away from the civilizing influence
Thursday, August 26 2004
Our house is many things but more than anything else it is an embarrassment of riches; it has three and a half bathrooms, two guest rooms, an 800 square foot laboratory, two different offices used mostly by Gretchen, a two car garage, and a nascent shop. It also has two concrete slab entryways and two large decks, either one of which could comfortably support a dozen people. Despite all the outdoor surfaces, over the months I've gradually decided to build a third deck, a small one over the shop at the north end of the house, just outside the laboratory's single gable-end window. The nerdy justification for this deck was so I could install and maintain antennas, but a nerdy justification is really just a condensation nucleus for the raindrop of an idea to form around. As the plans developed, they mostly came to be about creating a place where I could host visitors who like to drink and smoke and watch the cars drive by on Dug Hill Road. It would be sort of like the balcony of my old Oberlin dorm, Harkness. (Mind you, nobody was ever supposed to go out on the Harkness balcony, but during the room lottery the balcony rooms - 209 and 210 - were always among the first to go - usually to people who smoked a lot of pot.)
My childhood friend Nathan VanHooser and I had sat out on the shop roof drinking beers before my wedding and I'd we'd been delighted by how remote it was from the rest of the house. I don't mean to sound like some sort of thick-necked pipe fitter, but it seemed like a ideal place for guys to get away from the civilizing influence of mixed company.
Today I started building the laboratory's new deck. My plan was to only make it six feet by ten feet, about the size of Gretchen's bedroom back in the Park Slope brownstone. The only tricky thing about the construction would be the support structure on the downhill side of the shop's roof. The shop is the only part of the house where the roof pitch is 25 degrees (everywhere else it is 45 degrees), so walking on this part of the roof isn't difficult. But making all the measurements resolve in a way that puts a vertical column over a sufficiently-load-bearing entity in the roof wasn't easy. There were so many variables involved that I was forced to make a couple of educated guesses, one being the six foot width of the deck. That ended up putting the support pillars almost in line with the wall of the house, though not quite (they ended up intruding out onto the overhang about an inch). My careful attempts to land the two pillars on top of rafters, on the other hand, failed miserably. I would have to reinforce the roof beneath them (but this would be easy because the reinforcing could depend on the strength of a wall).
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