House Projects: Finishing

Yep, we’re finished. Well, basically. Almost.

The other night, we finished marking and cutting the planks for the first sloped section. We put them into place to see if we had enough that night. Today I took them back down and added a center joist. We thought we could get away with not having one but, nope. It was interesting doing it myself. Mike’s been going out with me when I worked on it during the day. One day he stayed up on the porch and gnawed a bone, pausing whenever I started cussing. Earlier today, though, he was able to get down onto the ground with me.

When Lorna got home (much earlier since she got help on the route today), we got to work. First she dug holes for the two end concrete pier things. Then we squared it up and hung the last two joists. With that in place, we then measured out the width of the planks and cut all that we had. Then we did the two drill system and set the first section’s planks. The last board will have to be replaced. It didn’t quite fit and needed to be notched. I was using the new cordless circular saw and it was dark and….let’s just say it’s not pretty.

By this time, it is quite dark and very cold. But we wanted to get the damn thing done! We are supposed to get a snowstorm starting in the morning. Being able to let them out the back door vs me walking them outside was important. The new Porter-Cable drill has an LED light. Between that and a flashlight, we drilled one pilot hole and put in one screw on each end.

The first 5×10 section is done. The first sloped section, roughly 4×10, is done. We will replace that last board later. The third section, roughly 3×10, is planked up to about the last 3 planks. We ran out of wood. So close!

I’ll get a better photo tomorrow. That’s Jo at the bottom, being a wimp and not wanting to get up in the dark.

We want to add some lights since the ramp now extends far beyond the reach of the pitiful back porch light. We got some solar marker lights and that’s all they are good for – marking. I put one in near the top the other night. Our goal is to use all solar so we can keep it lit while not wasting energy. We may use motion sensors, not sure yet.

Like I said, it was quite dark by the time we were done. We cleaned everything up (Lorna had gathered the wood scraps earlier before it got dark) and let the dogs out. Sam has been going out the back door all along anyway since he can jump all the way up from the ground onto the porch. The girls, however, were quite freaked by the thing. PopCorn didn’t like the noise it made when Lorna walked down it ahead of her. Joella went down but didn’t want to come back up. We finally ignored her and come in, taking away her audience. It worked and within a few seconds, she was barking at the door.

House Projects: Planking!

Yep, that’s right. We finally laid the first section of planking today.

Over the last several days, whenever it wasn’t too damn cold, I went out and did a little something each day. One day I put up the last post on the first level. Another day I cut those damn angles I bitched complained about earlier. Another day I did the bracing on the first slope and replaced another with a pressure treated one.

Normally, Lorna has Mondays off but had to work yesterday. So, she got today off in exchange. We started off in the usual way by getting breakfast at Waffle House followed by a trip to the bank and then Lowes. A few days before, we’d picked up the pressure-treated 2x4s, some solar lighting for the back, and we treated ourselves to an early Christmas present. We got a Porter-Cable 18v cordless set. A circular saw, a reciprocating saw, a drill, and a light. We knew we’d need a second drill for when we laid the planks. The battery circular saw I’ve wanted for a long time and goodness knows all butches want a reciprocating saw. Nothing to do with Freud, though, but with Tim Taylor.

Anyway, today we got two more concrete pier block things and a pack of doohickeys for the drills. Bits, shanks, etc. We finally got home and got to work.

We had to finish all the bracing so I got down off the porch (my legs will be soooo glad when this is done), gave Lorna the measurements and she cut them. I then put them up while she cut the next set. This deck may not be perfectly square and it may look ugly but by george, it ain’t moving. The blocks came in real handy for doing the bracing.

After that, and with only one slight deviation, the first problem was the first plank. Because of the tilt of the porch, the right-hand side (as you look at it from the ground) is higher than the left-hand side. The board did not fit flat against the porch so we had to….well, let’s just say it was complicated. We did, however, have to adjust two boards to compensate for the slight “fan” we were getting but we kept telling ourselves “it’s a dog deck, not a tap dance floor”. When we got to the first set of posts, instead of notching the plank, we just cut it just short enough to fit. Same thing for the end. It went rather fast! We did one board at a time until we figured out what we were doing then measured and cut a bunch and put them down. With one of use using one drill to do pilot holes, the other either held the plank in place or started driving the screws.

All of this stuff before was important and we got a lot done each day even though it never looked like it. But seeing that top section covered felt a helluva lot better!

We got six planks ready for the next part (barely half of what we need total) but it was getting cold and we were tired. Not a good combo when using a circular saw. Other boards are measured and marked although too long for me to cut by myself. Instead I may re-work some of the first slope and get the final section ready. We decided to prop the ends up on two more blocks. They’ll be partially buried in order to make a good slope.

We’re going to have good weather for several more days. Cold but clear. Maybe an hour or less each day and we may get it done yet!

House Projects: Angles

Flat is good. Level is good. Then comes angle/slope. Not so good.

Level will always be level. Angles have 360degrees of difference.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) has rules for wheelchair ramps. The slope is 1:12, meaning for each inch down from top to the ground, the ramp must be one foot long. So a 20″ front porch would need a 20′ ramp. According to one website, the board would be cut a mere 5degree angle. Of course, there’s other things to take into consideration. It may be 20″ down to the ground from the porch but if the ground slopes further away or higher up, the length changes. My front ramp is actually fairly flat and is about 35′ long because while there’s a dip between where it ends and the porch, it is about the same height.

This is a dog ramp and I don’t think I’ll ever take my chair down it. There’s the mud and the poop and more mud and still more poop. Both of which are a major PITA to get out of tire treads. So we’re looking at a steeper slope. Probably around 10-15 degrees.

We at first thought we’d use a special bracket but it wasn’t as simple as it looked. So then we decided to hang the two boards on the support posts. But how to give them both the same slope? Good question. We initially measured the gap and it was really close. But then that nasty Square issue came up again and screwed it all up. So we’re gonna have to cut the ends, dammit.

I hate cutting angles. I really do. Because of other mistakes, we do have some scrap wood I can practice on but still, I hate cutting angles. We only have to do it to two boards.

For those following along, the first section is 5’x10′. The first slope will be about 4’x8′ and the next will be 3’4″x8′. It is not as wide because that section will start on the inside of the posts vs the outside like the ones hanging now. But then I just looked at the photos above and I see we made an error. Actually, technically, we made 3. Heavy. Sigh.

We got very little done on Tuesday. It was not too cold but the wind was nasty. We got three posts set up and got the two boards hung. It takes a long time to do stuff because we aren’t as young as we used to be and we aren’t all that sure of what we are doing. Anyway, it started raining Tuesday afternoon and with the cold, we headed in. Tuesday night it poured rain here. The river is up again, higher than it was the last time. Then Wednesday morning the wind was enough to cause some problems. There’s limbs and trees down all over the place. We lost power at the house for several hours. It was dangerous taking the dogs out! Even when the wind died down somewhat, the back was a mud pit and there was no way I was going to get out there. Today wasn’t much better. The storm front is playing havoc on my pain levels. Tomorrow looks better and I may try cutting the boards to at least get that part done. What we may do is put up plywood on the first two sections then lay another piece down for the last section. Saturday and Sunday it is going to be snow, sleet, and/or rain. Again.

House Projects: Square

Let’s just say that while we got a lot done on the dog deck today, we didn’t get much done.

To recap, day 1 (Friday) we got the lumber and misc. stuff. Then we had to make a path for the truck to get to the back porch. I probably drive better in reverse than I do forward. We got the truck unloaded and the lumber sorted and stacked.

Sunday was “lay it out and see what works day”. What this also means is that it is “return to Lowes and get what Paula miscalculated”. We got the old ramp taken down (easy since it was about there anyway), the ledger board hung, the two end piers/blocks in place. We also spent a lot of time telling dogs to move (which progressed to move dammit then on to, well, other words), a lot of time trying to keep dogs out of the way, and a lot of time “discussing” what is going where and why.

Today (day 3) we managed to get the frame for the flat section done. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Ha. It would have been, and boy we were flying high on our sense of accomplishment, except we got to the end board. Then we crashed and burned.

There’s this thing called “square”. It basically means the two pieces are at a perfect 90degree angle from each other yet still lined up properly with the other corners. There’s one method of measuring from corner to corner, diagonally, and making sure the two measurements are the same. Then there’s the 3-4-5 method. Neither one works if the people with the saws and tape and Porter Cable drill have no freakin’ clue what they are doing. At one point, I even called my brother in NJ. Hey, he’s a guy and guys are born knowing this stuff, right? Apparently not. But he does know the 3-4-5 geometry is correct and even sent me a little .jpg of it. My baby bro is such a geek, bless his heart.

[if working with something very very important to make perfectly square, the 3-4-5 method along with batter boards and tons of string and several plumb bobs is the way to go. but if your feet hurt all the way up to your ears, and “close enough for gov’t work” is a valid statement, then the diagonal measurement is cool and groovy]

We eventually got it fairly close. The posts are level, the joists are level, the diagonal measurement is off by less barely an inch. Probably the most squared part in this entire house. We also learned the true purpose of cross braces. By then we were mentally and physically exhausted. We wanted to continue, wanted to get more of the frame work up, but we couldn’t quite figure out how the brackets worked. Our brains were too fogged up with mechanical and mathematical stuff. So we cleaned up the area and hobbled inside.

Lorna’s car is having difficulties (it has over 240,000 miles on it) so she is having to take tomorrow off. It is supposed to rain in the afternoon so we are going to try and get the sloped part figured out and framed. We shall see.

Meanwhile, just to show you how screwy our house is, I present to you the ledger board (which is level) and the back porch. Click the image for a close-up view.

That really freaked us out yesterday. We dug out a second smaller level just to make sure the other one wasn’t broken. Why is the porch sloped so much? No clue. It was re-planked a number of years ago and they were just as freaked as we were. Decades ago, when porches were uncovered, they were sloped to help the rain water drain. But this porch is covered. (shrug)

Below is the first section. The braces need to be replaced (we used scrap 2x4s we had). The short post in the middle of nowhere is the leftover post from the old ramp thing. There used to be two but the other one pissed Lorna off and she ripped it out of the ground. We will probably pull that one out, too. If you look to the right, almost directly under the righthand joist, you’ll see two pieces of wood barely visible. There were longer ones there which I removed then stuck two shorter ones into the holes. We’ll more than likely leave them that way. Oh, and check out the bow in that middle joist! We didn’t see that until it was done. Kinda explains why it was not cooperative.

Now, how to make the next section slope? 16′ x 4ish’. I hate cutting angles.

House Projects: Wash and Ramp

We’ve had several projects going on here lately. So far, they’ve gone fairly normal for us. As in lots of errors and time.

First, we got a washer and dryer. Yay! Then we had to prep the kitchen for them. Not so yay. The kitchen is the worst room in the house because of the idiot that added to it a long time ago. The walls are covered first in drywall but on top of that they glued linoleum. In some places, a contact paper kind of stuff was put up. The wood underneath varies. One wall, the wood goes sideways for some reason. Another wall, it is green. We moved the sink several years ago (oy, what a trip that was) and put in a new hook up for the washer/dryer we had. That was a stacked set so had only one plug. This new set is separate so I had to put in a new plug.

Things that went wrong: got wrong box and breaker, took them back, got wrong breaker again but better box; box was better but a PITA to get everything to fit; dryer came with wrong cord, went to exchange it, realized that the cord was right but the outlet was wrong, got a new outlet for that; got a kit for the dryer exhaust but not all the parts were in the box. Finally got to spend most of two days catching up on laundry.

(click on images for larger versions)


Washer in place. I’d not yet figured out the cord and outlet didn’t match for the dryer. Check out the glue mess under the window.


Lorna’s putting a clamp on the dryer vent. It keeps coming lose on the other end and I’m going to have to pay her to lay on the floor and use sheet metal screws to keep it in place. Or duct tape.


Clothes almost all done! Yay!

Now we are working on another project. The dog lot extends around the house to include most of the back porch. We’ve had a dog ramp of sorts in place for the dogs to use to get in and out. We’ve never done it right, just kinda faked one. But we decided that with Joella’s hips and PopCorn’s age, we ought to get it done right. That and I don’t think our patches can be patched again. Friday we got all the wood (well, most of it). Today we took the old thing down and began laying out the pieces to do the new one. We did go back and get more joists but we knew we’d have to get more stuff anyway. We have some obstacles to work around. Like the back porch is not level in the least. I’ll get a pic of the ledger board we put up. It looked so crooked that we dug up a 2nd level just to make sure the first one wasn’t broken. Then there’s the mud. Lots of mud. And the dogs who don’t understand where the ramp went. We put up a barrier of sorts because they were in the way. I was afraid we’d swing a joist around and crack someone’s skull. Or break the joist, which ever broke first. Hopefully, we will get it done tomorrow. The biggest obstacle for that is to get the first section (5’x10′) level and straight. Then it will turn at a right angle and will slope downward for 16′, twice the length it has always been.


current top section


current bottom section


Joella not being happy


PopCorn wondering where she is supposed to lay in the sun


Our attempt to keep the dogs away while we worked/argued
Oh, and check out the limb that fell down a few weeks ago. It is still attached to the tree. We don’t know how we’re going to cut it down.

I’ll let y’all know how tomorrow goes. Lorna has to be back at work on Tuesday so we have to get it done tomorrow. Or at least the main framing. I can use Tuesday to put the planks down.