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!! Design: Solarium at Wheaton Labs: Design Conversation

 
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I like the switch to gable roof instead of shed, also the vertical offset means not having to marry garage/solarium rooves allowing for different materials.

Regarding the car turnout allowance, and the roof on that side. Is it possible to keep the roof full width (not cut back/asymmetrical/saltbox-looking?) to provide shelter at what I assume will be the main entrance?
Even with the vertical offset, the eaves on the solarium are higher than the garage door opening, which suggests that any "car" that would be garage height (not a Sprinter van) would not even come close to striking it.
At the full width (cantilevered), there'd even be enough space for it to act as a "carport" for loading/unloading from a car trunk in inclement weather. Also puts the door way under cover, so flashing details are less necessary to get perfect.
 
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Metal roofing is, monetarily and skills-wise, one of the cheapest and longest-lasting materials. It is of course highly refined metal with high-tech coatings (or galvanizing).

Wood shingles (generally cedar) are fairly expensive and take time to apply correctly (staggering joints). They are probably the single most appropriate roofing technology for natural building in northern US locations. They look beautiful and would be a good topping for an introductory piece of building.
 
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How are wood shingles in a forest fire?  Not sure the risk of that at basecamp...
 
Glenn Herbert
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If forest fire is a serious concern close to base camp, that would be a factor that could outweigh natural building. On the other hand, the existing building has asphalt shingles, so extra protection on the new part might be irrelevant. Is there any consideration of fire management practices to reduce the local risks?
 
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Paul was talking about the available time, and needing dry space.
He also said, "The solarium should be big enough to fit a table and some people around it."
He also said, "Gable roofs take some skill."
Earlier, I proposed the idea of closing in the garage door opening with glass.
Therefore, Wednesday, I had an idea that I needed to convey.
The following illustration limits the solarium to a 10'x10' area for people to sit around a table, places a simple shed roof over their heads, and glazes the remainder of the garage door opening. It places one sliding glass door at the garage wall facing South, and another sliding glass door in a solarium wall facing West.
LIBRARY_PLAN06-pic01.jpg
Perspective view of solarium looking West.
Perspective view of solarium looking West.
LIBRARY_PLAN06-pic02.jpg
Perspective view of solarium looking East.
Perspective view of solarium looking East.
 
Davin Hoyt
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Ash and I sat down with Paul to get another iteration of Paul's thoughts.

My sum-up is as follows, and I will apply this to my thinking for all of Paul's (Wheaton Lab) projects going forward:

This piece of architecture needs to be an "artifact"; needs to encompass Wheaton Labs' values, and elicit divine imagination through it's aesthetics.

The following images show where the design is currently. Please comment. Thanks!
LIBRARY_PLAN07-pic01.jpg
Perspective of solarium design from southeast.
Perspective of solarium design from southeast.
LIBRARY_PLAN07-pic02.jpg
Perspective of solarium design from east.
Perspective of solarium design from east.
LIBRARY_PLAN07-pic03.jpg
Perspective of solarium design from southwest.
Perspective of solarium design from southwest.
LIBRARY_PLAN07-pic04.jpg
Perspective of solarium design from top.
Perspective of solarium design from top.
LIBRARY_PLAN07-pic05.jpg
Perspective of solarium design from south.
Perspective of solarium design from south.
LIBRARY_PLAN07-pic06.jpg
Perspective of solarium design from southeast (with notes).
Perspective of solarium design from southeast (with notes).
 
Mike Haasl
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Looking good Davin!  I just remembered that "board and batten" siding might fit in even better in this area and match the other structures on the site.  And it might make the stud/support situation a bit simpler.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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Davin Hoyt wrote:Ash and I sat down with Paul to get another iteration of Paul's thoughts.

My sum-up is as follows, and I will apply this to my thinking for all of Paul's (Wheaton Lab) projects going forward:

This piece of architecture needs to be an "artifact"; needs to encompass Wheaton Labs' values, and elicit divine imagination through it's aesthetics.

The following images show where the design is currently. Please comment. Thanks!



My first impression in three 'phrases': Pizza Hut, Space Invaders, shingle-style visible moon lander. I'm also reminded of some '60's or '70's two-story houses around me that have a cedar shake Mansard roof, with sliding glass doors and "balconies" in it.
I like the glass-as-flashing. It is unexpected, and engaging a "what else can I find going on here?" and "this will be easy, since it's all see-through." curiosity about the structure. I don't understand the glass soffit, and that's okay.

The shed roof design (just prior to this one) has some things going for it as well. Mainly I can see it as a "refuge". A place connected to, but separate from the main garage space that is not tasked with being the only entrance.
It seems to me that it will be a nice cozy space in cool weather, and traffic through there would spoil it.
 
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My taste probably is 'simple'. I like the simple design with shed roof the most. Isn't it possible to put the shingles on the shed roof and on parts of the sides (between or beside the windows)?
 
Glenn Herbert
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The last design is certainly eye-catching, but as a project for workshop participants to build, I don't see it working out well - quite complex and lots of finicky angles. The skylights and roof angles demand professional-level construction skills to avoid leaks.

The shed concept is reasonable as a workshop project, and can be tweaked from the basic design shown to include some highly visible natural building techniques. I second Inge's comments about it.
 
Davin Hoyt
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Thanks for all the comments.

Paul called my last design "weird". Hah!

We talked about how the multiple faces of glass are desired.

I explained my thinking:
1.) for the small footprint condensed to the west (allowing space for cars to back into the area to the east);
2.) glass at the bottom of the walls (acting as a moisture barrier).

We sketched out the angles of glass and walked out the site area again.

Mike is here as well. He looked over my shoulder a few times and narrowed the structural design down.

So what we're wondering most now is: How do we design the bottom of these walls? How can we insulate them? How can we protect them? How can we have secured footings without toxic materials?

Please comment, and see images below.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic01.jpg
Perspective of solarium from southeast.
Perspective of solarium from southeast.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic02.jpg
Perspective of solarium from south.
Perspective of solarium from south.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic03.jpg
Perspective of solarium from southwest.
Perspective of solarium from southwest.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic04.jpg
Perspective of solarium from east.
Perspective of solarium from east.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic05.jpg
Perspective of solarium from top.
Perspective of solarium from top.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic06.jpg
Perspective of solarium wall base from southeast corner.
Perspective of solarium wall base from southeast corner.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic07.jpg
Perspective of solarium wall base from southeast door.
Perspective of solarium wall base from southeast door.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic08.jpg
Perspective of solarium rafters from interior.
Perspective of solarium rafters from interior.
LIBRARY_PLAN09-pic09.jpg
Perspective of solarium wall footings from interior.
Perspective of solarium wall footings from interior.
 
Davin Hoyt
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I through this together as a solution for adding insulation to the bottom of the south wall.

It would be similar (and less) for the east and west walls.

Please note that this idea plans for stones to be shaped and placed at the bottom of timber columns. And cob is to be placed between the stones for the lowest (5" of wall). I have also planned for anchor bolts to be embedded into the bed rock below the existing structures and landscaping.  
LIBRARY_PLAN10-pic01.jpg
Perspective of solarium from southeast.
Perspective of solarium from southeast.
LIBRARY_PLAN10-pic02.jpg
Perspective of bottom wall section.
Perspective of bottom wall section.
LIBRARY_PLAN10-pic03.jpg
Perspective of bottom wall section.
Perspective of bottom wall section.
 
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*cue dueling piano music*

New concept sketch. I'm sure it's hard to parse. Think berm shed x solar dehydrator with a glass roof.

(In all seriousness, the way I see it, we're not dueling, but instead are using our varied tools and skills to try to reach the end goal.
IMG_20201027_234402_1.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20201027_234402_1.jpg]
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Ash Jackson wrote:*cue dueling piano music*

New concept sketch. I'm sure it's hard to parse. Think berm shed x solar dehydrator with a glass roof.

(In all seriousness, the way I see it, we're not dueling, but instead are using our varied tools and skills to try to reach the end goal.


This is Permaculture. The social aspect of it. Different people working together on the same project, each has his own skills and knowledge.
 
Glenn Herbert
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With the angled face to the south, the greenhouse-like shelf makes sense. An all-glass roof sloped to directly catch maximum summer sun concerns me. I would bet a summer white canvas covering would happen to reduce the bake oven effect. I am not enamored of the largely glass exterior, but it does have the attraction of a novel way to protect lower walls from splashback. Ash's berm-shed-like timber bracing looks cool, though I think a far more modest version of it would be fully sufficient to stabilize this structure which has no lateral forces on it aside from wind and doors opening and closing.

I note the cob layer inside the glass facing in a detail; would this cob be in danger of trapping water vapor at the cold face and getting waterlogged? I think using the exterior glass skirt as splash barrier, but leaving air circulation space (an inch or so) behind it and letting the cob breathe might work better. Also, the principle of interior mass insulated from the outside seems to be turned upside down here - granted the amount of cob is not really enough to call "mass". I could see reducing the overhang under the shelf and making an actual mass thickness of cob on the interior, with an insulating layer and perhaps more cob behind the glass on the exterior. Maybe this sandwich could be made visible at a corner or end as a demonstration.

For the roof, the relatively low slope does make glass attractive for waterproofing, but it also necessitates high-tech sealants between panes to avoid leaks. I agree with the notion of increasing light into the depths of the garage space. I wonder if there could be a solid roof with a clerestory strip at the upper end abutting the existing wall. That would allow insulation on most of the roof to reduce massive winter heat loss and summer heat gain, yet still light the interior.
 
Glenn Herbert
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The simplest and probably most effective clerestory glazing concept would probably be to run solid new roof up to the existing wall, and replace the existing wall sheathing/siding above it with glass.

Deepest light penetration, glass somewhat sheltered from direct summer sun but exposed to winter sun, glass-to-new-roof transition somewhat protected from water...
 
Glenn Herbert
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Sketch of concepts above:
IMG_2706.JPG
section views of solarium
section views of solarium
 
Glenn Herbert
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Question: Early in the thread, it was mentioned that this would not be a greenhouse with plants, but strictly a social solarium. Is the shelf in recent iterations now planned to hold plants, or something else? It doesn't seem practical as a bench.
 
Davin Hoyt
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Glenn Herbert wrote:Question: Early in the thread, it was mentioned that this would not be a greenhouse with plants, but strictly a social solarium. Is the shelf in recent iterations now planned to hold plants, or something else? It doesn't seem practical as a bench.



I placed the bench/shelf (only) because the opportunity arose - the structural members kicking out the glass and rain shed were allowing for the shelf.
 
Glenn Herbert
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That's a reasonable rationale. I do think that, if a shelf is there and not terribly useful as a bench due to the sloped glass behind it, it would be sensible to put plants on it... As a residential space I presume it would be kept constantly temperate, so would be a good location for starting seedlings and whatnot, as well as some plants for atmosphere or food (fresh herbs all winter?)
 
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A nice video of stone plinth and post scribing
Japanese Timberframe Part I Stones and Sills
 
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Glenn Herbert wrote:Sketch of concepts above:



I like the simplicity of your design Glenn. Did you happen to flesh it out a bit more?
 
Glenn Herbert
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No, but I would be happy to do so if there is demand for it. This summer seems like a good bet for safely having small gatherings and workshops.
 
Jen Tuuli
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Glenn Herbert wrote:No, but I would be happy to do so if there is demand for it. This summer seems like a good bet for safely having small gatherings and workshops.



Yup, that's what we're thinking here at WL.

I don't want to demand it of you, but if you could roust up more details it would be fantastic.
 
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Considering the amount of rocks on the site, what about building a stone stem wall with just enough lime plaster to keep critters from moving in?
 
Jen Tuuli
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Could even do a stone footer with slip straw for the wall.
 
Mike Haasl
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Glenn, what do you envision for the side walls?  Solid or glass or a combination?  

I like the simplicity of your design too.  

I'm not sure what kind of roofing materials are acceptable for the site.  I'm assuming asphalt shingles are out.  At that slope I doubt wood shingles would work.  Would metal roofing be ok Jen?  

I'm also wondering if the beam/posts against the garage are needed.  Might the header for the garage door be enough to hold up that end of the solarium?  Maybe they are needed cuz they'd look cool...
 
Jen Tuuli
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Mike Haasl wrote:
I'm not sure what kind of roofing materials are acceptable for the site.  I'm assuming asphalt shingles are out.  At that slope I doubt wood shingles would work.  Would metal roofing be ok Jen?



Yep, metal roofing would be okay. We could even set up water catchment at some point to water the planter in front if we wanted to get real fancy.

Mike Haasl wrote:I'm also wondering if the beam/posts against the garage are needed.  Might the header for the garage door be enough to hold up that end of the solarium?  Maybe they are needed cuz they'd look cool...



I was thinking if we kept them, maybe have the braces on the outside of the walking space so they didn't interfere with head space (tall walkers).
 
Mike Haasl
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If they're right up against the garage, couldn't they be tied to the structure of the garage and then they won't sway in any direction.  Then they wouldn't need braces at all?

If someone wanted to get fancy, and they had a sawmill, they could take those two posts and the beam and mill a flat off of the side facing the garage.  Then they could be slid to the north until they touch the garage and can be bolted right to it.  It would still be structural roundish wood but attached to the garage for simplicity.
 
Jen Tuuli
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Mike Haasl wrote:If they're right up against the garage, couldn't they be tied to the structure of the garage and then they won't sway in any direction.  Then they wouldn't need braces at all?



Yep!

Mike Haasl wrote:If someone wanted to get fancy, and they had a sawmill, they could take those two posts and the beam and mill a flat off of the side facing the garage.  Then they could be slid to the north until they touch the garage and can be bolted right to it.  It would still be structural roundish wood but attached to the garage for simplicity.



Ooh, if they wanted to get even fancier, they could take the other half of those logs and put them on the inside of the garage to carry that roundwood aesthetic to the interior as well!
 
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The existing garage wall might be strong enough to bear the new shed roof load, but I think the roundwood posts at the sides of the garage door would significantly enhance the feel of the space, while not depending on uncertain support from the existing structure. The posts do not need to be as big as sketched; that was in line with previous talk about sizes. I would want braces toward the center of the beam span, though they would not need to start below tall shoulder height. I don't know exactly how high the garage door opening is, or how high the shed roof can be without hitting the existing roof eave.

I am sure bolting the posts to the existing wall would be sound, but my understanding of the space is that examples of natural building methods are desirable, and independent posts scribed to plinth rocks would be highly noticeable and impressive. The span from existing wall to edge of shed is short enough that close-fitted roundwood rafters would be practical, and could support whatever insulation is desired, and then metal roofing as the most practical material avoiding petroleum products.
 
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I was thinking about the stone plinths last night.  If they excavate down to bedrock (2-24"), is there a non-cement way to build up a stone base that the posts can stand upon?  Some portion of that plinth or rock assembly would be at or below grade and possibly subject to moisture.  I don't know my natural cobs/mortars so I'm well out of my league in that department.
 
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Ideally, they would find a single rock that would sit on bedrock stably (possibly with the help of a chisel to remove bumps as required) and end up a few inches above finished floor. If that is not practical, I think lime mortar would be the material to use to bed stones. Cob cannot be used at or below grade unless you are in a desert environment, as it will continually absorb moisture.

What floor material is contemplated? Concrete for durability and matching the existing floor, or a more natural material? As long as it is strong enough to stand up to use, it will be strong enough to stabilize plinth rocks.
 
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Glenn Herbert wrote:The existing garage wall might be strong enough to bear the new shed roof load, but I think the roundwood posts at the sides of the garage door would significantly enhance the feel of the space, while not depending on uncertain support from the existing structure. The posts do not need to be as big as sketched; that was in line with previous talk about sizes. I would want braces toward the center of the beam span, though they would not need to start below tall shoulder height. I don't know exactly how high the garage door opening is, or how high the shed roof can be without hitting the existing roof eave.

I am sure bolting the posts to the existing wall would be sound, but my understanding of the space is that examples of natural building methods are desirable, and independent posts scribed to plinth rocks would be highly noticeable and impressive. The span from existing wall to edge of shed is short enough that close-fitted roundwood rafters would be practical, and could support whatever insulation is desired, and then metal roofing as the most practical material avoiding petroleum products.



The wall is likely strong enough, but the aesthetic of the roundwood would be very nice to add. They would stand on rock plinths on the concrete up against the wall.

I walked outside and measured the garage door frame- 7'h x 16'w. That being said, the braces might start at my shoulder height but for tall folks like our Supreme Leader it would likely be chest height. If they stayed toward the outside of that opening, it might be okay? If you were to make the roof connection higher, like say halfway to the current roof from the opening height of the garage door, then the braces wouldn't be in anyone's way and could meet closer to the center of that beam. They could tie to the existing wall and add support instead of need support.



PXL_20210321_161424645.jpg
Concrete extends out from door opening
Concrete extends out from door opening
 
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Glenn Herbert wrote:What floor material is contemplated? Concrete for durability and matching the existing floor, or a more natural material? As long as it is strong enough to stand up to use, it will be strong enough to stabilize plinth rocks.



I've been kinda voting for gravel for the interim. Eventually, maybe a wooden deck depending on what kind of RMH design goes in? Concrete - definitely no. Maybe cob eventually - maybe? Flooring less of a concern right now, which is why I vote the easy, gravelly route.
 
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Mike Haasl wrote:I was thinking about the stone plinths last night.  If they excavate down to bedrock (2-24"), is there a non-cement way to build up a stone base that the posts can stand upon?  Some portion of that plinth or rock assembly would be at or below grade and possibly subject to moisture.  I don't know my natural cobs/mortars so I'm well out of my league in that department.



From a quick chat with Fred moments ago, bedrock is practically visible in some spots, which makes excavating a piece of cake. He also mentioned we would have to go get a rock to use as a plinth since the rocks here are mostly schist, which shatters under pressure/weight/etc. A rock assembly sounds like something that could fail. A large, solitary rock to scribe and raise a post on sounds better.

So, it being automatically built above the dirt helps with some of the pesky moisture issues.
 
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I thought the bedrock was pretty close.  It might be easier to excavate first, then find the rock, and then chip away the schist to match the underside of the rock.

How much insulation is planned/needed for the ceiling?  Does the garage have any now?  The overall thickness of the roof (with roundwood rafters) might start to add up.
 
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Okay, after chatting with Paul and doing measurements later, here's an idea. Solarium extends 10' from the garage face. Sliding glass doors on either (E/W) side of it. Planting bed on southern exterior (not pictured) that wraps around the East side. Bed on south side would be ~3' deep. East side maybe 1.5' deep as bumper notification system. ;) We'd really like to include the clerestory windows in Glenn's design. That will bring much needed light into the far side of the garage in addition to the solarium light.

From this thread so far, collection of ideas:
  • metal roof
  • south-facing windows
  • clerestory windows on garage wall over solarium roof
  • insulation - fiberglass is acceptable


  • In my quick drawing below based on Glenn's design, I tossed the sliding glass doors in on either side. They'd need a post and header (not included) to attach to for framing. The posts tied to the house are 9'; front posts are 7'. Those measurements are rough but probably nearly what would work. The front posts are 10' from the face of the house. I am tired and going to bed soon, otherwise I'd do the rafters and figure out the walls as well. Maybe in sketch v1.2.

    Mike Haasl wrote:How much insulation is planned/needed for the ceiling?  Does the garage have any now?  The overall thickness of the roof (with roundwood rafters) might start to add up.



    The garage has fiberglass insulation currently. It needs siding to help that make a difference. We apparently have a source to reclaim/reuse fiberglass, so that's what will go in the solarium rafters. If we only put rafters with either 16" or 24" spacing between them (depending on the width of insulation we're able to acquire) then we wouldn't need to fill the roof area with timbers. Less time intensive in all aspects of the prep/execution and more likely to be finished during the event.
    Solarium_top.png
    Top down look
    Top down look
    Solarium_rough.png
    3/4 angle
    3/4 angle
    Filename: Solarium.skp
    Description: Here's the file if you want to play/add to it.
    File size: 560 Kbytes
     
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    Sweet!  I suspect you could skip the headers and extra header support wood around the doors since that wall wouldn't be load bearing.

    With a metal roof I think you'll still want a water proof layer under it so that condensation on the underside doesn't drip into the insulation.  Hopefully the experts can confirm that.  So something like tar paper.  And it would have to be supported by some roof decking, or at least some purlins running perpendicular to the rafters on a closer spacing than you'd need for merely attaching the roofing panels.

    10' isn't a very long roof span so I'm guessing you could get by with 2x6 rafters.  If you could flatten the tops of the two main beams, the rafters would sit nicely in the same plane.

    Silly question.  If a 3' exterior planter is acceptable, why not make it a 1.5' planter and make the solarium 1.5' bigger?  Unless it causes some struggles with materials or spans, it seems like an easy way to get more square footage without limiting the turn around area...
     
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    Mike Haasl wrote:Sweet!  I suspect you could skip the headers and extra header support wood around the doors since that wall wouldn't be load bearing.

    With a metal roof I think you'll still want a water proof layer under it so that condensation on the underside doesn't drip into the insulation.  Hopefully the experts can confirm that.  So something like tar paper.  And it would have to be supported by some roof decking, or at least some purlins running perpendicular to the rafters on a closer spacing than you'd need for merely attaching the roofing panels.



    You are totally correct. It's been a minute since I built a roof. Yeah, generally you have your rafters, plywood, barrier, purlins, metal. In our case we'd have rafters, 1x4 tongue and groove, vapor barrier on that, then purlins, then metal.

    Mike Haasl wrote:10' isn't a very long roof span so I'm guessing you could get by with 2x6 rafters.  If you could flatten the tops of the two main beams, the rafters would sit nicely in the same plane.



    Yes, I like this thought.

    Mike Haasl wrote:Silly question.  If a 3' exterior planter is acceptable, why not make it a 1.5' planter and make the solarium 1.5' bigger?  Unless it causes some struggles with materials or spans, it seems like an easy way to get more square footage without limiting the turn around area...



    The 3' area of the planter would be on the south side. It doesn't actually have to be 3'. It could be 2' or 1.5'. The East side with the 1.5' planter is the one we're using to keep people from banging into the Solarium. Why not make the Solarium 1.5' bigger? I measured to the point on the ground where Paul said, "This is how far I want it to extend," and that's 10'. That's where that measurement came from. :)
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