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Installing Gutters
9 September 2007

Roof Installing

Table One of my favorite stories is about a physicist and his chili.  One evening this physicist was heating up a can of chili for dinner.  To heat the chili, he put the can in a pot of water and brought it to a boil.  Most cooks have been taught to open the can first so it doesn't build up pressure and explode.  Being a brilliant physicist, this particular cook deduced that since boiling water is always 100°C (212°F), and pressure increases linearly with temperature, then the internal pressures in the can would never exceed the can's tensile strength and therefore he did not need to poke a hole in the can.  As far as the facts are concerned, the physicist was correct.

While waiting for the chili to cook, the physicist took the opportunity to lay on the couch and catch up on some reading.  Next thing he knew, he was awoken by a loud bang.  Apparently he had fallen asleep, the water had all boiled off and the chili heated to the point that the can exploded, leaving a perfect circle of chili on the ceiling.  The physicist's logic had been correct, he just hadn't accounted for human error.

I thought about this story every time I stepped off the edge of my barn.  You see, after much thought I had come to the conclusion that the best way to install the gutters was to lean a scaffolding plank off the edge of the barn so I could walk out on it and reach the gutters.  The barn is 30 feet tall at it's highest point so a ladder wouldn't reach.  The roof has a four foot overhang so I couldn't lean the ladder against the wall and reach out to install the gutters anyways.  The barn is built on a hill and there are large water tanks in the way so a crane wouldn't work.  The roof is made out of clear plastic which is slippery and far weaker than a normal roof so I decided that walking on the roof and hanging over the edge was probably a bad idea.  Luckily the top floor of the barn didn't have its walls installed yet.  I figured that hanging a plank over the edge was really my only option and, as far as I could figure, should work just fine.

Lifting I weight 178 pounds but with tools and a little safety factor, let's call it 200 pounds.  I would be about four feet out on the plank but let's call it five feet.  Using the equations I learned in high school physics, 200 pounds times 5 feet is 1000 ft-lbs.  The plank is 20 feet long with 15 of those feet still inside the barn.  So 1000 ft-lbs divide by 15 feet means I only needed 66.7 pounds on the other side of the plank.  I filled a couple buckets with gravel, sand and water (since gravel and sand is heavier than water and adding water is heavier than just gravel and sand).  Then to be safe I filled a couple more buckets with more water.  I didn't weight the buckets but I estimated I had over 200 pounds of weight on the long side of the plank.  That means I could weigh 600 pounds (or carry 422 pounds of stuff) and still be safe standing on the outer edge of the plank.  Yup, that plank idea should work just fine.

It's funny, any time I tried to explain this to someone with lots of construction experience, before I could even finish the explanation they'd interrupt me and say I should nail a couple 2x4's in place to hold the plank down.  Any time I tried to explain this to one of my college friends they'd say "Duh, of course you'll be fine, you don't even need all those buckets."  Well, I decided to ignore everyone.  I would be moving the plank repeatedly and I didn't want to tear up my new roof trusses and drying deck with a bunch of unnecessary nail holes so I skipped the safety boards.  On the other hand I decided to use all those buckets even if I didn't really need them.

I'm proud to say that my logic seems to have worked.  The gutters and most of the upper siding is now in place.  We used ropes to lift the 60 foot lengths of gutter then I climbed out on the plank to level everything and screw it all into place.  Then I had to raise the plank another four feet off the drying deck so I could install roofing on the outside of the roof's gable end.  I used an old pallet and the barn's railing to prop up the plank while the buckets held it all in place.

I still have to install all the clear plastic siding around the drying deck but the siding is only two feet wide so I should be able to hold on to the railing and simply lean around the outside, no need for the plank.  Once the siding is on then I'll be all done with high work on the barn.  Until I decide to paint the thing.  I have no idea how I'll accomplish that.

Happy Sarah
While installing the gutters I had mounted my camera on a tripod and set it to take a picture every minute.  After a few hours we all forgot the camera was there and while nobody was looking it captured an image of Sarah as she went running by.  I think she was on her way to join Emily who was playing in the avocado tree.  Wherever she was headed, she sure does seem happy to be heading there.

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