Roofs, September 11, 2017

In the continuation of the “roofs” series, here is a recap of what we have been working on.

After completing the dormer and installing the finishing on the gable end, we started preparing the roofs for the shingles. We began by installing a membrane around the perimeter of the roofs and also up the valley. Using the principle of “thinking like a raindrop”, we over lapped the membrane to facilitate water protection.


We then noticed that a complete set of instructions are inside every pack of shingles, so all of the correct steps and procedures are there for the reading for the discerning carpenter!


For the moment, you can use this blog as the necessary instructions!

We prepared the starter shingle, which is actually the upper edge of a regular shingle (with the tabs cut off). Care is taken to cut cleanly and straight as this edge will be showing over the edge of the roof.

This is nailed with a 1/4″ – 3/8″ overhang, making sure the reveal is similar for the entire roof edge. The valley is cut clean and straight, following the membrane and respecting the open valley.

The first full row is installed after snapping a line representing the upper edge of the shingles along the entire roof. We do this to ensure a straight row from which to continue.

The step flashing is installed as a continuation of each row.


After this we use the cut outs on each shingle to create the correct pattern. We work towards the valley or the hip (depending on the roof you are working on) and either add or subtract a half tab so the the “brick pattern” imitates the slope created by that valley or hip. All nails should be hidden by the row above it.

Here is a shot of the cuts on each shingle:


It is pretty simple really, but the “rules” need to be respected as are elaborated in this snapshot of the whiteboard:


Take care to place the nails correctly and to set them straight without cutting the face of the asphalt shingle.

We will review as we go along. Remember, questions, either in class or on this blog are welcome!!


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Roofs, Sept 7, 2017

We are proceeding through the limited days of the roofs module and we are making progress.

Currently, we are working on the dormers on our little building and trying to figure out the math and techniques to install the plates, ridge and rafters:IMG_5544


We introduced the concept of using the “slope gain factor” or “SGF” to calculate the length of the rafters. Because these rafters are essentially “jack rafters” and not common rafters, they are a little more complex to mark out and cut, but no worries, we will work on some common rafters soon enough.

The steps to find the SGF are fairly simple with your calculator. In this case, the roof has a 4/12 slope, so the following process applies….

On your calculator, enter:

  1.     4, “rise”;
  2.     12, “run”;
  3.     “diagonal”;
  4.     divide by “run” and the display will give you the SGF for a 4/12 roof slope, in this       case 1.054 (round to 4 decimal places if necessary).

What this mean is that if you measure the total run of the span of the roof and multiply by this “factor”, you will find the length of the diagonal of the rafter you want to cut. (BTW, each roof slope has its own SGF and will have to be calculated separately…)

We will review this each and every day and I will attempt to clarify on this blog.

Questions? Let me know and I will answer and/or clarify…




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Another group moves on, August 27, 2017

Well, I am happy to say that another group of carpentry students has successfully completed their program at CVCEC.

This group was very diligent in their studies and dedicated themselves to learning the basic skillsets of the trade.

It is always a pleasure to shake the hands of students as they move on and aspire to create for themselves a professional career in the construction business:


Congratulations! I hope to see you at some point to hear your stories!

On another note, here is a link to making box joints that is clear and concise and worth the look:

Make box joints on the table saw

This type of carpentry joint is simple fast and strong in made correctly. It even looks good!!

More to follow as I start the “Roofs” module tomorrow….I’ll attempt to keep the blog up to date with what we are learning and doing…your questions and comments are appreciated!


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Let’s press “restart” Aug. 22, 2017

For those of you who have faithfully followed this blog, you may have wondered where I have been for the past little while…..I say “little”, because it has been a long time since I last posted.  Actually, I am embarrassed to point out that my last post dates from March 31….about 4-1/2 months ago!! Yikes

I would like to say that there are great reasons why I have become invisible, but, well…..there are none!! My apologies for having gone incognito. You know that old phrase: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions….”

In any case, let’s get this show back on the road. Last year, the blog was pretty much dedicated to acting as a diary for the Our House project. You can review this ground-breaking effort by checking out the link:

All the Our House Episodes

I won’t review the whole project, but suffice it to say that the buildings have been delivered, one of the units is occupied and Habitat for Humanity is closing in on a September 28, 2017 delivery day for the second family. I’ll keep you posted.

Today, I am just breaking the ice to re-commit to the blog, which is a random collection of thoughts, experiences and projects that loosely focuses around the students in the Construction Carpentry program at the Chateauguay Valley Career Education Centre in Ormstown, Quebec and the classes/courses that they follow while I am teaching them. I will happily take suggestions as to subjects and topics that interest my readers and will continue to support my students through add-ons and elaborations and enrichment through this blog.

Next post, I will reach into the past a look at a project I created in the last 4-1/2 months when I was not writing here!!



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Our House Diary #70, Wrapping up the exterior, March 31, 2017

Another transition of the Our House has come and gone: this past week, in spite of the poor weather conditions, we managed to close up the exterior of the buildings and installed the last of the siding connections between the units.

We started on the gable ends, as with the rain and snow, we were less likely to get dripped on. The weather conditions were pretty poor, with drizzle pretty much the order of the day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The melting snow and the ground not having any sod on it combined to make for muddy and slippery conditions under our feet, so it was an exhausting week. In spite of my complaining, we did mange to accomplish a lot on the exterior while the plumbers and electricians were completing the mechanics of the units indoors.

On the previous Friday, we had completed the “belt” connecting the upper and lower floors on the gable ends.


We set up the scaffolding and then we finished the siding on the eastern gable wall:

…and then we moved all of the scaffolding to the western gable to do it all over again!

It is satisfying to get all the material in place and dismantle the scaffolding for the last time on those two difficult walls!

Then we installed the transition piece along the front and rear walls:

We had received the concrete board for the “foundation”:

….and took advantage of sunny and dry conditions to make the tour of the building to close up the bottom of the structures:

With the water (mostly) and drains completed inside the building, and the electrical connections close to finished, the houses are close to functional! There is even a toilet!! Yea!

My time on the Our House is mostly finished now: there is still a roof to install that I will try and volunteer for if the weather cooperates with some of my time off. Also, if one of you wants to take the torch and volunteer to be the team leader on the rest of the build, I will help with advice and techniques to make your life easier. Please let me know if this interests you….it would look great on a C.V.!!!

Stacey and Chase had sent me a thank-you card that I want to share, as it is the kind of sentiment that makes the hard work and difficult times pale with the knowledge that someone really appreciates the effort we have put into this building, soon to be her home.

What’s left? Well there is still the certification from LEED Canada to complete, Health Canada wants to do some radon testing, there is the roof, the interior including painting (plastering is being done this week as Habitat will hire a contractor to speed this up and keep the quality control), woodwork and flooring, and of course, the landscaping. All volunteers are welcome to help complete this project!!

Thanks to one and all for your efforts to date!



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Our House Diary #69: Working with volunteers, March 22, 2017

I’ve been working with a new crew these past few days as I volunteer some of my time to the Our House project in the effort to get the building sealed up for the weather and prepare for the next phase of interior finish.

From my past experience, this is one of the worst time of the year to be working outside on the exterior of any worksite as we struggle to complete the siding. Unfortunately, this project is no different as we struggle with weather, cold, damp and last week’s snow dump of 74 centimetres covering all of our materials and creating a mud puddle as big as the lot the homes are located on.


Add to that the dripping of water from the eaves above us, wet hands and feet and slipping and sliding throughout the work site, and you’ve got conditions that are best imagined and not experienced!

Oh well….such is life working around our regular life and finding the time to put into the project.

What have we done? We have closed the ridge on the roof (finally), installed the Maximum roof vents, been connected to the Hydro network, sealed up the foundation connections between the house and the slab and finished the insulation of that connection:

and prepared the site for the installation of cement board for the foundation. We have completed the interior walls and drywall in the interior of both units:


…..completed most of the plumbing and radon connections and completed two of the four exterior wall connection between the upper and lower units.

The goal for the next week or so is to finish weatherproofing the exterior including the installation of the soffit and fascia on the gable ends and if materials and time permit, installing the cement board on the foundation…..We shall see!

I am still encouraging you to volunteer for this phase of the project working with Habitat for Humanity!!


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Our House Diary #68: post-delivery; the Habitat for Humanity phase starts! March 15, 2017

Yesterday was the first “official” day in the Habitat phase of the Our House build. Although I have volunteered with some others for a few days to tidy up some “delivery issues” a while ago, we started the volunteer phase in earnest yesterday.

We were hoping to finally close up the ridge of the roof (yep, it is still open due to ladder issues, time restraints and March break) and install the roof vents. We were also hoping to start the siding transitions to make the home weather tight, but the weather got in the way and we will have to delay these important jobs until mother nature gives us the chance to get to them.

On the other hand, Dan and I were happy to be working with Stacey (the new owner of one of the units), and some of her friends to get some interior details taken care of. So we tidied up, installed some drywall and organized the materials in the homes.

Stacey also thought it would be nice to visit the Centre and say a personal “thank-you” to the students who worked so hard and diligently on the build when the Our House was at the school.

Students were touched that Stacey and her son made individual cards for each of these students and also brought some killer brownies!

She made an emotional presentation of how grateful she was and how much confidence she had in the work the students accomplished…there were tears glistening in pretty much everyone’s eyes, including mine!! It is son nice to make those human connections that validate the work and efforts of dedicated students! I too, would like to second the words of Stacey to give my thanks to these and all the students who worked over and above the call of duty for these homes.

In other news, the plumbing connections are well under way with all the drains between the units now being functional. We are not that concerned that the water supply pipes have not been connected yet as there is still no electrical hook up to the Hydro network, so no heat in the units yet!

I was impressed to see that the homes are not all that uncomfortable in spite of the cold weather….the insulation and air tightness of the buildings are keeping whatever heat is generated by the solar gain in the units! A great testament to the quality of the build!

We hope to finish the final electrical junctions in the next few weeks, get connected to Hydro and start the plaster. Until there is heat, there will be no toilet, water or filling of joints.

Hopefully, I will be working on the siding in the next few weeks and am certainly willing to have help!

Those of you interested will have to register at Habitat’s website and when you come to work sign a waiver form that I will collect and you are good to go!! I hope to see you there!



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Our House Diary # 67, March 13, 2017

And you thought that the Our House project was ended!!

It is in a way, but the repercussions still reverberate! This post is to give you some links to the latest news and videos of the installation of the units:

The day before the move

The day of the move

Also here is a link to a story in the local newspaper fyi: Local news

Also, I would like to warn you that it ain’t over yet, as I will be volunteering on the build periodically (you are welcome to join me too, if you are interested) and I will be updating the progress as we go along….so hang on for the ride!!






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Self-directed enrichment opportunities, March 5, 2015

I’ve directed you, my faithful readers, to this site in the past, but this latest link is pretty pertinent to you as students of carpentry and learners willing to manage your own enrichment activities.

The site is the  Instructables web page, which is a varied “how-to” site that covers everything from carpentry projects to 3-D printing. The articles are diverse and, most often, pretty interesting, so check it out and subscribe, if you are interested.

For this post you can look at the tutorial on using the table saw by clicking on this link: Table Saw tutorial

It is pretty interesting and worthwhile and shows the author’s take on a diverse set of aspects of using the saw, one of the most important and versatile tools in our “toolbox”

I would love your feedback after you watch the “lesson”.


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“After” the Our House, Feb 28, 2017

For those of you wonder why the blog has been silent for the past few weeks, you should know that I was away in chilly San Francisco….pretty much every day was warmer here in the Montreal area than the temperatures in SF. Oh the injustice!

Mark Twain was credited with saying that the coldest winter he every experiences was a summer in San Francisco….apocryphal?

Before I left, I did do a few volunteer jobs on the Our House, working under the direction of Habitat for Humanity, so I will keep you posted on what work we did now that the house is “home”


We left the units with insulation blocking the gable ends, and the roof on the backside of the house 1-1/2″ inches higher than the front. This was because of an error from the truss manufacturer that we had not noticed until the modules were placed against each other.

The goal was to correct the difference between the roofs and close in the gables. Other volunteers and I crawled around the attic cutting the extra 1.5″ off each of the feet of the hinged trusses so that it would slip into it’s correct position and then screw the feet to the plates. We also placed the gyps on the fire wall in the attic, so other than the placement of the ventilation ducts, we are finally out of the attic.

Habitat hired a contractor to close in the gables and to connect the electric panels to the grid.


Inside, we opened up the pathways between the units and have mostly finished the interior drywall.

Over the next few months, the goal, under the auspice of Habitat, will be to: complete the electrics, plumbing and radon; finish the exterior siding and cement board on the building; install the roof finish and ventilators, and complete the HRV system. Then it will be only the interior finish to deal with (and kitchens, of course).

For now, it looks like this:

….and a little artsy shot:


I’ll keep you posted on my volunteer activities on the house, even if CVCEC’c participation is officially over.

It was a great project, and thanks to all the students, teachers, administrators and volunteers who have made this a great success.


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