Traditionally over the Christmas/New Year period the
building industry shuts down, but for the owner builder it just provides some
additional (paid) work free time for more building. Two deliveries arrived on
23 December just before the industry shutdown, the blue metal and the decking
timber, readying us for our building holiday.
|Structural and decking timber arrived from DIY Timbers Bomaderry|
Some time ago in the schedule I had planned to build the
decks over the Christmas/New year period.
The earlier assumption had been that the rest of the house would be
finished and the decks would be the final piece of work. Needless to say the
house was not done by Christmas and hold ups with the rendering meant that not
even the inside was finished. The absence of completed accommodation meant that
we were unable to invite friends down to assist with the decks and landscaping.
Despite it not being the most ideal time in the schedule, as the external walls
had not yet been rendered, the deck construction commenced.
There were three separate decks to build, with two of them
turning a corner. All the decks were close to the ground being about 350 –
400mm off the ground so instead of using posts I planned to attach the bearers
directly to post stirrups concreted into the ground. To try to keep the structural
timber as high off the ground as I could I used 90 x 70mm laminated treated
pine as bearers and 90 x 45mm treated pine joists. The decks were attached to
the house with 90 x 45mm treated pine ledgers. These small timber sizes kept
the depth of the timber shallow but necessitated more posts/stirrups.
A well planned Christmas present of a Rotary Hammer drill
was put to good use attaching the ledger boards to the concrete slab of the
house with Dyna bolts. Although cheap the Ozito Rotary Hammer drill was very
heavy to hold it drilled into the concrete easily, probably aided by the new
unblunted drill bits it came with. The ten ledger board timbers, each requiring
several dyna bolts, meant that the Rotary Hammer Drill more than paid for
itself with the time it saved.
|Ledger boards installed and bearers being placed|
Not everyone takes a break in the New Year and my neighbour
Gary informed us that the fencers would arrive on 2 January to put in the new
fence. This meant that we had to remove the old fence before they arrived. Gary
got out with the chainsaw cutting off the rails and we each took turns of the
sledgehammer, somewhat therapeutically, bashing off the palings. The old
hardwood timber fence was not wasted and Gary had arranged to redistribute it
to friends and neighbours to use as firewood.
|Therapeutic fence removal|
We hired a two person petrol driver post hole digger with a
330mm auger from Kennards in Nowra to dig the 35 post holes for the deck
footings. We hired it on 31 December as 1 January was a public holiday we had
to return it on 2 January and in effect got one day free. We had never used a
post hole digger and despite brief instructions from Kennards we had great
trouble getting it started. With some help from neighbour, Gary, the machine
was finally stated. We started digging, thankfully Ben had control of the
throttle as I had to use every muscle in my body to hold the beast of a machine
and stop it from flinging me around in a circle. It was hard work. We had to
keep lifting the auger out to shake off the soil. Then we hit solid clay and
neither the machine nor I could go any further. The Alan Staines “The Deck
Building Book” had suggested using 600mm deep concrete footings however, given
that the engineering for the house concrete slab had only required the piers
under the slab to go down to the undisturbed red clay layer, we figures that
was good enough for the deck too.
We started with the holes for the deck between the main and
back pavilions. It was a hot day and the work was so hard that we only got
through five holes in half a day. The soil was compacted and we hit patches of
clay before we got to the solid clay layer. The work was extremely physically
demanding then our spirits were crushed as we cracked through a storm water pipe
that I had misjudges the location of. After this it was decided to dig two
further holes, considered too close to the possible location of the storm water
pipe, to risk using the auger on, by hand. Our work was thankfully put on hold
by the need to join friends and a New Years Eve celebration. Len Beckett, our fabulous plumber, came by and fixed our stormwater pipe on 3 January, in time for our conctrete to be poured on 6 January.
|Cracked storm water pipe|
|Damaged pipe uncovered|
With 27 holes left to dig on New Year’s Day we set ourselves
a target of 10 before lunch, 10 after lunch and the remainder the following
morning. However our technique improved, in particular in knowing how much soil
could accumulate in the auger before we had to list it out and empty off the
soil, as if left in too long the auger was almost impossible to lift and it
take out too early it just wasted time and energy. We dug a number of tricky
holes in awkward corners and close to the house, then got faster again as we
moved to the front of the house where the soil was deeper before the clay was
reached. As we moved away from the house to the holes for the larger front
deck, where I presume the soil had not been compacted, the holes got easier to
dig. We reached our target number of holes for the day and then kept going.
With only 3 or 4 holes left there seemed no point leaving it to the following
day and so finished all the holes.
|Post hole digger/auger in background|
Although we had both worn gloves our hands paid a price for
the assistance of the mechanical auger and we had blistered hands. I determined with a day like that on New
Year’s Day every day for the rest of the year would be better than that
|Sore blistered hands|
Meanwhile the fencers set to work on the new fence and despite the heat had the whole thing done in two days.
|Posts and rails went in|
|The finished fence|
With the concrete arriveing on 6 January, the first day back at work for the Ezyway mini concrete truck company, I had a couple of days to put in the post stirrups and bearers. The stirrups were attached straight to the bearers instead of posts and I levelled and propped the bearers up on chocks of timber so that the concrete could be poured straight into the holes. All was not smooth sailing, the difficulties we had with the post hole digger meant that some of the holes were not as accurate as thety could have been. This particularly caused a headache on the largest deck as the bearers had to be joined in the middle over a stirrup, which of course had to line up with a hole. A pep talk from neighbour Gary kept me going and helped me accept that stirrups not quite in the centre of the holes were not the end of the world.
|Stirrups and bearers in place, ready for concrete|
|The deck starts to take shape|
On 6 January the concrete arrived at 10am. I should probably have asked it to arrive earlier as it was a hot day and the concrete started to go off quickly before I could level it. The truck driver from Ezyway was a deft hand at attaching and removing chutes from the truck and reversing it into just the rights spot so that the whole of the front deck was poured straight from the truck into the holes. We only had to wheel barrow the concrete into the holes for the decks around the back, saving us a lot of work. In the heat however, the concrete started to go off before I had time to level it and give it an incline down away from the stirrups, so the ones in the sun are a little lumpy. I should not hae worried, after all they will be underneath a deck!
|Concrete in place|
|Temporary forms used to keep concrete contained|
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