Construction Journal Entry Week of 11/13/11

11/15-17/11 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I had a doctor's appointment in the morning and happened to run into Leonard Lee and Mary Ann in the clinic waiting room. I had a nice visit with them. Then I drove to the retirement home where Charles is living, which is on the way, and visited with Charles for a while.

I finally arrived at Camp Serendipity at 2:30. The drive over was beautiful with new snow in the pass. Bert and Ernie greeted me when I parked. After their hugs, we went up to the cabin where I got them some biscuits. I was pleased to see that there were no pack rat turds anywhere on the porch again. Maybe it's because it is late in the season, but I think those rodent repellers really are working.

I built a fire in the stove before I had my lunch. The late afternoon sun was brilliantly lighting up Dirtyface ridge behind the cabin so I walked around in the woods trying to get good views of it through the forest canopy. I tried to get some pictures of it but they didn't turn out.

While I was outside, I walked the trail through the sequoias and had a look at them. I removed a few leaves that had fallen on some of them and I noticed that there was a little snow on the ground around them. That area seems to get more snow than any other place on the property for some reason. The trees all looked good and I realized that this might be the last time I see them this year. I continued up to the springbox where I cleaned out the leaves that had accumulated.

Back inside the cabin, I built a scaffold using two concrete blocks, a short plank, and a bunch of small boards sitting on top of the drafting table in the utility room. This was to hold the cabinet up against the wall in order to fasten it.

When I talked to Terry last week, he had advised me to fasten the finished end panel to the cabinet before I hung it up on the wall. So I stood the cabinet on the opposite side and glued the end panel on so it would be dry the next day. I weighted it down with a smooth board and a concrete block.

Finally, before I quit for the day, I re-built my rock bucket exerciser. The five gallon bucket was full to the top with rocks that I had put in there, one each day, to increase the weight. My exercise is to lift the bucket high off the ground using a rope running through pulleys on the porch. I replaced the rope with a better one and added a second bucket. I loaded the second bucket with some big rocks of equal weight to those I removed from the old bucket. That way, I had a bucket full of smaller rocks left over that I can use in the future to add to the weight. And, with two buckets, there is room for more rocks. The goal is to have the buckets eventually outweigh me at which time I should be able to climb up a rope. It's working so far. I'm about half-way there.

On Wednesday morning, I raised the big utility room cabinet up on top of the scaffold I had built and proceeded to screw it to the log wall. After driving in quite a few screws, I noticed that the two doors on the cabinet were no longer in alignment. I got out a carpenter's square and checked the cabinet and discovered that the front face frame was not square even though the back of the cabinet was. This was a huge disappointment.

I called Terry to discuss this problem and also to place the new narrower bathroom cabinet on order and also to ask his advice on how many screws to use. I placed the order for the cabinet, got some good advice on screws, and then asked about the problem with the utility room cabinet.

Terry explained to me that it is common for amateur installers to warp a cabinet and get the very symptoms I was having. The solution is to shim behind the cabinet to make up for any deviations from a flat plane that the cabinet is attached to. The accuracy of the bubble level being viewed with my eyesight was evidently not good enough.

After hanging up with Terry, I carefully measured the front of the cabinet with tight diagonal strings, with a plumb bob, and by sighting. I was trying to determine which corners were out too far and which were in too far. That was not too hard to figure out. The corners that were in too far were opposite diagonal corners, which would logically have to be the case.

I removed the screws from those corners and loosened the screws in the middle. Then I shoved shims in those corners between the cabinet and the wall and tapped them in. Lo and behold as I tapped them in, the alignment of the front of the cabinet came back. The doors got closer to aligning and the corners got more square.

So I continued to tap the shims in until the cabinet was square, plumb, and level and the doors were lined back up. Then I fitted more shims behind the cabinet everywhere I had a screw and just snugged them up. Then I tightened all the screws back up and replaced the ones I had removed and the cabinet was mounted nice and straight. I should have been more humble in the video I made last week and not claimed the perfection that I was so proud of. I was happy and proud that the cabinet was finally hung, but it was past noon and the project had blown the entire morning.

The temperature outside was 22 degrees and by noon it had started snowing. The flakes were small so it didn't accumulate very fast. But after lunch I had the presence of mind to go down to the truck and trade my shoes for a pair of Sorel boots. There was only an inch on the ground at that time, but I wanted to be prepared just in case. I also carried the remainder of the firewood I had in a certain stack and carried it up to the back porch. I had stacked this wood on the upper roadway out away from the building because it had a lot of ants and bugs in it and I didn't want it up against the cabin in the summer. Since it was not under the eaves, I had covered it with a piece of Visqueen. I planned to use this wood up first and have it gone before the first snowfall. Since all the bugs were dormant now that the weather was freezing, it wouldn't matter to have the wood up on the porch until it got burned up.

Next I went to work on the smaller utility room cabinet. This one goes on a stud wall and I know those studs are very nearly perfectly plumb. (I am a little hesitant to call anything perfect after that last experience.) This one should be easy to hang and it should stay straight.

The problem was that I hadn't recorded exactly where the studs are. I had an accurate as-built scale drawing, but I couldn't get positions from that drawing accurately enough to tell me exactly where the studs are. I did a lot of measuring and fiddling around and decided on where I thought the studs were. I drilled a small test hole where I thought the stud was and drilled into empty space behind the drywall. Now I didn't know where the stud was at all.

I made a hook-like piece of wire and stuck it in the hole. Then I rotated the wire to see whether and where it ran into the stud. I thought I had it figured out and drilled a second hole. This too ran right into a hollow space. Now I was running out of ideas, and feeling pretty stupid.

Since there were electrical wires attached to some of the studs back there, including the 240 volt circuit for the dryer, I didn't want to be driving a screw into one of those wires. I decided I needed to know for sure where the studs are, so I cut a rectangular hole in the drywall big enough for me to see in with a flashlight.

That worked and I could see why I had been confused. I had scabbed a 2x4 onto the 2x6 stud to provide backing for the drywall on the opposite side. This was to make up for moving the wall next to the toilet to correct a framing error that the plumbers had pointed out to me. So my wire probe had hit the 2x4 but there was still a one inch air gap that my screw had gone into.

With the studs accurately located, I glued the rectangle of drywall back into the hole and screwed the cabinet to the wall. It came out very nice and I was happy to get those two cabinets hung even if it took a whole day.

On Thursday morning I was pleasantly awakened by the sound of snow sliding off the roof and plopping on the snowbank below. It had snowed 8 inches overnight. I was glad to have firewood stacked on the back porch so it was easy to get a fire started in the stove. It was very pleasant to have a cozy fire going and to see all the trees beautifully dressed in new snowfall. Winter is definitely my favorite time of year up at Camp Serendipity.

After breakfast and my exercises, I replaced the covers on the remaining switches and receptacles, except for two receptacle boxes that are only roughed in. Since I hadn't been careful in my installation of the electrical boxes, some of them were set back a quarter of an inch or so too deep. And one in the entry room was crooked with one side sticking out of the wall too far.

For the one that stuck out too far, I made a sheet metal clip that caught the back of the drywall and then bent over the edge of the box to hold it back flush with the drywall. That worked slick, except that I installed it while the circuit was energized and I accidentally zapped my screwdriver. It blew the breaker, which I reset with no problem, but it made a nick in one corner of the screwdriver. I ground it out with the grinder to almost restore it. I knew better but I thought I could get away with it.

On the receptacles and switches that were too far in, I sawed short sections of little plastic tubes that are on the inside of the doggie poop bags we use. I stuck these little sections behind the device and in front of the tabs on the boxes where the screws go. That brought the devices out flush with the drywall and made the covers fit nice and flush. More work to make up for my earlier carelessness and stupidity.

After admiring all the cover plates, which really make the walls look finished, I moved the extra cabinet, which is too wide, out of the bathroom and carried it up to the loft. It is a fairly heavy cabinet so it was sort of a chore getting it up the stairs, but I did it one step at a time. It's going to work out very well up there.

Next I put on my boots and went outside to shovel off the concrete staircase. It's fun to do when the snow is fresh and it's nice to have the stairs clear anyway. When I got to the bottom, I could see that the snowplow had run into my gate and knocked the concrete blocks off that I had attached to the end of the log as a counterweight. Fortunately nothing was damaged or broken but it was clear that I'd better take the gate down for the season.

I went back up to the cabin and got a scaffold frame, a come-along, and a short chain. I went back down and took down the gate log. Then I carried the frame, scaffold, and chain back up and got the two 1x2 wands and the cordless drill. I screwed one wand to the gate post and stuck the other in the snowbank at the end of the gate log. Then I used the drill to back the screws out a little that hold my street number sign to the tree. It was pretty tight and needed relaxing. I need to do this every year to accommodate the tree growth.

Then I went back in, had my lunch and left for home at 1:15. It was another fun week.

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