Monday, June 15, 2009

Three Steps to Insanity.

I was tasked with building a set of stairs to our back yard this past weekend. We have a 24" drop from a rock wall on the upper to the lower backyard area. It seemed like such a simple project. Silly me.

First of all let me start by saying there's a reason I'm not a carpenter or tradesman by choice. I don't much care for it. The other reason I'm not is because I am just not that good at it. I do OK for most projects, but am my own worst critic and so am never completely happy with anything I've done. (Kind of like my writing.)

That said, I took the project on as a challenge to reassert my architectural aptitude.

After much research online and through men friends of mine, I had a good idea of what needed to be done. It was really 3 simple steps.

  1. Secure a 2X6X40" board to the wall
  2. Screw the stringers to the board in #1
  3. Screw the steps to the string

No where was mentioned "Screw up", but that came without provocation anyways.

Shopping Trip #1

The shopping trip was a bad omen from the start. I went to Menard's and Home Depot and got all the wood and hardware. 3/4 of the way home I realized I'd bought a 2 stair stringer, which wouldn't work and that I'd have to return.

Shopping Trip #2

Return to Menard's and get correct stringers and another deck board for the under appreciated third step.

I then start the project. I drill with all my might to make first hole. Change drill bit. The first anchor goes in like a champ. "This is easy" I think to myself.

Change drill bit. Drill with all my might again. Second anchor hits a dead spot and ceases its entry into the concrete. Change drill bit. Remove anchor. Change bit. Drill with all my might and a bit of reaming. Change drill bit and think "I really could use another drill at this point".

I re-try to sink anchor and get it 3/4 of the way in. Then I ponder if that's good enough. It looks like crap, but we'll see how the rest go. Maybe it's good enough.

Change drill bit. Repeat drilling with what might is left in me. Re-fail at sinking any of these other anchors more than 3/4 of the way. Being a man, I use my secret weapon, brute force. I proceed to snap 3 of the anchors off. This misfortune causes much self loathing and doubt to the point that I give thought to abandoning the project.

I then plugged in my radio. It turns out that NPR had the "Prairie Home Companion" radio show on. It seemed to lighten the mood and change my spirit.

Shopping trip #3

I run to the hardware store and buy 8 more shorter anchors. I get home and these remaining 8 sink much nicer than the rest. Things are rolling now.

I go to attach the stringers to the now-anchored 2X6 and break an embarrassingly fundamental carpentry rule. I'm not telling what it is it's so stupid. Ask me sometime and I may tell. Or not.

Otherwise, the stringers go on without a hitch.

Shopping Trip #4

I run back to the hardware store and pick up 4 more deck screws that were necessary because of the underappreciated third step.

Otherwise, installing the treads also go hitchless, except of course for the first one which is cockeyed, because my wall is cockeyed, because my yard is cockeyed. Luckily the Skil Saw has a setting for cockeyed.

6+ hours, 2 Coke Zero's and 4 trips to the store later I've got the ugliest, most beautiful three step staircase on the block. Boy that was easy. This is why I do GIS and not deck installation.

Tomorrow is my 19th anniversary with Donna. I hope to blog it, but we will see. I love her so!

Blogging off...

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