Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another Fine Mess

No sooner did the hurricane finished the nor'easter blew in, dumping 4 inches of damp snow all over the place. Yes, we are talking about inconvenience snow here. The Bloody Long Island Railroad lost no time in making the most of the situation and canceled its post-hurricane minimalistic service 1 replacing it with a super-minimalistic service. All trains were canceled in favor of waiting around on freezing open-air platforms for hours at a time.

It was all very trying.

So I still had all the wreckage from the hurricane line around including some pieces of siding from the house, but now everything was covered in slushy snow. The only bright side was that I couldn't actually do any work on the house to fix any of the things that had broken off in the hurricane. Result!

Of course Mrs. Stevie is getting a little tired of not having a garden gate and having to lob the trash cans over the fence to get them from the back garden into the driveway, so I shall have to begin amateur carpentry on a grand scale in order to put it all again the way it was before hurricane Sandy blew through. Actually, with a little effort I might be able to make it better than it was.


I actually did get started on Veterans Day, although I didn't get very much done on account of the job suffering from the usual handyman annoyances: hiding tools, improvised skills, incompetence etc.

I decided to start work on the driveway part of the fence, the part that used to be a small gate, a freestanding post attached to the driveway by an inch thick pin set into the post and the driveway containing the shackles into which the gate bolts slid, and the larger eight-foot wide gate (used when we need to move really large things onto the patio, like a car).

The small gate had been ripped off the side of the house pulling the lag bolts fastening the gate post and hinges of the brick work, lead anchors and all. The freestanding post had split at the base, shattering the post and leaving only the pin firmly embedded in the concrete.

This pin was poking up at an angle owing to the fact that when I had originally placed it I had actually put the pin into the post first and then set the whole thing down onto wet concrete filling the socket into which an older post had been fitted, and in which it had rotted away because the water table was so high the old post was actually permanently immersed. The pin would either have to be straightened or removed. To this end I gave it a few blows with the sledgehammer, and the pin obliged me by adopting a very-near vertical stance without the concrete shattering.

Color me amazed.

My new plan would be to eschew the nice-looking structurally short-lived Cedar posts I had installed on all the other parts of the fence for the rather more sturdy (if more unattractive) pressure-treated pine posts are used on the stockade fencing at the rear of the house. Should these prove as ugly as I suspect they will I have a few ideas for disguising them as Cedar (but I'm getting ahead of myself).

I would strengthen the freestanding post by augmenting the pin-in-concrete construction of the previous post with an archway connecting it to the post on which the hinges to the small gate would be fastened, that post being screwed firmly into the brick wall of the house (hopefully more sturdily than the original was).

It took all morning to locate three fenceposts of suitable quality (two to become gate posts, one to be chopped up to form the arch which would be actually a half-octagon rather than a circular or elliptical arch proper), along with sundry fastening devices, metal sockets in which to seat fenceposts when they can't be buried, metal threaded rod to form the long bolts that would hold the gate post wall, and since I have the vague idea that I might be using my .22 caliber nail gun to fasten various pieces of metal to the concrete of the patio and/or the driveway, a container of 2 1/2 inch "ram" masonry nail loads along with a box of yellow (high power) cartridges with which to fire the nails into the concrete.

I decided to tackle the gate post on which the small gate would swing first, and drilled three holes into the brick work to take the threaded rod which would hold the post to the wall. Into these holes I placed a special kind of anchor (the lead ones no longer being legally available in New York) which consisted of a steel tube one end of which was threaded to accept the rod, the other having vertical slots cut in it which would be spread by driving a special tool into the anchor, depressing a pin held captive inside the anchor.

This process naturally cracked the bricks.

I then cut the poster size, and put a 22 1/2 degree bevel on the top to begin forming the arch. I had also decided to set the base of this post in a special socket made for the purpose, a metal construction which would hold the base of the post an inch off the ground which would require fastening to the concrete with a bolt if possible, or nails if not.

I had bought a bolt for the purpose pre-fitted with an expansion anchor similar to the ones used in the brick wall but which expanded as a result of tightening the nut at the end of the bolt. This required me to drill a half inch hole in the concrete to a depth of 2 1/2 inches. Naturally, I hit rebar at a depth of 2 inches, forcing me into the position of dismantling the special anchor and cutting down both the sleeve and the bolt to match the hole using my Dremmel tool, a carbide cutoff wheel-point and some class three words of power.

By some miracle, once the bolt was driven into the hole and the nut tightened down over the socket, it all lined up as I wanted it to and not - as is the usual case - in some completely unhelpful orientation requiring a lengthy and involved bodge, a dozen otherwise unnecessary tools and some class four words of power. To compensate for this, I screwed up the cutting of the metal rod forcing an unwanted trip to Home Despot in what was rapidly becoming the fading light of the closing day.

after this I finally got a clue and instead of trying to drill the holes in the post to match the slightly off-horizontal orientation of the anchors (the realities of drilling holes in a brick wall by hand being what they are) I simply screwed in oversize lengths of threaded rod, applied some professional strength construction adhesive in the probably vain hope that it would help prevent the anchors letting go and stop the brick splitting completely, and bent them until they were horizontal ones that were properly seated.

This made the job much simpler, and I was able to bolt the post to the wall just as the sun began to set and the unusually warm day began to freeze down. I trimmed off the rods using the Dremmel tool and ground the sharp edges down with another wheel-point before mounting the old gate to the post and finishing for the day.

It's quite underwhelming what can be achieved in only a day of exhausting work.

  1. one train each hour serving all stations between Penn Station New York and Ronkonkoma 2 if we were lucky
  2. Those poor bastards needing to go to Flatbush Avenue having to change at Jamaica (not the good one) and in the case of the eastbound trains having to fight for a place on an already overcrowded train

No comments: