Saturday, April 18, 2009

November 1, 2008 - Porch Finished, New Challenges.

Isn't this a lovely way to greet the morning?

I thought so too. That's why, instead of taking a day of rest on Saturday as I'd planned, I decided that if we just put in 2 good hours before the sun even made it over the trees, we could enjoy a nice breakfast on our completed back porch.

That was my second mistake.

We spaced out the boards for laying down. You can buy deck boarding which is about an inch thick. Or for the same price we could buy 2 x 6 and use that. Thicker, sturdier wood for the same price? No brainer.

Well, would you look at that! It all fits perfectly. EXCEPT for that laaaast little piece. The space is too narrow to fit a board width in there. Shoot!

As Michael and I switch off drilling holes and screwing in boards I am deciding how to approach this problem.

While I'm thinking, I take a picture of the pile of dirt beyond the patio. Remember that project? We still had a huge mound of earth over there which we were using to fill around the posts underneath us. Hmmmmmm... we will still need to level that off soon, I'm thinking....

Sorry, no pics of the last board being cut. I was slightly distracted. You see my third and mightiest mistake was being in a hurry and being too comfortable with my power tools. I'm so used to using them that my caution was overridden by my enthusiasm. BIG MISTAKE!

I was running the skill saw along the board. It's called ripping the board, when you cut it long ways to make it narrower. Ironic, don't you think? Right when I was done, I drug my fingers too close to the blade underneath, felt an odd tug and saw a chunk of flesh fly underneath my stringers where Michael had been standing on the board while I cut it.

Uh-oh. That was not normal.

I do have a picture of that piece of flesh, but in the interest of possible blog reading while meals could be taking place, I'll leave that one out.

When you are a mom, the first thing you think of, no matter what, is taking care of your child. So, as I carefully set the saw down and raise my hand to see how bad it was, I made sure not to react. It worked. Michael knew I'd been cut so he, like the sweet child he is, immediately ran to get me a band aid.

I was afraid to look, but you have to do what you have to do, so I held it up and saw that three fingers had been caught; my middle finger was just scratched, no big deal, my pinky finger had been torn down through all the flesh in about 5 discernable tears, but my ring finger, the one I seem to no longer need, was missing all the flesh down to what looked like the bone, from my finger nail up to half way to my second knuckle. Not good.

I squeezed my wrist, not knowing if there was going to be a gusher. I had Michael to think about and I had to keep my head, if not my fingers. I did not want to be passing out from lack of blood. I was also concerned that the finger itself my have been cut further than was noticable at first and the possibility that something else might fall off occured to me. So I stood there, waiting to see what was going to happen, and mentally berating myself for my utter stupidity and carelessness.

After a moment, I saw that nothing further was going to happen, but lots of blood was beginning to stream down my arm. Time to clean and wrap. Praise God, no blood got on the carpet! YAY! All of it that dropped fell on linoleum. LOL Michael was still digging for a patch when I came in, turned on the water and asked him for lots of gauze. Poor kid, he saw it then and began sobbing as he dug.

So the next couple of hours was spent calming him, telling him jokes, singing praise songs and smiling as I got us down to a clinic, where I hoped I'd get a few stitches and go home.

Not so lucky. Dr said he could not do a thing and I needed a surgeon. Now the rest of our 'day off' was spent in the emergency room. Praise God for nerve block, because the adrenaline was beginning to wear off, Michael was calming down, and it was really beginning to hurt something awful.

It was a good day, really. I learned a lot. Michael had some new experiences that taught him about life and strength. We met people to help and minister to in the ER, and everyone was quite nice. Only drawback was, they did not wrap my fingers correctly and when I had to change out the bandaging, it was stuck. The next day I missed church because I was back at the ER on pain meds and getting a nerve block so they could rip the bandage off for me.

I do want you to know though, that when we got home from the emergency room that first day, we finished the porch!!!! That's my daughter who came by to help. I'm not going through all that for nothing. LOL A couple of reasons. Tools needed to be put away from the elements. I also knew that if I didn't get right back out there, I'd earn myself a little fear of working on projects. Fear is not allowed to reign when you have to take care of yourself and your children. Caution is though! LOL

OK, so Faith learns an important lesson and Faith and Michael grow a lot from this. And we have a terrific back porch now that we use a lot. God is good. Life is good.

Have some lemonade.

October 31, 2008 - Almost done!

Another early morning. It's so good to get out and get as much done as possible before the heat of the day hits.

I forgot to take pictures for you before we got very far. Here you can see a closer picture of the 2 x 6 we used to fasten the stringers together at the bottom. Then that 2 x 6 rests on stones we leveled. Now we are beginning to cut and place the boards for the steps onto the stringers.

When you can, it's great to have your bits in separate drills. It sure cuts down on time spent switching between them repeatedly.

Here is the slightly off-level slant we chose to guide the water off of the porch and away from the house.

Now we are going to fasten the stairway stringers securely to the porch joists. One day, we would like to join the porches and have a continual wrap around, so we want the stairways moveable as we slowly add on. We use a bolting system so that they can be unfastened and refastened anywhere else we might like. A drill to make a hole, a lag screw with washers to be sent through the boards, and wrenches to tighten them.

Beginning to drill the hole for the lag screw. You can see the temporary screw just a few inches to the left that we used to hold the stairs up until we got to this point. We put in 3 or 4 lag screws, I can't remember which.

Man! It's hard work!

Michael, beginning to wrench in the lag screws.

Looking forward to a lovely harvest festival time. That BBQ was only 5 dollars, and we got the firepit on sale for 40. Great finds!


Almost done! Still, there are feaux lady bugs EVERYwhere!

This was Friday night and we really wanted it done for Saturday. That was my first mistake. Impatience.

Always learning...

October 30, 2008 - Nearing Completion of the Back Porch

We started this beautiful day out early. Here is Michael, working on getting the paver centered and the height just right so the whole thing is level. The small sticks you see screwed to the posts are called furring strips. We used them to screw the bottoms of the posts together in such a way as to hold them all perfectly perpendicular to the leveled top of the porch until we got them and the pavers they were sitting on buried and set in earth.

Looking along the three posts next to the foundation, we decided to see if we could affix them in any way.

We cut small pieces from leftover wood and trimmed them to fit the uneven irregularities in the wall.

Here is one fitted. But the more we messed with it, the less we thought it would be successful. The porch is going to be sturdier than the wall when it's all said and done, and we just didn't want to tie them together.

My gas powered chain saws are not running. My husband was a tinkerer. Therefore, all the stuff we have is stuff that needs to be tinkered with to get it going. So my dad loaned me his electric chain saw. This was to trim the tops of the posts off to be flush with the tops of the joists for laying down the deck boards. I was not especially looking forward to this job. Of all the things to do, THIS is the one you have to be really careful doing. The chain saw is awkward, especially holding it over your head and sawing sideways - and now with a power cord to mess with as well.

I ended up sitting atop the joists for cutting the boards. And, because I was careful and thinking about being cautious, all went perfectly fine.

Laying a few boards across the top gives you a way to be up there and working.

All the tops are gone. It's beginning to feel like a porch!

These imported vicious version of the lady bug are a scourge here. These are not the sweet lady bugs that eat aphids in your garden. These are orange, they bite, they stink, they swarm inside your walls, and they probably send mail to their Japanese friends about the great digs they've found here in America. They come out in spring and fall, and drive you nuts.

Beginning to add a little dirt at a time and settle it in with water. You want these to be good and solid. We buried them below the frost line.

Working on the steps now. Lowe's didn't have precut stringers long enough for us, so Michael and I made some of our own. Here we are eye-balling one out so we can mark where the cut-outs for the steps will be.

Marking the first cut-outs. I don't have an exact science down. I'm sure there is a formula for this somewhere, but I don't have it. But even if you are a little off, you have leeway in raising or lowering the stringers at the bottom to make it all level.

After cutting as much as the skill saw will reach, there is a little nub left.

Michael is hand sawing each nub out.

The top of the first stringer, ready to be marked and trimmed level with the top of the porch joists. The we used the whole thing as a template to mark out the other two board for two more stringers.

You can see the bottom is not resting on the ground. That is so we can rest it on pavers, keeping it out of the dirt; for longevity.

The top fits squarely against the joist.

The bottom is a little high here, but that was to be expected. It's a slope and the other stringers sit closer to the ground.

It's hard to see in the dark, but underneath the bottoms of the three stringers is a board we screwed them all to, to hold them separate and still. At the top is another board, temporarily affixed to the joists with nails which will be replaced with bolts. We are temporarily holding the whole bottom up with some scrap wood until we can finish it.

We were really hoping to finish the whole thing that evening, but left it there.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

October 23, 2008 ~ Back Porch Goes Up and Sukkah Comes Down

The following day was the end of the Feast of Trumpets, so we took our sukkah down. We really loved it. It was also windy, so capturing the fabric to fold it was a challenge.

We took took the boards apart for storage and to be reassembled for the next time.

Then we got back to work on the porch. We had already dug out the holes some weeks before. The ground was so hard to dig that we sometimes just dug a few holes a day. But one they were done, we laid sand in the bottoms to give a flat place to set the pavers that would support the posts.

Here you can see where we changed the plan on the fly. It was going to be so hard to affix the ledger board to a wall that was falling apart anyhow, I just wanted the whole thing to be freestanding. You see, when the crew laid the foundation, they didn't bother to do it according to the frost line. So as the ground freezes and thaws, the wall cracks and breaks apart. It's just decorative, but it looks awful and is not going to get any better. Sadly, this is a common problem in this part of the country. Many construction crews are not the best.

We leveled the gravel and put large stones under each post near the house. Ideally, I would have buried those posts as well, but I have a french drain directly underneath them, so that was not going to work out.

Here we are setting the perimeter posts, getting the whole thing square and level. You just keep moving them up and down, back and forth, until it's right. It can be tedious, but anyone can do it. Level is easier for me than making it square. I've always been less than adept at getting building frames square and I get peeved over it sometimes. LOL But to level, just affix the end that is the correct height to the post with only one screw. Then you can raise or lower the far end until your level reads correctly with the bubble between the two center lines.

It's late, but we got the joists up and level! Well, with one caveat... We actually put a slight slope downward as the porch goes away from the house wall. You can't notice it really, but it's enough that rain will run away from the house.


And then we had to lay some boards across the top to pretend we could walk out of the house and use a porch for the first time in 4 years!

Another great day of fun, and getting goals accomplished!


October 22, 2008 ~ Back porch project.

Building the back porch took some turns we did not expect. At first I was going to repeat what was done on our front porch when my dad came and helped during the summer. I figured continuity would be best. Later, we simply did not do it that way, as it was not worth the trouble to me. But we started out by preparing to attach the porch to the cinder block wall that runs underneath the outer walls. To do so we needed to get underneath the house, get rid of any spiders, and then drill holes through the cinder blocks and affix a support board inside...

Always be prepared. ;) Spiders are only your friends...

...when they are not crawling up your pant leg...

...or in your hair.


WITH a spider stick, of course.

But it was only good for gathering cobwebs, as we didn't find any spiders. We still set off the bug bomb for low areas. You can't use a regular bug bomb or it will just spray straight up and drip down from the ceiling. There is a special type made for crawl spaces. Make sure you use those.

It was pretty clean in there.

We got out and began sawing the threaded rods to use for securing an inner board through the walls to an outer board, or ledger, that the porch itself would rest on and be affixed to on the outside of the house.

And then we began setting up to saw the boards we would need for the framing. We don't have a workshop or garage or anything, so we make do with what we have. We used some of the boards as a table, laying them across the trailer. It worked well, despite being on a slight slope.

We let the fogger do its job, and we took a little time to cover that table frame. The one that had blown over in the wind and shattered. We cut a cheap Dollar Store vinyl table cloth in a circle and tucked it around a scrap piece of wood we cut for the top. Nice enough to sit at and enjoy a cold drink and a book while the BBQ is heating up.

And that was one day of work.