Back to the bliss/grind partnership that is our love story

Sal and I are building again.  This time it is a deck extension for the boat house receiver deck, the first place we load to from the boat and the beach, the first level spot on the property.  That deck was ‘build #1’ and done ten or eleven years ago – the one that, in the book, took us two weeks but would have taken my contractor friend two days.  We like to think we are so much better now.

Yep.  Now, it will take forever.

Basically an extension is a modification, a renovation, a tie-in to an existing structure. Renos are harder than building from new although, for us, it is all Everest, the Matterhorn, K2…who cares?  It’s all an uphill battle.  Our real problem is that even as we get better at doing things, we also get older.  So, as the skill level goes up, the physical ability goes down and thus visible progress on the deck is the same as if we were first-day amateurs. Glacial.

To tie in joist extensions means ‘sistering’ new-length joists onto old ones.  And, for that to happen, decking has to be pulled back to expose the old joists.  That would not be too hard if I hadn’t attempted to re-think every process at the time of building.  And, when doing the deck the first time, Genius-Dave decided to spring for stainless screws.  “Then they won’t rust and look bad, they’ll last forever and I honestly don’t see why others don’t do this!”

Now I do.  Stainless is a more brittle metal than other metal screws or (better yet) galvanized nails.  When the ‘driver’ is driving them in, the torque can rip off the heads. And so I had more than a few boards held down by headless screws.  That was not that much of a problem at the time.  It is a much bigger problem when trying to take the old deck off.

So, Sal got that job.

I took on the pedestal/support leg build.  I was employing a 160 pound six-foot, six-inch heavy galvanized pedestal (one of six I salvaged from the BC Hydro yard fifteen years ago).  It had to be bolted to a poured concrete base and then extended up by way of a smaller pedestal to the right height to support the joist extensions.  In theory, simple enough….except that that height is about 90 inches – seven feet six inches – 22 inches over my head.

Still, people build (literally and figuratively) over their heads all the time but my challenge was and is that my footing on the beach is over irregular rock.  And there was no place to secure a higher working platform without building something almost as elaborate as the deck extension itself.  I eventually do what I always do in such a circumstance – ‘wing it’ with something cobbled together and try to be ‘careful’ which is the rationale one uses when NOT being careful.

I took an aluminum ladder with folding ends and tippily stood it horizontally against the pillar. Then I climbed up and balanced precariously on it holding a HUGE drill (3/4 inch) so as to be able to drill the fastening holes between the pillar and the extension.  Sal-the slim-and-slight came to hold the ladder from tipping.  Shrek-like Dave relying on her strength to keep stable.  I really should have lashed it to the post in retrospect.  One spin of the high-torque drill and it was clear that it was going to tear itself from my hands, tip over the edge of the pillar and crash down on Sally’s head.  If it fell drill-bit first, it would impale itself in her brain. Otherwise, she would simply be killed by blunt trauma.

I considered giving it a second try but love triumphed and we abandoned the attempt.

Like everything we do around here, I found another way to secure the extension.  No one was hurt.  It was a miracle.

The deck extension is joists stretched out into thin air but supported on their ends by a steel beam.  The steel beam goes from the old deck to the pedestal.  The steel beam weighs 220 pounds and it has to be lifted to the 7’6″ height of the pedestal-with-extension. The footing, as mentioned, is irregular in the extreme.

That is today’s job.

You’ll understand if there is no continuance on this topic….?  Donations in lieu of flowers.


5 thoughts on “Back to the bliss/grind partnership that is our love story

  1. Beeeeeee carefull!
    Dont want my favourite “hermits” to get wacked in the head by falling joists.
    I build stuff by myself and I usually spend more time figuring out how im gonna rig up a rope and pulley system to hoist the beam , joist, (insert “ridiculously heavy or awkward object” here). To where I need to bolt it, nail it, etc.
    Your greatest challenge is not being able to run to a local Home Depot to get something that you forgot.
    The rest is “creative Egyptian pyramid” building.

    Beeeeeee careful.


    • We, too, are our favourite hermits and so we try to look out for each other and ourselves when undertaking impossibly weird challenges. But, you know how it is….sometimes you are out on a limb and holding a chainsaw 30 feet off the ground and just need to stretch one more foot….and….so….you….inch out and extend yourself just a bit further (to be continued). I’ll post pics of our progress so far on this project. We ‘broke the back of it’ yesterday. The hard part is done. Danger still lurks but the ‘stretching-the-limit’ type of danger has been dealt with.
      Thanks. I mean it.


  2. More homes off the grid;

    “Tesla CEO Elon Musk is trying to steer his electric car company’s battery technology into homes and businesses as part of an elaborate plan to reshape the power grid with millions of small power plants made of solar panels on roofs and batteries in garages.” The announcement was met with scorn so it must be stepping on some toes!


    • The truly interesting part of the criticism is that Musk is NOT doing anything new. OTG’er are long time proof-of-concept and his own 300 strong test group proved the slightly better battery concept at modern consumer levels. The weakness in the ‘alternative’ energy process has always been the battery. Even Musk’s better battery (that seems to be sufficiently better for the ROI crowd) is insufficient in the long run. The big li-ion battery is really just a modern version of my big lead acid battery bank and they both eventually need replacing (or re-building). OK, Li-ion last longer. And I like that. I support Musk and his efforts but, really, this is only groundbreaking because he can reach the larger consumer market. Now, MIT and a few others are trying to invent markedly better (lifetime) batteries. THOSE will be true game-changers.


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