the Tomato Box

We had a couple of extra tomato potted plants this year.  With nowhere specific to put the pots, they were just sitting on the deck.  That is until a slight wind came along and then they were sitting on their side, dirt everywhere and more importantly, damaged tomatoes.

We’ll I had some left over pieces of Trex decking that I had used on my Deck 2010 project.   I thought that material would make a nice, simple holder to keep the plants from toppling over.  And match the deck to boot!

Plants without a home!

Plants without a home!



After taking a few measurements of the two pots, spaced far enough apart to allow for growth and sunlight,  I cut two 36 inch and four 10 inch pieces of the scrap decking.  The four short boards were used to create a separate pot “box” at each end.

IMG_1145I drilled pilot holes at each of the screw locations.  Pilot holes are not required when setting screws in Trex but it does make the driving of the decking screws much easier.  Top and bottom holes at each connection point.   And I again used my Makita impact driver to set the screws.  The square drive screws were also left over from the Trex deck project.  So after only about 20 minutes worth of effort and $0, we have a nice boxed stand to keep the pots from blowing over.



the Extension Cord

I’ve had this old extension cord light fixture sitting on a shelve in my garage that I’m pretty sure has gone unused in over 10 years.  I can’t really image using it any time soon so I decided to convert it to a simple extension cord.  Now that will get used, likely later today!

The first step was to purchase a replacement three prong female plug end at the hardware store.  It was about $5.  I then cut off the old light assembly leaving just the cord end.  You then need to strip the orange plastic covering back a bit and then strip about a quarter inch of each wire’s plastic coating.

Wiring the plug is pretty straight forward.  Green wire to green screw, white wire to silver screw and black wire to gold screw.  I was able to confirm the correct wiring using a gadget given to me eons ago.

You simply plug it in the new outlet and if the “O” and the “K” light up, then your wiring is OK, get it!  There is a chart on the side of the tester to tell you what the wiring issue is depending on which lamps light up.  Very easy to use.  You can buy a similar type of tester for under $15 dollars.

For about 30 minutes work, I now have an additional usable extension cord.  Now back to the deck project.Image



the Deck 2013, part 2

The local code inspector was here yesterday.  I was outside working near the deck project all morning, went inside for 20 minutes and the inspector was here and gone when I returned to the back yard.  That was fast!  I only know of his visit after seeing a little yellow “approved” sticker I was to attach to my building permit.  To bad I missed him, I had some code specific questions to ask that would need to wait until the code department’s help line was open the next morning.  For a $124 fee to inspect the footers and ledger, I had hoped that he’d at least knock on the door to let us know he was here.


Now that the first two inspections were out of the way, it was time to pour some concrete and then start the actual deck framing.  Due to me building this thing solo, some of my construction steps are a bit out of order from the normal process; if you had a crew working together.

For the concrete, I rented an electric mixer.  I recommend you get the type that looks like it’s a wheelbarrow.  That way you can roll the mixer right to your hole, mix the concrete and pour directly into the form.  I used the standard yellow sonotube concrete tubes but only for the top 18 inches, this was to have a nice round post above grade.

You can see here the 12 inch tube and the possibly 14 hole below the tube.

You can see here the 12 inch concrete tube and the possibly 14 hole below the tube.


All six poured and curing

After a few days of curing, it was on to the framing: I first starting with joists attached to the existing porch.   It was a bit of a chore to attached these level as the existing porch deck had an arch on one side and dipped about one inch out of level on the other side.  You can see the first board attached to the existing porch below.


The next step in the process was to build the first two vertical posts and supporting cross beam.  What you see in the picture above are two 4×6 posts notched on top to hold the 2×10 cross beam.  (Once more joints are installed, a second 2×10 will be laminated to the first.)  Notching the top of the posts is a far superior method to attached the beam in place of just bolting the beam to the vertical post.  This method results in the deck weight being supported by the post itself rather than just the bolt.

In the picture below you can now see the remaining posts installed, more joists and the now doubled up 2×10 laminated support beams.  The gray posts you see are the old deck support posts that I’ve left in place.  They may be used in construction of a below deck storage room (yet another project).  Later on, the top of each post will get two 1/2 bolts to provide a mechanical connection between each beam and post.


Once all the joists are installed, I put in cross bracing to make the deck extra stiff.  You don’t always see this in deck construction, but it’s any easy step to make a deck that much better.


Next is the decking.  Its a pretty simple process.  The key is to keep the gaps between the boards equal.  Easy enough to just use a nail as a spacer from one board to the next.   To install the deck, I highly recommend  using screws over nails.  And it’s best to use an impact driver over a regular drill.  I purchased a Makita driver a few years ago and its been a great purchase.  (this thing even drove in the 1/2 inch lag bolts supporting the ledger board)


the Nephew drops by to help install some boards.

Now ready for the railing.  The railing was a pretty basic design.  The local code requires that none of the railing gaps can be larger than 4 inches.  There would be six 4×4 support posts bolted to the deck’s rim joist (the outer band).  The bottom and top horizontal supports would be 2×4’s.  These are used to support the 2×2 balusters.  Note that the at the end of each horizontal support, there is a baluster attached directly to the post.   This is a key feature for two reasons.  It provides each railing section extra support in it’s attachment to the post and provides a better visual flow from once section to the next in keeping the baluster gaps consistent.
photo 4


The corner was a bit of a challenge to figure out how I wanted it to look, but I like how it turned out.

photo 31


In the end, I really like the way the railing turned out.  Nice and simple design, strong and flows really well from once section to the next.  With the main structure completed it’s on to the screened in porch expansion.  That we’ll find in the Deck 2013, part 3

the Deck 2013, part 1

After 18 years of Indiana weather, the original deck on my home was showing its age.  Boards were cracking, splitting and the safety railing was a bit too loose for comfort.  Using what I had learned during the Deck 2010 project, I knew this would be a fun project to replace and expand and would certainly improve our outdoor living space.

The 18 year old weather deck had seen better days...

The 18 year old, well weathered deck had seen better days…

I didn't bother to research what the building codes were 18 years ago, but it appears as of the old ledger board was installed inconsistent with current codes

I didn’t bother to research what the building codes were 18 years ago, but it appears as the old ledger board was installed inconsistent with current codes

The ledger board is a critical component of any deck.  According to our local building inspectors and as due to the number of failed final inspections in our area, the ledger board is required to have it’s own inspection before the deck framing can begin.

The ledger board must be attached directly to the home structure and is not allowed to be attached though the home’s exterior siding.

Older ledger board removed and wood siding cut away

Older ledger board removed and wood siding cut away

Styrofoam insulation has been removed.  Plywood inserts will be cut to fill gaps left from the Styrofoam removal.

Styrofoam insulation has been removed. Plywood inserts will be cut to fill gaps left from the Styrofoam removal.

Note in the picture above, far right side, that once the Styrofoam material was removed I discovered that a small section of the rim joist had been cut away to make room for an interior AC vent.  Luckily none of the prior deck’s lag bolts were installed in that area.  Had they been, there would have been limited or no structure material for the bolts to grab onto; thereby severally weakening the deck structure.

Once patched, I installed the silver drip channel on the bottom, a rubberized self sticking waterproofing membrane, and the brown drip channel on top.  The brown drip channel runs about 4 inches up behind the siding and extends out over the 2×8 ledger board.

This three part waterproofing system practically guarantees no water will get behind the ledger board.

Final ledger board as passed by the code inspectors.

Final ledger board as passed by the code inspectors.

The gap you see between the top of the ledger board and bottom of the siding is where the 5/4 decking material will slide into.

Our local code enforcement department  requires (for decks over 30 inches) a ledger board inspection, a footer inspection before the concrete pour and a final overall inspection.  With the ledger board finished and ready, it was time to move on to the footers.  In central Indiana the required depth of the footer to get below the frost line is 36 inches.  I had 6 holes to drill so I rented a two person gas powered post hole digger.  This was my first time using a portable digger as I had used the auger on the back of a tractor for my Deck 2010 project.  I enlisted the help of a friend who was also new to the process.  We were having some problems getting the auger to say running after starting and it actually took us 15 minutes to figure out that the guy at Home Depot had turned the gas valve off before the rental.   Once the gas was turned back on the engine ran without issues.  The auger worked quite well through the first 24 inches of loose top soil, but once it hit the hard Indiana clay it got much tougher.  You really had to guide the auger while applying your full body weight against the torque of the handles.  Several times the auger bit hit a rock or tree root and the handles could almost knock you down if you weren’t prepared.   It was hard work but we did get the holes drilled in a few hours.  Lesson learned: I wanted 12 inch holes so I rented a 12 inch auger bit.  Sounds reasonable, right?  However there is so much vibration, and back and forth motion while using the auger that you actually end up with a hole closer to 13 or 14 inches.   Not a big deal other than significantly increasing your concrete requirements.  In my case that was an extra ten 60 lbs bags, luckily they were on sale for $1.99.

photo 3

now on to the Deck 2013, part 2

the Walnut Plate

I can’t really say where some of my projects are born but every once in a while a project just happens.  This is the case with the plate I recently made.  I was cleaning up the shop and was just about ready to toss a 2 inch thick piece of walnut into the trash when the idea for a plate developed.  The aforementioned piece of walnut had a rather large crack down the middle, but it didn’t go already through to the bottom. It was a bit narrow for a plate so I gave the stock a few passes through surface planner to square the edges before gluing on two pieces of scrap hard maple.  This would create a blank turning stock of just under 12 inches.  A perfect size for my mini lathe.

I was hoping that the crack would disappear as the blank was turned; thinning the stock as  necessary to “find”  the plate that I knew was hiding inside this former scrap.  In this picture to the left is the blank stock.  The bulk of the material gets trimmed off using the band saw.  And the final product is presented in the right side of the picture.  That’s why woodworking can be so rewarding.  What was a possible piece of firewood, becomes a nice household display item.



the Underburg Server

A good buddy of mine is a big fan of UnderburgUnderberg is a digestif bitter produced in Germany, made of aromatic herbs from 43 countries. The exact number and identity of the herbs remain a well-guarded secret.  Well it’s certainly an acquired taste.  After a nice swim workout its not so bad (actually pretty good), after running a marathon, not so much.

My friend is a big fan and as been collecting the bottle caps for as long as I’ve know him.  Underburg has some type of program where your turn in a certain number of caps in exchange for various branded products.  He’s was always fumbling around with the little bottles so I thought I’d grab a piece of scrap wood from the shop and turn him a serving tray and cap holder.  What you see below is the end result of about 90 minutes worth of work.  The round indentation in the middle is for the post drink bottle cap storage.


the Hatch Covers

A good friend of mine needed replacement hatch covers for his small sail boat;  theProjectMaven to the rescue.  The old covers were weathered and a bit rotted on the edges.

First we started with marine grade plywood.  Marine grade is not something you will typically find at your standard big box lumber retailer.  But not too far from my home is a specialty lumber retailer with a fantastic selection of exotic hardwoods and hard to find plywood.

It was easy enough to use the old covers as a template and cut out the new one’s on my 17 inch bandsaw.  I was also able to reuse the brass wood screws used to hold the  oak hardwood cleats.  The oak cleats themselves were in good shape and after sanding off the old finish they were good as new and ready for refinishing.

The only other item that needed to be fabricated was the long skinny piece you see between and behind the right cover.  The original was beyond repair.  That piece is important as it acts as a security feature.  Just the left hatch gets locked down and this bar prevents the right side hatch from being removed until the left is released.


I didn’t really care for the vent slots that were used in the previous design.  In fact my friend hated them as they allowed bugs to enter.  One too many hornet stings and he knew he needed a different approach.

I ended up using two stainless steel vent covers I purchased at a local marine supply business for about $5 each.  Both of the new vent covers were backed with some scrap screen I had and became instantly bug proof.

One of two stain coats applied.

One of two stain coats applied.

Nice fit!
Nice fit!

Once the second coat of stain was dry, I applied five coats of marine grade poly supplied by my friend.  I think the new hatch covers ended up looking better the originals.  Now I’m just waiting for some good sailing weather.