Sunday, September 16, 2007

Raised Patio: Closer to Done

I haven't posted any updates to the raised patio for awhile, so here are some more pictures. First we have some details as to how the deck slabs were setup. The slabs rest on the masonry wall on the outside edge and the cast-in-place beams. Each slab rests on some caulking - specifically NP-1. This compound hardens, but never looses its elasticity. This allows the slabs to float a little - to have some room to play. Most of the deck slabs were put in place Sept 8, but there are still 3 left to place as of this weekend. The pictures above show how most of the slabs were laid. Then there was the column "customizing" work that was done to make one fit near the stairs.

Between the 8th and today, more balusters were added. The longest runs (out from the wall) were finished, with a few missing at the front near the stairs. One pictures shows the railing waiting to be installed. This piece of pre cast is the largest (and heaviest) piece in the project. It is nearly 10 feet long and about 6"-8" wide. This will tie the balusters together and provide excellent stability. Similar, but smaller, pieces will complete the railing near the stairs, as well as become the railing beside the stairs themselves.

Finally, there is the start of the last holes to dig. This will be where the footing for the stairs will go. Still have a few more feet down to dig, but that will have to wait. I have some stitches and the doctor told me not do things like digging until they come out next week. Oh well - more time to post on the old blog page.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


It's been a while since I've seen a movie in the theater (which, as some of you may know, means I haven't seen the Simpson's movie yet). However I was able to complete the Bourne series with a theatrical viewing. I have really enjoyed this series - for the same reasons that Matt Damon has indicated in interviews. The main character is not a typical action hero - he does incredible things, but things that are grounded in possibility. No catch phrases or snappy comebacks, although I almost uttered one in theater: "He tried to blow me up." I am such an influenceable, weak-minded fool. And closer to the end, there was a lolcats moment, but I don't think Bourne had the time to find a suitable cat picture "I'm in joor ofiz stealinz ur secrets".

Okay, enough pandering to computer culture. It was a good film. I found myself caught up in it several times - always a good sign. I'm starting to think that another good sign is the sparse dialog. Several movies I consider excellent feature characters that say little. Everything they do say is important.

Detractions from the movie are the use of "shaky-cam" to convey tense emotions (at the very beginning). I was going to say the flash-backs, but I understand why they are needed. I just wish they didn't have to be so repetitious.

Favorite line:
"He just drove off the roof, sir."
"He WHAT?"

Delivery was perfectly timed.

The action sequences were excellent - they are fast-paced and will stand up to repeated viewings. The story was good, but it wasn't exactly clear what Bourne was trying to do, although he did get to it in the end. This didn't take away from the enjoyment of the movie - one of those things you think about later when you are writing up what you thought.

Summary: Good movie. Liked the structure, the action and the characters. Recommend you go see it.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Raised Patio: Inspection 2

One thing that happened Wednesday (Aug 29) was the arrival of the building inspector. He arrived because I asked him to, so that wasn't really a shock. What we did find out, however, was some information that changed our plans.

The inspector took a look at our walls and the beam that was to be cast. We told him about the reinforcing in the walls (the durowall, the rebar drilled into the bricks) and he was satisfied with that. We showed him the two balusters we had and how far apart we wanted to place them. He indicated that the regulations required that there be "no gap greater than 4 inches". That was slightly different from what we understood before, but not hard to fix. The only problem was that we will need 10 more balusters.

Next came the stairs. First, he wasn't impressed with the idea of having stairs that were built up with dry-laid blocks filled with dirt. "That's going to move," he said. Well, we can fix that when it happens was our response, but he really wasn't happy with that. So now we'll have to make a footing under the stairs and tie it to the deck so they will move together. Next was the railing - it was going to need a railing because of the height. I asked if we could make wider steps and do away with the railing - make each step closer to the ground wider. No good - if the steps are wider than 42", you need two. As it is, the opening is 40", so he'd be happy with one railing.

And then he left. I don't have to call him back until all that's done (I suppose - he really didn't say at the time). But we were left with a problem - a railing. The balusters don't really work out on the stairs, so some other idea was needed. Eventually, we came up with the idea of using the same precast pieces as the deck, but texture them so they aren't slippery. Next build a wall down one side and put some paving stones in the area between the railing and the deck. Maybe put the barbecue there. The wall would carry a small length of the same railing as the deck, but on top of blocks instead of balusters. The only thing left is to see if we can get some double-sided splitface, or 4" splitface blocks (back to back) and whether to leave some vertical spaces on the way down. More updates as information becomes available.

Meanwhile, I'll have to do some more digging for this new footing. Ah well - I'm getting practiced now.

Raised Patio: Post holidays

Today is Labour Day, so I thought I should catch up with my labour report. Friday we finished up a bit early and I've left out a report from Thursday as well, so the information is lacking. As of Friday evening, there are four beams poured in place, two (of four) columns up to railing height and the main pile of dirt in front has been moved.

The dirt that was left was my main task over the last few days, as it needed to be moved and my dad was making the forms for the pour-in-place beams. Wednesday saw the completion of the interior support pillars and the pour of the first cast-in-place beam. Thursday was the second and third beams while Friday saw the last of the beams poured, plus the columns. Plus there was the removal of the precast sill under the back door and the chopping of holes in the bricks to rest the outer two beams.

The first hole was done with a Quickcut - a Stihl product that is essentially a saw blade attached to a gas motor. Used by firefighters to cut people out of wrecks, it can cut through lots of things easily, with the appropriate blade. The cuts were not all the way through as the blade was two large a diameter to prevent unwanted scoring around the hole, so a hammer and chisel were used to finish the job. The next day, the precast sill was removed by chopping out the mortar on the sides, cutting the caulking on the top and then easing it out. Of course "easing" part was "maybe" and since my dad put it in, it wasn't meant to be removed. So I had to chop all the mortar out from under it before it let go. Then a few courses of bricks were removed as they were going to be replaced anyway. The last hole was done with a drill and went much smoother. A really nice cordless Hilti hammer drill that moves through masonry like, like... okay butter, but really easily whatever the metaphor. Melted margarine might be a more modern version. A good idea that, typically, was arrived at on the last one. Oh well.

The pouring of the beams involved the making of the form and the addition of concrete. We used a bucket to fill each of the forms, with about 2 wheelbarrows of concrete for each beam. Each beam has 3 rebars, two at the bottom and one at the top, with a piece of durowall sideways to tie the top and bottom together. Except the second beam where the durowall was forgotten until too late. To help tie a few of the beams to the outer wall, some wires were added to the beams during the pour. This was added because the rebar was too short, despite the custom ordering. Some people may not think 1" is much, but if there is a 1/2" overlap at each end, 1" short is a lot.

Anyway, I leveled dirt inside the walls and started hauling away the excess soil. Friday I got a screen and I put the topsoil through it. My wife came to see what I was doing and said "Oh, you're sifting the dirt" (as in "sifting" flour). I said "Sifting is not manly-sounding enough for outdoor work - this is screening." I was going to conduct a lecture series on the manliness of the heavy machines that "screen" gravel, but the eye-rolling kinda held me back. I originally kept the topsoil separate because I figured I could use it somewhere and the first place will likely be on the lawn to help repair it. The lack of watering and heavy traffic at the back of the house has left some rather barren patches. Judging by the sod I pulled up, I think there is a viable root system there, but it is a matter of coaxing it to grow.