australia, ocean

Detours off Britta Blvd

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project weekend
remodeling
brittadotcom
What a long week! I wanted to post Sunday night or Monday morning with project success, but work has been so busy, then the evenings as well with rehearsals & such that this is my first chance, on Friday night...whew!

My parents were at my house for a long weekend for my mom to attend Stitches West, so I took two days off work so my dad & I could work on projects...


Two New Gates!

The fence on my patio side was leaning from before I moved in, but not so bad yet to hire someone rebuild the whole fence in my opinion. I had cracked out the concrete walkway with Cyd & Kael's help over a year, so I had ground access finally, but I wasn't allowing myself to plant any vines along there until I stabilized the fence better, so finally last August I found steel post anchors you pound into the ground next to your existing post then screw the posts to the anchors. By myself I got them pounded into the ground, which required Robin's sledgehammer, and leveled - boy was that an optical illusion with the fence leaning! - but I had to enlist Kevin a week later to push the fence from the neighbor's side so I could screw the posts into the anchors. That was all done last fall and made quite a difference, except there was one post near where the garage ends the patio begins where the anchors wouldn't work. I called my dad and told him I wanted new gates for Christmas! :) I explained that I thought by sinking a new post next to the sagging one, we could not only hang a gate to hide my garbage area from backyard view, but use the same post to bring the fence in line. The front gate on that side had been having problems as well, so my request was for him to help me build both gates as my Christmas present. Since Mom wanted to go to Stitches anyway, we decided we would have enough time for gates while she was playing with fiber... ;)

Thursday they arrived, Dad & I assessed the situation in the drizzle and planned our shopping list, then hit Home Depot, since I had a $15 off $125 purchase coupon. Pressure treated post, 50 lbs of fence post cement, 14 redwood fence planks, 2x4s for gate & fence braces, assorted hardware & screws, and we were at $150, so not bad considering I was getting TWO new gates! The plan of attack was to dig the new post so the cement could dry overnight, build the front gate and hopefully hang it, then the next day build and hang the new gate, knowing the best laid plans always have issues. ;)

The new gate would be about 2" thick, so we measured back from the garage corner so I started digging where we thought the post should go, but lo & behold there used to be a post there, since there was cement with a nice square hole in the middle. Hmm...can we use it? Well it was the right size for our post, but not even 12" down, so we started trying to use my dad's long crowbar to poke through the bottom, but after a lot of effort we finally gave up and just broke out the cement in pieces so we could get a full 2ft down. That left a larger hole than we wanted, so we used the cement pieces to fill up the hole as much as we could, then we still needed more cement to have the cement level as far above the soil line as it should be...so onto building the front gate next instead...

When measuring for the front gate, not only was the fence post that supported the gate wonky, but the side of my house wasn't true either, both angled the same direction! I suggested hanging the gate from the garage side and compensating the planks so the gate would look straight with the house line even though it was slightly off, but my dad wasn't sure about that idea due to how to latch would have to close at the post, so we built the gate as a slight parallelogram with the cross braces about an inch offset vs. the vertical planks. Keeping the Z crossbracing of 2x4s true required both of us and chalk marks on my garage floor, but then I screwed on the planks by myself while my dad went for fresh coffee as he got another bag of cement for a couple bucks. We needed 5 and a half planks for the width of the gate, so my idea was that the vertical misalignment would be less noticeable if both edges were partial with the full planks in the center aligned with the house line. We finished the cement on the post, then I pruned a bunch in my front side yard as my dad took down the old front gate. Luckily it only drizzled off & on all afternoon, so the weather could have been much worse, but we covered the setting cement from moisture just in case. That was it for daylight, and since my mom was hitting the marketplace preview evening at Stitches, my dad & I walked to Kirk's Steakburgers for a well-deserved dinner. He played with his computer while I put up a new curtain rod in my living room (the old cheapo one was sagging under the weight of the curtains) and fixed my dining chairs (see below).

Friday we got started nice and early, still in the off & on drizzle. The cement was setting well on the new post and even with overnight wind it was still level - hooray! We wanted to give it as much time as possible before putting it under pressure, so we started hanging the front gate first. We couldn't find my dad's rachet bit that fit the lug screws we bought, so we had to use my little handheld set instead, which took forever for him to twist to anchor the hinges in while was holding the gate in line and in place. We got it all hung, let it go, and it immediately pulled out of line since it pulled the post over - argh! This time my dad agreed that hanging it from the garage side would be better and we could figure out the latch on the post side. He didn't want to break for lunch until AFTER the gate was rehung on the other side, so I unscrewed all the lug nuts so we could change sides. Finally the front gate was hung, looking great even though it still needed the partial planks on each side. The dogeared planks were better quality wood even though I thought I wanted a straight-topped gate, but once we got it up, I liked the extra height and it looked fine as dog-eared so we left it a full 6ft tall instead of cutting them off. We dug out the front post as as much as we could and added more cement in hopes of making it more stable. There was an ugly overhead brace from the roof that we had taken down, but we built a new overhead temporary brace so we could get the rest of the fence inline & let all the cement set completely before testing if the brace would need to stay.

After lunch we started assembling the other gate, which was easier since at least we knew our post was straight, and the garage wall was straighter in the back. I was an expert at screwing on the planks by then, so that was my job again. My dad just happened to toss out the EXACT number of screws I needed - how funny! While I was doing that he cut and attached the last partial side planks for the front gate, and my optical illusion plan worked. We put up the wall post on the side of the garage, requiring drilling into the stucco which was a bit of a pain, then anchored the fence to the new post - voila, it was finally straight! Hooray! Time for dinner since our daylight had run out again anyway. Hanging the new gate would wait until morning.

Unfortunately when Dad checked the post in the morning, the fence was flexing the post almost an inch out of level at the top, so he decided sinking a second post to anchor the fence would be better, since then at least it wouldn't pull the new gate out of alignment. We got the essential lug screws in enough so I could screw the rest in myself while he went for coffee & another Home Depot trip for another pressure-treated post, more cement, plus our hinges actually had 4 holes each vs. 3 so we were short on lug screws. Since he was still gone when I had finished that task, I got out my reciprocating saw to trim the front gate vertically, since the fence resting out of alignment again made the front gate rub against the front post. When he got back we finished the rest of the lug screws, then started digging the new posthole. We dug & dug, taking turns, getting down almost 3 ft with a nice tight hole, but by that depth the clay was so sticky, I clocked myself smack in the chin with the handle as I was trying to unstick it - boy that hurt! It knocked my teeth together so hard my jaw was still sore on Monday! At least no one was injured until workday 3, which is decent considering all we'd done! We set the new post, found out we'd need yet another bag of cement to finish properly (*sigh*), then used scrap wood to anchor the fence to the roofline temporarily so we could attach the fence to the new post and have everything aligned while the cement was still setting. All my gates now have nice chain latch pulls, to which I can add silly dangly charms if I find something worth dangling, but right now they just have keychain loops. My parents packed everything up, we had leftover dinner pizza for lunch, then they got in their van to leave as I got in my Honda to buy yet another bag of cement, so the other fresh cement wouldn't set too much before I could add the rest. Since it's almost a week later of good weather, which should be enough time for the cement to cure, this weekend I will take down some of the temporary braces and see what happens.


Front side gate - before & after


Side walkway - before & after


Side walkway - before & after




Other minor projects

downspout guards - Since I don't have gutters, just downspouts directly through my tar & gravel roof, my dad's idea was just to add plastic mesh cones wedged into the roof edge of the downspout to help prevent clogs. Last fall we discovered about half my downspouts were tarred & gravel over completely, so with a large long drill bit and the garden hose on full blast we had cleared them out, but I was afraid random loose gravel from the roof could keep getting into the downspouts, hence the new plan. It was on my list since September, but we kept forgetting!

fix my loose dining chairs - My 6 dining chairs are Goodwill purchases that I reupholstered, so they are old enough that the screws that hold the wooden seats onto the metal crossbraces kept coming loose. I've wedged toothpicks in there many times but they keep working loose. We bought slightly larger screws to try, but they were so wide I had to drill the holes larger in the metal crossbraces too. So far so good, since only the loosest screw has fallen out since, and all the chairs are still stable. This became a more urgent fix once the kitties were getting larger and sliding the seats off the chairs so many times each day! ;)

new bark top dressing on entire front yard - There was another Home Depot coupon for 10% off any purchase on my parents' Home Depot card, so on Friday afternoon when yet another bag of cement needed to be purchased, my mom & I also got 10 big bags of bark mulch so I could get a good start on weed prevention for my front yard. It was all piled inside the garage where the Briata usually parks, but since I was promised on Friday that I would have my little car back by the following Friday at the latest, the bark had to be done on Sunday or I'd have no other daylight chance to clear the garage. Of course I went out in the Sunday morning drizzle to get it done, and just as I was finishing, the sun came out for all afternoon. Heh! Ah well, I don't mind working in the rain...it's not like my name is Elphaba. ;)


Freshly-barked Brittahytta


I can't tell you how nice my yard smells with the fresh bark & the nice redwood gates! :) If I get my act together enough this weekend, I might finally be able to set my brick stepping stones in the side yard so I can fill in around them, then PLANT things!

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Elphaba?

(Anonymous)
Who is Elphaba?
I like the before and after photos sitting side-by-side. Nice work!

You know what happened when Dorothy threw the bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West, right? ;) For Wicked the novel & musical, the Wicked Witch of the West is named Elphaba.

March!

(Anonymous)
I want to do garden work, too! March is still winter up here, and even though it feels like spring now and it gets relatively warm during the day I wouldn't feel too sure there won't be more snow any day. so no planting stuff yet.
We did take down some trees in our garden, and have started preparing what will be my vegetable patch, so I guess I shouldn't complain. But I long to start putting stuff in the ground!

Well done!

(Anonymous)
The freshly barked front looks fabulous. Way to remind me of all the front yard work I need to do ;-).

I know what you mean about best laid plans. I'm slowly, slowly learning that these kinds of projects usually take about three times as long as I think they should...Hooray for progress!

- fishgirl

No Job is complete...

...until you have been to Home Depot 2-3 times more than you thought you would. Hope the cement cured OK in all the wet weather!

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