The Strange Times of COVID19

Good lordy, I'm not even sure how to write this post. COVID-19 everywhere. We are in day 3 of shelter in place here in SF. It's freak out city, and for good reason. 

I've gone back and forth about whether it's appropriate to be posting about "projects" at a time like this. Is it glib to try to carry on? 

Creating and maintaining this blog has always been something of a self imposed challenge and pursuit that I've used to balance out other aspects of my life that can be difficult, monotonous and not easily measurable in terms of concrete accomplishment -namely caring for my younger son who has a significant development disability and who has not always been able to attend school. 

I try to respect my son's privacy (and my own) but I can tell you that there have been times when I've been writing about the seemingly trivial when my life has been a complete shit show, like for real. Writing posts has been a real anchor in the past and likely it will be now. Perhaps for the reader this exercise can be a momentary diversion from some other scary shit. 

So here we go, this is what I've been up to up until now.

I have been building this enclosure for the spa heater for a couple of weeks now. My design criteria centered around a few main functions. First, access to the filter and controls dictated a pair of gates, preferably without a center post. Second, I wanted to avoid drilling into the concrete retaining wall to secure the post. Third, I wanted to use up as much of the leftover lumber remaining from the bench construction project of a few years ago.   

Those stipulations required digging two 18" deep post holes. A couple of things about that: Under about a foot of topsoil, I have pretty hard rocky ground in the garden. My yard was seriously excavated during construction to make it flat and topsoil was added after so that plants would grow. Additionally, there was a creak that at one time ran right through my yard, so geologically it's a riverbed, i.e. packed hard unlike some parts of the city which are literally dunes. All this is to say that I'm glad I only needed 18" for stability (my posts are 54" high -there being the 1/3 depth rule for a post hole).

Level the Sonotube in the hole and backfill it in place. Having a level tube allowed me to use it as a reference for leveling the post while pouring the concrete. 

I used Simpson brackets to attach my posts to the footing rather than the other method, which is to sink the post directly into the concrete. In my scenario, the post needed to be level and squared to the house. I thought the easiest way to go about this, it being a one man operation, was to attach the post to the bracket and build a jig to hold the post in place and then to pour the concrete around it. 

For my first post hole I used regular mix Quikrete, which I bought in 10 pound bags, which are obviously far easier to manage. This post took four and a half bags, which was easily mixed 2 at a time in a 5 gallon bucket.  

Because the second footing was harder to access, I decided to use the fast setting Qwikrete that allows for filling the hole with the dry mixture and then adding water. In the end, this felt like a weird and janky method, as I did not feel certain that the liquid had saturated all the way to the bottom of the tube. I did use a long metal poker (seen to the right) to prod and agitate deep into the Sonotube hoping this would remedy that concern. For both holes, I used my most rocky soil at the base of the Sonotube, which is what's recommended for drainage. 

This was my setup before pouring. As I said, I was doing this alone so having everything secured ahead of time was essential.

After removing the jigs. I'll have to saw off that piece of batten which is screwed in place from behind.

This side of the fence was very straight forward. Each cedar slat is 3.5" wide and I left 1/16" space between each. I used stainless, self drilling trim screws and kept it looking nice and tidy with a precise spacing.

I have only the smallest amount of the original wood left. I'm so glad to get it out of the garage and put to good use. I did have the foresight to purchase what I'll need to finish the project prior to the city shutting down. So slowly but surely I hope to be building those gates in the coming weeks.

Any thoughts? I'd love to hear from you.

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