Friday, July 31, 2009

Going Vertical

After laying the pavers for the patio our next step was to build the bases for the pergola columns. The bases are three courses of cement blocks that have outer faces made to look like cut stone. These were salvaged, along with the columns we are placing above them, from a farmhouse torn down for a new elementary school, shown below:

The bases each had two concrete caps on them, that we ended up not using, here are some stacked up before we started working:

Pete had set re-bar into the footings for the columns that we had dug and poured before laying any of the pavers. He and I set the blocks with mortar, and string leveled the first course on all four columns, then we laid the second course and re-checked for level. We did the same for the third course too. We then put more cut re-bar into each base and filled them with concrete. I had bought limestone for the caps to replace the cement that we decided not to use. We drilled a hole into each large cap and set a rebar in the middle of each column, slipped the cap over it and mortared the top to the base. To get a smaller cap on top I had bought a very large capstone and with the grinder we scored it and broke it into four pieces. These were also drilled and then slipped over the re-bar and mortared to the first cap, checking for level as we went.

After this we knew we were in for the hardest part of the project: placing the columns on top of the bases. In removing the columns it was all Pete and I could do to carry and move them. Our guess was that they weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 300-350 pounds each. To be honest we were very unsure how to lift them up and drop them carefully onto a bed of mortar and be able to set them plumb. In the end we decided to rent an engine hoist.

Last Saturday afternoon the rental place called and said the hoist was available. We used a dolly to move the columns up to the patio.

After setting the hoist up we discovered its maximum lift was a foot lower than we needed. So we blocked it up with concrete blocks and 6 x 6 posts. We put it in place and got the first column over to the base. We dropped the chain through the column (they were poured originally with a piece of galvanized downspout through the middle) and slid a piece of re-bar through the chain at the bottom and hooked it up to the hoist.

Once we had it over the top of the re-bar we positioned it and lowered it just enough to catch the re-bar.

Then we marked a diagonal from each corner of the top cap to the re-bar in the middle and measured 4 1/2 inches from the re-bar along the diagonal. The base of the columns are 9 inches in diameter, so this gave us a guide as to where to set the columns.

We had also cut wooden blocks one inch tall and one and a half inches long and marked them so we could set them on the diagonal marks we had made.

We had already mixed a fairly dry batch of mortar. We then laid it onto the cap, and then re-set the wooden blocks onto their marks.

We then lowered the column down into the mortar until it sat on the blocks. The re-bar at the bottom of the colums was one half inch, and the chain link was another quarter of an inch thick. By sitting on the blocks we had just enough clearance to wigggle the re-bar out and pull the chain up the top. We then gently tilted the column to one side and then the other to pull the blocks out of the way. We then slightly twisted the column to set it into the mortar. Climbing the step ladder to the top of the column we used a square and a level to check for plumb. After being satisfied with it. Pete tooled out the extra mortar.

After the post was set we mixed a fairly wet batch of concrete and using a cut off milk jug poured down and filled up the cavity in the column, securely tying it to the base.

When we had the top filled we placed the capital on the top. We had drilled them also and place a threaded bolt through. The bottom end of the bolt went into the wet cement to tie the entire structure together. The top end of bolt will have a drilled 6 x 6 piece set onto it. This will give us something to attach the rafters to.

We set the first two posts and stopped Saturday evening for dinner. We were very confident we could finish the next two on Sunday afternoon without any problems at all. How wrong we were!

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Remembrances of Salvages Past

For the last month Pete and I have been building a patio/pergola in the backyard. I’d been kicking around how to do this since I wrote about 4.5 Tons of Salvaged Goodness.

We decided to locate it near, but not right next to the pond. I decided on a roughly 10 X 16 size. My idea was to consider it two 8 X 10 squares. The one closer to the pond would be the conversation area, the one farther away would be a good place for a picnic table.

I don’t have detailed photos of the entire process, but here is the rough area after we rented a skid loader and leveled out the area and dug it out for the ag lime base. Of course it stared raining right after we finished so we quickly covered it with a tarp:

Here is a shot from the lower yard, we widened out one of the paths to accommodate the loader and to wheel barrow up the lime and later the sand:

Speaking of which, here is the sand pile, it was slightly smaller than the lime pile. We laid a level base of six inches of packed lime, then we laid packed sand on top of that.

We ordered pavers, in three sizes ( 3 X 6 inch, 6 X 6 inch, and 6 X 9 inch) from the local yard. I’d had four 30 X 56 inch pieces of soapstone that I bought from Friends of Historic Preservation’s salvage at 925 E. Washington St. in Iowa City. I wanted to center two pieces in the middle of each of the squares. So we measured and laid them first:

Then we started to lay the pavers:

I had a box of limestone pavers I found at the old UI law school salvage. I used those randomly throughout the field.

Next post I’ll talk about how we installed the concrete blocks and set the cement pillars on top of them.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Yet Another Narrow Escape From Burning the House Down

When we first bought Foxcroft and discovered both A Lifetime Supply of Cardboard, and realized that the fireplace had nearly a foot of ashes in it, we shook our heads and wondered just how it was that the place hadn't ever burned down.

I've been scaping and painting at the peak of the the gable end on the south side of the house. Our second floor dryer vent is located up there. I noticed that there was grass sticking out of the vent door. I also removed an extensive sparrow nest from the top lookout box. I reached my hand in and pulled out quite a bit of grass. I then went down and told Lisa, who said, "THAT's why the clothes haven't been drying!" At that point I knew I'd need to take apart the vent.

I climbed into the attic, scuttled across the rafters and pulled apart the vent:

Then I pulled off the elbow:

Then after removing that pulled out from the straight portion:

And being the compulsive fatalist that I am, re-assembled the whole mess back outside on the ground. Yes the entire length is a little over two feet:

I am sleeping a little less soundly these days, but the dryer is working much better, thank you.