Driven Up the Wall

This work took place over a few days and with some intervening days off! All work and no play kind of thinking…

photo2I’ve leveled the decking, and I’m working with the windows I received from the wonderful gifters I’ve met through Freecycle Halifax, to build the wall.

Freecycle Halifax, like all Freecycles, is a Yahoo listserv where participants post items that they are willing to give away, or items they are seeking for free. It is a wonderful way for people to recycle and reduce purchases, and to avoid extracting additional resources. As I have mentioned before, the greenhouse windows, and much of the lumber were obtained through requests to the Freecycle Halifax listserv, located at: The Freecycle Halifax group is one of 5140 Freecycle groups across the globe, with a collective 7 500 000 members. I’m also a member of Freecycle Lunenburg and Freecycle Queens counties. I’ve been able to give away a working 2-burner stove and a brass and glass fireplace closure with metal screen. What comes around – goes around. Good form means that you ask only for what you need, distinguish between recyclable and end of life materials in your give away offers, that you are available and prompt to pick up items offered, and are respectful of the time and property of the person offering to assist you. I’ve had good success in this way as both a giver and receiver.


The gravel beneath my patio stones had settled further. I used scrap lumber to temporarily screw the 4x4s to the joists and then used a car jack sitting on a patio stone to raise the back end of the deck to level. I added bricks and then lowered the deck. Once the walls are up and screwed in place, I’ll use pressure treated 2 x 8s to fasten the 4×4 and end joists together. I’ll add more screws along the end joists to make a double thickness of joists at each outer edge. It will add strength and rigidity, and form the lower edge of the picture frame design of the perimeter of each wall.

I removed old closure hardware from the windows; washed the windows, and laid them out on the base of the greenhouse. My greenhouse will be an 8’ x 8’ structure with 8’ walls.

Here’s the window layout

South – 2 rows of 3 windows facing Solar South.

East – 4 windows in the East wall, 1 in the East eaves

West – 2 windows and a door in the West wall, and 1 window in the West eaves

North – no windows facing directly North; however, 1 large window in the East side of the back “North” wall to catch the rising sun.

I’ve cleaned and sanded the windows and the decking.

I built the frame for the 8’ x 8’ South wall, laying it flat on the deck. Four on my South facing windows are 30.5 inches wide by 27.5” inches tall; two – which I’ll place in the centre of each row of three, are narrower at 26.5 inches, and 27.5 inches tall. The South wall has four studs to accommodate the spacing of the windows. I cut three headers for the top row of windows and screwed them in 8.5” down from the bottom of the top plate. I then placed a 8.5” cripple stud over each window to secure the top plate to the header. The studs and cripple studs ensure the weight distribution of the roof is spread evenly through the wall.

I next used a jigsaw and a plane to create a 22 degree beveled edge for 3 window sills and cut each to fit between the studs. I also cut blocking to fit between the studs and under the sills for additional strength and rigidity.

I have not yet screwed the sills or blocking into place as I want to ensure that each sill and block is level and that cannot be done until the walls are vertical. As well, I don’t want to add any more weight to the wall until I have it lifted and secured into place. And that is the next step.

I’ve cleared the deck and work area of all debris and tripping hazards. I set one screw near the top of the wall, securing an 8’ length of 1 x 2 bracing to each outer stud. The brace was used to raise the wall into place and to secure the wall temporarily to the deck. I screwed a stop board to the front board of the deck (south facing) to ensure the wall does not slip from the deck as it is raised into place.

To raise the wall, my fellow cottager Nancy and friend, Brenda and I formed a crew of three. Two to lift and manage the braces and one to ensure level and plumb, and to screw the wall into place through the base and braces. It took less that 15 minutes to raise the wall and screw it into place.

I’ll make a header, sill, and block for the lower row of windows once I’ve leveled and screwed in, and sealed the upper window sills and blocks. Once the first two walls are up, the sills and blocks leveled and windows installed, and I can avoid standing on the deck for a day, I’ll complete a major amount of sealant work on the deck.

I have to admit that I do not like using a circular saw. They scare me! I’m comfortable with a jigsaw, handsaws and hand planes; however, I may need to use the circular saw to rip interior and exterior strips of wood to hold each window in place within its frame. I’ll take my time and triple check my work area to ensure that I’m working safely. The jigsaw and plane worked well in making the beveled edge of the sills though it did take much longer than it would have taken a skilled and less fearful user with a circular saw. You might choose to use such a tool!

I’m wondering whether I can make the horizontals level and use shims under the sills to create a slight angle to support water hitting the outside of the greenhouse to stay out, or leave the building. This would mean that the windows are also slightly canted outward. Not likely a “bad thing” if I use sufficient sealant to account for the gaps I’d create.






Deck Finished and Adjusting the Level (Again)

Image These beauties sustain themselves at the end of my driveway. I also have a few on the driveway margins.

I’m finishing up the deck boards today, and hoping for a few days of sun to dry out the works. The boards have been sitting outdoors and off the ground, but are quite damp. I’ll then sand off any old, loose paint; and caulk between the boards with an exterior sealant.

Then, on to the walls! This will be a tricky phase for me as I’ll build them flat, raise them, and screw them into place. Wish me luck!

All Hands on Deck

ImageWith the insulation completed, I now turn to the decking. I was very fortunate to pick up almost enough 1″x 6″ lumber through a gift via Freecycle Halifax. A wonderful man who was moving and had also hoped to build a greenhouse, donated the wood he had collected for his project, as well as 13 of the windows I collected for the project.  Very generous and I hope that his move overseas brings him much success in his new work adventure. Most of the boards are 10′ and that gives me the needed 8′ of solid lumber when I trim the split ends of some boards.




ImageAs with the joists, I’ll place the boards crowns up. This allows the pressure of the walls and the traffic in the building to push down to flatten the boards, and so that any warping or twisting of boards occurs in the same direction, keeping the floor even.

I also was gifted, by the same gentleman, with a good supply of 1″x 6″ tongue and groove which I’ll save for the walls and roof.



ImageFor the most part, I’m using 2,  2.5″ screws manufactured specifically to withstand the interaction with the wood preservative chemicals of the pressure treated joists, the weather, and fungus.  Occasionally I’m using 3 screws if the end is a bit split.

In the Pink

ImageAs I hope to be able to use the greenhouse for all but the coldest months, insulation is important. No time like “Construction Time” to insulate the floor. I picked up two 1.5” thick sheets of pink extruded polystyrene foam – pink board insulation — with an R-value of about 7.5 . It is a “closed cell” styrofoam and does not absorb water. The supplier kindly cut the 4’x8’ sheets into 14.5” wide lengths for me, easing transport and on site handling.




I needed to trim some long edges as I placed the styrofoam lengths between the joists as lumber is not completely straight . I scouted around online and saw references for styrofoam cutting devices such as a “hot knife,” fashioned from a soldering iron or wood burning tool. I possess neither so I used a jigsaw for trimming and had little chipping of the closed cell styrofoam at low speed. I trimmed the ends as the lengths were slightly more than 8’.


To hold the insulation in place beneath the floor, I used strapping. If you have access to recycled/damaged boards that you can cut into smaller dimensions for the purpose, there is an opportunity to save some money and some trees; otherwise, it’s a purchase of some low-cost 1” x 3” spruce strapping.


ImageA standard square has a 2” and a 1.5” arm, so it is easy to scribe a horizontal line 1.5” down and along each joist.









ImageDry fit the strapping, 1/16” below the scribed line to avoid having the 1.5” thick insulation ride high when placed between the joists. To save time, I double checked the depth with a scrap piece of the styrofoam to ensure that it did not ride above the joist.





ImageThe strapping was then screwed into place.








ImageI dry fit the styrofoam insulation, trimming the width and length as necessary to fit.
















To vapor barrier or not to vapor barrier?

If I was to include a vapor barrier, it would go on the cold side of the insulation — on the exterior and the underside of the joists. As this structure is a greenhouse and I’m expecting moisture because of that use, I decided not to vapor barrier at all so that spilled water and condensation seep away and/or are controlled through window venting.

Gravel Basics and Head for the Wood(s)


Gravel, if you do not have access to a small truck, can be an expensive business. It pays to have friends with old trucks; however, I do not and so, I purchased the gravel I needed to level my building site in 30 kg bags trucked from Laval, Quebec. So much for “Buy Locally.” Six bags of ¾” and 6 bags of ¼” at about $6.60 per bag were delivered with my purchased lumber order by my semi-local, rurally-located building supplier. I “trucked” 6 of the bags 30 highway minutes in my car, as I had underestimated the gravel need.

gravel A full load of gravel from a supplier within spitting distance of my building supplier would cost about $40, AND a $400 trucking fee. So, I couldn’t win on this one. Gravel is carbon footprint heavy!









photo1I had staked out a 9’ perimeter using some old slats from my storage shed. Those were quickly flattened as the gravel and then the patio stones became mobile. Not a great photo. Those patio stones have been on and off the piles of gravel more than a few time as I worked on the leveling of the site.

Using my “tools of ignorance,” I spread the gravel to level my building site, and topped it with 22” patio stones. I used an 8’ piece of straight lumber and my level to make the gravel level. Starting with the high corner, located at the front of the greenhouse, I laid down 4” of ¾ ” gravel and topped it with about 2” of ¼ “ gravel.

I borrowed a friend’s dolly which was a real help moving the 30 kg bags of gravel and the even heavier patio stones. I might have been able to use smaller patio stones; however, the 22” stones gave me a bit more “play-space” for the base of the greenhouse.

I then leveled the second front corner and proceeded to the back corners. I have to admit that it is not perfectly level; however, it isn’t out by much, according to the level. Hopefully these are not “famous last words!” We’ll see.


I used Wolmanized/pressure treated lumber for the base of the greenhouse. 2 – 4” x 4” skids and 9 – 2” x 6” pieces to form the base. You’ll likely need pliers, as I did, to remove staples prior to use.

pull ends


17Wear gloves and if you are cutting Wolmanized/pressure treated lumber, wear a mask! Regardless, be sure to wash your hands frequently and prior to handling other materials in your home. Pressure treated lumber extends the life of wood exposed to the elements and to insects and fungus. The upside is that the wood will last longer and therefore potentially less lumber is harvested. The chemicals used to preserve the wood have changed over time; however, you do not want to have the chemicals on your hands, in your lungs, or the leftover scraps in your fireplace. Check out this link for a quick overview of the hazards and benefits of pressure treated lumber: – retrieved June 10, 2014.


Use a pencil, ruler, and straight-edge to mark where the joists are to attach to the front and back boards that will form the platform (floor and base) of the greenhouse.  Joists are spaced 16″ apart as measured from the centre of the joist. To do this calculation, measure 1.5″ in from the end of the front and back boards. 1 1/2″ is the actual width of a 2″ piece of lumber. Draw the line. Then continue to mark 16″ measures. Each line represents the edge of the board. The “X” that you see represents where the lumber joist will actually sit. In the end, the “X” is covered by the lumber that you will nail or screw to the front and back boards. Place the joists with the crowns up. See here for information on identifying the crown:

11 Be sure to purchase screws labelled for use with pressure treated lumber so that the chemicals in the wood and natural weather will not deteriorate metals and weaken your structure.









10 Be sure the variable speed drill is unplugged when you insert the Robertson’s bit.







12  This is a Robertson’s screw.










13  I used 3 – 3” Robertson screws for each joist spaced 16” on centre to form an 8’ x 8’ base. Start by screwing the top screw, followed by the bottom and then the middle screw. Work your way down the front board, connecting the joists. Then do the same to attach the joists to the back board.








joists3  Tomorrow, I’ll adjust the frame on the patio stones, recheck level and make any adjustment that I can. Then I’ll use my Freecycle lumber to deck the joists!