Z-One – Exterior Construction

Well, it took me over 6 months to start blogging about the construction of the observatory. I did post quite a few pictures on Cloudynights and Astrosurf though. Anyway, Z-one is the name I chose for my (first) observatory. It is a fairly small structure: 10 ft by 10 ft. I bought skyshed plans which I eventually didn’t use. The roof design was too weak for the snow load requirement for this altitude.

I moved to my new house in August 2013. Actually I wasn’t even moved in that I was already seeking approval from the POA for the “shed”. Thanks to my friend Scott, this went pretty well and I was able to start planning, ordering materials and such.

I started the actual work around the end of September 2013: Pier Digging. And then some more digging, for the footings. You can’t really tell from the pictures (or maybe you can) but the ground is really rocky. Fortunately enough, the biggest boulder I dug out was only about 80 lbs. I was able to go down about 54″ on a 2×2 ft footprint for the pier. Footings were much easier at only 2-3 ft deep on roughly 1×1 ft.

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I used 8″ sonotubes for the footings and two 14″ stacked sonotubes with an electrical conduit running through for Ethernet, USB and… Power. That way, I won’t have to worry about tripping on cables and disconnecting everything xD.

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I let the concrete settle for about a week and start working on the posts and the flooring structure. I used treated lumber for all of the flooring even though as you can see the floor is a good 2 ft above ground. Notice how un-level is the ground? I made each footing protrude about 4″ off the ground and then cut the 4 posts to the correct length so that I have a well leveled flooring structure.

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I then installed thick plywood on top of the joists and started preparing the walls. Having no garage or flat ground, I used my new floor as a base for my walls. I cheated on the spacing of the studs so that I could fit my walls flat and dodge that large pier in the middle.

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At this point, we’re still mid-November 2013 and here comes our first snow of the season… (even if it wasn’t much!) and there’s the first wall up.

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It took just a short week-end to get all four walls up and install OSB all around.

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I waited until the next week-end to install the siding. After which I wasn’t able to do any work because of a good two weeks of sub-zero temperatures (and snow/ice).

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I dug and poured concrete for the last 2 footings (for the roll-off structure) as temperature got a little bit better mid-December. And below is what the observatory looked like by Christmas.

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Next is the roof. We had my sister for Christmas and she gladly offered her help which I couldn’t refuse! We put the triangles together on the ground and brought them up. Then we installed everything else from up there. My sister, my wife and myself are all rock climbers, no wonder we enjoyed that part!

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OSB, then roofing material and shingles to complete the roof. I was still trying to figure out a back up solution to my plans of using 2″ wheels encased in C-channel rails. The problem was that these were made to be used with aluminum T-framing profiles which are straight. Lumber (or at least the lumber I was delivered) wasn’t exactly straight. This made pushing the roof extremely hard. I knew I was going to find a workaround so I left the triangles unfinished.

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It took me a good 2-3 months (work, weather, work more work…) but I finally saved the rails problem mid-March by switching from C-channels on the side of the 4×4 to U-channels installed on top of the beams. I also switch to large 4″ rollers sitting in that U-channel. I selected a U-channel that is larger (by about 1″) than the wheels width which allowed for enough play to compensate for these bowed beams. With a now rolling roof I installed the garage door opener (a 1HP screw-drive model) inside the observatory. I had to make some modifications to the system: I installed the C-Channels that host the screw upside down so that the carrier is facing up to attach to the roof directly – I kept all of its clutching mechanism which works great. I also got a 3 ft extension (which was pretty hard to find) so that the roof can roll out 12 ft.

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Here’s a short video:

Finally, last week (5/24) we finished the exterior by painting the observatory and doing finishing touches. The exterior is finished! Still a little bit of work inside but it shouldn’t be long before the mount moves to its permanent home.

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