Week 3 at Mesilla Valley Habitat for Humanity

My third week at Mesilla Valley Habitat allowed me to witness some amazing progress. Pete, the Construction Supervisor, had laid out the slab, marking where walls, doors, windows, etc. go so right away Tuesday morning a couple people started working on cutting and placing the pressure treated 2x4s that lie under the walls. These water- and rot-resistant boards protect the bottom plates of the wall should seepage or flooding occur. I didn’t work on any projects on that house (nor have I been involved with making and erecting exterior walls before) so I don’t know all the details of what was going on over there; all I know is that every time I happened to glance in that direction serious progress had been made! By the second day the framing crew had grown and exterior walls were being constructed and by the third day a few walls were being plumbed and fixed in place. By Saturday, our last work day of the week, walls were being sheathed in OSB and the porch beams were being put in place despite the cold, rainy weather. Totally amazing. I’m eager to get involved in that part of the house-building process on a build sometime soon.

Meanwhile, small crews were taking care of projects on houses 3 and 4: Doug and Rick were finishing out the porch arches, Chris and William were putting in exterior doors, and Tom, Kit, and local volunteer Rick were first putting up fascia, then soffit. Fascia, as you may recall from last week’s post, is painted board that runs parallel to the walls of the house, covering the ends of the eaves. Once the fascia board had been fitted and nailed in, soffit is placed under the eaves perpendicular to the walls to prevent moisture, dirt, and small animals from getting into the rafters and up into the attic space of the house. Together they also help keep out termites since neither is made from wood. Both fascia and soffit must be precisely measured and fitted so as to not allow excess space between the joints, thus making it a slower process than one might think. The number of gables and presence of a water heater shed also requires more sections and cuts than is immediately apparent.

Tony and I began our week with a lot of dripedge, working behind the fascia crew. Dripedge is a T-shaped metal strip that gets fitted along the edge of the roof which directs rainwater off the roof while preventing it from running down the fascia board. It also prevents wind-driven precipitation from blowing under the rafters by overlapping the seam between the roof deck and the fascia that hangs vertically. Long sections of roofline such as along the sides of the house require fairly straight-forward runs of drip edge without any fancy cutting (a notch is cut however wherever two pieces overlap), but any corners where the sides meet the gables requires some precise angles and fitting of the drip edge so that the visible seam appears at 45-degree angle from the corner of the roof. The tab from the receiving piece of dripedge also has to be exactly placed so as to tuck in behind the piece coming down from the gable. Even 1/16 of an inch will ruin the appearance of a corner seam which will remain visible from below so Tony and I would cut both sides of these corners on the ground and finesse the fit before going back up on the ladders to line the long pieces up to where they needed to be. A picture of this would have been worth a thousand words here but I didn’t think to photograph our corners as we were fitting them Also, I was holding some dripedge. Anyway between the adjusting of lengths and the exacting work with tin snips (which are more like a blunt instrument in my untrained hands), it took us a while to do each house.

On day 3 shingles were delivered to the 3rd house which got me all excited, but once we were ready to begin the next morning we discovered frost and even some ice on the shingles themselves which necessitated us waiting until late morning to begin. In the meantime Tony and I joined a few other people including Doug and Chris to put up porch roofs since two of the houses had passed their framing inspections the previous day. This involved cutting sheets of OSB and screwing them into the trusses using drywall screws. After the 4 of us finished our porches we finally moved back up to the roof.

We began with making sure we had starter shingles nailed down all along the edges of the roof. Starter shingles serve a few purposes, among them helping to secure the first course of shingles by way of a center adhesive strip. This serves as an additional moisture barrier and prevents wind from getting underneath the edges and lifting the shingles. Because they are designed to overhang the dripedge by a 1/4 inch they are also crucial in directing water off the roof and away from the walls. After the starter course was down we then snapped our chalklines and began laying shingles in the stair step pattern on both sides of the roof.

We had hoped to shingle again Saturday but intermittent rain made it too slippery to walk on the Tyvek roofliner so I got to join the soffit crew of Tom, Kit, and William while the rest of the Care-A-Vanners and the awesome, super hard working team of Allstate Express volunteers tackled wall sheathing and porch-building on the 5th house. Installing soffit was interesting to do because of the precision needed for it to fit snugly under the eaves; also, because the gypsum boards are floppy it’s a challenge maneuvering long lengths into place.

By mid-morning the cold temperatures and wind became compounded by more rain so Pete moved us all inside to work on various types of blocking for kitchen and bathroom cabinets as well as ceiling vents. I worked with Deborah on one of the kitchens where we nailed in horizontal wood pieces between the studs for the future mounting of cabinets; without these blocks its difficult to locate the studs and they are often not at the ideal location to distribute the weight of the cabinet.

Doug working at perfecting his arches

Doug working at perfecting his arches

Pete reviewing exterior door installation with Chris and William

Pete reviewing exterior door installation with Chris and William

Tony measuring for drip edge

Tony measuring for drip edge

Rick, Tom, and Kit putting up fascia

Rick, Tom, and Kit putting up fascia

Paula and Brenda laying down the first pressure treated 2x4 bottom plates

Paula and Brenda laying down the first pressure treated 2×4 bottom plates

Me putting in drip edge over the front gables

Me putting in drip edge over the front gables

Tony helping Tom, Kit, and Rick put up a long piece of soffit under a front gable

Tony helping Tom, Kit, and Rick put up a long piece of soffit under a front gable

Lotta work going on down on the slab!

Lotta work going on down on the slab!

Shingle conveyor belt

Shingle conveyor belt

The Lineup: Receiving line for the shingle delivery

The Lineup: Receiving line for the shingle delivery

Tony and I nailing in more drip edge

Tony and I nailing in more drip edge

Print of me nailing down a starter shingle with Tony and Doug behind me. Photo taken by volunteer Mac Fell.

Print of me nailing down a starter shingle with Tony and Doug behind me. Photo taken by volunteer Mac Fell.

Doug, Tony, and Chris cutting OSB for porch ceilings

Doug, Tony, and Chris cutting OSB for porch ceilings

My first view of the walls being sheathed!

My first view of the walls being sheathed!

Chris and Doug screwing in drip edge over where the electrical box will be mounted

Chris and Doug screwing in drip edge over where the electrical box will be mounted

William heading up to the roof so Kit, Tom, and I can hand up the end of the soffit

William heading up to the roof so Kit, Tom, and I can hand up the end of the soffit

Me hand sawing a notch in the soffit

Me hand sawing a notch in the soffit

Brave, hardy volunteers from All State Express working in the rain with Care-A-Vanners

Brave, hardy volunteers from All State Express working in the rain with Care-A-Vanners

Deborah and I adding blocking in the kitchen to screw cabinets into later

Deborah and I adding blocking in the kitchen to screw cabinets into later

A very willing 2x4 spotted near the saw

A very willing 2×4 spotted near the saw

We certainly enjoyed our time on the job site this week, but happy hours and a dinner at a Thai restaurant were also a treat. We also enjoyed some gorgeous sunrises on the morning dogwalks.

Happy hour at High Desert Brewery

Happy hour at High Desert Brewery

Dinner at Thai Delight with the very mature Construction Supervisor Pete

Dinner at Thai Delight with the very mature Construction Supervisor Pete

Sunrise on the dog walk

Sunrise on the dog walk

Sun illuminating the clouds over the Organ Mountains

Sun illuminating the clouds over the Organ Mountains

Other side of the sunrise

Other side of the sunrise

Finally, for the past 3 weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work with another blogger! Sadly Chris and Doug have finished their building here at Mesilla Valley but they’ve posted about their Habitat experience here!