Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Parging the Sauna Floor

The sauna floor has progressively gotten more and more disappointing.  Finally with J! there, and the weather growing colder, I decided to address it directly.

There were two main issues to my mind.

The first was that in the washing  up room, water tended to flow past my floor drain and pool at the opposite end of the room instead.  As distasteful as the notion was, the only proper solution that I could see was to bend to the will of gravity, rather than fight it.  As such, I purchased the fittings to install a third drain in the sauna (one in the steam room, and two in the washing up room).

Cursing inwardly and warning my friend J! that I would be crabby for the duration, I slipped on my musty overalls and squirmed under the sauna to investigate my situation.

In short order I managed to cut in a hole to access the floor where I wanted the drain, and installed it with surprisingly little fuss.  It was a bit of a challenge to cut and glue and set up the ABS pipe underneath the sauna, but I had experience with this from all my adventures during last winter.

A new drain was installed in about an hour - not bad!

This led me to the second sauna problem I had to address - the floor itself.

Initially I had thought of treating the sauna floor with a product known as "Stone Effects".  This is a sort of roll-on stone coating that looked to fit the bill perfectly.

While in the paint aisle, I happened upon another product called ReStore - a really thick, textured paint designed to go over wood and concrete, sealing it from the elements.  It was able to be applied in one or two coats and at a far better price point than the three step "Stone Effects" system.

At first it looked great, but after a short while, it began to flake off, especially in areas where the water was meant to flow.  Very annoying!  As time went on, it progressively became more and more gritty, until it was nearly impossible to clean, or walk on without feeling like you were just walking in dirt or (charitably) sand.  I took to wearing sandles at all times.

J! and his family graciously scraped off as much of this product as they could one day while I was away at work, but there were sections that stubbornly DID stay attached to the floor.

Donna and I then decided to apply Thompson's Water Seal to the entire surface, and then perhaps hide it away under some rubber or plastic mats.

While installing the new drain though, I realized that the old drains were now slightly raised above the surface of the floor (they were flush with the ReStore flooring, which had flaked away around the drains, leaving them noticeably higher than the surrounding floor).

With much struggle, I realized that removing and reinstalling them flush was going to be a large undertaking.  Instead, I finally decided to copy Grandpa's sauna - where he had mixed up a layer of concrete which he spread over all the wet areas of his building.

I headed off to town again (!) and returned the water seal product unopened, and left with six bags of parging mix.

There was still plenty of day left, so I mixed them up in the wheelbarrow and J! and I set to work.

He tackled the corner of the washing up room, while I headed straight into the steam room.  It was a good job - I tried not to be too fussed on making it appear totally flat, just as long as it was smooth and sloped generally towards the drain.

J! decided to take on a big portion of things, bigger than his bucket could handle.  This led to the incident.

After a short while, J!'s wife, L! came out to ask if she could try.  Eventually all the kids took a turn, and then L! finished off the job by parging herself into the door frame.

It has been drying out for two days now, and hasn't cracked during the drying process.  I will keep my fingers crossed that the floor is stable enough to keep it in one piece.  If not, I will likely have to patch it as needed, or perhaps silicone over any defects.  I also plan on looking into sealing the entire surface.

I can't express enough thanks to J! and L! for their help on this!  It has been a real blessing to have them here this summer - they will be sorely missed when they leave for warmer climes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Continuing on With the Cabin Porch

Well, it has been a slow progressing summer here for me, and so I'll just offer a quick apology for the length of time between posts.

As I finished up the main construction of the sauna porch, I began to move over to the cabin porch.  I followed very similar techniques and style, with a few significant differences due to the time frame of construction that took place on both buildings.

This also coinceded with me hosting my friend and his two daughters for an extended visit.  This is nice, as they are planning on moving out of the country this winter and we wanted to be sure that the kids could have a good chance to play together before they left for warmer climes.  It was nice that we were able to share the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition with them!

The past few weeks I have also been spending in southern Ontario with my family to help my brother celebrate his marriage to a beautiful and wonderful young lady.  That was heaps of fun, and it was nice to see Kenny even come around and participate as their ring-bearer!  We were so proud of him!

On the other hand, this trip also plagued me with more homesickness than I expected.  Maybe it was mostly for the foods I remember from Kitchener-Waterloo, or seeing how great a community it was and continues to become.  I also was feeling extremely run-down (possibly a side effect of some of my latest medications), which didn't help me to feel enthused about the work I had left to accomplish at the homestead before winter truly sets in.  Or, most likely of all, it was re-experiencing activities Kenny and I had done when he was little, and missing those times now that he is growing all too quickly into a young man.

This past labour-day weekend also didn't help with its reminders of the end of summer and back to school type of narrative :(.

In any case, things at the homestead do keep getting better month on month and year on year, so I shouldn't complain too much.

As for the porch on the cabin, I was able to make it about nine inches higher than on the sauna, which should help a bit with light and open-ness.

Also helping with opening things up was my work at clearing the trees around the cabin.  Judicious use of straps helped to ensure no serious mishaps with trees falling against my handiwork.

Before I left, I was able to get the rafters and most floor joists installed, so the next big job will be to strap the rafters and install the steel.

As with the sauna, the floor joists were on 12" centres so that I could feel more comfortable using true 1" rough cut boards for the decking.  The rafters were on 18" centres, hopefully that will be sufficient for the snow load they are due to experience.

There are a number of other jobs pending as well, hopefully my friend will have more free time to help out with those, and then perhaps my parents can visit us once before Christmas so that they can keep an eye on Kenny while Donna and I work on some of our other projects.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Building a Rustic Wraparound Porch on the Sauna

After thinking hard about various schemes for properly finishing the porch on the sauna, I think finally settled on something suitable.  One factor I wanted to keep in mind with this porch was to be sure that my style and technique could be later transferred to the cabin porch, to maintain consistency of aesthetics.

First up was guesstimating the location of my first post.  I opted for cedar posts with standard SPF construction for the remainder of the project.  I didn't (and don't) have much lumber saved up from the sawmill anymore, most of it had been used in other projects, or was an unsuitable size or dimension.  While I understand that SPF construction theoretically won't last as long, the two things I have going for me are the fact that the wood is under the cover of my solid porch roof, and the fact that with my mill, I should be able to cut replacements as I need them.  The cedar posts were a choice because it's difficult to find 4x4 in SPF, and we have a no-pressure treated wood policy here that so far we have been able to stick to.

I decided to go with the deck block concept for the porch supports as it was a nearly instant option from what I can see.  Level it, and then go.  I have opted to spend an extra $10 per post and have an adjustable bracket at the base of each post.  This gives me many inches of play before I have to actually lift the block and shim it (something I am prepared to do - mostly by sliding a patio stone under it).  Compared to pouring multiple concrete pads or piers, I feel that checking the porch for level on occasion and fixing any variation is much easier.  We'll see in the future.

With my first post up and clamped to a two by six board, I lag bolted into it from the side and began working outward from there.

Having the roof already on the porch presented a unique issue.  I would cut the posts shorter to ensure that they would fit up under the steel, but I wasn't too fussed on just how much space there was between them and the steel, so long as they got up past the existing rafters.

With the posts up, I placed another two by six "support" up tight underneath the porch rafters.  I lag bolted this into place as well, and put in a few temporary hurricane ties to hold it under the rafters without it tilting in or sliding sideways.

In an effort to save on the number of posts I needed to install, I made the (experimental) decision to not put a post directly in the corners of the porch.  I backed it off between three and four feet, convincing myself that the very corner of the porch roof doesn't have to support a large amount of weight, even in winter, because it isn't subject to any "run-off" from the main roof of the sauna.  I told myself that the cantilever effect of my two by six support beam will give enough stability to the corners, especially coming from two directions at once.

Cutting the corners, (literally!) worked well in practice.  While I did have to figure some extra 45 degree angles, and create an inventive pattern of floor joists, it also had a side benefit that I only realized later.  The low outside edge of the porch roof made stepping onto and off of the porch feel rather cramped.  By coming up in the corners already under the roof, the headroom was greatly expanded.

On the sauna I put in floor joists all the way around, an option I may not pursue on the cabin - I may hold off on finishing all areas of that porch to allow myself to mill more of the lumber myself.

With floor joists installed all around, I hit up my board pile and managed to work my way from the front entrance corner, across the front, down the side, and halfway along the back.  This gave me firm decking at the front stairs, in front of the entrance, in front of the stove, down the side where we hang laundry, and then across the back doors.

Next up will be transferring my techniques and knowledge to the main cabin!