Last winter, the company I work for, TDS Custom Construction, built a screened-in porch with an exterior gable roof overlay and interior hip roof that required precise framing to accommodate a beadboard ceiling finish. Faced with the cold weather and lack of space that plague many jobsites, we decided to cut and test-fit the frame in the shop, then assemble it on site.

While production coordinator Phil Busch was transforming the architectural plans into construction drawings (see drawing, next page), our team built four boxes—each 2 feet wide by about 3 feet tall with internal 2x4 frames, 1/2-inch plywood side skins, and 3/4-inch plywood tops—to arrange on the shop floor to represent the four corners of the porch. To establish the centers of each box, we drew lines across the midpoints and from corner to corner. We then used a laser to snap layout lines on the floor and placed the boxes square to each other and spaced such that the midpoint of each box sat where an outside corner of the roof would rest.

With the corners established, we leveled the boxes using a 2-foot spirit level, laser, and target in combination. We shimmed the boxes to bring the tops into level individually and into plane as a group, then added 2x4 legs. Finally, after adjusting the position of the boxes to maintain square, we ran 2x4s from box to box and diagonally across, locking our shop-foundation in place.

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