The Unsuccessful Install part 2

Realizing that this post was going to hit on Christmas morning, I contemplated postponing the part 2 post, and instead share some thoughts on this years shopping experience.  Fear of being labeled a Steve Harvey brought me to my senses.  We’ll give the readers what they want with the exciting conclusion of the unsuccessful install, next week I’ll regal with tales of shopping woes.

It is appropriate to take a moment to honor and praise our Lord and Savior, Jesus as we celebrate his birth.  It’s a great time leave the commercialization behind, gather with family, reflect on our blessings and look forward with hope.




Part 1(repeated in Italic)

Because of the nature of our work, Installs are a necessary evil of what we do. I suppose if one were to have an unreasonably optimistic view of life they might think that the installs were the best part of the job – shall we say “the culmination of weeks of hard work!’


There are two absolutes with installations-

*they add excitement

*they add stress.

Not too long ago we had a large stair project, two stories of stair, using all reclaimed barnwood of substance. It was a large project with large lumber, heavy and bulky! The stair consisted of one main 12″ x 12″ beam that ran vertically from the basement all the way to the second floor. The beam was 25′ long, a tremendous specimen of the wood used in yesteryear. The 4″ x 16″ stringers, wraping around the beam, were all mortised into that beam. Four-inch thick treads were also all mortised into the stringers. The stair was U shaped with two landings. The landings were of the same materials and method – timber framed with mortise and tenon joinery, the landings were integral to the stair – not built in place. It was very substantial construction. While it was basically a simple stair by plan, due to size, scale, materials used, and construction methods – it was anything but simple. Any slight error or miscalculation would result in catastrophy.

I brought in a young gun to help on this one! Youthful enthusiasm, energy and muscle were just what was needed. Sam worked like an old man, thought like a teenager, and apparently partied like like someone that got paid a lot more than I thought I was paying. It was three weeks into the project before I learned that he had gone to college for woodworking. Imagine that! Despite his shortcomings, his young man muscle (5’8″ and 135 pounds of screaming force!) and desire to learn kept us going. We finished the challenging main build on schedule and were ready for the install!

One long day, a tractor, a Sam, as well as a few tie down straps, canvas tarp and we were loaded up. An early morning wake up, a 2 1/2 hr drive and we were on site before the contractor and crew.

So far so good, I prophesied!

The job site was the usual confusion. I had made three calls and untold number of texts over the past week to make sure the GC and the on site contractor knew the exact day and time to expect us, how much extra on-site labor would be needed and how long I expected the job to take. I could have been a UFO zapped from the grey clouds above, entered the job site with thin green legs an extra large head, and there would have been less surprise that I was there!

Ted the GC was nowhere to be found, ‘can’t make it until the heavy lift…I mean can’t make it for at least four hours’. Frank, the carpenter in charge, was late. No one knew where he was, but finally, with three calls from the helper – he was reported to be on the way.

Yippie – such efficiency!


Frank pulled in with a cloud of dust kicking. It appears they didn’t realize I would be there on the exact day and time I had told them for the last two weeks. “if only they’d a known!” The main egress, where we could easily back directly to the door, had scaffolding and a pile of building materials blocking the way. We would have to go through the back.

“Just back down the road, take the road to the left. Just make sure to avoid the wet area, veer left hard to go through the orchard and watch the huge woodchuck hole behind the light colored grass. Otherwise no problems.” Frank deadpanned in a serious tone.

I got near the orchard, there was a driveway running beside the orchard. No need to risk running down these expensive saplings, I thought. Just as I got up to speed, I ran directly into a woodchuck hole. More like an enormous sink hole. I was absolutely sure both my front and back bumpers bottomed out simultaneously. Even as Sam’s face ricocheted off the windshield, I couldn’t risk slowing down as the ground was wet and soft. Only a little blood from the nose, he was fine!

We somehow keep all axels intact, I saw the yellow grass and aimed wide right of it. Hammer down. Unfortunately the yellow area turned out to be a large horseshoe area – and I was in the shoe. Yellow chunks of sod the size of Ted’s head kicked up from all four tires. The more I pushed the accelerator the slower I went. We kept inching, closer,closer to the dark green spot just ahead.

We succumbed to the yellow grass. It must have been a good show, as Frank pulled around on the dark green grass, backed up and ready to hook on before we got out of our truck.

With Frank’s help we pulled onto high ground and got back as close to the building as possible, so as to make carrying the tons of parts and sections doable. I’m sure we were within a full football field. Maybe. I couldn’t help but notice the scaffolding that blocked the main entrance. The trailer could have been backed up TO THE DOOR!

We shook a full 2″ of sod and mud off the canvas tarp and got to unloading. The good news was plenty of help. The inside of the large structure was all framed with old, large reclaimed barn beams. The crew was situated to lift and carry. The largest of the four sections still labored them.. it was HEAVY. It was a little after normal lunch time, but we were unloaded- tools organized, ready to install.

The portion of the job I expected to be the worst, standing the 25′ beam upright, went quickly and, dare I say, almost effortless. The remaining sections, anything but effortless. The largest section went to the basement, Frank and crew hooked a set of chain falls on to lower it down. “Out of all the huge beams I’ve placed, I’ve never handled anything so heavy and awkward!” Frank gasped. Hmmm…think I mentioned how it might go. Not only did we have to lift all the sections up and in, but also had to guide them into the mortised beam. A push here, a push there, a number of ratchet straps, a few well placed blows with a large sledge hammer, another push here, another push there, a lot of muscle and about five hours latter – Main sections of the stair were up and in! That meant it was time call it a day!

Sam and I got settled in to our motel room and took a quick shower. It was dark and we were both exhausted, needing nourishment. As we left to find an eatery I noticed the thick layer of mud and sod over my entire truck- it did garner a lot of interesting looks from passerby’s.

As we settled in for a slice of pizza and beer Sam recounted the day.

“What a terrible day! Everyone got there late, we got stuck! All that lifting – holy crap- it went together so hard!!”

“Sam” I explained “We got unstuck, had a lot of help with all the lifting, and in the end, the stair FITS!”

“That’s a really GREAT day!!”


Merry Christmas everyone – until next year, take five!

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