August 11, 2015

Deck Maintenance and Deck Safety

420 RIM JOIST FAILUSE 20150710_111954.JPG

Not very pretty is it? That's what happens when rot gets started between a deck and a house... But I'm getting ahead of myself...

First, I am NOT a professional carpenter, and am only mentioning some of the pointers I've picked up along the way. That being said, I do know that there is NOTHING like a thorough deck inspection by a pro! The recent Berkeley balcony collapse horribly illustrates the potential dangers of external and/or projecting structures. As Summer winds down, and Fall enters, no doubt that the deck parties will continue... I repeat... Get your deck professionally inspected ASAP! (How old is an old deck? When I was in the building trade, we used to think a deck was dangerous at seven years. To make matters worse, poor building practices can shorten a deck life to less than that.) Onward...

Time for some language...

Deck blueprintout 420 .jpg

From: http://www.awc.org/codes-standards/publications/dca6

Typically, the problem starts here... (Though railings are obviously of a concern too...)

420 rot between deck and slider IMG_0141.JPG

The shot below speaks volumes. Here we clearly see a solid deck ledger nailed, lag bolted, and through bolted (Strong-Tied) to the joist of the house itself. Note that hangers are used on both ends of the deck joists...

420 bolt with hanger and lag IMG_0143.JPG

This is the inside view of the house rim joist. (Sorry, I incorrectly referred to the deck ledger as a deck rim joist!) But the point of the photo is that the deck joists have to be tied into the joists of the house such that the only way the deck can shear away from the house is to tear the home apart.

420 inside basement threaded rod_washer_nut IMG_0140.JPG

But that still doesn't give me the warm and fuzzy -- I'm going to dig the concrete blocks below into the soil beneath the deck ledger...

420 blocks IMG_0144.JPG

And then friction secure 4x6 beams to the blocks and to the foundation using a construction adhesive... That and a few judicious honking big deck screws, and we should be safe...

420 four by six IMG_0145.JPG

Observations:

  • Beware! Fasteners come in all sorts of chemical make ups... Be sure that the proper fasteners match the materials...
  • Decks can look fine and still be a ticking time bomb. Just look at the first photograph... Get that inspection!!!!
  • Deck work is not a job for an amateur -- it can be extremely dangerous...
  • You probably have to pull a permit... That's the way the ball bounces... Check your Building Department...

Safely watching the birds from the deck,

CapeCodAlan


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July 29, 2015

Assembling the Shower Door

I guess this post should more appropriately be called, "Squaring the Shower Door", but hopefully you get the idea. Check out the shot below...

420 squaring shower door_IMG_0114.JPG

I know, I know, I know... I forever harp on the concepts of 'square', 'plumb', and 'level' (whether we're talking home improvement or birdhouse construction), but the short and simple is that building true means building brief and less visits to the "Moaning Chair". Consider the letters in the pic...

  • "A" points to square framing boards screwed to the deck...
  • "B" are the two squares used to bring the frame into respectability...
  • "C" is a cross measurement that confirms all is spot-on... (Yup... This door is within 1/32" of being perfect...)

And that's all there is to it -- a good square frame, and a couple of cross references in agreement...

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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July 28, 2015

Outdoor Shower Stall

Well,

Here we go again... If you've been following this blog, you know that backyard projects are a preoccupation for us. (And no, that extends beyond the feeders and whatnot bird stuff; though the crows, catbirds, grackles, chickadees, and the usual suspects seem to delight in pestering this carpenter...)

Alright... We're installing an outdoor shower...

outdoor shower posts 420 IMG_0090.jpg

420 shower almost done .jpg

As the photos show, work progresses...

Observations:

  • For a small project like this, a plywood pattern of the basic footprint of the structure comes in handy...
  • If you don't know how to work with concrete, learn... You'll need the skill...
  • Tour a lumberyard before you start -- different materials will help you decide on the core design
  • Having a plumber friend is a good thing...
  • Keep a clean work area -- a clean work area is both efficient and safer
  • Crucial tools include:
    • Skil saw
    • Lots of pencils
    • You never can have enough levels, straight edges, and various squares -- plumb, square, and level are absolutely invaluable...
    • Work platform...
    • Battery-powered drill and driver with all the sundries...
    • Lots of screws... (Keep in mind stainless, galv, and deck screws...)
    • Table saw...
    • Chop saw...
    • Quality measuring device...
    • Paint, stains, glues, construction adhesives... Blah, blah, blah...
    • Beaucoup clamps...
    • Belt sander...
  • No doubt that I've left off critical tools... But perhaps the most important aid is your attitude -- plan and hang in there...

Knee deep in sawdust by the feeders...

Cap[eCodAlan


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July 1, 2015

Summer Storm

420 summer storm.jpg

How's that for a storm? It was one of those dark beasts with lots of rain and lots of thunder... A storm that makes one subconsciously antsy about lightning strikes and beyond

420 tornado warning.jpg

But interestingly, the crows clearly indicated the ending of the weather -- the corvids came alive, and sure enough it was sane outside within minutes.

We do like those crows...

Still alive and well informed by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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June 28, 2015

Back Landing Completion

Here we go,

The landing without the deck or steps. Note the uncut posts...

420 landing with no deck IMG_0020.JPG

Enter the deck...

420 landing with deck but no stringers IMG_0024.JPG

And now the stringers...

420 landing with stringers IMG_0025.JPG

Check off the treads and hand rails... Note the "Mr. Beams" motion activated spot above the door...

29_landing done_day w_mr_beams_IMG_0029.JPG

Finally, the entry at night...

420 landing done_night_mr_beams_IMG_0049.JPG

Not bad...

Well, here's at least a partial list of the tools you'll need to take on such a project. (Keep in mind that every project is different and the tool selection will vary...)

  • Scrap strapping
  • Heavy work gloves
  • Skil saw
  • Right angle guide for Skil saw
  • Clamps (long and strong)
  • Post hole digger
  • Compressor/nail gun/palm nail gun
  • Complete selection of stainless and/or deck screws
  • Complete selection of galvanized nails
  • Both battery powered drill and driver
  • Extensive collection of screwdrivers and screwdriver bits
  • Waterproof glue
  • Construction adhesive
  • Socket set
  • Oscillating multi-tool
  • Full assortment of Allen wrenches
  • Complete set of high-speed steel drill bits (from 1/16 to 1/2)
  • Bevel square (aka sliding T-bevel)
  • LOTS of levels
  • Quality hammer
  • Hand sledge
  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • Combination square
  • Framing square
  • Large T-square
  • Speed square
  • Japanese saw
  • Palm sander
  • Flat bar
  • Cat's paw
  • Retractable razor knife
  • Dozen cedar shingles
  • Power jig saw
  • Hand grinder
  • Vise grips
  • Pliers
  • Tool tote and/or job site tool box
  • Tarp
  • Folding sawhorses
  • Tub for mixing concrete
  • Hoe
  • Shovel
  • Huge pry bar (apx. 30 lbs)
  • Chalk line/plumb bob
  • Brads
  • Wire nippers
  • 25' tape measure
  • Lots of sharp pencils
  • Line level
  • Heavy string
  • Sawz All

Looking back, that's quite a list, and no doubt there will be some tools you won't need, and there will be some that weren't even mentioned. But at least that gives you some idea of the scope of such a project. The exact materials list would be equally daunting, let alone the step by step...

Lastly, some general observations...

  • There's plenty of help on the Web... Seek it out
  • Go to your town building inspector and seek advice
  • Overbuild... One doesn't have to drop four stories to get hurt or worse. A 3' fall can ruin your day...
  • Don't be cheap... Haunt Craig's List for decent used tools
  • Use pressure-treated lumber and stainless
  • Live by the mantra of, "Square! Plumb! and Level!" Make templates out of ply if need be
  • When you blow it (and you will), walk away, get in your moaning chair, and moan before you do real damage. When sanity returns, you'll see that the mistake isn't all that bad. (Hat tip to Dynamite Payson on this one!)

With yet another access to those feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 17, 2015

Sorry... Been Busy with Projects

Hi,

Well, here we go again... I'm late on a post... Perhaps the pics below will help to explain...

First, the hot water heater has been circling the drain for over a year now, and that meant lugging buckets of water out of the basement three to five times per day/night. (And that's not to mention the worry that the sucker might just explode in a vapor explosion or gas explosion or a combination thereof...) Here's the new one..

420 hot water heater IMG_9992.jpg

Next is a rebuild of the front-door landing... The wheelchair ramp had become unsafe and had to 'exit stage left' ASAP. And that meant rebuilding the landing itself.

front torn apart_420 IMG_9993.jpg

And finally, the garage back door had no realistic method of access or egress -- seems that insurance companies and Fire Chiefs take a dim view of that sort of thing... Once again, the remedy needed to be done 'goofy fast'.

420 rear landing beginning IMG_9994.jpg

Oh, but the fun never ends... We had to rewire, mess with the rec-room/garage, take on at least 12 projects in the basement, and tend to the day-to-day, and we're talking Giggle City. Lastly was the joy of getting so sick that I was hallucinating and went into convulsions (thank God for the local EMTs!) Yeah, it's been an interesting intro to the Summer.

But you know what? No matter how screwed up things become, we still have the birds (especially the crows...) We still have the beauty and the humor... My guess is that, at best, life is a white-knuckle brawl, and we take our respites where we can...

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Did I mention installing insulation in the attic? Here is before...

attic 420 before IMG_9950.jpg

And here is when the job is done...

420 attic afterwards IMG_9978.jpg


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May 26, 2015

Mending Treeline

Do you remember Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall"? The first line reads "Something there is that doesn't love a wall," (Copied from: (http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/frost-mending.html) Well, the wall doesn't have to be stone. Take a look at the photos below...

420 back line of trees before IMG_0604.jpg

and...

afrter 420 tree line IMG_9884.jpg

See what I mean?

Mrs. CCA and I got together with our neighbors and we decided that were some dead trees that had to go, but each of us took great care to listen to the others' desires. After that was done, the wives joined forces and decided what trees we'd use to replace them. But as we were removing more logs, another set of Frost's lines kept coming back..

"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence. "

Fact is that I believe we were walling in the friendship of two families, 'and that has made all the difference.'

CapeCodAlan


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