In 2003, my company built a large oceanfront home on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. A sheltered porch spanned the 96-foot-long east elevation, with each end of the porch topped by a conical roof. Seventeen round Tuscan-style columns supported those porch roofs. My associate, Mike Rand, supervised fabrication of the more complicated porch roof components in our shop. These included large, composite carrying beams for the porch rafters, the two conical roofs, and parapet wall surrounds for three second-floor balconies inset in the porch roof. The standard rafters would all be cut to fit on site.

We had plenty of I-joists on hand, so Mike used them to set up a full-size layout grid at the shop. The plan was to set up the grid on site — like a giant story stick — and eliminate the need for batter boards and string layout. I'll describe them in more detail later.

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