Island House Makeover: Re-Framing the Roof

Contractor Heather Thompson (left), project manager Mark Pollard (center), and client Will Crosby (right) share a laugh at the job site in January.

Before: A classic island vacation home, the existing house had light framing, no insulation, and deteriorated finishes inside and out. New owner Will Crosby bought the building at a foreclosure auction, and a Boston architect advised him to tear the building down (or at least rip off the entire second story). Instead, Crosby hired a local architect and builder to carry out a complete gut-rehab, including an above-code energy retrofit.

After installing temporary shoring, Thompson Johnson Woodworks begins demolition of the existing front porch in September.

A view of the house with the front porch removed.

The house in January. In this view, the foundation underpinning is complete and the floors, walls, and roof have been jacked into shape and reinforced.

Project manager Mark Pollard reframes the porch structure in November. Pollard says that the work on the porch had a significant effect on the effort to jack up and reinforce the roof. Evidently, settling of the porch structure was pulling down the roof hips above the porch. Only after the porch was removed and a new carrying beam was installed across the front of the house and jacked into level was the crew able to jack up the home’s ridge beam and pull its balloon-framed kneewalls into realignment.

When jacking up the home’s roof and straightening its walls proved difficult, says Pollard, “we realized we had to start at the bottom.” Step one was to install new beams in the basement under the first floor frame and level the floor system.

After leveling the first floor, the crew installed new LVL carrying beams along the long dimension of the house (from front to back). The existing floor was framed with 26-foot 2x7 sawn floor joists, spanning the entire width of the house. Over a century in service, and supported only by light board partitions, the floor had sagged more than four inches. The crew cut the existing full span roughly into thirds, installed engineered carrying beams, jacked the floor up, and supported the new girders with Douglas fir posts.

With the first and second floor straight, the crew returned to the effort of pulling in the upstairs kneewalls and jacking up the ridge. When comealongs across the span of the house couldn’t do the job, they installed four posts with bottle jacks under the ridge to lift the ridge directly. But the house still resisted — until the crew reframed the porch at the front of the house and jacked the new beam into level. “Then the comealongs immediately sagged and the ridge started to go up,” says Mark Pollard.

With the ridge and hips jacked into position, the crew site-built a pair of structural trusses spanning the house, using engineered lumber. The ends of the trusses rest on full-height LVL posts that bear directly on the foundation. The site-built engineered trusses are the backbone of a new structural system, serving to support the ridge and hip members at the apex of the roof frame.

Another view of the site-built LVL truss, which spans the building and provides support at the point where the roof ridge meets the reinforced hip rafters.

Mark Pollard installs blocking into the new ceiling for the upstairs space.

Framing the new upstairs ceiling.

After reinforcing the rafter system and installing structural trusses and collar ties, carpenter Shane Fenton and project manager Mark Pollard ease off on the comealongs they had used to pull the outside kneewalls into alignment.

A view of the reframed and reinforced roof system after comealongs and jacks have been removed. Visible here is the pair of site-built structural trusses that now support the roof’s ridge beam and hips, as well as the new ceiling collar ties.

With the structural reframing and reinforcing of the roof completed, carpenter Ed Muennich works on the task of framing down the roof system to create space for insulation.

A view of the roof system showing the thickened rafter assembly. The crew attached new 2x4 ceiling members to the existing rafters using plywood gussets, in order to create a deep space for insulation. Later, three inches of spray polyurethane will be applied to the underside of the roof, and the remaining cavity will be filled with dense-blown cellulose.

Another view of the second-floor space with new site-built structural trusses installed, collar ties and new ceilings framed in, and the roof build-down mostly completed. A new dormer still remains to be built at the back of the house.

Another view of the roof build-down, constructed so as to provide additional space for spray polyurethane and dense-blown cellulose insulation. The hip rafter here has also been supported with new LVLs.

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