ends of each truss.   The 47 1/4 inch mark is the top edge of the beginning course of the OSB deck (which allows for a 3/4 inch overhang over the end of the truss.   3/4 inch fascia board stretched across the ends of the trusses will take up this overhang.  The 9 foot mark is the location of the 1×4 boards used to tie the tops of the trusses together while the trusses are going up.  9 ft is chosen so that two courses of OSB panels can be installed below the 1×4 boards.  

To read the rest of this tutorial, click here: Continue reading

Habitat Build 2008 Second Day – Roof Goes On

Saturday, May 17 was the second day of the Presbyterian Coalition, Cobb Habitat for Humanity build in 2008.  This is the fifth article in this series, the first covering the Traditional Dinner on the Slab which includes a slide show of 25 pictures and introduces the future homeowner, Nicole Combs and her son Elijah.   The second article is the beginning of a tutorial ” Habitat Tutorial, Preparation for Build” which covers some of the intense preparation that goes on behind the scenes before the volunteers show up.   The third article covers the actual first day of build: Habitat Build 2008 First Day – Walls Go Up .  The fourth article is the second part of the tutorial, Habitat Tutorial – Part 2 .

For those of you looking for the homeless veterans or homeless youth, this is it. Click on one the links above the banner or on either of the two links in this paragraph, or maybe check out the right sidebar.

This article covers the installation of the roof trusses, roof decking and various other 2d day activities. To see the slide show of 126 pictures click here or on any picture below!  There is a (mostly) different set of 137 pictures (and growing) for the tutorial, by the way, so to see those check out the tutorials or click here for access to the tutorial slide show.  From any slide show you can access various sizes of the prints for free download (instructions further down – “Getting Copies”).

In the beginning there is the mandatory “have fun but be safe” safety and pep talk by Jeff Vanderlip, the fellow in the shirt of many colors. 

Everybody is introduced to Nicole Combs in the front middle.  She has already completed 100 hours of work on other homes and 100 hours of training on such things as mortgages, taxes, budgeting, how to maintain her new home, etc.    She is very active in helping on this house and has been an excellent “quality control” person that is making certain that her house is built right.   After the introductions, the crew leaders were introduced and jobs assigned to those willing to work in the rafters.

To read the rest of the story and see many more pictures, click here: Continue reading

Habitat Tutorial – Part 2

Maybe “tutorial” is too strong a word.  There will be pictorial or drawing examples of each type of job required to finish a house that I am either involved in or privileged to photograph.  It is by no means an exhaustive handbook of the type you get when you take the Habitat Crew Chief and SPM training course.  The intention is to try to document real-life on the slab, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Fortunately, it all turns out good.

This is the second part of a multi-part outline of what is involved in building a Habitat house.  The first part is Habitat Tutorial – Prepration for Build.    In addition, there are two sets of pictures with slide shows that have already been published that you may be interested in as they concentrate on people on the job site – volunteers.   The first is Habitat for Humanity – 2008 Dinner on the Slab consisting of 25 pictures including our future homeowner Nicole Combs and her son Elijah.  The second includes 115 pictures of the first day of the build – Habitat Build 2008 – First Day – Walls Go UP . 

Note: If you came here looking for the homeless veterans site, this is it!   If you came here looking for the homeless youth site, this is it!.   I’m just taking a break to help out on a Habitat House and once a year I post what I saw, experienced and learned.  Click on either of the two links in this paragraph or go to the side bar and select a category or search for what you want.  Also look above the banner or to the right for popular articles on Homeless Veterans.

Marked top and bottom plates

In the earlier tutorial I showed the plate markings.  These two boards representing the top and bottom plates of a section of a wall are tacked together and left lying somewhere on the slab.  All a volunteer has to do is separate the plates, remove the tack nails and insert studs, T’s, window or door frames and nail them up.

Starting the build

You can see in this picture a stack of top/bottom plates on the floor on the right, a separated set being stocked in the left foreground and one well on the way on the other side of the slab. A set of blueprints are laid out on the slab on the right, but it is seldom needed as the slab is already carefully marked with all the walls, doors, etc. and the sets of plates are numbered to match.   The rod with the orange ball on top is the future grounding rod for the electrician.   We will notch a wall to fit around it and around the various plumbing pipes (such as the blue pipe with the white top in the far right.   The shadow on the slab at the bottom left is all you are going to see of me!

Sill Seal

Before the walls go up, the walls receive a “Sill Seal” (the blue polystyrene strip shown partially loose on the bottom of the wall).  The bottom all the exterior walls receive this sill seal to help seal out any air leaks.  The corrugated side of the seal goes to the slab.    The Sill seal is attached with roofing nails placed every 24 inches.   

This one is loose because it was discovered that the notch for the electrical grounding rod would land on one of the studs.  The sill seal was loosened and the stud removed (the one laying at an angle) and will be relocated slightly.   Notchs are cut before the walls are installed.

Notched wall

This notch is bigger than needed because the first cut was not quite in the right place.  Notches are cut with the wall on the ground with a skill saw with two cuts from the edge, then knocked out with a hammer or a chisel if handy.   It is easier to get it right if the wall is lifted into place first, then marked, but this was a long wall so the position was calculated and slightly off.  In the end, the wall was lifted twice anyway.   You can see the top of  “cut nails” in between the studs.

Plumbing notches

These are notches cut out for the plumbing wall.  Plumbing walls are double walls and fit against the plumbing T shown in the first tutorial.  Notches don’t have to be pretty but should leave some wood for nailing to the concrete to stabilize the studs.  If necessary, the studs are relocated, and sometimes if a very short bottom plate is left after a big notch, a connecting board runs from one wall to the other to stabilize the hanging stud.

Plumbing wall installed

This is a plumbing wall installed.  It may not be the same wall as shown above, or the notches may have been cut all the way through.  See the cut nails in the blocks to keep the studs from moving on the two that are cut all the way through.   The larger white pipes will be cut off by the plumber for the toilet drain.    The mid size pipes are for sink drains and the blue wrapped pipes are cold water and the red marked ones for hot water.  It appears that someone is already marking stud locations on the concrete.      

Hurricane Straps

Hurricane straps are buried in the concrete and the ends left sticking up for use to hold down the walls.  I’m talking about the shiny strips hanging out of the wall at the bottom of the picture and also off the left side.  There is one on each side of the board at every location spaced about 4 feet apart.

 Hurricane straps installed

Every strap is bent tightly over the board and nailed, one to each side and 3 in each top.  The top nails are angled so they don’t hit the concrete.  8d nails are used here.   The straps are used to keep the walls from being easily lifted or pushed off the slab during high winds.   There are similar straps used at the tops of the walls to keep the roof trusses attached so that the entire house is locked down to the slab. 

Cut nail close up

This is a “cut nail”.  It is very hard and can be easily driven into concrete.  Safety goggles must be worn by anyone nearby when driving cut nails as they typically do not bend but break instead.  The edges are sharp enough to produce cuts on the skin if handled roughly so be careful.  The name comes from the way the nails are made.  They are stamped out (cut out) of sheet metal then hardened, whereas our other nails are cut and formed from wire rolls.   OK, a little more of me got into this picture.


Cut nails being driven

This is not the optimum hammer for driving cut nails but it is heavy enough to do the job.  There were a number of volunteers at work doing this job.  A cut nail goes into each gap between studs.  In this case this is a door opening so the nail goes into the space where the jack will sit on top of it.  Some end up in the middle of doorways where they are knocked out later – unavoidable when volunteers get ahead of instructions.  The nails are oriented to run with the grain to avoid splitting the wood.

Typical wall section

Here is a standing wall section, typical for those on the site.  Shown is a window unit in the middle with a wall brace running to a stake in the ground outside.  To the right is a wall T for the connecting wall running to the back and an adjoining door.   The wall T is oriented with the spacer to the back.   To the left is a wall T waiting for an interior wall to butt against it, with the spacer oriented to the front.  The walls are joined by nailing from the backside of the T into the end of the wall that runs up against it.     Running sections of walls are joined by nailing through the studs that make up the ends of the walls.  An example is the double stud to the left of the window.  This is two wall sections joined together.  A cap rail will be added to cap the wall which will span the wall end junctions so that they are firmly locked together.

If the walls are centered on the T’s they will eventually be perfectly vertical once the outside walls are straightened.  Never straighten an inside wall until all the outside walls are done as the walls will straighten naturally if they are attached properly to the T’s.   Notice the spacing on the cripples below the window.  They are spaced on 16″ centers with the adjoining studs and not just based on the window opening.  This provides uniform nailing points for the drywall and external sheathing.  There is an extra cripple on the right to get the spacing right.   Notice the hurricane straps about every 4 feet.  Notice the one on the far left is nailed up the side of the T rather than attempting to nail through the small opening which already has a strap.   This is OK.

Stacked walls waiting

Here are some interior walls stacked around waiting for installation. At some point the outside walls will be completed.  It is nice to have all the inside walls on the slab so that no wall is required to be lifted over the top of an exterior wall.     Even so, one wall ended up locked outside and had to be lifted over. 

Walls leaning against walls is one of the reasons for carefully bracing the walls with angled braces.   Also tired volunteers may decide to lean against a wall.  We don’t want it falling over with him/her on top of someone trapped outside.  Notice the one wall with a strip tacked across near the bottom.   This is temporary to stabilize the sections cut out for plumbing.

Stud marking

This photo illustrates stud marking.  Volunteers mark the location of every stud on the slab and on the cap plate of every wall, including the outside edge of the slab.  The intent is to make it easier to find the studs when the outside sheathing is going on and when the drywall is going on or up.

cap plate going on  

Here the cap plate is going on the top plate of the wall.   The cap plate ties walls together and straightens every joint.  They must bridge the ends of wall sections by at least 4 feet and they should aways end on a stud.    Cap plates should extend into a wall it butts into.  In the case above the 4 foot rule will be violated as the adjoining wall is closer then 4 feet.  The portion under his hand will be cut away to allow the cap plate from the adjoining wall to come through (someone, out of the picture, got ahead of himself?).   Is OK, can be fixed.

cap plate properly joining walls

Here is the cap plate properly installed.  It is the same spot.  The cap plate at the right was carefully cut to make room for the piece coming from the other wall.   Notice that the adjoining wall is tied to the running wall by overlapping the running wall top plate.  This prevents any movement of the two walls even in the worst of conditions.

Ladder headers

Here are two ladder headers for interior non-load bearing walls.  One runs to the hallway from a bedroom and the other into the master bath.   These differ from the drawing in my first tutorial as the wall serves as the header instead of the two by four illustrated in the drawing.   Notice the inside of the T to the left to catch the hall wall.   Nails are through the block to the end stud of the wall.    Notice the wider plumbing T through the doorway to the right.   Two walls will be placed on the plumbing T to make a 7″ wide space for piping.   There are other walls still stacked around in the back ground. 

The “41 LDR HDR” means build a ladder header 41 inches wide.  1.5″ wide Jack posts will go on each side of this frame reducing the space to 38 inches.  Then the interior door frame is made of two 3/4 inch wide boards reducing it again to 36.5 inches.   This leaves 1/2 inch clearance for aligning the door frame for a 36″ door.  Exterior doors headers are 41.5 inches wide to allow for the thicker door frames and the exterior headers are 10 inch wide boards spaced with a 1/2 inch plywood spacer instead of the cripples shown.

OSB installation

Debbie is installing metal strips that catch the OSB 4×8 sheets to be installed shortly.  The top of the metal strip is aligned with the top of the 2x4s.   The OSB rests in the J section in the bottom of the strip.   the strip fits closely against the 2×4 base plate and drops below it helping to seal the junction between teh plate and the concrete from windblown water.  The outside siding to be added later falls below this strip so no water collects anywhere it is not supposed to. There is already a crew installing the OSB behind her, out of the picture.  

OSB stands for “Oriented Strand Board”.   It is the pressed wood chip boards that are so commonly used today. The chips are placed more or less randomly but intentionally oriented to straighten the board in all directions then bonded together with an adhesive resin.   This manufactured sheet has the chips oriented one way on the outside and crosswise on the inside though a sifting process on the assembly line.  This is not left over pressed sawdust but instead is carefully engineered water resistant  manufactured wood.

 OSB before pressing

This is what OSB looks like (per copy from Wikipedia) before it is pressed.   Notice the slight change in color near the middle third of the board where the chip orientation is different.   The board is incredibly strong.

OSB being installed

Steve and others are installing the OSB.   The edges are nailed with 8d nails on 6 inch centers on all edges and 12 inch centers on the studs in the middle of the field.   Studs are marked on the slab beforehand with magic markers and a level is used to draw vertical lines for nailing in the fields.  Some OSB comes marked with the lines already drawn and a few experienced volunteers can find unmarked studs like radar.

It is necessary to remember that there are window or door openings and allow for nailing on 6 inch centers around those openings.   Notice the insulation showing in the T’s.

Mistake being fixed

Earlier we had to build an extra window frame because somehow we were short one (in another wall).  Later Nicole asked why there was no door leading outside the kitchen.   Oops, there was the missing window frame where a door should have gone.  The rouge window was removed.  In this picture the nails are still in place.  These were cut off with a metal cutting blade in a saws-all.   The extra door was still sitting on the ground outside (which should have been a clue).  We are all standing around guarding the opening so no one steps on the nails while the saw if found.

Door going in

Here Jeff positions the new door while Terry takes early advantage of the new opening.  The window at the left was originally built the same as the others, then shortened to a kitchen window so it would fit over the counter top and sink.  Additional Jacks and cripples made it easy.   Notice the plumbing in front of it.

Sill plate being cut out

Here the sill plate is being cut out.  The skill saw base plate is 1.5 inches wide so it is easy to use the stud as a guide.  The jack post that goes next to the stud is already ready to be put in.  It rests on the 1.5 inch piece remaining.  The saw blade is adjusted carefully so that it does not quite touch the concrete and the bottom board leveraged up to get it out.  Any cut nails in the concrete are loosed by hammer blows to the board beside them and they usually come up with the board or are broken off flush with the concrete.  Any remains are driven in.   A saws-all can do the job as well, but is harder to get a perfect cut.

Removing remaining

An old chisel is used to remove the remaining bits of wood after the sill is cut out with a skill saw.

Porch Beam Construction

Here the porch beam is being constructed (long boards in the foreground) while others finish up the OSB siding and stil others prepare the house for straightening the walls.  Notice the block of wood at the top right corner.  More about that later.   Notice that all the walls are up and capped and many of the braces appear to be removed.  Actually they have been moved inside and positioned so the walls can be braced in new positions that keep the walls perfectly straight all around.

Short end of porch beam

This is a view of the short end of the porch beam already in its “pocket”.   The components of the porch beam includes the two sides and the one across the front. The beams are 2x10s with a 1/2 inch plywood sandwiched inside and well nailed together.

Longer side, inside view

This is the other (longer side) of the porch beam side rails as it is being shoved into its pocket.  There are 2×4 boards being readied for temporary outside support.  Notice that the beam extends inside the house and into a built in pocket sized to keep it locked in place and stable.

Nailed in place

Nailing the porch beam in place.

Leveling the Beam 

The beam must be absolutely level!    Vertical braces are nailed on to the outside of the beam to stabilize it and supporting jacks nailed onto that.  The beam must support the roof trusses as they are hoisted up later without moving.

This beam was cut a little short when it was first made, a mix up in communications between the guy measuring and the guy cutting.  One was measuring between the inside of the  outer boards on the side beams and the other cutting to the end of the outside beam.  The result was a front beam that was 3.5 inches short.   The front beam should lie across the side beams but was adjusted to fit to the inside of the side beams due to the measurement problem.  1/2 inch spacers were used to make up the difference.  One result of all this is that the front overhang is a little wider than normal and the posts will sit a little closer to the house.    No real harm done and a couple of expensive boards saved.

Installing Deadwood

These fellows are installing “dead wood a.k.a. deadwood”.  On the ends of the house where the trusses run parallel to the house, the deadwood serves the purpose of giving a place to nail the edge of the roof truss to the frame of the house.  Deadwood also serves the purpose of providing a nailing strip for the ceiling drywall on that those ends of the house.  The dead wood is a 2×4 board positioned so that it overhangs the room below.  It is spaced from the edge of the wall by holding a short 2×4 board edgewise on the top outside edge of the cap plate.  See the picture above.  This spaces the board over by 1.5 inches giving a 2 inch nailing space on the cap plate and a 1.5 inch overhang that can be used to nail the ceiling drywall to.. 

The 1.5 inch wide roof truss fits down the outside (this side) of the dead wood and onto the cap plate so that the roof truss is in the same plane as the frame before the OSB goes on.  OSB also goes on the outside of the roof truss so that it all fits correctly.   The roof trusses are nailed directly to the deadwood and also toenailed to the frame.

Deadwood Installation

Well, after writing all that, I figured I was confusing any novice that came along so I created this drawing to illustrate what is going on.  The Wall stud, top plate, cap plate and the wall sheathing are all existing.  The edge of a 2×4 block is placed where the future roof truss will go and a 2×4 board is nailed onto the top plate as illustrated.   Later when the truss goes up, the bottom edge will be nailed to this dead wood and even later when the drywall goes up, the drywall will be nailed to the bottom edge of the overhanging deadwood.

Setting up deadwood

Travis shows the proper offset technique.

Setup for straightening walls

This is one end of the setup for straightening the walls.  There is a block like this at each end and a very tightly strung line.  The line goes over a nail on the far side and then is wrapped around a nail as shown so that the line does not need to be cut.  It will be moved around and used on each outside wall.  Generally the longest wall is done first.

Straightening the walls

This work is easiest done from the inside.  A board is moved along the wall inside of the string.  Any variation in the wall will show as a gap or a bowed out line.   Volunteers inside move 2×4 boards attached to a stud near the top of the wall pull or push the board until the board barely touches the line and then nail the board near the bottom of an adjacent wall or along the side of a butting wall, always at an angle sloping down.   When done with all the walls, the walls will be perfectly steady and vertical throughout the house.   Interior walls will generally be straightened as the outside walls are brought into plumb.

cross brace

The board angling down on the right is a temporary cross brace that holds the outside wall perfectly vertical.   It stays up until the roof trusses and decking are on.  Notice the dead wood overhanging the cap plate on this wall.

Wall bracing

When there are large areas with no interior walls to brace along or against, blocks of wood are cut nailed into the floor and wall braces attached to them.  The technique is to first attach near the top of the wall and then push/pull until the wall is straight using the pole and then nailing the pole to the side of the block on the floor. The man on the ladder is calling out instructions to push or pull.

Windows cut out

In most cases the windows are covered in OSB and cut out later.  Here a saws-all is used to cut around the inside of the frame.  A hole is started somewhere with a drill or through a gap in the wood or with the tip of the saws-all.   Cut a long arc to get to another edge then back track to cut the arc out.

deadwood on the porch beam

This picture shows several things.  Notice that a top plate and cap plate have been added to the porch beam.  Also deadwood has been added to the cap plate at the front.  The porch roof truss will be set in front of the deadwood (on the other side of the beam as shown).  Also notice the supports attached to stabilize the porch beam includes an angled 2×4 to keep it from twisting.

Safety truss brace

The tall pole at the side of the house is a very sturdy safety brace that will temporarily support the roof trusses as they go up.  The first roof truss will be hoisted up using long forked poles over the front of the house and slid back to be parallel with the side with the pole.  Then it will be lifted up and leaned against the pole and dropped into the pocket behind the deadwood.  Volunteers with ladders outside will nail the truss to the deadwood and to the top of the tall pole.  The following trusses will be nailed at the ends of the walls and tied to the first truss with temporary boards running across the tops of the trusses.  The tall pole is a safety device as the trusses can easily fall over until the roof decking is up and the trusses cross braced underneath.   The trusses are heavy enough that even one can severely injure someone and when they all fall over it can be deadly to several.

safety pole

Here is an inside view of the safety pole.  The piece of OSB attached near the top serves the purpose of matching the plane of the OSB on the bottom wall so that when the truss goes up, it will be vertical when it rests against the OSB on the pole.  The first truss will be firmly attached to the pole.

temporary walk beam

Here a temporary walk beam has been added over the living area.  It fits into a pocket at each end made up of a double jack below the beam and a 2×4 on the other side of the beam, locking it in.  The pocket is built at both ends and an extra support added in the middle and attached to the floor.   The beam is made of two 2×10’s with overlapping boards to get extra length.  This beam serves the purpose of giving the roof trusses a place to rest as they are hoisted over the front wall. 

The trusses are long enough to reach past each end of the house and as they go over the wall they can get overbalanced and fall in and fall on someone or scoot along the floor and possibly injure someone.  The beam holds that end up temporarily to allow the truss to rest and slide easily to the back.   The roof trusses are also shaped like an “A” and so even when they are completely across the house, the heavy top of the A can cause one to tip over and the top of the truss rotate and fall into the house.  The walk beam prevents that from happening too.  It is a sturdy safety device.  It will be removed after the roof is fully stabilized.

A good day's work

A good day’s work!    The house is ready for a roof!  Saturday May 17, 2008.   See your there?


(corrections gratefully accepted)