Killer day, zero miles


Saturday, 20 July 2013

I don’t know about this house! We built it in 1984, moved in in 1985. Not even 30 years old yet, not quite, and it seems like it ought to still be a new house. But it demands its share of care and feeding.


One of several current projects is to replace the back deck surface. Here’s a view from near the back door; the frame is okay, but the new surface will be only 1x lumber, and requires intermediate joists that will have to be built into this structure. To the right, another section of deck that hasn’t yet been pulled apart.


In theory, the old deck boards just come up and we’re done with them. In fact, these galvanized nails have a death grip on the wood. Roger, who’s the brains behind the operation, ran a circular saw down the length of the frame, leaving behind only the bits that are nailed down. Someone — guess who! — now needed to volunteer to split the remaining wood with a mallet and chisel, and extract the nails. The scraps of broken wood are what we see littering the scene here and in the first photo above. The best nails just come out; the worst lose their heads, and will need to be extracted with a vise grip, or maybe just hacksawed off and left in place. Oh, joy!

So I was already well and truly sore before today, from the stress on unaccustomed muscles, not to mention whacking my chisel-holding left hand with the mallet when my attention wandered. Ow! Ow! Ow!

But one of the other concurrent projects is to replace the south-facing roofs, two shake sections and a tar-gravel section. The roofers will be here next week, just after the solar people remove the solar hot water panels from the roof, which happens just after the tree trimmers extract a couple thousand dollars from my bank account.

Part of the roofing project is to rejigger the rain drains, and I want a drywell under what will become the new deck surface. I imagine filling the drywell with gravel salvaged from the tar-gravel roof.


So Roger obligingly cut away another chunk of the deck, and I went out this morning to dig it out. It was cool and overcast when I started, all the better to get in some work. Quiet time for the neighborhood was disturbed only by the trickling of sweat, a sound that doesn’t carry very far.

I used just about every tool I could find; some were better than others, but none was very good. It’s hard, dry fill, full of stones, clay, sand. At least I didn’t have to contend with a maze of roots, but I gained a new appreciation for why miners and civil works professionals blast the underlayment loose before moving it out. Ideally, it would have fractured into fist-size chunks that could just be lifted out, but much of it had to be pulverized (pulver: the German word for powder), which requires a lot of work for zero benefit.

I started by filling a wheelbarrow, but after a couple loads, learned that a small bucket was a better choice, both to be able to break up the work a little bit and because I didn’t have to lift dirt (with my back) from the hole to the wheelbarrow.

I am already sore in places where I didn’t even know I had places, and tomorrow is not going to be better.

We broke at 10 for a quick trip to a carpet store to talk about yet another of the continuing projects. Then back for another go at the hole.


The photo shows how it looked when I broke for lunch. The concrete projecting into the hole is the bedding material for two of the footers supporting the deck frame. It is yet another chore to dig around and under this stuff!

I took it down another foot or so after lunch, before declaring victory for the day and abandoning the field. It actually did become a bit easier, once I got past the worst of the embedded stones. I’d like the drywell to be on the order of 1M deep, and at 1 cm of progress per dig, that’s a lot of work. Well, as it gets a bit easier, I may get as much as an inch per dig cycle.


In the small animal department, I discovered an insect in the pile of spoils over at the side, probably prematurely emerged from its pupa. Unfortunately, it was a bit too premature, and didn’t survive (and no, I didn’t kill it).


I also saw an alligator lizard near the spoils pile. It probably decided I was too big for lunch, or maybe too sweaty, and scurried back into the woodpile.

And a shower, a beer and a nap were heaven indeed.

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2 Responses to “Killer day, zero miles”

  1. Mark Kauffman Says:

    Lots of work, but in the end will be great satisfaction.


  2. Hitting the deck | 86dave's Blog Says:

    […] my Killer day post, I showed the beginning of the deck […]


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