It's been forever since I've made a blog post, mostly because I've spent the last three months building a new deck on our house. We had a deck on the south and east sides of the house, but after building the arctic entryway last summer, the part of the deck on the east side had to be removed. For this project, I added a new deck in front of the arctic entryway that connects to the part of the old deck that's on the south side of the house, and replaced all of the old deck boards on that section of the deck. This was a lot of work. I don't have the exact number but I've driven more than 2,500 screws in the last three months, and removed at least a third of that many pulling up the old decking.
I finished the stairs and stair railings on the entry section of the deck yesterday just in time; this morning we had a quarter of an inch of snow on the ground.
The top photo shows what the deck looked like yesterday, the bottom photo shows what it looked like this morning.
I bought one new tool for this project, a Ridgid cordless drill. This was because the deck screws from the old part of the deck were Phillips head and I knew I wanted to use square drive screws for the new sections. I figured I would use my corded drill to drive the new screws, and the cordless drill to remove the old ones. It turned out that the old screws were both Phillips and square drive so I only needed one drill. I used the cordless. It was fantastic. One big improvement over the corded drill, that I didn't realize is that it has a much higher RPM, which means it's much faster to drive (or remove) screws. Add to that the lighter weight and that I didn't have to drag a cord around and it's now one of my favorite tools. The only thing that managed to bog it down was drilling half-inch holes through wet pressure-treated 4x4s.
I managed to get a couple projects done this weekend, most notably, a new set of entry stairs for the house. The old stairs were a bit too steep, and the plywood treads were starting to delaminate. I built a new set from 2×12 and 2×6 lumber. The math works like this. You measure the distance from the top surface to the ground and subtract the thickness of material used for the stair treads. The basic rule to help determine the number of stairs for your distance is that the sum of the rise and run for each stair should be around 17". Since I used 2×6’s for the treads, with a small gap in between, the run of each step is 11¼". The distance from the deck to the ground divided by six (one more step than we had before) yielded a rise of 6¼", (6¼ + 11¼ is as close as I can get to 17). Once you’ve got the rise and run numbers, it’s easy to mark out the steps on the 2×12 using a square, remembering to subtract the tread overhang from the run you’re cutting out of the stringers (each notch in my stairs was 6¼" × 10¼" because I have a 1" overhang on each step). Finishing off the stringers means cutting off the top perpendicular to the top tread, and cutting off the bottom so the first rise is the same as the others minus the thickness of the treads. A couple hangers on the deck, a couple concrete piers buried in the ground, and we’ve got a new way into the house.
All hand tools, no electricity was used.
Last night we had hamburgers for dinner because Fred Meyer didn’t have any good looking fish. I’ve been wanting to start a “Friday Night Fish Night” tradition to get more fish into our diet, but it’s hard when the local megamarket doesn’t have anything worth eating on Friday afternoon. We just bought a side of beef from a local meat company, and have some older frozen hamburgers in the freezer to eat before our all-natural Alaska meat shows up next week.
I use a chimney starter to get the coals going (it’s the silver tube sitting in the little Weber in the photo), and it must have been throwing off enough heat to warm up the redpoll in the photo. He’s in the lower left. He laid there for at least five minutes warming himself by the heat from the coals. Redpolls don’t appear to be all that smart (they’re called “pigpolls” by bird feeders around here), but this one really knew what he was doing. Click on the photo for a larger, and still fairly grainy image.
A few days ago we had this little guy show up at the tree nearest to our house. The photo was taken by my wife, standing about four feet away from it. We've got a whole bunch of bird feeders all over the deck, and we think the owl was probably harvesting voles that come out to eat birdseed that makes it to the ground. We often see a flying squirrel occupying the same perch on that tree, but he's been absent for a few days now.
You can see larger versions of the photograph at my wife's Flickr page.