Physics and Other Framing Lessons

You know that all I want for Christmas is some walls in my house, and last week the building inspector came through to do what building inspectors do… tell us why our house is going to fall down.

This can be discouraging, but since our house has not yet fallen down, it’s actually a good thing because we have a chance to fix any structural items that could cause problems later on.

Our punchlist consisted of three things that we wouldn’t have otherwise known to look for (but now seem super obvious, naturally.)

Lesson # 1: Fireblocks

I learned a little about fireblocking from our plumbers. They were working in our existing bathroom and showed me how the old vent holes (cut through the floor to the basement between the studs) needed to be blocked up to prevent fire from traveling from one floor of the house to the next.

Then we built this frame around the bathtub…


And we didn’t realize that the small space between the existing wall and new frame would be open to the attic. That’s a fire no-no apparently, so here’s what we had to do to fix it.


Solid wood blocking…


Then fire-rated caulk…


And there you go.


Lesson learned.

Lesson #2: Rafters, Meet Joists

I know in my head what this is supposed to look like (and why) but we never really looked at it hard enough to realize something was wrong. We were just glad to have a roof with shingles on it after being rained on for months.


This is one of those issues that happen when you’re rebuilding a new roof onto an old house… everything doesn’t line up the way it should. Although I don’t know for sure why these ended up so far off.

And again, here.


This, we believe, was solved with the board above it nailed to both the rafter and ceiling joist, but the inspector insisted on blocking and who are we to argue?

It was a bit of a pain…


But anything that strengthens the structural integrity of the house is not something to complain about.

Lesson #3: The Laws of Physics and Triangles

So, this one was a little bit of a mind bender. I was talking to the inspector before MysteryMan got to the house and all the sudden he was pointing to these random 2×4’s in the ceiling and then showing me how the weight of the roof was going to bend my ceiling joists and cause the eventual collapse of the Universe.


He had to explain it to me a few times before I realized what the problem was. Our ceiling joists run perpendicular to the roof rafters, so unlike in Lesson #2 where they joists and rafters needed to connect, there were 2×4’s spaced four foot on center that were supposed to be connected to the sill plate or rafters to “complete the triangle.”

Since I’m sure that makes as much sense to you as it did to me when the inspector was talking so I did us all a favor and drew a little cartoon to better explain the problem.

Side note: This is the conversation that ensued when MysteryMan saw me sketching out these very professional diagrams.

MysteryMan: What on earth are you drawing?

Me: Physics.

MysteryMan: …

MysteryMan: It’s been a while since I was in college, but I’m pretty sure “physics” isn’t a triangle with a smiley face.

Fat lot he knows.

Here’s what we had when the 2×4’s weren’t attached to the rafters…


And here’s what we’re going for…


See? Physics.

Here’s how we did it…


And now the house won’t fall down.

Other Stuff

Since we were on a roll with framing and saving the universe from eventual demise, we MysteryMan took care of a few other miscellaneous things we needed to have done before we could have actual walls.

This was a bit of perplexing carpentry. I know there’s a reason why the rafters were done this way, but for the life of me I cant figure out what it is.


This wouldn’t be a problem if the room had a flat ceiling, but since that would be no fun (as would random spot of flat drywall there, on our otherwise vaulted ceiling) MysteryMan did some physics– er, geometry?– of his own and put that extra blocking in to continue the angle down to the wall.

We also finally built the two closets that flank some cabinets on the far side of the kitchen.


A house can never have too many closets.

Next up on our please-god-can-we-get-some-insulation-in-this-house list:

  1. Run speaker wire and an internet/TV cable
  2. Install exterior outlets
  3. Put in blocking for cabinets, towel rods, etc.

I’ve got my fingers crossed for insulation next week, drywall the week after that, and sanity sometime in Spring.

6 Responses

  1. I’m going to use the physics triangle comic next time I try to explain to hubby or Amish carpenter who works with us why that board there doesn’t look right not touching this other board here…. They always look at me like I’m out of my freakin mind. Now all I have to do is drag out Physics Triangle and go, “THERE”!
    Awesome 🙂

  2. OMG! How is your brain not on overload like ALL. THE. TIME? Seriously, I know you took classes & everything to help with being your own contractor/builder/supervisor but sheesh! SO MUCH INFORMATION to know & remember & learn.

  3. Your Triangle Comics simplified and made completely understandable! Thank you! Wish I’d had these when building with Habitat!

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