SCRABBLE® Players To Start Paying ‘Per Word’

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[Image: A typical SCRABBLE® game. Copyright HASBRO.]

September 22, 2014

DALLAS, TX — In an exciting new development, the Colonial SCRABBLE® Players Association (CSPA) has released an update to their tournament rulebook providing for royalty micro-payments to Hasbro (NASDAQ: HAS) for every word played in a sanctioned tournament. The funds would transfer automatically from accounts set up by each player, backed by a credit card provided at time of registration.

In CSPA’s announcement, Executive President For Life Jeanette Madison wrote, “In our ongoing effort to serve members, CSPA has deepened and hardened our mutually beneficial and completely unantagonistic relationship with Hasbro. Just the fact that Hasbro is showing an interest in such things as ‘words’ is an indication of SCRABBLE®’s rising stock in the toy industry.”

CSPA Co-Executive President Rod Molma, reached on vacation in Bora Bora, explained:

One of Hasbro’s not insignificant business activities is the monetization of the SCRABBLE® brand in North America. In order to do so, it sells licences for specific uses of the brand. One such licence is currently owned by Merriam-Webster, for the word list and the dictionary. The value of the licence in turn depends on how well the licensee is able to monetize it. If Hasbro permits people to obtain for free a word that it is trying to sell a licence for, it will reduce the value of the licence, due to supply and demand.

Players around the US and Canada are thrilled. “This will really raise the profile of SCRABBLE® in the colonies,” said Browne Knowles, of Ontario, Ontario. “We’ve struggled a bit, as you may know, since we only play with half the words. I don’t think they can call us SCRABBLE®-Lite any more, now that each game is going to be worth real money!”

Former elite player and professional gambler Jeremy Saga of Phoenix, AZ, said the change might bring him back to the game. “Paying per word raises some intriguing scenarios. Will you pay for phonies? What if you’re playing someone known to be cash-poor? You could bluff with openings that they couldn’t afford to capitalize on.”

Zinca Loy of Rose Park, Alberta, agreed, “Some people may not like it — who wants more expenses? — but they should really question their loyalty to the game and its owners. I mean, asking to play words for free is basically the same as asking S&P 500 executives and shareholders to beg on street corners. Hasbro people have to eat, too!”

Monetization Czar Seymour Butts, reached at his office in Hasbro headquarters, confirmed the news and hinted broadly at more changes to come. “We’re looking of course at ways to make sure SCRABBLE® players pay their fair share even away from tournaments. The so-called kitchen table game will not be exempt. I hear there’s a good deal of antagonism now among players of Mattel SCRABBLE® in the rest of the world. They don’t want to be left behind and Mattel will be forced to follow our lead.

“And down the road, who knows? When you own the words, I think we’ll find ways to recoup our investment everywhere words are used — books, blogs — are you going to quote me? That’ll cost. It’s an exciting time for SCRABBLE®!”

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Okay, What’s Next?

Today, 6 p.m.:

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Earlier Today, about 3 p.m.:

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This Morning:

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This Evening:

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During The Day:

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The LAST pieces of boarding board from the second lot of rough-sawn that we ordered from our local lumberyard, cut and ready to go up on the porch face.

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In between working on the porch windows and wall, I got the vanity installed in the upstairs bathroom, so our plumber can come next week and complete the hookup.

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Yes, that’s also the first wallboard up, taped and spackled. It doesn’t go all the way up because I like to do the ceiling before the wall, and we can’t do the ceiling until some further reinforcement is added to the trusses in the eave (plywood gussets as were done by Jaison on the other side of the room).

So… what IS next?

  • close up all remaining gaps and fissures (mostly between main house and porch)
  • patch some tyvek and flashing that has deteriorated, letting rain in
  • rerun some electrical wires inside some walls
  • insulate everywhere we can with all insulation on-hand
  • wallboard where possible over insulation
  • estimate and order remaining insulation and wallboard
  • get ready for final work by electrician (kitchen ovens, bathrom vent fan)
  • get ready for final work by gas installer (stovetop)
  • get ready for final work by plumber (kitchen and bathroom sinks)
  • order and install fridge
  • start demo and build-out of the wall between porch and living room
  • … and so much more…!!
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Windowsill With Jade

Before:

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After (in progress):

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More of the story

When we first saw the house, the sun porch with its solid bank of windows was a memorable feature and one of the things that commended the whole venture to us.

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But you’ll notice: they aren’t really windows. They’re gaps. Open air. In a wall framed with 2×4’s and 4x4s, on top of spindly footings dug into the bare earth. So, like everything else, nothing was as it seemed. We had the simulacrum of a luxurious sun porch, but in reality — a hint. A suggestion. And we would have plenty of opportunity to think it all through for ourselves.

So back in July we found this pair of new casements on Uncle Henry’s:

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They weren’t cheap, but they were less than half regular retail, undamaged, never-used, high-quality “low-e” Energy-Star-rated, new-construction (not replacement) windows. We had looked at many alternatives, including six 4’x4′ windows to fit the existing spaces. But once I recognized that the wall pretty much had to be rebuilt anyway, it opened the field to other window layouts — ones that would maximize our light and view, minimize heat loss, give back some wall- and floor-space, and — in our final layout — provide a spot for a wood stove, which now no longer had to be in the living room, given that the chimney no longer existed….

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Once we got the support structure beneath corrected last week, we could finally tackle the wall.

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All the siding down.

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Temporary “wall” put up to help support the ceiling/roof while the outer wall is taken down. The start of the new 2×8 framing on the right.

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Because each window weighs about 200 lb, and the wall is 10 feet from ground level, we came up with a plan to insert the windows into a pre-fabbed section of framing, which we could then maneuver into position from the inside.

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Worked like a charm… though the second one went better. It always does.

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Yesterday I finished building out the rest of the wall, and took down the temporary support wall.

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And this morning we got the second window into its slot.

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Then we had to retrofit the boarding siding and sill flashing — though loosening the window in its frame to get access was a little hair-raising at times.

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But at the end we get a better sense of what the new space and view will really be like.

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And this long-suffering jade, a cutting from a plant Marsh had for many years, and which we’ve nursed through this move, found a new home.

We expect to do the same in a few weeks.

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When Do You Call A Day, A Day?

Or three days, rather? I struggle a bit, secretly, with deciding when or what is enough. The so-called eight-hour business day is very ingrained. Our contractors have typically started at 8:30 and quit around 3:30. When we started doing full days ourselves of physical labor, 3:30 was a very welcome stopping point — when the body is fatigued, you may be prone to mistakes or accidents.

Then there’s the task at hand… is it “done”? Did you get to all the things? Are you at a stopping point?

And what about the tools? Is it going to rain? It can take 30-40 minutes just to tidy the work area and stow the tools and cords.

It’s gotten easier. One builds a rhythm, and physical work informs the body, if you listen. We were done today at 4:30, in time to make a nice dinner. Done with what, you say? Follow….

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We started Tuesday with the finished concrete footings under the porch.

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While the cement cured I started stripping the siding for the full replacement of the window wall.

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And the construction of a second temporary wall inside the porch, to help support the roof when the outer wall framing comes down.

The next day (yesterday) was largely taken with doctor and car servicing appointments, but in the late afternoon I started constructing the beam.

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The first 16-foot pressure-treated 2×10.

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By dusk I had assembled the first two layers (of three), alternately lapping a 16-footer with a 9-footer (the porch is 1 inch less than 25 feet long).

At this point I realized the finished beam was going to be, um, HARD to move, so we spent the evening talking about how we would tackle it in the morning. I decided to try to get the 2/3 beam closer into position, and add the third layer in situ.

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This morning came and I banged together a stair-step of platforms, and shifted the beam up it by alternating ends.

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There was much pacing back and forth, assessing, lifting, testing…

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Once in this position, I added the third layer of board to the beam, and liberally nailed and screwed it.

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From there the trick was to move it higher. It was too heavy to lift each end directly to the brackets I had prepared — even the incremental brackets. I could only lift one end a few inches at a time. And the brackets themselves had to be reinforced. Marsh suggested the Pyramids-of-Giza (or maybe Stonehenge) approach of piling great ziggurats of lumber to make secure platforms from which to move the beam higher.

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Along the way we improvised all sorts of methods for ensuring the beam didn’t flip or fall, or if it did that it wouldn’t destroy itself or us.

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First one end was high enough to apply a jack, and then install the first permanent 6×6 post…

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…and then we moved the jack to the other end and put in the second post.

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By the time we “called it a day,” we had all five new posts up on their footings, all the ad-hoc braces and struts put away, tools stowed, and the grade raked out. This felt like a major, major accomplishment, and a big prerequisite crossed off for the continuing work inside.

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Missed It By THAT Much

As expected, the fifth and final hole dug for the porch footings had layers of cinderblock three feet down, put there as a sort of footing for the original 4×4 post. What I didn’t expect to find, about two feet down, was the long-lost septic outflow pipe:

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Fortunately, due to its angle, it left just enough room for the tube form to sit plumb in the right spot. I’m not sure what I would have done if it hadn’t.

But we were also glad to find the pipe — if you recall, we had closed up the septic tank and started using it without actually, physically, confirming the existence and location of a leach field. We had a fair idea where it was supposed to be, but after digging in several spots had been unable to confirm that there was an outflow pipe leading in that direction.

Now we know! (That is not to say that we know the leach field or its perforated pipe is in any creditable condition — on that we are still crossing our fingers. But the septic runoff is definitely going the right way, and not just backing up under our porch waiting to engulf us. Eew.)

So after three days work we have our five 10-inch footings, each with its 6×6 post brace.

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By Wednesday or Thursday the concrete will be cured enough to start putting up the final beam and its posts. Meanwhile we’ll start work on the porch above — rebuilding the outer wall to fit the new windows, and to make it thicker for better insulation.


I wanted to say a word about how we ended up doing this bit “DIY.” The issues with the original posts on this porch were identified very early on — the first time we laid eyes on the house, we all said, “are those posts sufficient? Are they even in concrete? That’ll have to be strengthened….”

And then over the months we had bits of advice from all comers — but notably from a couple of builder-contractors — about what it would take to do the “strengthening.” One “quick-and-dirty” approach proposed by Jaison was simply to sandwich the existing beam with a pair of 2×12’s (both hiding and reinforcing its unsightly and inadequate lap joints), and then incrementally substitute the support posts. Our builder/friend Mark was the one who explained that a temporary “wall” could support the entire porch, allowing us to completely refit the posts and beam at once (the approach we ended up taking).

But another question was, “what posts? what footings?” We’d had a demo of the Techno-Post process on the post under the stairs, and at $230 each that seemed excessive for the whole porch. I researched traditional concrete footings, and the depth needed to guard against frost heave in this climate.

Even so, should we rent a portable auger? Hire someone with a higher-powered auger? Hire someone with a back hoe?

Just how hard would these holes be to dig? Time went on, and we had other opportunities to dig in this area (notably, searching for the septic line). It wasn’t bad — it seemed like easy clean fill for at least two feet. I also got (physically) stronger. Money got tighter. The schedule became clearer — these supports were a first prerequisite for a whole chain of improvements, all of them necessary even for our “minimal” move-in standard.

I bought the tube forms, the galvanized post braces, the rebar, the pressure-treated 2×12’s for the beam and the pressure-treated 6×6’s for the posts. Helping Jaison’s helper Reid put up the 6×6 post under the stairs boosted my confidence for being able to handle this dimension of lumber.

Meanwhile I’d been talking with our neighbor Jon, who had started a project of his own up the street: a 3-season guest cabin. He would need about nine concrete footings himself, and was looking to hire an excavator and a concrete truck. We agreed to coordinate with each other — perhaps if it worked out, we could save money together by hiring the same workers on the same days.

And then we had several days of perfectly clear weather. Jon was running a few days behind. I laid out the geometry and survey markers and started digging. And so the decision was made — I made the four round trips to the Unity hardware store, amassing 21 80# bags of ready-mix concrete, and really before we knew it I was committed to full-bore DIY.

It became a pretty cool case of realizing that I was ready, willing, and able, exactly in step with actually forging ahead.

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Don’t Forget Leg Day

Yesterday was upper-body and arm day.

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Dug two holes and poured concrete for one, mounting the 6×6 post base in the top of the pier.

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Today was upper-body and arm day, times two.

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Got the rest of the existing posts out and took down the existing beam (without dropping it on yesterday’s work or the propane line).

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By the end of the day had three piers poured, and a fourth hole dug. Tomorrow: the fifth and final hole.

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The work in progress: of sixteen 80# bags of ready-mix concrete that I picked up today, seven are used and nine remain for tomorrow. Plus the five I got yesterday — 21 for the whole project, slightly less than I initially estimated…

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…partly because a couple of the holes could not go as deep as I wanted (4 feet). This is the fill from one hole — and this was a pretty easy one, despite the amount of gravel. Two others had stacks of cinderblock buried about three feet down (presumably as a footing for the posts I had removed?) and it was pretty damn hard to break it up and remove it. I’m pretty sure the fifth hole will be the same.

My temporary wall is holding beautifully — when I removed the last of the existing support structure, there was no creaking, deflection, or motion — meaning the temp wall was already the main support. But I am looking forward to finishing the five new posts and new pressure-treated beam.

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From the day before yesterday — I already posted this on facebook — we “finished” the dual hutch/coop and got the chickens into their new home.

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They have a roosting area and we’ll enhance a brood box on the other end. We’re hoping at least one chick is not a rooster ;-O

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But they’re much happier here than in their little travel crate. Marsh brings them treats all the time, “training” the momma hen to regard her as friend not foe. Seems to be working! And we have competition for a lot of our compost — the chickens will eat many vegetable scraps.

Sunday Eye Candy

On one of three trips to pick up our concrete (in non-Prius-busting 5-bag installments), I found a small classic car rally in the Unity plaza where we sometimes do our laundry.

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And Now A Word From Our Sponsor…

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Three Bunny Farm was established August 21, 2014, in Troy, ME, with the construction of its first rabbit hutch:

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Started two days previous, using solely salvage lumber from demolition projects in the main house, the building is actually designed to be half-rabbit hutch and half-chicken coop.

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The rabbit portion, on the right, is generously covered in hardware cloth to facilitate the movement of air — rabbits, especially angoras for fibre, need to stay dry.

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The design was significantly inspired by the classic book of build-it-yourself projects sent us back in the spring by our good friend Doug. I borrowed features from its three chicken coop and two rabbit hutch designs. The rest was ad hoc make-it-up-as-you-go-along construction, largely dictated by the wood I had available in our huge salvage pile.

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The hinges and clasp on the rabbit access door were originally bought back in March when I thought I needed to build a door at the top of the basement stairs. Basement stairs which are no longer there. So much has happened! But I had kept the hardware.

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It’s not finished — we beat the threat of rain this evening and got two of the rabbits in — the third has not been integrated yet and will spend a few more days acclimating from afar in a separate crate and pen.

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We’ll finish the chicken side tomorrow or the next day — and the ultimate plan is to site this hutch within a larger perimeter of poultry fencing.

Rabbits for fibre, chickens for eggs. Greetings from Pipkin, Hazel, Fiver, and Three Bunny Farm.

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“How The…???”

At least one sister, and maybe both, asked me during this project, “How do you know how to do all this stuff? I didn’t recall that you were so handy….”

Herewith —

Top Ten Ways to Excel* at Large-Scale DIY

*(Not that I excel, necessarily. There’s a reason our motto here is “better is better,” otherwise stated as “perfection is the enemy of… well — it’s the enemy.”)

  1. Know when not to DIY

    If you have the skills and the specialized tools, of course go for it. But for a lot of things, it’s a moving target, and the points below will govern. A LOT of the progress we’ve made has been performed by professionals: HVAC, plumbing, electrical, weatherproofing, roofing…. Even the first load-bearing beam, in the basement, was done by a team of us led by a professional. But I learned a dozen things that day that I’ve reused since.

    I could perhaps have done the electrical, or some of it, but with little assurance that I was adhering to code, and taking much, much more time. But sometimes you have more time than money… that’s part of the calculation.

  2. A lifetime of learning

    When I was nine my dad taught me how to rewire a lamp — we had a lot of this to do after moving to the UK from the US.

    When I was 15 and witless (redundant, I know) my paternal grandfather — a geologist and engineer who had been director of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, and had presided in his day over a structural repair to the museum’s foundation which necessitated scores of huge jacks — christened my holiday with him my “Strength-of-Materials Summer.” In fairly quick succession I had broken a glass lamp globe and a piece of milled wood, left a pair of pliers outdoors to rust, and committed a couple of other offenses. Rather than berating me, he taught.

    Every similar episode, for four decades, has built a store of tidbits rattling around in my head about hammers, screws, metals, forces, and dos-and-don’ts. A chorus of voices that accompanies me into the house each day: lift with your legs, power-off the saw, don’t force it, work smarter, take a break, whack it with a hammer… :-)

  3. Collect tools and knowledge like a hoarder

    The first house I rehabbed was my first house — a pre-Revolutionary cottage with a Victorian-era facade in Matawan, NJ. My then-wife’s dad (a mason) and his network of builder buddies patiently assisted us with the work we could tackle. We tore down a chimney, re-sided the back section, replaced dilapidated lath-and-plaster walls with sheetrock, stripped and refinished kitchen cabinets, relaid a brick patio, along with various other projects. In some of these we were assisted by Ike, the most energetic worker I have ever known. Built like a fireplug, with the strength of a New Jersey hurricane, he just needed to be pointed to a task. While I was still uttering “uh, I can lift this end,” he’d be halfway there with the whole thing.

    I learned something from every one of these helpers. Most of all I learned that to get something done, sometimes all that’s needed is to fuckin’ do it.

  4. Do everything and anything at least once

    A lot has been written in academia about what it takes to become “expert” — in anything. One estimate is 10,000 hours — about 4 years of 8-hour days.

    But another powerful fact is that in my experience the first part of that curve is the steepest. That is, doing a thing once takes you a long way. The first time might be a total cock-up. The third time looks like the ashtray you made in ceramics in third grade. But the fifth time — while far from “expert” — has your sister asking “hey, how did you become so handy?”

    Most importantly, you learn that the thing IS possible. Confidence is worth a lot.

  5. Use your noggin

    I’ve spent many sleepless nights running through a part of a project — how to raise the beam, the order of building out a wall, the dependencies between and among the hired contractors…. Pure logic does get you part of the way, and one of the beneficial side-effects of this project having become so prolonged is that I’ve had loads of time to think things through.

    I am blessed with a strong spatial/visual sense, so I can lie in bed and turn the house in my head, looking at every corner, imagining the placement of walls, etc. But your talent may be the calendar, or the budget, or the decor. Whatever it is, use the space of the imagination to avoid making costly mistakes in real life.

  6. Your noggin can betray you

    Of course, logic cannot actually beat experience. I’ve thought through what I thought needed to be done on this house — multiple times — and the truth was never revealed until we were completely gutted. You cannot “imagine” (literally) what lies behind wallboard and insulation. So was all that effort imagineering wasted time? By no means — in many cases my thinking had included provisional/conditional cases (if this, then that) that allowed us to make quick decisions once the facts were known and we were presented with options.

    But in general remember the signal words of Eddie Murphy’s Detroit police chief in Bevery Hills Cop: “You don’t know every damn thing.”

  7. Talking, listening, watching

    I’ve talked to experts, watched experts. It’s not a substitute for doing, but it makes that first solo DIY effort significantly less likely to be a total cock-up.

    I’m a closet introvert (surprised? yeah, hence the “closet” part) and I don’t naturally cultivate or maintain a network of friends. But I love learning and talking shop, and I’m never afraid to admit ignorance or ask stupid questions. We’ve been blessed here with a fine mini-network of sub-contractors, all of whom at different points have taken me under their wing and generously imparted tips, large and small, including things like “don’t pay me to do this, you can do it yourself….”

  8. The DIY age

    This is a new golden age of DIY. Between youtube and the mass appeal of the big-box home improvement stores, there’s a general recognition that there’s value in empowering individuals to discover their own creativity and ingenuity. Value, that is, in the sale of tools, gadgets, fasteners, widgets, and pretty much anything with a rechargeable Litium Ion battery (e.g., radio boom boxes for contractors).

    Weave your way through the flim-flam and there’s a wealth of information out there. Even the installation manuals that come with appliances have improved. (But you have to read them — twice — before starting work.)

  9. Trust your tools

    When I started out I had cheap tools, hand-me-down tools. I had “approximatitis.” Because I wasn’t sure where the saw kerf would land (or what a kerf was) I wasn’t as careful of my measurements. I knew my saw cut a bit fat (sometimes) so if the measure was 32-15/16″ I’d cheat it up to “about 33.” Or should that be cheated down?

    That’s no way to live.

    As my tools, technique, and knowledge improved, I realized something vitally important: the measurement is EVERYTHING. If you measure 32-15/16″ and cut to 32-15/16″ and the damn piece of wood (or pipe or wire or weatherstripping or whatever) comes out at 32-15/16″ you can be king of the world.

    Learn how it works, do it right, trust the results.

  10. Fake it

    That said, there is almost never one right way. This blog has deliberately obfuscated (but also revealed) a few compromises in execution. Why is that shelf going to be 23″ wide? Because I put that post there before I knew the plan and now I can’t move it. Why does the door swing inward? It’s the door we had. Why is there a soffit over the toilet? Because I put up the wall before I knew where the vent pipes had to go.

    Such decisions are driven by cost, available materials (and a desire to “use what you have”), the state of your current knowledge, available assistance of experts, limits of space, and more. Navigating these constraints is part of it, for those of us who aren’t billionaires. It’s OK.

  11. Privilege

    Did I say Top Ten? Psych!

    I don’t underestimate the role of privilege in our ability to tackle this project as we have done. I am white, male, hetero, physically healthy, in the prime of middle-age, well-educated, and reasonably fit. If any one of those things weren’t true, this could be quite a different list, perhaps focused on overcoming more fundamental barriers of access, voice, language, acceptance, or even survival.

    Life dealt me an incredible hand — grandparents and parents who cared, nutrition and nurture that built my bones and brain, teachers who cared, a wealth of life experiences through travel, a safety net of family and friends, encouragement, gifts, and loans.

    So how are we doing all this? Where did I learn to be so handy? It’s the accumulation of myriad factors, large and small. It’s the application of a principle in one domain to a new domain. It’s the willingness to abandon a mistaken notion when corrected by an expert. It’s luck. It’s just doing it. It’s failing. It’s partially failing and calling it good enough. It’s the kindness of others.

    It reminds me of how newspaper offset printing was explained to me once, when I was in that business. In front of one of these enormous roaring machines — it filled a warehouse — with tissue-thin newsprint flying through rollers and coming out the other end as the evening edition — the printing foreman said, “It’s works by FM.”

    “FM?” I asked.

    “Fuckin’ magic.”

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All Together Now…

Do you like beams??

The beauty of taking a day off is that I get to post about what I did yesterday!

I may have mentioned a temporary “wall” that we needed to build under the porch, so we could remove the existing (inadequate) supports, and replace them with something more robust.

The wall is what I put up yesterday. The story in pictures:

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The bottom beam is one of two 21-foot 6×6’s that Bruce Tweedie had lying around the lumberyard, thought I might find useful, and offered me at a discount. The porch is 25 feet. I figured one of these would work as the foundation plate (for just a few weeks at most) of our “wall.” On top of it is the top beam under construction. It will comprise three lapped layers of rough-sawn 2×6.

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Another view of the beam under construction.

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The finished beam resting on the sill timber.

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Working alone, I would have to lift this beam 50 inches, hold it in place, and put studs under it. At a rough guess, it weighs almost 300 lbs. So I mounted a bracket at each end.

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The bracket at the other end had two supports, so the beam would never be at too oblique an angle, and so I could lift it in stages.

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Lifted to the first stage.

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Lifted on the other end to the second stage.

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Ready for the final lift.

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Both ends in their top positions.

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Now to jack it up to the porch floor joists.

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The first stud in place.

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Jacking the other end.

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The second stud in place.

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Both studs shown. I left the brackets in place so that in case something failed, it wouldn’t have so far to fall (hopefully). You can see a bit of deflection at the center of the span.

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Jacking the center to make it straight.

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Two intermediate studs, and the angled braces at each end to reach from the 21-foot sill to the ends of the 25-foot beam (and to limit longitudinal flexion).

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Panorama of the finished wall, including a central stud and more angled braces.

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I put a single angled brace transversely to guard against the sill timber kicking out (since it’s not really anchored on anything except the bare ground, with gravity and friction).

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The view this morning after taking out two of the existing 4×4 posts.


Today’s Eye-Candy

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There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way. Then There’s Our Way.

Passing the milestone the other day of removing the LAST of any rotted framing got me thinking about the scope of this project and how it grew. How at every point — including the very beginning, when we were assessing what looked like passable wallboard and paneling — we’ve tried to push our imagination into what each space would mean for us.

Here’s an example: In the “original” kitchen, before ANY demolition, there was a strange niche in one wall. We couldn’t figure out why it was there — our best guess was that the guy who built it had started from each end of the room, and when the wall sections didn’t meet — voila! niche.

(Clearly we recognized early on that there was a lot of dysfunction under the surface.)

Regardless, we treated it — at least for the sake of argument — as a fait accompli. We talked about making the niche into bookshelves, or a closet, or a space to run plumbing.

But now, any trace of that niche long since erased by complete gutting, it seems absurd that we should have taken time to imagine its uses. Done “right” — i.e., by a builder, say, who professionally buys distressed properties, rehabs and flips them — countless of our discussions about this beam or that niche would be considered an utter waste of time. The house would have been thoroughly gutted within a couple weeks of purchase; only then, with all its rot and structural problems exposed, would goals and ideals be discussed.

Mark, our pro builder friend who advised and helped us early on and loaned us many tools, told us this. But though I heard his words — “then you’ll have the nice weather of summer to replace the siding and get it weather-tight” — I didn’t, couldn’t, absorb their meaning. A summer-long project? Buy it in February, move in after September? Inconceivable.

That word did not mean what I thought it meant.

And yet — were we wrong? We are NOT experienced flippers, rehabbers. We are US. We tackled this thing, having made a commitment based on a kind of faith, and pushed toward a goal as well as we knew how.

What goal? Shelter. Home. At times we’ve talked about grandkids visiting the land. We worry about nails and glass. We have no grandkids. Are we wrong?

We weren’t going to have a bathroom upstairs. Partly because the previous owner had, and it was a bizarre and unsettling thing. And partly because we were concerned about floor space — the upstairs would be bedroom and two offices. But everyone disagreed with us. We came around, especially after deciding to remove the inside staircase, which regained us some floor space. Were we wrong?

I can’t even begin to count the numbers of things we’ve decided or surmised or taken-as-a-given, which have later changed. Are we wrong?

This project is an object lesson in process, in adjusting details while remaining focused on a goal. Sometimes we had to work to understand the underlying requirement — when it became clear (this beam needs to be replaced, these posts are inadequate, this eave is leaking), we developed tools for adapting the new knowledge into our reality.

One must have such tools, in life. They’re not often needed, usually. But in periods of change — when, by definition, one is not yet expert in the puzzles that new circumstances will throw at one — put on your thinking cap helmet, get ready to learn and grow, and hold tight to your principles, and, if you’re lucky, your partner.

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