Installation of Exterior Cladding

I need every component of the finished siding on the site prior to starting installation. I processed the 15/32 CAT plywood sheathign into 2″ and 3″ strips and practiced ripping the HardiePanels. With the appropriate tools and blade, cement board cuts without dust or ColorPlus damage. The Ridgid R3400 fiber cement circular saw with a MK Diamond Plank Kutter easily cuts fiber cement expelling the dust into a 5 gallon bucket. The minor dust generated gets ejected under the workpiece away form the operator.

Since the majority of building does not have regularly spaces studs I’m using an alternative attachment protocol. I am using 1-1/4″ Paslode finish nails to temporarily attach the rain gap plywood battens prior to the stainless steel fasteners going either through the HardiPanel or just the aluminum reveals. The fiber cement panels get a 1-3/4″ SFS TW-S fastener while the bulk of EasyTrim Reveals get a 1-1/4″ Simpson Strong-Tie Wire-Lath Screw with a large 10.7 mm head diameter.

If I get the spacing layout of battens correctly, the panels and reveals should go up smoothly. Using a rotary laser level and detector, I can set a reference line around the entire building horizontally followed by a brass plumb bob for the vertical level. At the water table and over windows and door goes the window flashing trim attached under the battens, followed by the rest of the vertical reveals. I have a jig to speed up the pre-drilling of fiber cement panels to get the fasteners in just the right orientation and spacing. Z-flashing terminates each course of panels up the the soffit.

A Hitachi Miter Saw with non-ferrous blade make EasyTrim Reveals cutting a snap. Instead of a vent flashing at the start and stop of a panel run, I’m going to use a three dimensional mat that will keep out the bugs and other vermin who might want to take up refuge under the panels. It will take a little more time to get some all the fasteners and supplies, but I’m confident that the installation will go smoothly and effortlessly.

Sourcing Products from Around the USA

Often your local lumberyard does not stock or have the capability to order all the products for a particular project. Sometimes a single vendor has all the materials, but will not distribute to residential customers or you geography. My journey to select the cladding material for my addition took me from various trade shows to vendor discussion via email and phone.

Tradeshows
The best residential construction show occurs during Design & Construction Week in Las Vegas. The world converges to the NAHB International Builders’ Show in the early part of the year for 3 days of exhibits, education, and the ability to see products in context of an actual building, not just a small sample. Regional shows like Dwell on Design expand on modern materials.

Vendors
The best relationship you can have are with local representatives of suppliers. They will help you walk through project objectives, give you tips, and answer any questions you have. I have saved in installation getting a better handle on products before I’ve purchased, making virtual models and installing the products on computer simulations before a single drill or saw starts.

Instructions
I search the internet for videos and downloadable manuals of competitive products. One instruction set may help in the installation of another similar product. Obviously, the vendor manual is sacrosanct when it come to warranty, but other manufactures often have more information or unique local perspectives not available.

Home Improvement Retailer
In my area, there are the big box home improvement retailers, the indepenent specialty distributors, and building material dealers. Each one has their advantages. After shopping at each variety of distributor, I get the majority of materials from the big box stores. They have fantastic return policies and delivery prices, and with patience can source most anything you need.

For my current cladding phase of my project, I actually got buiding materials and supplies from no less than 10 stores. I ordered stainless steel cladding fasteners from PMP Building Products, fiber cement panels and reveals from Lowe’s, aluminum window flashing from Tamlyn, torx insert bits and holders from amazon.com, sealants and nippers from Essential Hardware, bi-cellular backer rod from DK Hardware, carbide blades on eBay, and a water-resistive barrier from The Home Depot.

Fiber Cement Siding

As global leader in fiber cement siding, James Hardie manufactures products unique to it’s market in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA. My structure seeks a modern aesthetic. If I had a choice I would have selected a Scyon system of exterior cladding or a EPDM tape option for a genuine rainscreen siding, but in the USA, we have fiber cement vertical panel and aluminum reveal to adapt to the limited products available.

Fry Reglet, Tamlyn, and Easy Trim Reveals offer fiber cement reveals. Each manufacture similar profiles to encapsulate the 5/16″ fiber cement panel on all edges to shed water away from the building, but only Easy Trim Reveals allows an easier installation of aluminum trim and a water management strategy, not just decorative trim. I worked with a handful of lumberyards for pricing and availability of products, and expect a delivery of panels, fasteners, trim, and tools soon.

Many firms manufacture fiber cement panels from the Japanese Nichiha and KMEW, to domestic Allura and GAF. Many of these cladding systems offer amazing textures and installation systems, but my walls are structural insulated panels, and few vendors are willing to warrant installations on this building system. James Hardie has an installation on sheathing exclusively with the correct fastener length in their Evaluation Report.

My final exterior cladding selection includes a Henry Blueskin VP100 Water Resistive Barrier, plywood battens for a 11 mm rain gap, HardiePanel in Colorplus Monterey Taupe JH40-20, SFS TW-S fasteners, and Easy Trim Reveals in clear anodized color. I had some primed Soffit panel that I needed to color match to the Monterey Taupe, and Valspar Paint customer service shared the recipe with my local paint store. For some reason Easy Trim Reveals do not offer a window flashing profile, so I had to order a Tamlyn XtremeTrim just for that part of the project.

Tools of the SIP trade

The contractor finished assembly of the structural components of the project. Air sealing and applying the weather and fire resistive cladding come next. I though it would be a good idea to review some of the tools I’ve learned to use to make construction easier, and many times essential to a structural insulated panel building.

Cordless Adhesive Dispenser
I applied at every joint, intersection, overlay, and boundery a bead of panel mastic to seal the structure. After distributing over 60 tubes of 29 oz size, the DEWALT DC546K performed admirably. The tool weighs around 8 pounds, but saves the fingers to dispense such a quantity of mastic.

Cordless Palm Nailer
Practically every wall required a plethora of nails to act as a shear wall, living in a seismically active location. I’ve pounded over 250 pound of nails without the use of a pneumatic nailer. Skilled nailing acts as a key component holding up this building, where each nail does not break the panel skin, so achieving the maximum holding power. The majority of nails have been 8D box nails, with a good share of 8D common, 16D common, and 10D common nails. Along the walls in each 2 x 4 contains two rows of 8D box nails at a 3 inch spacing, making fasteners seem to be 1-1/2” separation. Without 3 palm nailers, I would still be pounding nails. The Milwaukee Palm Nailer 2458-20 has had it’s problems, but the manufacturer stood behind their product 100% in prompt repairs or replacement no questions asked.

Parallel Bar Clamps
It is often seen that truck straps are a good tool to sandwich two panels together at the seam, but I’ve found much better control and flexibility using long bar clamps. I have a system based on 50 inch clamps and extenders, where I can get a 16 foot or longer clamp to ease a panel together safely and efficiently. Likewise, a clamp will hold a panel together before panel screws complete the job at the corners. Sears once sold a Craftsman Parallel Bar Clamp system based on the Bessey Vario K Body REVO series of clamps with movable upper and lower jaws.

Shoulder Injury Delays Project

Venerable Mac software developer Dantz, coined the phrase, “To go forward, you must back up,” referring to software that would automatically duplicate and restore computer data. My online documentation of my SIP house has been lousy, and only the very fortuneate who have visited the jobsite has seen the progress. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to revisit the past, and restore the missing posts over the years. Most of this project is found on private SMS micro blog feeds, to give me the timeline to restore the missing information.

On 22 June 2012, my two year LA building permit expired! Usually that means paying the City an additional fee. This time I have the City on my side, and they like the progress I’ve made, and want to see me finish the house, so far without additional cost. In anxiousness to continue to build, I drove myself a little too hard.

I am in the process of building the second floor of the addition, and had to move and prepare the wall panels. After repositioning 22 panels, I damaged my shoulder muscles.

Foolishly I thought I could work through the pain, and was able to groove out the foam, cut the posts that fit into the side of the panels, and prepare the bottom plate, until I could not lift my arm to my mouth. After one week of extreme pain, and two of sling rest, I’m getting a little more movement back in the hand and shoulder. I still cannot lift my arm over my head, but am mostly pain free and will try next week to start hammering and assembly of the wall components.

Shoulder pain is not to ignored, especially when you need your arms to build a house.

SIP Floor Installation Progress

After taking the informative SIP background class from Green Builder College, called “Builders Education with SIPs,” I learned very few projects include SIP floors. I decided months ago, if I was going to try building a SIP structure, it might as well include the entire structure from the ground up, so it would include SIP floors, SIP walls, and a SIP roof.

The floor panels at around 13′ x 4′ in dimension weigh in around 200 lbs each. I can easily slide them around the jobsite on my oversized sill plates or cart them around using a handy Telpro The Troll cart. Were it’s been particularly challenging is placing the panels around the seismic concerns of holdown hardware and shear walls bolts. These foundation anchors go down between 24″ and 40″ into the concrete foundation, and define the structural footprint. I’ve had to lift the panel over the bolts instead of moving them into place like the other panels.

Another problem I’ve had is the panels are designed for dimensional lumber for support, mostly 2 x 10, which actually measure 1-1/2″ x 9-1/4″ in size. A lot of locations require the use of engineered lumber like LVL, which my local vendors do not make! I’ve had to buy larger material and cut off the excess that takes a lot of time and effort. It has been like the old timber frame homes using hand shavers and block planes to reduce the 9-1/2″ engineered material to fit into the floor panel.

I also had no idea how tough some of these engineered woods are, and boring a hole for the anchor bolts took a high torque 1/2″ drill and 17″ long auger bit to get the job done. My 12V tools and standard 1/2″ drill got about 3″ down before binding and stopping. Good thing I have a 500 RPM drill that can handle those agressive augur bits.

I initially tried to attach all connection using common nails and a titanium head hammer, but after 100 nails, I am now using a palm nailer, and what a difference! no more hand fatigue. The titanium hammer is great for a lightweight tool to reduce elbow and forearm injury, but my hand was hurting after nailing. The palm nailer works great so far.

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