Saturday, 18 May 2013

Making a play structure for my little guy

I thought it might be fun to make a swing set, tower and slide for my little guy.  I found some plans here   It was a great start, especially for free (Thanks!).

A few changes I made to the plans:

  • I upgraded the joists from 2x4's to 2x6's,
  • Added a joist so they were on 16" centres.  I just thought that made sense from a structural point of view. 
  • Adding a few strengthening stuff here and there. 
  • Added a concrete strip footing, some would say overkill, I'm just like that. 
  • I didn't like the top cap of the railing over top of the slide, so I added a post beside the slide and will stop of the railing halfway across.
  • On the top frame which will hold the canopy, I added a 2x4 (for strength) beside the front/back 2x4d aligned with the wide axis down.  I just figured if my little guy will swing, it might be from there
  • I added a 4x4 beam which the swing beam will rest on.  I bolted the swing beam to the vertical column, and used a post to beam connector to attach the swing arm to the beam I added.  Note that I don't want the three swings, so I have some extra length for this.  Otherwise, you would need a longer beam.
  • I bolted through the two joists and 4x4 posts at the deck level.

1. -- Making the concrete forms

2. -- Digging out the dirt.  I want the concrete footing at below grade so no heads will bump on it.

3. -- Concrete poured, gotta put a big letter H in the concrete for history to know about our efforts!.  In the end, I mixed 8.1, 30 kg bags of concrete.  The footing is around 5' - 3" wide, for a 1.5" overhand (play structure frame is 5' x 5').  The inside dimension was too small, so I made extra concrete for no reason.  oh well.

4. -- ok, maybe this was overkill, but it was HOT.  I kept an old sheet moistened for the first 24 hours to keep the concrete moist in the heat.

5. -- Finished footing

6. -- Starting the structure.  Nothing too major here, posts, bolts, etc.  The bolts are countersunk so they don't stick out for safety reasons.

7. -- Framing, fasteners, etc.

8. -- Started the railings.

9. -- Railing done expect where slide will go.

10. -- A view with the extra post I added.  It's well blocked and bolted.  Bolts for strength.  Blocking for strength too, but also to give the decking support.

11. -- Final view for tonight.  I ended up getting the cedar 5/4 deck boards installed, but no photo.  Pizza was waiting and it was a long day.

12. -- Cedar 5/4 boards on! Notched nicely around the posts if I do say so myself.

13. -- A few seats for the sand box.

14. -- I bolted through the 4x4s and both joists at each corner, deck level.  I didn't have a drill bit long enough to make the entire hole, so I made this little jig so I could drill easily through both sides, no measuring.

 15.. -- Jig in action!  Worked really well.

16. -- Final state for the weekend.  The swings, slide, etc are all on order.  If you look at the front top 2x4 and compare it to the original plans, you'll see the extra piece I added.

17. -- Sand box full of sand.  I had 0.5 cubic yards delivered, and used maybe 0.4 yards.

18. -- Getting some action.  Now we can't wait until the slide, swings and accessories arrive!

Have any online links or sources for other free play structure plans?  Leave a comment, I'd love to check them out.

The Back Porch Project of 2011

The back porch was due for re-doing.  Start the demo, deal with old footings, non level, nothing 90, you get it.


1. -- Start the demo

2. -- Need a dumpster

3. -- Roof is supported, demo done.

4. -- Framing the rim joists.  I've had a lot of success with the epoxy bolts, so I went this approach again.  Really secure, and really easy.  Make sure you get a SD drill for the holes.  If you tack on the ledger board with tap cons, then drill the epoxy bolt holes through the board and wall, you can take the ledger down, build the entire frame and lift it on to the wall.

5. -- I built the frame in place.

6. -- PT Plywood makes a good subfloor

7. -- I used tongue and groove pine to keep the old look.  It's a pain, but for life span of the wood I treated the bottom, grooves and tongues.

8. -- Another view

9. -- The railings were made by mounting a wooden frame, then using v-board secured against the frame, finished with another frame to hold it in.  All cedar for looks.  Railings are cedar 2x4"s, made nice with a router

10. -- I'll have to dig for a final photo. That's it for now

11. -- Ok -- found the final photos!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Insulating the Crawl Space

Insulating the crawl space! Yeah!

I would say it made a difference, the kitchen floor was a little warmer.  Worth it I guess, but maybe I shouldn't have done it when it was so warm outside.

Basic process was add a vapour barrier, rigid foam the walls, tap it all up, seal gaps with spray foam, done.

1. -- Starting condition.  I got to dig dirt, level, find old hockey sticks, a dog bone or two (fluffy?)

2.  - Safety first! I was spraying spray foam, it stinks.

3. -- Rigid foam on the well.  Held on with tap cons I believe.

4.  Another view

5. -- Another view

6. -- That is the fun door I got to crawl in and out of.  I didn't know what I find under there, so you'll see my health and safety rope.  It was tied to my waist and my spotter was "nearby".  There were a few people home, so at least the strength would be there to pull me out.

 7. -- Taking a break

8. -- One of the final photos, spray foamed, tapes, etc.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Front Porch

The front porch was seriously in need of re-doing.  Actually, the inspector said "wow, I can't believe this thing is still standing".  I think he was little alarmist, but it was rotting in places and no longer level, so it was time.

You can skip the photos and see the 2 minute youtube video.  I used a camera on a tri pod, set to take photos each 5 minutes (I think).  Here is there video: 

Original design, pre permit.  In the end, we dropped a footing since we only have 3 support columns, there was a double ledger, and I had to add blocking underneath each column so the 4x4's had a minimum 3" bearing surface. Mostly everything else was completed as per the 3D drawing below.  I also made some fancy CAD plans and such.  The permit department was quite happy with the level of detail.

Now for some photos.

1. The before 

2.  Building the beam to support the roof.  I started with 4x6, but when raising the roof it had waaay too much flex, so we settled on a 6x6 beam which was much better.

3.  Beam up, ready to finish the demolition

4.  Demo done.  We learned that the original beams were set in pockets in the wall.  Bigger yet, we learned that the roof isn't tied into the structure at the house, it was a piece of lumber sitting on the brick veneer.  Ouch.  Also, the original posts were hollow pine boxes but I learned later that this style of columns was quite common in the past.

5.  Here we are filling in holes in the foundation.  The original beams were set right into the wall, but we were not re-using the beam pockets. 

6.  Around now, we got a little worried about wind, vibration, etc knocking over the shoring jack.  It's more supported on the vulnerable side.

6.  Excavation to 6 feet below grade for footings.  I think code was 5.5, but people in know recommended.    With a backhoe on-site is was quite easy.

7.  Remember that the roof was only supported on the brick veneer?  We added some small footings to 6 feet against the foundation and tied the concrete to the foundation with large lag bolts / lead shields.  Finally, added columns against the wall.  This wasn't part of my original design, so I called the inspector and said "this is what I'm doing, unless you have an issue, I'm proceeding this afternoon".  I didn't get any call back.  In the photo, the square form is for rear posts, the sono tube is for the front column.

8.  We hired a concrete truck, very nice not to mix that by hand. 

9.  Here you can see the sono tubes cut off to the final elevation I wanted.  

10.  I used a double 2x12 ledger board, attached using 12" galvanized threaded rods.  We drilled the bolt pattern through the two 2x12's, then using one of the boards, tacked it to the foundation with tapcons, and advanced the holes further into the concrete.  We cleaned out the holes using a compressor  epoxied the bolts in and wow, they were strong.  What was nice about this approach was that we built the frame, then just lifted it onto the wall.  Frame below.

11.  The main beam was built (4x12 beam), then the frame lifted on.  

12.   Here is the rear of the frame, supported on the post and the foundation via bolts.  For those wondering, I needed the additional concrete footing and post against the wall b/c of code.  Because the roof was only supported on the bricks, and I needed a post, I poured that additional footsing.  The City permit department and inspectors don't approve columns without a concrete footing beneath.    We added joist hangers, ties, etc once the frame was on the wall.  There were also 3" PT deck screws  for each joist to rim joist connection.

13.  Starting the deck.  3/4" PT Plywood.  4x4 posts are up at the front of the porch.

14.  This was a small test to start seeing how the skirting would come together.

15.  Pouring a small concrete landing for steps.

16.  We used tongue and groove pine.  To hopefully help them last longer, they were pre-treated with a water proof stain.

17.  It's really starting to come together.  The skirting was all hand made.  It took weeks.  Really, construction was 1 week total, the finishing took the time.  For the skirting, I cut cedar fence boards, rounded all vertical edges with a router, then started constructing.

18.  Closer and closer to being done.  You can see the back posts added now.

19.  The railings are half done as well.  The pickets are 1x1 cedar.  Pocket screwed fasten the top railing to the posts so you can't see any screws on the top railing.  The top railing is also cedar, routed into a nice profile.

20.  The afters!

21.  The 4x4 columns where boxed with cedar to make them look more substantial.  I used cedar fence boards, and mitered the long edges at 45 degrees to get a nice box around the column.  You can see on the right a set of black hinges in the skirting.  I made a small storage area for the garden hose, sand/salt in the winter, sprinkler, etc.  Cedar boxes are the columns were held together with PL Premium and finishing nails.  Actually, PL Premium and nails were also used for the skirting.