Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘DIY

Working Alone

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My high hope of building a footbridge in a single weekend fell victim to my need to accomplish all the tasks without a helper and also my being the sole entertainer for Delilah’s high-energy needs.

Add in the less-than-ideal windy and cold spring weather, plus the limitations of the batteries for my cordless circular saw, and my inability to finish by the end of the day yesterday was not all that surprising.

I resorted to two different solutions for supporting the long boards that I cut. That treated lumber is really heavy compared to the remnants of the old cedar deck boards I’m using for bracing.

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The pallets had a tendency to collapse, so I switched up to plan B on the second day: old moldy hay bales. That provided welcome consistency.

Because the bridge will end up being very heavy, I decided to build the frame right next to the washout I’m covering and then drag it into position.

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I was able to haul the boards down by the fence and begin to screw some of the cross-supports into position but quit when the time had passed for Delilah’s dinner. I’ll leave the finishing until next weekend.

Trying to screw the pieces together square and true proved challenging on the uneven ground. I want to give that the time and attention necessary to get everything precisely the way I want it. Then I plan to move it into position before screwing down the floorboards.

I’m not sure I’d be able to lift it if I waited until it was completely built. I mean, not without someone with a strong back to help me.

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Written by johnwhays

March 23, 2020 at 6:00 am

Sappy Mess

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We are guessing there is a trick to making wreaths out of pine boughs that we don’t know about. If you have been following along, last month we lost a pine tree in a storm and Cyndie saved branches for holiday decorating.

When I came inside from plowing the driveway last night, the house was heavily pine-scented as production was in full swing.

What we don’t know is how others who work with pine boughs deal with the sap. Cyndie has resorted to wearing gloves, but has not mastered preventing the sap from getting everywhere.

She decided that she would include a pair of gloves with each wreath when she delivers these beauties to the intended recipients.

Don’t these look festive for the season?!

They sure smell good, too.

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Written by johnwhays

December 13, 2019 at 7:00 am

Playing Plumber

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Picking up where things left off Saturday night, I started Sunday with a trip to Hudson to pick up the new kitchen faucet fixtures I bought online the night before. Around twelve hours after discovering the problem of dripping water beneath the sink, I was driving home with the solution in my possession. What a luxury to have such easy access to the specific items we seek.

For all the times I grump about the problems related to over-consumerism in society, I do benefit from the conveniences offered.

However, despite all the benefits of readily available goods, the faucet still didn’t install itself. This morning my body is a little stiff and sore from playing plumber for the hours spent figuring out how to dismantle the old leaky parts and then reversing the process to install the new set.

Much to my great satisfaction, the details of this plumbing project were all within my ability to deduce and execute, despite having little experience with plumbing.

Twice, I was able to get a little extra practice by doing things over after discovering I had made errors. The whole time I was working on this project, I thought the line with the drippy shutoff valve was the cold water supply, so when I did the initial flow test, I discovered I’d connected the lines wrong.

Easy to fix, so with only that single trip to the hardware store, I completed the sink project in time for lunch.

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That left me the afternoon to suffer clearing some of the most un-fun snow ever that was the result of Saturday’s rain and the following flakes that relentlessly continued to blow across our land off and on since.

Both shovel and plow were only half a match for the underlayer of frozen crunch that sometimes popped free with ease, but more often stayed welded to the ground below. Trying to clean it all up was a relatively thankless task, which made it easy to retreat from the battle after a minimum effort and seek a few moments of chill in the easy chair before Sunday was completely over.

I thoroughly enjoyed washing my hands at the kitchen sink when I got in.

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Written by johnwhays

December 2, 2019 at 7:00 am

Just Yucky

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Overall, yesterday rates a solid “Yuck” on the scale of pleasurable days. Most notable of our multiple grievances was the weather. My least favorite condition during our snow season is rain, and that is what we received in the middle of the day. After that, the temperature drops enough to turn the precipitation to snowflakes, but then also locks the wetness on the ground into ice.

It’s a hassle to plow and shovel and a hazard to walk and drive on. Seriously yucky.

I had hoped to avoid the great outdoors for the afternoon and enjoy college football on tv, but the Minnesota team I root for was soundly defeated by rival Wisconsin. Far from any joy to be had there, but plenty of yuck.

How could the night end any worse?

How about sprawled out upside down under the kitchen sink trying to dismantle old fittings in search of the once intermittent small leak under the faucet that picked yesterday evening to reveal itself as not very intermittent any more.

Two things I discovered: It was not clear at all which point on the fixture was leaking and the rarely-used shutoff valve on the cold water line didn’t seal all that well. Drip. Drip. Drip.

We decided to solve the first problem by simply replacing the whole works with a new faucet. That means this morning we have no water in the kitchen and I need to venture out in the winter storm to pick up the replacement. That’s a little yucky, but with a potential solution making it worth the risk.

Today offers one other bright spot for us. It is the last day of the deer hunting season! We can stop making Delilah wear the extra blaze orange harness that she glumly tolerates.

Tomorrow is going to be even better. Sunshine is forecast to replace the stormy sky. I’m hoping we’ll have water in the kitchen sink again, too.

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Written by johnwhays

December 1, 2019 at 9:59 am

Project Complete

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We did it. It just didn’t make sense to wait for some future opportunity to replace the top boards of the railings. We were too close to the end to let the project hang unfinished for any length of time.

I pulled screws out of the old boards yesterday morning and installed the new boards in the afternoon. When I lifted the first board off the railing, we made a startling discovery.

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I’m glad we waited this late in the season because, unknown to us, there were a lot of wasp nests hanging underneath the boards. Our recent freeze rendered the nests vacant.

Here is just a portion of the screws pulled to remove the railing boards:

 

Even though it’s just a small step in the overall deck refurbishment project, the large number of screws take a significant amount of time to extract.

The grand finale that put an exclamation point on the whole job for us was getting the leftover lumber off the driveway and into storage in the hay shed.

Done and done.

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Written by johnwhays

October 28, 2019 at 6:00 am

Beyond Sunset

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Once again, we put in a very full day hoping to reach the end of the deck renovation project. Having saved the worst for last, we were up against the most-used steps that had drooped out of level due to rotting and erosion below. That meant spending an uncomfortable amount of time under the deck.

I did have some regret that we didn’t choose to address this problem before finishing the floor above. I didn’t realize how extensive the problem was until we had pulled up the boards of the steps and observed the impact water runoff was having there.

With no real experience in this level of carpentry, I did my best to add some boards for support underneath and reuse as much as possible of the existing frame to create a sound platform for the new step boards above. That also required some added fill to build up the ground that had washed away over the years.

We needed to create new footings for the bottom of the steps so they weren’t exclusively hanging by the screws holding the frame against the main deck at the top.

After lunch, we took the ATV down to an old drainage spot that previous owners had filled with broken concrete. Ironically, evidence points to that debris having been dumped there after removing it from the very spot we were returning it to. It looks like there was once a concrete patio that got removed for the landscape pond and deck expansion at some point in the history of this property.

When those steps were completed, we were officially done with the portion we originally planned to redo. All that remained was the mission creep portion of replacing the top boards of the railing. We’d gone this far already, why stop now?

Since Mike had allowed us to hang on to his saws, we decided to cut the angles on boards for the railing, to have them ready for installation whenever we decide to get around to pulling off the old boards. That task of removal involves digging out the Phillips head screw slots so we can pull off the boards without damaging the wood below. One of the time-consuming aspects of this project that seems never-ending.

Marking and cutting railing boards pushed us past sunset last night. Cyndie took a photo in the waning light to mark the completion of the main steps.

I’m thinking about the money we saved.

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Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2019 at 9:46 am

Next Steps

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Blessed with another glorious day of blue sky and sunshine on a Friday, Cyndie and I returned to the deck refurbishing project yesterday. The temperature was a little harsh at the start but soon warmed to perfection. Even after I had removed all the screws from the set of steps we started on, I couldn’t get the boards loose until I figured out they were frozen in place. A little persuasion from a hammer was all it took to break the ice.

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I was grateful to have Mike’s power tools to create cut-outs on boards and lucky to have an old length of 4 x 4 in the shop to replace a rotted post on the railing of the second set of steps.

My perfectionistic desires are being seriously taxed by the difficulties of coping with inconsistencies in both the new wood and the old. I repeatedly measured twice before cutting and usually double-checked positioning before drilling in screws, but the results far too often failed to match my intentions.

Fortunately, my standards are loosening as the duration of this project drags on. I’m starting to view the imperfections as features. The misalignments are becoming quaint reminders of how much money we saved by doing this ourselves.

One example: I cut a new face board to go along with the replaced railing post and centered it on the middle frame board. After starting at the top and screwing in boards on each step, I discovered at the bottom that the middle frame board wasn’t actually centered between the ends.

I centered on something that wasn’t centered. Wonderful.

When one of my last boards with cut-outs was found to be off by a quarter-inch, I decided to simply cut an equal amount off the other end and have a symmetrical difference. Somehow, it still ended up lopsided once it was screwed down.

I swear, things move even after there are screws in place.

In the end, none of the small details I fret over will be noticeable to the casual observer. I’m practicing the art of being okay with the imperfections.

Maybe, just maybe, the end is within reach today. We are going to aim for that goal, especially since the weather is once again, perfectly accommodating.

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Say Hi

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Good morning. Say hello to our chickens and Pequenita.

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One of the Golden Laced Wyandottes appears to be molting. Poor thing looks a mess.

Pequenita was doing her best queen bee daytime recline on Cyndie’s pillows. Of course, Cyndie is the one who is more allergic to cats between the two of us. Figures.

Delilah hasn’t been feeling her best and missed out on the photo sessions. She seems to be suffering a skin disturbance that has left her belly raw. The vet reports a large number of dogs have been experiencing similar afflictions. We are hoping the hard freeze will eliminate some possible allergens that could be causing the trouble.

This week, Cyndie paid a visit to a horse rescue place near Hastings to donate some left-over tack and supplies that didn’t sell in her boutique last spring. We are investigating the possibility of making our pastures available to them for summer grazing.

Could be a way for us to have horses around again, but without much of the expense.

It would be nice to be able to say “Hi” to horses again. Would only be a summertime visit, so we won’t know until next year if the possibility will work out or not.

I don’t mind waiting. Winter horse care can be stressful.

I would like to say “Hi” to days with reduced stress. Maybe I’ll be able to do that from our deck soon. Today we are going to take a crack at replacing the steps and railing tops.

I’m looking forward to saying “Goodbye” to the power tools Mike loaned us. That will be the exclamation mark on our completion of the DIY project. Then I will say “Hello” to all the money we saved.

Say goodbye, John.

Goodbye.

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Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Floor’s Finished

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There was little in the way of fanfare, but yesterday Cyndie and I finally completed the replacement of our deck floorboards. Woo hoo!

Finishing the section in front of our bedroom door came with a reward. The spacing worked out so that we were able to use full-width boards all the way to the end. It looks great.

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Boy, that’s a lot of wood.

All that remains of the project are the stairs and the top of the railings. We hadn’t originally intended to do the top board of the railings, but once the floorboard work got underway, the look of the new wood became a great persuader.

Between my work-week and the weather, plans for further carpentry are on hold until next Friday.

I’m happy to take a break, despite the fact the project continues to linger unfinished. I’m choosing to focus on the money we are saving.

If we had hired one of the professional firms to do this, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have taken as many days off as I do, but DIY savings can come with other costs.

Taking extra time is a cost we can afford right now. (Don’t tell Cyndie I said that.)

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Written by johnwhays

October 21, 2019 at 6:00 am

Nine Left

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With the sun and relative warmth of a gorgeous fall day, we were able to make satisfying progress on the deck project yesterday. Wouldn’t you know it, there are some rain showers passing by early this morning. I have nine rows left to complete if it dries up later. That is compared to the 43 rows of boards already trimmed and screwed into place.


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We are getting close.

I’m noticing my perception of the deck has changed dramatically. I wasn’t aware of it before, but I felt very little draw to spend any time out on those old rotting boards unless the weather outside was simply irresistible.

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Now I find myself pulled to be out there for any reason I can dream up. Luckily, I have a very obvious reason to be out on those new boards while I’m still in construction mode.

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I have a notorious ability to not finish things I start, so pressure is mounting as time drags on and I slowly creep closer to completion.

On the surface, a project like this seems simple. We aren’t drastically changing anything. We are keeping the frame of joists and simply pulling off old boards to replace them with new. The concept is not complicated.

However, there are complications. Several are related to trying to fit things into pre-existing nooks and crannies without completely tearing out the framing around doors or the railing posts. We also spent a fair amount of time tailoring the fit of board thickness around the stone chimney.

Every step we take to improve the look and quality of the end result adds time. I have no problem spending more time to make it better.

The number one reason we have achieved the quality and progress accomplished thus far is due to the generous contributions of time, tools, and muscle by our treasured friends Mike and Barb Wilkus. Mike has offered two of his Fridays and most of his tools to support us in spending less money overall.

His contributions are worth so much more than money. It is hard to put a value on true friends.

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Written by johnwhays

October 19, 2019 at 9:26 am