Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘home maintenance

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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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

Good Start

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Blessed with a day between drenching rains, yesterday we made great headway on the deck resurfacing project. Mike arrived about the same time daylight did and Cyndie primed our energies with a grand breakfast feast in preparation for the long day of labor ahead. Setting the first board required immediate customization, which is a part of the project I would have struggled to accomplish without Mike’s wisdom and experience.

After solving that challenge, the work settled into a board-placing routine that wasn’t particularly complicated but tended to eat up bigger chunks of time just doing than it seems it should.

Along the way, there were pauses to re-measure spacing and then tweaking the board gaps. Even simple board selection adds minutes, pondering how to minimize waste while selecting around imperfections in the lumber.

Eventually, we would reach a railing post and be faced with doing some customized cuts to enclose the obstruction. For the post below, Mike engineered two pieces that required multiple cuts which resulted in a pretty slick looking continued flow.

The thinking involved to plot where seams fall gets a little mind-boggling for me, but Mike helped to achieve a repeating pattern that I really like.

By lunch we had covered the bottom level, which was honestly my main goal, knowing in advance that progress most likely would be hampered by something. Nothing I have ever worked on goes so smoothly that I get more done than expected.

Most important for me was proving the process. I thought I would be able to do this in place of hiring professionals, but I was a little wary about the unknowns like detailing around the railing, mastering the seams and spacing, and even where to start, and how to finish the last board.

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We’ve got boards cut to length and positioned, but not all of them screwed down yet. By the end of the day, we probably were just under halfway finished with the resurfacing. There is a lot of lumber yet to replace, but the number of complicated decisions left to be addressed should be less.

If we ever get another dry weather day, maybe I can work more on the project.

Actually, today’s rain has me wondering if we shouldn’t have skipped the deck project and focused on building a boat that could hold us and our pets instead. I’m worried our house might just float away if it keeps up like this, and we live on top of a hill!

Apparently, the atmosphere holds more moisture when the planet warms and is able to dump more precipitation as a result.

I wonder if we have any circumstantial evidence to back that up.

I wish I could remember where we put our PFDs.

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Written by johnwhays

October 5, 2019 at 9:56 am

Saving Thousands

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If money was no object for us, I would have spent last night reclining in my easy chair with my feet up doing something pleasant, like napping. Instead, we are saving thousands of dollars by doing the work of replacing the rotting surface boards of our deck ourselves, along with the priceless assistance of our precious friend, Mike Wilkus.

That meant Cyndie and I were both out on the deck after I got home from work yesterday, manically striving to prepare as much as possible for today’s plan of installing the new boards.

We are going to keep the railing, so Cyndie has been sanding and wire brushing that wood to remove the lichen that has grown on much of it.

I worked to remove more of the old surface boards, prying up the original ones that were nailed and pulling screws from previous replacement planks.

It is one of those projects that shouldn’t be difficult but always includes unexpected challenges that suddenly bog down progress and increase frustration. Often, it has been a hidden screw that I missed, or simply one where the head is stripped and won’t spin out.

My hole-saw bit has been working wonderfully as a solution to free the old boards and leave problem screws behind to be spun out with a vice grip plier.

Most of the boards are coming up with ease, so I am growing more confident that the whole project is in reach of being as straightforward as we hoped. I’m thinking the bulk of work today will involve hauling new boards to be cut to length and then screwing them down to the joists.

All the while, I’ll be thinking about how much money we are saving by not contracting this out to any of those high bidders who recently quoted the job.

Our labor will be worth thousands.

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Written by johnwhays

October 4, 2019 at 6:00 am

Delicate Balance

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In the end, we have turned down all the quotes for resurfacing our deck because the costs all exceeded our available funds. The only affordable option was to buy the lumber and do the work ourselves with the generous support of willing friends.

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We have already begun experimenting with several techniques for removing the old boards, with varying success. Yesterday, I resorted to buying a hole-saw bit that would allow drilling around a stripped-out screw to free up a board and leave the screw behind to be extracted with a vice-grip plier.

I don’t mind working slow, but at the pace I am achieving, the 815-square-foot deck surface will not be completed in a weekend.

Initially, I envisioned getting all the old wood removed before focusing on installing the new boards, but then I heard a suggestion of just removing one board at a time and replacing it. That way the project could start and stop at any time without the deck being in total disarray.

One big challenge for me if this project ends up lasting for a long time is the delicate balance I am trying to manage in dealing with a bulging disc in my lower back. When it flares up, my mobility is greatly hampered.

I had high hopes of making big progress yesterday removing screws from boards, but a sharp twang of breathtaking pain suddenly limited my success to a single board.

The reason I describe the challenge of my bulging disc as a balancing act is because of the way the problem manifests. For most of my days I experience no pain and no limitations of movement. Then, without warning, the slightest movement will unleash the hint of a stab that takes my breath away and sends an adrenaline spike that contracts my muscles in an attempt to prevent a deeper stab.

Moments later, I am able to move like normal, yet with an understandable precautionary stiffness in fear the worst outcome is just as possible, likely even, if I make one wrong move.

I just have no idea which movement will end up being a wrong one.

A natural response to this scenario is to walk in the stiffest posture possible, but that isn’t a realistic solution. Instead, I returned to my core-strengthening exercises and flexibility stretches. This routine is the opposite of maintaining the stiffest posture possible and allows me to move very close to normal.

But it still leaves me in a delicate balance, because the bulge in my disc doesn’t instantaneously recede. That takes time. Weeks.

In the meantime, I proceed walking and leaning forward within an immeasurably small fraction of that startling reminder the bulge is in close proximity to spinal nerves.

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2019 at 10:03 am

Making Plans

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We are not going to the lake this weekend, but we do have Anna coming to stay at our house to take care of Delilah, Pequenita, and the chickens for a few days. Our plans are more along the lines of the stay-cation in the cities with family and friends variety. That involved a fair amount of pre-planning for my little brain last night.

We will be staying at Cyndie’s parents’ house, which facilitates my heading there directly from work this afternoon and remaining there through Sunday night to go back to work again on Monday morning. That was a lot of days to think through in advance. Makes it feel a little more like a vacation, so that’s fun.

Too bad I don’t enjoy packing for vacations. Somehow, I find a way to get over it.

I’m feeling fussy over other plans we are concurrently trying to form, having to do with needed upkeep of the logs of our home, the consideration of quotes arriving for re-doing our deck, and now our need for some assistance with wild animal control services.

Early returns indicate the costs of each are running in the neighborhood of 2-3 times the price of our desired budget. One, or more, will likely have to wait, and logic tells me it won’t be the animal control.

I’m thinking I may end up honing my [lack of] carpentry abilities and replace the deck boards myself. The logs will likely wait until next year, and we could very well end up applying the recommended two coats of wood protection ourselves to avoid the huge expense quoted yesterday.

For a person who doesn’t like making plans or even decisions, for that matter, these issues coming up all at once are a dreary burden of responsibility. It makes me long to be 5 or 6 years old again.

Those were blissful days…

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Written by johnwhays

September 5, 2019 at 6:00 am