Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hit the Deck

Besides the fence, one of the other major projects I needed help with was taking apart the wheelchair ramp that led from the driveway to the back deck. If you don't remember what it looked like here's a little reminder, the ramp went from the back door along the side of the house to the driveway, all told I think it was about 35 feet long and quite serious about its job.

I don't know who built it but they took the task astoundingly seriously, so much so that by the time we finally got the thing apart I had a burning hatred for the carpenter. In the end it took sheer force of will to disassemble that beast - she wasn't coming apart without a fight. They didn't screw the boards together, which would have made things a lot easier, they used two 2.5 inch nails on every single joining, sometimes they used 3 nails just to mess with us and most times to get one rail off you had to remove two other rails which were attached by no fewer than two nails. Once a board was removed we tried prying the rest of it off using just the leverage of the rail to twist out the nails. No dice, the 4" x 4" posts just split apart because nothing had ever been stained or treated and the wood was completely dried out. Everything just split apart. Short of ruining the entire deck we did the only sane thing we could think of ...

We used a chainsaw.

It was still hard work. I took over for a bit and for the first time in my life wielded a spinning, growling, spitting machine that beat the ramp into submission. Section by section, piece by laborious piece, that ramp became no more than shadows of its former self. The chainsaw was feeling the strain so while my Dad switched to a sharper chain, I used the reciprocating saw to hack my way into a few other small pieces of wood that needed attention. I don't think I need to mention that we did all this work under the blistering sun on a 30+ degree day. Sweat was dripping down my nose and my Dad's clothes were soaked through but still we soldiered on and completed the second most difficult task to date.

The entire point of taking the ramp apart a section at a time was so that we could reuse a large portion of it - otherwise I might have simply cleansed it with gasoline and a match. Before moving in, and even after moving in, I had been giving a lot of thought to what and how to reuse that ramp. Several ideas came to mind but just a day or two before we took it apart I had a moment of illumination. I knew what to do with 3 of the 4 sections and I am pretty pleased with the result if I do say so myself.

The bottom portion of the ramp was the longest so it was used to go from the deck to the ground. The dogs love - did I say love? - I mean *adore* the ramp. It's so much fun to run up and down! Cora demonstrates the 'up' use of the ramp. I do have to put some grip on it because they slide a bit but now that they've grown accustomed to the angle they are sliding less and bounding with gay abandon more.

We put two shorter sections side by side so that I now have another deck at ground level. The upper deck at the back door isn't really big enough to have a table or chairs on as well as the barbecue so the little deck at the base of the ramp is a nice place to sit and relax (once the mosquitoes are gone). The dogs also like to survey their domain from there, they are so used to having the concrete pad in the backyard that this is a small reminder of what they knew. They stand on the edge of it and scan for squirrels - Cora is our model today.

I then enclosed one side of the ramp with lattice to finish it and to hide the support underneath (to prevent the ramp flexing at the join) and closed the ends of the lower deck so you can't see the joists anymore. It may not look like a lot of work but I sawed those lattice by hand - lattice, if you don't know, is incredibly hard to saw with anything other than a handsaw or a table saw (of you have one big enough). I also put a short piece of lattice on the other side to hide the support but left the rest open so the dogs could go under the ramp and lie on the grass in the shade. Raimi has already partaken of this aspect multiple times.

I'd say this portion of the work to the deck is about complete, currently it's pretty much as I want it to be, everything is level, and although I had intended to use the final section of the ramp for the front deck I think I may add it to its companions and make the lower deck 12 feet wide instead of just 8 feet. Esme demonstrates the emergency exit handily built into the ramp - you never know when you might need to bail over the side. 

One last cute photo of Esme making sure the heather plants are doing okay in their planter. They need to get into the ground before winter hits but I still haven't decided where to plant them. I'm not sure they'll survive the winter in a planter. They are happily blooming now so I'll just leave them until they're done and decide what to do with them later - that it assuming Esme doesn't root them up and Boy doesn't pee in them.

And that is the adventure of the deck. Later that day, because my Dad had the chainsaw, he asked if there was anything else we needed to do. I said I had a couple downed trees in the woods that needed to be cut since they were right in the paths I wanted to make - they were too high to step over and too low to duck under. He asked if I wanted him to leave the chainsaw and would I be able to cut the trees without dismembering myself? I said sure, maybe.  I could see the wheels turning in his brain as he considered how my solitary use of a chainsaw might conclude. He said "Alright, let's go cut some trees." And we did. He carried the generator (the chainsaw is electric) and both of us sawed apart some stubborn beech, pine and maple trees. It opened the paths right up to make it a lot easier for me to create even more paths in the woods for me and the dogs. It was fast, simple and I got to learn how to cut through trees. A couple days later at work a gentleman came in to return some crutches he'd rented, the pharmacist and he were discussing his need for them and he said "Do you want to see the scar?"  The pharmacist said "Sure!" and so I got to see what my leg might have looked like had my Dad not stayed to help me cut the trees. This gentleman was using a chainsaw, let go with one hand to move some branches, it over-balanced and the blade swung down, caught his pants and chewed right into his leg. He said had he been wearing chainsaw-safe equipment it wouldn't have been so bad but he was only wearing jeans. That day at my house, I was wearing shorts. After seeing the scars on his leg I am extremely grateful my Dad stayed to help me. I may be a pretty independent sort of person, determined to do things on my own, but I think I know what my limits are and I'm glad my Dad does too. He likely imagined me lying in the woods bleeding to death because the chainsaw he lent me cut into my leg during one of my many moments of inattention. So once again, it can never be said enough - Thank You to my Dad for taking care of his daughter in every way a Dad possibly could.


  1. When I cut part of my finger off with a hedge trimmer, I got all sorts of stories about chainsaw and hedge trimmer accidents. Needless to say, I won't every use those again!!! I'm too much of a klutz!

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    1. I think one of the safety recommendations for chainsaw use (apart from full armour and goggles) is never never ever use one when alone. If a Bad Thing happens you need someone to either drag you to the hospital or call 911!

  3. As I'm reading this I'm screaming in my head 'NOOOO - don't leave the chainsaw!!'

  4. Wow, Tamzin, you and your Dad really rock the DIY!!