Thursday, October 6, 2011

Work or Play?

Outdoor Life requires work, or does it? I spent the summer tearing out an old rotten deck and replacing it with a raised concrete patio. In the process I shoveled 30 tons of rock and gravel and sweated over details in the pouring of concrete and the laying of pavers for the finish surface. I worked with new tools like wet saws and new materials like concrete boards (for texture on the concrete).

Most of the work I did myself, slowly. The old deck was so decayed that it went into a long-term compost pile or to the dump. Ugly old landscape block, mossy and mildewed had to be moved and eventually placed inside the new retaining wall for some of the fill. The forms were built of recycled plywood, a lot of it anyway and the design itself while inspired by the deck on Deming Rd (which I also created)  but came from within.

Once the old deck was demolished and the area was leveled I formed and poured the footing. The day was hot and the concrete hardened before I was completely finished. Good thing no one sees the bottom, (except the ducks)  it was sturdy but not pretty. 

The day of the pour couldn’t have been done with out help from relatives and neighbors. My forms weren’t as solid as I had hoped and after they were reinforced we tip toed around on pins and needles fearing a blowout at any moment.

The result was a bit rustic but it does resemble the cabin itself so I can’t be too particular with the outcome.

After striping away the forms the interior of the wall had to filled in with drain rock gravel and sand. Everything had to compacted before putting down the pavers. 

Oh the pavers! Unbeknownst  to us the company that made the pavers had a major change in coloration. The first set of pavers went down well enough but when I went to pick up more, the same brand and color of pavers were completely different. The good folks at Northstar Concrete tried to tell me it was just because the pavers I had were exposed to the elements longer but I wasn't buying it. It turned out I was right but in the process I had to remove the pavers I put down and redo everything with the new ones. We really liked the old color better but now that the new ones are down, the lighter color is "cheerier".


I then built supports for pouring the stairs. A purchase of a cement mixer and another pile of sand and gravel allowed me to avoid the cost of a concrete truck and enable me to mix the concrete myself.

With the stairs in place we partied on the deck to celebrate its completion, Alison’s birthday, and Amber’s beginning week of med school. Then I built the stairs leading up to the house door. I used commercial outdoor flooring – funny plastic stuff – to try to avoid the mildew and mold that sunk the old deck. I just hope it doesn’t get too slick.

A few days ago I used the last of the pavers to build a little flat space in front of the lower steps. Each time I form up concrete I learn something. The border for the pavers, while not perfect, is an improvement over the previous concrete work.

Surprisingly enough, for me anyway, is the increased upper body strength I attained during the process of building this edifice. I suppose I could have spent a bunch of money (which we don’t have) to have someone else build it and spent my days indoors pumping iron to achieve the same result BUT it wouldn’t have been so much fun, or brought people together in the same way.
The deck still needs landscaping, that will have to wait till next spring. Gutters were installed to keep the roof run-off from splashing up against the house and door. The hole in the left front will eventually be a planter for some delicate looking tree.  Work or play? I can’t decide. 

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