When Do You Call A Day, A Day?

Or three days, rather? I struggle a bit, secretly, with deciding when or what is enough. The so-called eight-hour business day is very ingrained. Our contractors have typically started at 8:30 and quit around 3:30. When we started doing full days ourselves of physical labor, 3:30 was a very welcome stopping point — when the body is fatigued, you may be prone to mistakes or accidents.

Then there’s the task at hand… is it “done”? Did you get to all the things? Are you at a stopping point?

And what about the tools? Is it going to rain? It can take 30-40 minutes just to tidy the work area and stow the tools and cords.

It’s gotten easier. One builds a rhythm, and physical work informs the body, if you listen. We were done today at 4:30, in time to make a nice dinner. Done with what, you say? Follow….

We started Tuesday with the finished concrete footings under the porch.

While the cement cured I started stripping the siding for the full replacement of the window wall.

And the construction of a second temporary wall inside the porch, to help support the roof when the outer wall framing comes down.

The next day (yesterday) was largely taken with doctor and car servicing appointments, but in the late afternoon I started constructing the beam.

The first 16-foot pressure-treated 2×10.

By dusk I had assembled the first two layers (of three), alternately lapping a 16-footer with a 9-footer (the porch is 1 inch less than 25 feet long).

At this point I realized the finished beam was going to be, um, HARD to move, so we spent the evening talking about how we would tackle it in the morning. I decided to try to get the 2/3 beam closer into position, and add the third layer in situ.

This morning came and I banged together a stair-step of platforms, and shifted the beam up it by alternating ends.

There was much pacing back and forth, assessing, lifting, testing…

Once in this position, I added the third layer of board to the beam, and liberally nailed and screwed it.

From there the trick was to move it higher. It was too heavy to lift each end directly to the brackets I had prepared — even the incremental brackets. I could only lift one end a few inches at a time. And the brackets themselves had to be reinforced. Marsh suggested the Pyramids-of-Giza (or maybe Stonehenge) approach of piling great ziggurats of lumber to make secure platforms from which to move the beam higher.

Along the way we improvised all sorts of methods for ensuring the beam didn’t flip or fall, or if it did that it wouldn’t destroy itself or us.

First one end was high enough to apply a jack, and then install the first permanent 6×6 post…

…and then we moved the jack to the other end and put in the second post.

By the time we “called it a day,” we had all five new posts up on their footings, all the ad-hoc braces and struts put away, tools stowed, and the grade raked out. This felt like a major, major accomplishment, and a big prerequisite crossed off for the continuing work inside.