Archive | June, 2012

Falling Behind

29 Jun

Two weeks ago I made a post entitled Friday Head Start, where I boasted of our progress and how we were ready to go the next morning and pick up some more wood from the fresh pallet of wood at Nassau Suffolk. As planned, I showed up there at around 9:30 am and headed to the yard to ask the guy to dig out the pallet we had been shown the night before. The guy in the yard wasn’t exactly pleased that he had to do this, but it was more that he wished he had been informed in advance, he said “I wish there was a note when I got here this morning telling me there was a customer coming so I could pull the order in advance instead while you stand here waiting”. The pallet was buried behind 2 rows of pallets so it was a real effort to dig it out, it really took the guy about half an hour by the time all was said and done. When we finally got to the pallet we needed he asked me to see my list and he was a little hesitant to give me exactly what I was asking for, stating again that it was sold in random lengths. He decided it would be best to pass the list by the manager because he was afraid we would load the whole order and then the manager would refuse to release it anyway, so we went into the sales office. The manager, who remembered me from the night before, was not ready to play ball. After a few minutes of discussing and trying to see if I could get him to compromise I could see that he was not willing to make any concession to us and help us out at all. Finally I gave up and said something along the lines of “I guess you’re not gonna help me out at all so I’m leaving with nothing.” I actually went back to the yard and apologized to the guy for doing all that work for nothing. He was very understanding and apologetic, and sympathized with me, despite having no power to do anything about it.

It was a little (a lot) disappointing to be treated this way at a place where you’ve already spent thousands of dollars and are about to drop another thousand or so. It may be small potatoes compared to what some contractors spend there on a regular basis, but how do they know we don’t have a big project coming up where we’d be spending tens or hundreds of thousands? I know if we do, we won’t be spending it there anymore.

This decking is sold as random lengths, and I get that if you buy all the 16, 18, and 20 footers that the next guy will be left with only short lengths, but I made it clear that I just needed a few specific lengths, including some on the shorter side and that I would be willing to buy some 6 footers as well to offset some of the longer ones, since we could use those for steps and stuff. This guy was absolutely unwilling to make any compromise and almost seemed to take pleasure in denying my request, and certainly didn’t seem to value me as a customer. It’s really sad when you try to support a local business and it backfires on you.

That morning I spent the next 3 or 4 hours running around to 5 different lumber yard to try find some more decking. Unfortunately, anyone who was willing to accommodate us did not have the stock to do so, and therefor I came back at around 1PM with an empty trailer, thereby negating any head start we had gotten from working Friday evening. We decided to soldier on with the shorter lengths we had remaining but the going was slow, as each joint adds about a half hour to the process, so if there are three joints, as opposed to one, that’s a good hour extra per row of decking. We worked hard that weekend, but the progress was slow going and heat was a factor as well. Those last few feet are looking more like a few miles at this point.

We took last weekend off to help my brother and his wife move, and to spend some time in Province and Newport in the process. We want to make sure we don’t spend every weekend this summer  just working, so this was a very welcome respite.

Hopefully Corinne will make a nice post with some pictures from our trip!

Forecast for tomorrow is 97 degrees. Yikes.


New choppers for Chompley

21 Jun

A few weeks ago I pushed it a little too far on the edge of the lawn trying to mow back some weeds and I hit a little tree stump that bent one of the blades on the lawn tractor pretty badly. It stopped the tractor dead in its tracks and I had to lift it off the stump. When I ran the mower again it was vibrating quite strongly and cutting very unevenly.

I opened up my .pdf of the owner’s manual and figured out what the part number of the blades was and found a set online and ordered them. They came in about a week and I found today, when it was 90 degrees out, an appropriate time to attempt the big blade change over. Thanks to the floor jack I was able to avoid the step of having to remove the cutting deck and flipping it over to do the installation.


I was able to access the blades and the bolts from underneath without actually going under the machine, but I still put jack stands under the front axle, following proper auto shop protocol, just for an extra measure of safety. The nuts that hold the blades on require a 15/16″ wrench, but, as expected, the bolts did not want to come loose with a simple hand tool, and I didn’t want to go nuts and bust a knuckle, so I took the next natural step and broke out the CO2 tank and the impact wrench to get the nuts backed off easily. Once I found the right socket and hooked up the CO2 tank to the impact wrench I made short work of backing the nuts off.


After I got the old blades off I was able to use the impact wrench again to tighten the nuts down once they were spun on by hand to make sure the threads were engaged properly. I put the tools away and put the tractor on the ground and took a spin. I mowed the front lawn and the cutting came out nice and even, so I guess the repair was a success.

Friday Head Start

16 Jun

We got done a little early at work so I got to work finding some more lumber. Unfortunately, the shipment they got in at Florence did not include the lengths we were looking for. I called another place in Huntington and they were also short on supply. Finally I called Nassau Suffolk right down the street in Locust Valley and they showed on the computer that they had 2100 linear feet in stock. We ran and emptied the trailer and ran over there and tried to see what they had. Of course they were getting close to shutting down so all the trucks were in the lumber house which blocks most of the wood from being accessible. We were able to get a couple 20 footers that we need, but the supply looked a bit short by at least half compared to what I would expect 2100 linear feet to look like. So I asked if there was more and he found a fresh bundle which conveniently has a tag on the end that describes what’s in the bundle.

So I plan to go back in the morning when all the trucks and fork lifts will be out of the lumber house and the bundle will be accessible and hopefully they will let me pull exactly what we’re looking for.

For an update on what REALLY went down, read this post.

We were able to use some of the wood we got and put down 3 rows of boards, which is pretty good for an after work decking session. Theoretically we have 12 or 13 rows left after what we did this evening. We’re getting there!

Shuffle the Deck…ing

14 Jun

We’ve got a little wood shuffling to do with our wood supply. We ran into a few sub-par boards, and we did an inventory of our remaining supply and decided we need to turn in a number of boards and exchange them for a few boards that will better fit in to our layout plan. Last weekend we sort of hit a wall where we couldn’t do too much more because we had lots of boards that were just not quite right. We wound up losing some time to head scratching and pondering trying to figure out how make the wrong length boards fit.
The lumber yard had run short on the decking but they are restocked now so I should be able to do a little pick up on Friday so we can get back to work on Saturday. I’ve given our wish list to our salesman so hopefully he’ll be able to get us exactly what we are looking for so we can proceed without further complications.

Side Effects May Include Diarreah

13 Jun


Apparently putting down 750 square feet of decking creates a very large target for birds to poop on.


It looks like we’re going to have to stay on top of this bird poop problem or we could have some poopy stain removal on our hands, I mean, not literally on our hands, but… you know what I mean!

God knows what’ll happen when these birds have a railing to sit on.

Gutter Mouth

11 Jun

Getting our gutters fixed or replaced has been on our list for a while, basically since we moved in. Throughout the Winter we’ve had to be careful of ice that would form on the front steps from the gutter was leaking in the corner. What finally sealed the deal was when we had to remove the downspout (or leader) in the back because it went right through where the deck is now. The gutters had also been pretty clogged so they’d continually drip on the deck, so this has been our temporary solution…


Obviously it was time for a fix, and I had begun to attempt it myself, but the more I got into it, the more I realized I was going to wind up with brand spankin’ new leaky gutters, so it was time to bring in some pros.




When we rented our house in Sea Cliff our landlord had the gutters done and we were pretty impressed with the work the company did, so I kept them in mind in case we had to do our own gutters one day.

Enter the guys from Long Island Gutters. I called on Tuesday night and arranged to talk to an estimator the next day. I got a call from him Wednesday while I was at work, so we continued the discussion via text, which worked great for me, and I was able to schedule the installation for Friday. They called from the office on Friday morning to give me an estimate of when the crew would arrive, and called again about a half hour before they actually arrived.


They roll the seamless gutters out of a machine right in the back of the van from a huge spool of aluminum. They are made as long as they need to be so the only seams are at the corners.

We had them install the new gutters in the back over the deck so they now run in the opposite direction, and spill out on the side of the garage, far from the basement. The new downspout for the rear gutter tucks neatly beside the post for the porch.


We also had the gutter over the garage run to the far side the garage to help make sure the basement stays dry, and to flood the driveway less in heavy rains. Before, it came down in the corner right into the driveway, and what didn’t flow into the driveway went right into the dirt which could have led to the basement.

Just as in Sea Cliff, the crew worked very quickly and took the old dirty gutters away with them so we didn’t have to deal with them. We haven’t had any big storms yet, but the new gutters certainly look much better than old ones, and what rain we have had has not shown any evidence of leakage. I think our new gutters will do a good job of protecting our roof, our basement, our front walk and of course, our new deck!

Dewalt DCF885 Impact Driver update

8 Jun

After a few days using the new “20volt” DeWalt impact driver I’m able to report some feedback on it. I do believe that the new driver is stronger and faster, and, appropriately, it is louder, as well. I’m not sure if the reduction in weight is noticeable or if it’s balanced differently but it does feel lighter.

When I first got the original lithium ion impact driver it was surprising that when the battery would run down that it would suddenly stop dead completely, without ever slowing down, and without warning. This seemed very strange and could be annoying when you just wanted to finish driving that one last screw. As it turns out I had gotten used to that feature and now, the new gun doesn’t do that, it slowly loses power as the battery runs down. I wonder if people had complained about it and that’s why they changed it. Having used both now I think I prefer the full power and then dead stop without warning. As the battery runs down now, if you don’t realize it, it starts slowing down and getting weaker. Eventually it won’t be strong enough to drive a screw in. Even if you don’t wait ’til it runs all the way down, the difference can be startling when you switch to a freshly charged battery. I think in my ideal world there would some indication that the battery had gotten to whatever threshold it used to shut off at, say a beep or a blinking LED, but you could still use the remaining juice if you needed to. At least that way you’d know when you were below peak power but not be dead in the water right in the middle of doing something.

The new bit holder is certainly an improvement over the previous version, and you really can load or eject a bit with one hand because you don’t have to release the chuck to install it and if there is a bit installed it will pop out if you pull and release the collar.

In general I’m quite happy with the new DCF885 but it will take a little change of habit to get used to the “old style” of battery run down again.

Drilling Jig 3.0

6 Jun

In order to consistently pre-drill the holes for the deck screws without repeatedly measuring I decided a jig would be the best way to have repeatability over the course of drilling 3000 or so holes. Also required was a way to locate the holes relative to the previous board’s screws so they line up with each other.
The first Jig relied on the outside diameter of the smart bit to locate the hole.

This was not quite as precise as it seemed it would be and was heavily reliant on the drill being dead square with the work surface. The nice thing about Jig 1.0 is that if it worked well it would have removed a step from the process, because you could simply pre-drill and countersink in one step, right though the jig. If you use a jig that is only has holes as big as the #7 drill bit then you have to mark the holes with the bit, remove the jig, and then fully drill and countersink the holes.
Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t accurate enough so Jig 2.0 was developed.

Jig 2.0 works in the second manner described but it has been good to us. The jig has a slit running down the middle in line with the holes that reaches to the next board so you can line it up with the previous board’s screws.
The jig has been working fine but it’s been showing some wear and tear from so many holes being drilled, so it was time for version 3.0 with a few revisions based on our experience.
Introducing the new and improved drilling jig version 3.0!

The design is essentially the same but the overall size is reduced to limit interference from the gap spacers and the tiger jaw (we’ll save that for another post). I added a custom made handle, made on the table saw, to make it easier to handle. I also added a bevel on the close side too and a saw kerf so we can also line up the holes to a chalk line on the joists.


Here you can see the size reduction from Jig 2.0 to Jig 3.0


Bucket List

4 Jun

Yup, we need to get another bucket of screws, real soon.
We’ve gone through somewhere between 1500 and 2000 stainless steel screws so far, so we’re gonna have to get another bucket. We may not quite need another full bucket of 1750 screws on the decking, but when we get to the railings and stairs, we’ll use a bunch on all that.
Looks like I’ll be making another trip to Riverhead Building Supply!

Rain Delay pt. 2!

3 Jun

After ANOTHER rain delay we’re goin back out to lay down at least one more board… Jer’s developed a nice blow drying method though he thinks it may be more of a squeegee job!