Installing the Ceiling in the Little House

After a very long wait (with disease, inflation, and supply problems affecting the nation), we finally were able to put together a trip to install the tongue and groove ceiling at the Little House.


We had put this off during the pandemic, because supplies were very hard to get.  Then when lumber was available, the cost had more than doubled from pre-pandemic times.  Finally, after waiting it out, the prices of the 8-foot tongue and groove pine boards at the home center had dropped from nearly $15 per board to a little over $8 per board.

I searched the store's online site for a location that had a large enough supply.  After seemingly found a store nearby, I put in an online order for them to pick a little over 100 boards from the 150 they said were in stock.

Shortly later, we received an email telling us that the order had been cancelled, because they actually anly had 30-something in stock, and most of them were damaged in some way.

So we went to another nearby store to look for more boards.  They had a few, but again they were in very bad shape.  So we took a photo of the item tag, and went to the customer service desk to place a special order for a large quantity, hoping that the boards fresh from the supplier would be in better shape.  we ordered 180 boards and went home to wait.

About 6 weeks later, we still hadn't heard from the store about the order, so I went down to cancel it.  When I stopped at the service desk, they informed me that the order had indeed arrived 2 weeks earlier.  They could not explain why we had not been notified.

I was just happy that the order had arrived, so I told them to load it up into the back of my truck.  I was pleasantly surprised that the order was completely wrapped in a protective wrap, and they were all bundled together tightly in a neat package.

When I got the boards home and unwrapped them, they were in great shape! mostly straight and without too many splits.

After unloading all of the boards, I set out in the back yard in Mesa to sand a good side on every board, in preparation for a varnish or lacquer finish.  With this done, we set the boards in the garage while we waited for a good time to go to the ranch.

That time came over Labor Day, 2022.  We had to replace two tires on our 16 foot trailer before the trip, because they had chunks of rubber missing and the underlying cords showing through.

We headed up to the ranch with a bunch of supplies and tools on the Thursday before Labor Day.  We arrived to find that the (more than) 12 inches of rain that had accumulated since May had brought the entire Ranch to life.  There was tall green grass everywhere, with plenty of other plants for critters to munch on.  The four-o-clocks were covered with huge caterpillars and sphinx moths.


The next day, I got the old Ford tractor started and knocked down the weeds in the driveway.  We could barely see that there was a path there when we arrived, but not you can see where to drive.


On Saturday, we set up some sawhorses to place some boards on to finish with lacquer.  We used Deft Satin Clear wood Lacquer, thinned with a couple splashes of lacquer thinner for each gallon.  Because some of the wood was covered with dust from the trip in, we cleaned and re-sanded where necessary before applying the lacquer.


We worked in batches of 20 boards at a time, as that is about how many I could install in a day's time.  After the first coat of lacquer in the morning in the shade, we let them dry for several hours while I would install a batch of boards from the previous day onto the ceiling of the cabin.  Then in the afternoon, the wood was again in the shade (from the cabin blocking the sun), and we would go out and lightly sand, then apply a second coat of lacquer to the boards.

By the time the sun set, the boards were dry enough to bring inside and store in the loft overnight, ready for installation the next day.

For the first week, the weather was hot and dry (highs about 91 degrees F).  But the second week brought rain from the remains of hurricane Kay off the baja coast.  That caused some scheduling problems with applying lacquer, but we were able to rush a few batches of boards between rains because the lacquer dried really fast.  This allowed us to stay on schedule.  The sunsets after the rains were spectacular, as usual...

I started out custom cutting each board to fit between rafters, but then changed over to just trimming the crooked ends off of the 8 foot boards and only alternating between three 8-footers on one row with two 4-footers and two 8-footers on the next row.  That simplified the installation a lot.  Since the boards all interlock between the adjoining rows, there was no need to end the boards precisely at a rafter.


Boards were secured to rafters with 2-inch brad nails straight through the side of the board.  I didn't attempt to hide the brad nails, as they are very small, and you cannot see them from the floor.  I had started nailing through the tongue on each board to hide them, but it didn't feel secure enough for me.  Every so often, I would need to use a 2-inch wood screw to secure a board, as the foam insulation stuck out enough in a few places that I didn't trust the brad nails to hold securely.  I had to keep telling myself (it's rustic...).


Our neighbors from up the hill stopped by and offered their scaffold as we were starting work.  That came in very handy, and was probably much safer. Although the wife says I was still much too unsafe in my actions.  Safety third, I always say...

We are very pleased with the installation.  We will need to add trim pieces around the beams and at the gable ends, but it looks pretty good so far.


Oh, and a couple of weeks before our trip, our internet at the ranch went down.  This was the Viasat Wildblue satellite internet system.  It apparently died from a nearby lightning strike.  It is so old and outdated that we decided to replace it with a new Starlink system that will provide us with unlimited data (instead of the 10-GB per month with the old system).  That is now on order for our next trip up.

So anyway, we had to drive down the road a bit for internet and phone service once a day while out internet was down.  Except for rainy days, when we stayed at the cabin without any internet or phones.

So that's about it for this trip.  It feels good to finally get something done on the Little House again.  Hopefully we will be able to continue progress now.

See you next time...


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