Walls & Ceilings

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Suddenly it looks like real progress

When the walls and ceiling studs are put up, it feels like you're starting to get somewhere. When you first get the floor down, you suffer from an optical illusion that makes you wonder how you ever thought you were going to be able to fit everything in it. For some reason, when the interior walls are erected, they make the place look bigger.

Building the cabin/garage wall

Building the wall between the cabin and garage was pretty similar to building the walls at the end of the building, except that cutting a notch in a 2x4 is easier than cutting it into a 4x4. First, I attached a sole plate to the floor deck all the way across, except at the door opening, and marked the sole plate at 16" centers where the studs will be screwed to it. Measuring from the sole plate on the floor along a plumb level that fit, I cut the studs at the outer parts of the wall to fit under the roof. Using the level again to plumb the stud, I marked the board where the hoop crossed on the bottom, and marked the hoop where the stud locates plumb. With a power mitre saw, I notched out the board to fit the hoop, and attached with a 3" wood to metal screw.

Top plates and cripple studs

Once the space under the roof is higher than a stud standing on the sole plate, I toenailed a few studs at the marks I made on the sole plate, then set the top plate up there, marking and notching similar to the studs that attached to directly to the hoop. Using the loose studs to help balance the top plate, and the level to plumb the first stud, I attached the first top plate to the hoop, then marked 16" centers for the rest of the studs. That makes attaching the rest of them a snap. The only studs that I have to use the level on after that, are on each side of the doorway. Once I have two top plates up, I cut a 2x4 to serve as the second top plate that staggers the seams of the first one. If you lined the two top plates up, end to end, the wall will be weak. Cripple studs are inserted over the top plate to the hoop in the same fashion as the outer studs.

Adding studs to the ceiling to attach drywall

I cut a jig to hold the studs for the ceiling at just a little under 24". With a couple 41" bungee cords the set up will hold the stud up there and make it a one man operation.

Foil backed styrofoam insulation

The ceiling studs attached to the hoops of the greenhouse structure left the perfect gap to slide 1" foil backed styrofoam insulation between them. I had to do this as the ceiling studs went in, to allow enough room to bend the sheets into position. The ones at the top went in before attaching the studs there. This stuff alone was enough to cool the place significantly in the summer sun, but fiberglass bat insulation will be added between the studs to increase the "R" value to a respectable 18.

Interior studded walls and a round ceiling

I cut pieces to fit to the center of the ceiling studs, then cut the studs to fit that. First, I cut a 2x4 to nearly the right length, then using a piece of scrap 2x4 to mimic the sole plate, I stand the stud on it next to the 16" center marks on the sole plate, and mark where the top plate on the ceiling crosses it while a level placed against the stud ensures that it is plumb, and mark the top plate where the stud will fit after cutting. The walls turned out extremely rigid.

Doorways and headers

All of my headers, doorways and exposed wall corners are extremely overbuilt. I like a solid feel to the walls, and when one of us slams a door, we want it to be LOUD! On the hinge side of the doorway, you only need the deadhead and the stud next to it that goes to the top plate or ceiling. On the swing side of the door, at least two studs screwed into the deadhead. The header is four 2x4's screwed together in this instance where it's not a supporting wall. In a load supporting wall, I would glue and clamp the header in place, and screw in the top and bottom boards. Rough openings for doorways are 2" wider and 2" taller than the door callout. In this case, a 36" x 80" door, the rough opening is 38" wide by 82" tall.

Insulating interior walls

While it's unnecessary from an efficiency standpoint to insulate interior walls, the effect in a small house is enormous. The sound deadening capability of an insulated wall is amazing. I can hardly hear Mrs. Pilgrim squawk at me to get back to work, as I poke away at this website. Even though insulation is not cheap, it's worth the extra cash, and I still brought the entire two projects in at under $20K

Laying out the drywall to fit

If you were wondering what the best way to fit drywall into unusually shaped spaces, such as the wall where it meets the curved roof, this is how I did it. Using a level to mark vertically below the center of the ceiling studs, I pencil a line on the panel below. Choose a side to start from and make all your measurements from there. Measure across to the pencil marks, and from the centers of the studs down to the panel below at the pencil marks. Record the co-ordinates, then transfer them onto the sheet you're going to use there. You can see how I use the drywall T-square and the tape measure to locate the co-ordinates on the panel. I used a 2' long level to connect the dots, because the ceiling studs are spaced at 2' on center, and if the level won't span the distance between dots, or is considerably more than I need to draw a line between them (except at the ends), then I need to go back and check my measurements, or how I tranferred the points onto the panel.

Cutting and installing the sheet

Using the drywall T-square as a guide, I put a light score into the face of the panel with the drywall knife, then go back and deepen the cut by going over it a few times until the cut is about halfway through the panel. I'm using ultra-light sheetrock, which is amazingly easy to work with. Easy to cut, and easy to lift. Flip the panel over and lift the scrap side up enough to snap the break in the drywall and see where the line is. Then cut the cardboard side along this to free the piece. Where I'm using less than a full panel, such as here, I put a light score all the way across at one end of piece I need, and cut similarly before doing the shaped cut. Since a straight line in the drywall will break better, I don't need to make the score as deep there. Once the panel is free from the scrap, I use a drywall file to knock about 1/8" of the sharp corner off so the panel will go into the space without binding and wrecking the piece. You'll find that no matter how good your measuring may be, when you're dealing with cut drywall you'll need to reduce the size by about an 1/8" in order to have it fit. One of the great things about a do-it-yourself project like this, is that I left a little extra insulation at the ends of every space between studs so I could tuck them around the corners where the ceiling meets the walls. This gives you a superior insulating job to what you would get from a typical contractor, and it will eliminate drafts and heat escaping from your house.

Installing the ceiling - holding the drywall up

I built this T-brace from some leftover 2x4's and one of the skids from the pallet of lumber. I used an 8' piece with a 4' piece screwed to it for length adjustment. To get the length right, I put the top rail against a stud near the center of the panel with the brace almost vertical, then marked where the 4' piece touched it from the floor. With Mrs. Pilgrim as a helper, I lifted the panel into place, and had her place the T-brace under it and with my help guiding it partially over the ceiling stud, had her slowly wedge it in as I pushed the panel into the shape of the ceiling. The helper has to move the brace around on the floor not only to hold the panel up, but square against the stud. This is an after-the-fact picture, because it's too hard to take pictures while making the adjustments to the panel and T-brace. That is why the top is not square against the stud, it's been moved to allow room to put the screws in.

Drywaller stilts make it quick

Okay, this is a little insane. I picked up a pair of drywaller stilts on one of the home improvement stores' online site. It's extremely dangerous, and the Pilgrim nearly needed to change underwear after a couple of scares. Once I got used to them, and gained some confidence, I could get around without actually feeling like I was that high off the ground, which is where the real danger kicks in. One fall off these babies, and it could be over. I wouldn't attempt putting drywall panels up on these, as it would be even more dangerous. I also noticed after looking at the picture, that the Pilgrim may need to cut back on his "living off the 'fat' of the land" concept, a bit.

Marking the cut line

Using my 4' level as a straight edge, I draw a line across the panel from a mark I put on the last panel at the center of the ceiling stud, to the ceiling stud center on the other side. This gives me a guide to put the screws in and cut the panel in place for fit.

Putting screws in at the cut line

The screws at the cut line have to be installed between the cut line and the edge of the ceiling studs. One nice thing about cutting the panel in place is that you can install the screws near where the edge will be, and not have to worry about the panel crumbling when the screw head is driven home, the way it might if the cut were already made.

Cutting the excess

Using an oscillating tool, I cut the excess panel that runs past the center of the ceiling stud. It might've been a good idea to wear safety glasses during this operation to keep some of the drywall dust out of my eyes. Oh well, forge ahead and learn the hard way.

Working alone?

To put ceiling panels up by myself, I built a jig with a couple of brackets, a 1" square stick and a piece of 1-1/2" PVC pipe. I cut the pipe to 52" and the stick to 53", that way I the pipe will spin on the stick, and I can get a hold on it with a pair of channel locks while I screwed it to the brackets. I set the jig at the second stud, and attached a piece of board at the top of the panel below to keep the panel being installed up while I arrange everything else. I used drywall screws to attach the jig and board so that I wouldn't have to change out the screw point while I was up on the ladder. Once the panel was up there, I went about placing the T-brace and situating the ladder where I could put in the screws. Where it only takes about 5 minutes to put up a panel with a helper, this method took about 20. With practice, I can probably pare that down to 15 minutes.

Taping the joints

With a 2" putty knife, lay a line of wet drywall mud along the seam you're going to tape, being mindful to only lay down as much as you can cut and install the drywall tape for before that line begins to dry (I keep it to a couple of feet at a time); In this corner, I take a piece the length of the straight part, fold the tape down the center, push into the corner then use the 2" knife to sink it into the mud line I laid beneath. You can see by the air pockets on right side of the curved portion what the tape will look like before you "iron" it in. If the curved area were any smaller radius, I would cut down on the length of the tape I lay accordingly, to keep it from folding over on itself along the flat wall; Once the tape is ironed flat into the initial mud line, I use the 2" putty knife to lay more drywall mud over the tape, extending past the ends of the tape to begin setting up the initial mud line for the next piece of tape. I use a 4" putty knife to lay more mud over and smooth out the previous action. If you're going for smooth walls, you'll need to use successively wider putty knives to make the transition appear non-existent. I'm texturing these walls, so a 4" putty knife is sufficient. I probably should've added another panel in the picture to show the finished product, which was a lot smoother than pictured here. You want to eliminate as much sanding as you can, and if you're texturing the walls, you can get away completely without sanding if you can do this smoothly enough.

Texture coat

I'm texturing a ceiling here. It's a little like frosting a cake with a paint brush. They sell brushes precisely for this job, but this works just as well, it just takes longer....well, that's relative, because it's a three hour round trip for me to go to the home improvement store. I stick the brush into the drywall mud then push the brush straight into the surface and pull away to form a bunch of points. Once I have a large enough area covered like that, I take a wide knife and drag over the points flattening it to the desired depth of texture. This is kind of an acquired art, so practice makes perfect. In other words, don't start in the middle of living room ceiling where everyone will see the transition from beginner to ace. The best advice I can give is to start with light pressure then keep going over it 'til you get the feel for how much pressure and what angle to use on the knife to get the texture you want. If you go to far, simply push your brush back into the mud and recreate the points, adding mud as needed to get them. Another piece of advice, use one of the smaller putty knives to scrape mud off of the large knife after each stroke. In the last panel of the picture series you can see how well the previously finished sections match up. That whole ceiling was completed by doing around two foot square sections.