Monday, November 14, 2011

Porch Framing

"Your porch is very sexy. It's a sexy design. I think that's the way to describe it. From the plans I thought it was just a porch, but the way you did it, the tapering - it's beautiful, it's sexy...  Elegant, I think that's the word, elegant."

That was my framer, after seeing half of the porch joists installed. "Your porch is very sexy" just might be my new favorite compliment.

What my framer liked is probably due in part to the tapering of the joists, as he suggested. Instead of sloping the members themselves, I cut the slope into the tops of the joists and the let them sit flat on the beams. So from below you see a perfectly level run of joists and on top you see a slight slope cut the same into all of them.

Also contributing to elegance, I think, is the careful organization of all the members. 4x6 beams span from column to column to trace the perfect square of the courtyard. And the joists, like those of the rest of the house, are centered around each column and spaced at equal intervals. I wasn't going for "sexy," just orderly. But since order, harmony and proportion are key ingredients of beauty, "sexy" can be a natural result.

I'm very glad I chose to spend a little extra money to get cypress for this framing, instead of pressure treated pine. Cypress is naturally durable and needs no chemical treatment, stain or paint. It will weather to silver over the years. I'm impressed with the grain in this wood; the curls and rings are so subtle and tight that it looks as if the wood were poured into place as a liquid.

The joist ends from the interior space are seen in the above photo too. The porch joists don't line up with them directly here; they're about 4 inches off - on purpose. There's a shifting that happens, a syncopation. In an earlier post I explained that one of my concepts of the "domestic" area (kitchen, bedrooms, baths) was of something growing, maturing, becoming. By contrast the Great Room is arrival, perfection, being. The discord in the rhythms between porch and domestic area is a cue that this part is in process, still being fixed into order, slowly coming into focus. It looks like the order is about to be locked into place - but not yet. Conversely, the porch joists against the Great Room wall line up perfectly with the studs and joists inside.

I had to get some shots of these joists from the roof, all the while telling myself not to get used to seeing them from this angle. A corrugated metal roof will cover them soon. But they will remain visible from below.

Somewhat miraculously, each joist at the brick wall fit perfectly into the notches I had the mason leave for them:

And whatever you do, DO NOT get used to seeing sunlight stream through the joists. Like this:

(That note was mostly for me.)

I'll end with the most comprehensive shot of the house I've gotten so far. The porch framing, domestic wing, Great Room, and stone wall are all here. To get more of the house in the shot I'd have to climb a tree. Hm...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Great Room Framing

The wood framing for the Great Room is nearly complete, which included boxing out the five lower windows in the stone wall. I'm sorta glad I didn't stop by the site when the guys were working on this. One run of studs had to follow the rhythm of the brick floor (the first course of which is seen here) and another set of studs had to frame the "random" window openings. Add to this the unforeseen necessity of carving notches into the backs of many of the studs where stones protruded farther than others, and-  well, it was right for me to buy them coffee today.

As a reminder of where these five windows are in the house, here they are from the outside. I also like how the sun rakes the wall at this time of day making each stone stand out.

I didn't realize I framed my vehicle in the next shot. After the stud walls were built against the brick and stone walls, 4x12 beams were set on the four brick columns. These beams support the ceiling joists seen here, as well as the high walls that will support the central skylight.

This space is built like Solomon's Temple: thick exterior walls of masonry, interior walls of wood studs and paneling. Minus the pure gold coating that Solomon put on everything, of course. I couldn't quite get that into my budget.

The Great Room is the jewel of this house. Here all the materials and details seen organized rather loosely everywhere else - brick patterns, steel connectors, wood beams, stud walls - get fixed into order, crystallized into perfect form.

I had a similar feeling looking at the Great Room in this phase as I did the rest of the house: I really like the light coming through all that framing; how sad to have to cover it up with plywood. But I quickly remembered that this covering would just help the central skylight assert itself.

There's a kind of "wrapping" that occurs throughout this space - wall studs line up with floor bricks, as I said, but also ceiling joists line up with these studs, and the skylight wall studs line up with ceiling joists. So there are continuous lines going from the floor to the wall to the ceiling to the skylight, and back around to the floor. Exposed screws in the finish boards will express these lines in the finished house.

The space in the midday sun:

Then of course I had to pay a visit to the new rooftop.

I like the shapes made by the sun shining through the brick screening. That's a nice surprise.

The next two photos are from my first stroll across the top of the stone wall.

The skylight opening is about 10 feet square. I just realized that's a third of the width of the oculus of the Pantheon in Rome, one of my favorite buildings. Not bad for a 1400 square foot house. Well now I have to show a couple pictures of the Pantheon. Might as well. There are some essential similarities to my Great Room.

And yes, in these last two photos you are getting glimpses of the joists of the porch roof... Next post.