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Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/2/20 8:21 p.m.

Now, that second level that was originally planned. It got turned into stone. Here's a test fit for the Muskoka chairs with a fire pit simulator.

Moved some dirt. Fire pit arrived, so we did a dress rehearsal including flame. 

Added a couple of trailer loads of dirt - I have a borrowed 14' dump trailer. Everyone needs a dump trailer. And a little diesel 4WD tractor.

Then went to add some gravel. Swung by the pit for the construction company that pays Janel's paycheck and asked for two tons of 3/4" road base. Went across the scale and they'd given me 5.5 tons. Whoops. Oh well, I can use it. This is why I own a big truck, in case I accidentally pick up an extra 7000 lbs of stuff.

Trenched it to run an underground gas line for the fire pit using proper underground gas line and fittings. No bubbles, carry on.

Then a ton and a half of leveling sand (I made them load me while I was sitting on the scale this time) and it's time to start layin' rock. That's about 3600 lbs worth.

This is the worst jigsaw puzzle ever. The pieces don't really fit together, they're really heavy and there's no picture.

I took off the cedar on the bottom step to avoid damage. 

Progress after a day of humpin' rock.

It's working out okay.

Here's the edge of the new garden. There are cinder blocks doing the bulk of the work so the dirt and the construction materials stay segregated.

The gas fitting for the fire pit.

The fire pit is converted to natural gas and the chairs are out. We are now caught up, it's time for s'mores tonight. Tomorrow, it's back to the stone work.

Boost_Crazy
Boost_Crazy HalfDork
5/3/20 12:49 p.m.

That looks great! You got a lot done is a short time. It transforms the look of the house. I love the view from the deck. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/3/20 1:44 p.m.

Thanks. It doesn't feel like a short time! It's been unrelenting work, every bit of free daylight for a month. But the end is in sight. Assuming we are third time lucky on the missing cedar. 
 

The s'mores were good last night, but when did marshmallows become the size of a child's fist?
 

I posted the wrong picture for "view does not suck". This is the correct one. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/3/20 9:43 p.m.

I finished placing the stone today and commenced to fill in the cracks with sand. I will put road base around the periphery and then cover it all with river rock. Since these are natural stones, I'm not using polymeric sand because I figure they'll probably shift a bit. We'll see how it works out.

Janel was also working in the yard so I spent a lot of time working with her on irrigation. The irrigation in place was rough - it hadn't been on in maybe 5 years and the drip lines are buried beneath landscape fabric that seems to be made of Kevlar. So some of it was "let's put water down this line and see what gets wet". We figured out an acceptable routing. 
 

Then she ran out of things to do and we had to go pick up a couple of bits of drip system and a couple of bags of dirt. This escalated. Four hours later, we returned with Janel holding plants in her lap. 

 

Im not sure if that was a productive day or not, but if we're at the point of putzing with plants it must be good. 

ultraclyde (Forum Supporter)
ultraclyde (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
5/4/20 8:21 a.m.

This is the worst jigsaw puzzle ever. The pieces don't really fit together, they're really heavy and there's no picture.

 

Best line ever. Man, that whole thing looks awesome. I love the house, I'm a fan of more modern architecture. And that view! Really impressed with the deck build.

WonkoTheSane (Forum Supporter)
WonkoTheSane (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/4/20 9:31 a.m.

It's always amazing when you "unlock"an entirely new area of a place you've lived for a while.  

 

Inevitably, it results in "why didn't we do this sooner?" Long before it results in realizing that you had to have an extra 300 hours in your life and no higher priority to pull it off :)

 

Looks great!

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/4/20 10:21 a.m.

The best mods are the ones where you almost immediately forget what it used to look like :) We have spent pretty much every evening out on this thing and I've been having my breakfast out there. The deck I did on our old place didn't get anywhere near as much use as this one has already, partially due to sun exposure. It was really just wasted work, honestly.

I can look at something like that old yard and see how it could work with a deck, or how the open plan living/dining/kitchen would look if I amputated a certain cupboard. Janel cannot. It probably helps that I grew up in a house that was being renovated around me for a decade or more. She shows a remarkable amount of trust when I start ripping things apart, but I haven't disappointed her yet. Still, I don't think we've ever managed such a fundamental change.

I've just had a call from the lumberyard. The cedar is in. It's not perfect, but from the description it sounds like it may be good enough. I'll go check it out soon and see.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
5/4/20 11:33 a.m.

Excellent work and excellent view!

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/4/20 5:22 p.m.

Looks like a really good job. Looks like a peaceful place to relax. 

ultraclyde (Forum Supporter)
ultraclyde (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
5/4/20 5:27 p.m.

My wife absolutely cannot visualize anything. Not furniture layout, not paint colors in a room, and sure as heck not structural changes. Makes it really hard to plan projects with her.

I love watching people working hard and doing things I very much approve of. It's looking amazing!

Thanks for turning me on to Toja grid! I'm sometimes faced with needing contemporary solutions to pergolas. This is a great option!

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/20 9:10 a.m.

The last few boards showed up yesterday. They were okay. I don't trust that supplier to do any better, so I took them and moved on. In retrospect, I should have kept one of the ones I originally rejected. But who knew that the quality would drop so fast?

Jason stopped by, so as soon as I got free of the computer I got to work. Chopped off the ends of the two 10' girders, I need them to be 108" long to sit properly on the deck structure. Then we plugged the five pieces of wood into their sockets, put a screw in each one to hold it and had a short planning meeting. Once we'd figured out the plan, it was a matter of about 2 minutes work for three people to lift up the second section and plug it in. Very gratifying.

Shadeux, if you were being paid to construct one of these, the speed of assembly would pay for the cost of the parts. I'll bet three people could build one in about half an hour.

Obligatory hero shots.

Details. The screws come with little plastic caps that make them look like nothing more than old school rivets.

Here's how the rafters are installed, viewed from the top. This is a full socket that goes all the way around the rafter for a very clean look. The screw caps are not installed because these will be coming off again tomorrow so I can stain. One person can place all the rafters in about 5 minutes.


 

In other news, plants are moving into their forever homes and Janel is very, very happy to have green things to care for.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/20 9:16 a.m.

And now for the "mistakes were made" part of our program.

I made a rookie mistake and didn't check the length of the 8' tall legs. Turns out they varied slightly, and we found that out when you could see a visible change of angle between the two halves. Luckily, the feet on the Grid system have an open base for drainage - but this also means you can slip a 4.5"x4.5" shim underneath so the leg will sit right on it and the foot will be flat on the deck. I measured and made myself some custom shims out of the chunks I'd cut off earlier.

...which then revealed just how much cedar weathers initially. These have been up for two weeks. I thought I'd just managed to get used to the cedar and the colors weren't as vibrant as I remembered, but no. The plan is to sand it all back to bright wood before staining, and the stain is semi-transparent to protect it without hiding too much. I could just let it go greybut I have decided not to. Man, I'd read that it would weather quickly but it's still surprising to see it for real.

I also checked the level of all the legs and bolted this thing to the deck. I have a 4' long level that's a really good piece, but I relied on this special post level doodoad because it was really easy to use and that's what it's for, right?

Then I took a step back. Either that tool is wrong or it's just not precise enough. The bloody legs don't look vertical to me, and there are windows and doors behind them to provide handy references to prove it. But I've already drilled holes in the deck and bolted it down. This did not give me the triumphant finish to the evening I wanted.

I know the right thing to do, and I'll put that plan in action on Wednesday. But gosh darn it*.

 

 

 

*I am paraphrasing here, this is not an exact quote

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/20 9:23 a.m.

Fun thing also happened yesterday - the house next door sold recently, and the new owners are going to town on landscaping and updating. Yesterday, a bunch of lumber showed up. About a dozen dimensional 6x6s and they're not pressure treated lumber so they're not going in the ground. Not sure what the wood is, it's yellowish but free of serious knots. If they build a Toja Grid pergola I'm going to laugh.

mtn (Forum Supporter)
mtn (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/5/20 9:30 a.m.

How do you like the natural gas fire pit, compared to a traditional fire pit?

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/20 10:07 a.m.

Traditional as in wood? We had one of those and honestly never really used it. Between having to get it up and running and then having to babysit it to make sure it was out, it was a bit of a production. Plus there's the smoke in the eyes problem. And in our area, throwing sparks can mean a fairly exciting grass fire.

This thing, I just turn a knob and press a button and whomp, there's flame. When we're done, I turn it off and I know it's off. No chance of it flaring up again in a couple of hours. Doesn't smell as nice as a good fire and it doesn't crackle and throw sparks, but the ease of use means we're actually using it instead of thinking "nah, that'll be too much trouble". You also don't end up with smoky smelling clothes. It's the equivalent of cooking on a gas BBQ - a charcoal grille might be superior, but has a much higher PITA factor.

Turns out that you still find yourself zoning out as you watch the flames, and that's kinda the main appeal, right?

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
5/5/20 10:20 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Traditional as in wood? We had one of those and honestly never really used it. Between having to get it up and running and then having to babysit it to make sure it was out, it was a bit of a production. Plus there's the smoke in the eyes problem. And in our area, throwing sparks can mean a fairly exciting grass fire.

This thing, I just turn a knob and press a button and whomp, there's flame. When we're done, I turn it off and I know it's off. No chance of it flaring up again in a couple of hours. Doesn't smell as nice as a good fire and it doesn't crackle and throw sparks, but the ease of use means we're actually using it instead of thinking "nah, that'll be too much trouble". You also don't end up with smoky smelling clothes. It's the equivalent of cooking on a gas BBQ - a charcoal grille might be superior, but has a much higher PITA factor.

Turns out that you still find yourself zoning out as you watch the flames, and that's kinda the main appeal, right?

I'm trying to think of how to properly word this, can you put enough "material" in it that will that will heat up and actually throw heat off the fire pit.......or is it pretty much cosmetic?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/20 10:32 a.m.

It does throw heat. Ours has a 12" ring inside, rated for 50,000 BTUs. The heater for my 1200 square foot shop is 70,000. We were toasting marshmallows off it over the weekend. A bigger burner would throw more heat, of course, but you can get your feet up to it and enjoy the warmth. We chose one that was fairly small because we didn't want the flagstone patio to be just a support for the fire pit. I did consider making my own as well, but Janel liked the aesthetics of this one.

The biggest downside is that it sounds like a gas burner. It hisses instead of popping and cracking. But in my (still fairly limited) experience, this is a small price to pay for the convenience of being able to enjoy it on a moment's notice. Jason used to have a wood fire pit in his back yard and he went to a propane one and has absolutely no regrets.

mtn (Forum Supporter)
mtn (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/5/20 10:43 a.m.

Thanks! 

 

I'll stick with the wood burning fire pit we have now, just because we cannot have a permanent fire pit (it has to go on our driveway). I also like the process, but I'm a pyro. I could definitely see planning for a natural gas one in the future though. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/20 10:52 a.m.

Most of them are propane. This one is actually propane by default, but I converted it to NG because it was cleaner aesthetically (Janel didn't want exposed hoses) and more convenient over the long term.

As a propane burner, it was portable and I hooked it up and unhooked it a few times as we tested it and showed it off to a 6 year old etc. They can get shockingly expensive very quickly, I don't know why because fundamentally, they're a single burner BBQ.

I like the process of building a wood fire as well, but the fire becomes about the process as much as the end result. We wanted the end result here. We still have our wood one and a whole bunch of wood if we decide we want the real thing. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
5/5/20 11:35 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I'm with you on the conveinence part. My lady on the other hand, she is all about the process as part of the experience. 

This is one time it did save me money, she preferred for me to just buy a nice Weber Charcoal grill for $160 vs one of the fancier propane grills in the $700-1000 range. 

STM317
STM317 UltraDork
5/5/20 11:59 a.m.

The yard is transformed! Great work. Scrolling through page 1 I thought "that deck is going to have some awesome views", and then immediately saw where you posted the same thing.

84FSP
84FSP SuperDork
5/5/20 2:39 p.m.

It does look fantastic and a place you'll spend a lot of time.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/6/20 11:05 p.m.

I had a bunch of stuff on my to-do list today, but at the top was "stain the cedar". As I'd read and then proven quite clearly, cedar rapidly darkens in the first couple of weeks. Leave it alone and it'll go grey. I loved it way it looked all fresh, with the red and white colors. 

But unfortunately, if you simply put a clear coat over the cedar, it doesn't really protect it. The best protection, from what I have read, is a semi-transparent stain with a lot of linseed oil. So that's what I picked up - oil based semi-transparent Super Deck stain. I chose the cedar color because duh.

Part of the prep is to sand the wood with 80 grit. So I spent about 3-4 hours today going over every inch of the pergola with either a belt sander (without launching it off the top of the structure, despite a few good opportunities) or a handheld. I figured ahead of time it was about 400 square feet. And it looked glorious. All my red and white came back. I addressed every insult from shipping as well. I took down the rafters so I could do them properly and also reach the main beams. It looked SO good.

And then, of course, the stain darkened it and took away all my white and red. There are still variations in the color, it almost glows and the grain is very visible, but it's a different wood. I knew this was going to happen but it makes me sad. Still, it's the color that the boards turned on their own over two weeks so it's what was going to happen anyhow.

The only picture I took. I ran out of time to do the second set of rafters, I'll do them this weekend along with the facing boards on the deck. The rafters that are in place aren't spaced properly or screwed down, I just chucked them up there to get them out of the way. I'm not sure if I'm going to sand the remaining rafters ahead of time - but who am I kidding. I want as much color variation as I can get.

Didn't get anything else done on the list. This was a long day.

ultraclyde (Forum Supporter)
ultraclyde (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
5/7/20 6:42 a.m.

I get what you're saying about seeing the real color of the wood. I kind of hate using any stain on wood projects, I much prefer a simple oiling.

Of course, that won't work for outdoor stuff, and the final result there looks damn good!

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