It’s been over a week since we last worked on our project.  As most of you know life often gets in the way of getting these projects done.  We still have a goal of completion by the end of June, not sure we’ll make it but we will do our best.  We might have made a lot more progress if we’d stayed home for Memorial Day weekend but I am determined that this summer we will actually do what we say we want to do rather than talk about it and the next thing we know it’s October and the first snow is flying.

Back to the project.  It took my husband 3 trips to Home Depot with the pick up truck to get all the materials we will need for the next few stages of this project.  Our garage is full of material so both vehicles are banished to the outdoors.  I feel lucky that on most days we can get one car and both motorcycles in the garage.

Our plan was to get the posts up and floor joists in but after 8 hours and only getting the posts up we were exhausted.  I am used to things taking longer than we think and I knew our plans were ambitious but I had no idea the posts would be as challenging as they turned out to be.

We started the day with a trip to Home Depot because the plans were wrong and we needed to get a 2″ x 6″ x 16 foot pressure treated floor joist for our floor and return some items that were incorrect.  When I laid out the footings I followed the plans exactly and everything is where it should be.  Further along in the instructions it has a little note that says the distance from the center to any one post is 6 ft, well that is just not physically possible when you start out with an octagon where the distance between opposite sides is 12 feet!  Anyway, other than needing to buy an additional piece of lumber it shouldn’t cause problems any where else in the project that I can see.

We first installed the adjustable post holders onto the anchor bolts we set in the concrete footers when we poured them last week.  Each post holder needs to be set at the same distance from the center and square to the center post.  I put a nail in the center of our wood center support, tied a string to it and figured out which of our anchor bolts was the one we would use as the “official” distance.  The post holders have about 2 inches of adjustment in any direction.  I then tied a knot in the string at that corret length and pulled the string so that it was centered over the anchor bolt. Using a framing square I was able to square up the posts and set them at the same distance from the center.  Sorry I forgot to get a picture of the post holders before we set the posts.

In general the day went very well and there was only one moment of panic when I thought we had made a major mistake. When we were setting our posts we first went around and made sure each of the post holder nuts were good and tight.  Two of the anchor bolts started to MOVE when we tightened them. These are set in concrete for goodness sakes, they shouldn’t move.  I have to say I started to panic  and was very scared that it was going to be a show stopper.  It did cause a major delay but we got it worked out.  It seems that when we set the anchor bolt into the concrete we didn’t adequately compact the concrete around the bolt which must have left a void at the bolt.  We were able to tighten the bolts but they ended up being raised too high so we had to cut off the tops of the bolts to allow the plate to fit over the bolts.  Of course we had to search high and low for the metal cutting blade for the Sawzall and then we kept running out of battery power.  It was frustrating, but ultimately successful, so at least I didn’t have to break down in tears.

Of course it wasn’t as simple as just sticking the posts into the holders, we first had to put a notch in every post (11/2″ wide by 6 3/16″ deep) to accommodate the rafters when we are ready to put on the roof.  As I said in the introduction to this project we don’t have any specialty tools and to be honest I’m not sure there is a tool that a homeowner might have that would have made this easier. I made a template with 2 pieces of 2 x 2 (which is actually 1 1/2″ by 1 1/2″  for those of you new to the construction world) shaped like an “L” and traced the notch on both sides of the 4 x 4 posts. We used a Skil saw (circular saw)  to cut to the mark then used a Sawzall (reciprocating saw) to cut out the wood the circular saw missed.  We then drilled through the wood with a 1 1/4 spade bit and finished off with the Sawzall again.  It took us a couple posts before we got in the swing of things. There was a lot of moving of material to get it all done; Square the ends with the chop saw, mark the post, flip it it over, mark the other side, cut with the Skil saw, cut with the Sawzall, drill a hole, flip it over, drill from the back side (this helps prevent splitting of the wood), Sawzall again and occasionally use a wood chisel to finish it off.  Each notch probably took about 15 minutes.

Finally it was time to set the posts.  This part is critical because everything rides on these posts being plumb so that everything fits together and is structurally sound.  We probably spent 15 – 20 minutes on each post.  The posts need to be braced in both directions to assure everything is just right.  We used screws instead of nails, for us it’s just easier and by the end of the day swinging a hammer was getting harder and harder.  We did have to nail the posts to the post holders but that was relatively easy.

When the last post was set it was 6:30 pm and we were hungry and tired.  We didn’t argue too much on this day…a few moments of frustration but not many believe it or not, even when I thought I might cry when the bolt started to move:)

Some things I have learned so far:

  • I married one of the best men in the world.  I am so happy that we can work on these projects together.  Ladies, its worth learning how to do all this stuff so your weekends can be spent with your husband doing things together rather than each off doing your own ‘projects’.  I assume you got married because you wanted to spend time together.
  • Don’t trust the guy at the ‘pro-desk’ at Home Depot to get the material list right for your project.  Check and recheck everything.  This would have saved us at least 4 return trips so far on this project and there may be more.  Also the pro-desk isn’t open on Sundays which makes it even tougher since everything has to go through them for this project.
  • Assume everything will take at least twice as long as you think.  But be prepared to move forward to the next step if it doesn’t. I knew this ‘truth’ back in my project management days but it’s so easy to forget especially when you aren’t relying on others to do the work.
  • Remember to have fun along the way and reward yourself with a hot shower and good dinner (take out) at the end of the day.