Be sure to check out our ads starting with Building Products Digest (BPD) April 2018. In this issue, BPD covers “Creating Porch Envy” on the cover and features an article on Top Treaters a Q&A with Industry Leaders on their strategies and challenges. Certainly, topics in which OZCO is both familiar with and ones we strive to keep up with.
Building Products Digest (BPD) has been providing the Lumber and Building Materials Industry with up to date and substantiated News & Strategies, including, articles, video, and other relevant content from thought leaders in the LBM community.
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Once you graduate from college, get married, and buy a home, the words “space” and “quest” take on a whole new meaning. When you’re single, Space Quest is the name of a B-movie that you riff on with your friends. When you’re married with kids it becomes something you do, an ongoing search for some private time to read, watch a movie, or even just think. Inside the home, this can be an impossible undertaking, and it’s why so many men and women retreat to garages and sewing rooms regardless of their automotive or tailoring skills.
But there is an area of the typical home with a lot of potential that is seldom looked to as a private retreat: the yard. With some thought and a little creativity, your yard can become a backyard retreat–a respite from the distractions of your home. We’ve got a few outdoor privacy ideas to get you started based on the size of your yard.
I’ve built many decks, and the hardest part is always digging the holes. It’s dirty work digging into the ground. In order to get enough space to ensure the posts are perfectly vertical, it’s normal to dig the hole wider than is strictly necessary for the post. When you add in the need to dig down past the frost line to keep the freezing ground from heaving the post up during winter, this can make for a big hole in the ground.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the methods of anchoring a post in the ground involve digging. Even foundations where you’re not actually putting a post into the ground require you to dig down deep in order to pour the concrete for a pier or footer. In fact, until recently there was no good way to build a deck without digging holes to anchor it unless you happened to be lucky enough to be building onto an existing concrete slab. The universal disdain for digging has not gone unnoticed, though, and there are now a couple of foundation systems that spare deck builders from the task of digging.
There are a few people I know of who have built privacy screens on their properties. One friend with a townhouse built a freestanding trellis in her backyard and added a privacy screen around the top. This simple modification created a relaxation area that was screened from the upper stories of the homes surrounding her backyard, and she frequently spends weekend afternoons reading there. One family member with a huge lot built a privacy screen on one side of her back patio in order to block the view from the highway bordering her property, and when rush hour was over she could simply step out from behind the screen and go back to enjoying the view of the lake across the highway. Finally, an old coworker who moved out to Arizona built a freestanding privacy screen across the rear of his house. It blocked the afternoon sun shining in through his screen doors and noticeably reduced his power bills.
A privacy screen is an adaptable structure that’s practical for all kinds of homes in all kinds of environments. A DIY privacy screen can also be customized to your personal style and makes an attractive addition to a yard whether it’s freestanding, part of a pergola, or built as an extension of a house. And since these structures are so simple, they make a good introduction to basic construction for beginners.
When I was nine years old, I was really eager to hang out at my friend Kevin’s house. The main reason was that he had a Super Nintendo. The second reason was that his 16-year-old neighbor was in the habit of sunbathing out on her parents’ backyard deck next door. This made Kevin the most popular boy in the neighborhood that summer, and we’d all think of excuses to go into the backyard. I’d gotten a football for my birthday that year, and this was the only time it got used regularly.
One day, I was disappointed to go over to Kevin’s house and find a new wooden privacy fence along that side of the backyard. In retrospect, I can’t blame the neighbors for wanting that extra bit of privacy. But the fence seemed like expensive overkill. Replacing sections of the railing along one edge with privacy railing panels would have sufficed. Privacy railing for decks is far cheaper than extra-tall privacy fencing. Of course, with a teenage daughter, a little protective overkill is understandable.
The family down the street from me has a Dalmation that’s an escape artist. This dog was once able to get over the wooden privacy fence in the backyard by climbing onto the trash cans and then leaping over the fence. This tendency earned him the nickname “circus dog,” and prompted his owners to start leaving their trash cans in the side yard. Undeterred, the dog then dug his way out of the backyard under the fence. To prevent this, my neighbors buried a corrugated plastic barrier next to the fence to keep the dog from digging. Finally, the dog resorted to ambush tactics. He would wait by the gate for someone to open it, and then make a mad dash for freedom. My neighbors finally cut two windows in their gate. One, up high, let them see if their dog was skulking behind the gate, and the other, down low, acted as a dog window in the fence, calming the dog by satisfying some of his desire to participate in the outside world. This seems to have stopped Houdini (Houdoggy?) for now.
The grates covering the windows in the gate did create a new problem, though. They’re sharp-looking, wrought iron-type hardware, and they’ve really emphasized how old the gate and the rest of the fence is. The family can’t afford a new fence right, and they don’t have much idea how to dress up a fence to make it look nicer. There are lots of ways to do this, though. We’ll look at a few of the most effective and least expensive methods.
“The posts for this sign were installed using a post anchor system called OZ-Posts, which are galvanized steel post anchors that you drive into the ground—without digging a hole. They are 3-ft. long and taper to a point, and are available at many building materials stores. You drive them in with an electric jackhammer using a special fitting on it. Then you insert a post into the OZ-Post and screw or bolt through it to secure the post. They come in 4×4, 6×6, 8×8 and 10×10 post sizes, for round or square posts. There are several advantages to this method over digging holes. First, since you drive the OZ-Post into the ground, you aren’t trying to backfill and pack dirt around the post, so they’re much more stable than a dug hole. They’re also removable—you can pry them right out of the ground and reposition the post. If they hit a rock on the way in, they usually deflect and you can continue driving them in. I can drive an OZ-Post right into frozen ground, too. In Vermont, it’s not uncommon to have two feet of frozen dirt to dig through in midwinter. It’s like two feet of concrete. To drive in the OZ-Posts, I use an electric jackhammer powered by a portable generator. Even in midwinter, I can install a sign with this system in 20 or 25 minutes. In frozen dirt, it can take four hours to dig two holes. The dirt comes out in chunks just like concrete. I’ve been using them for five or six years with no problems. They save a lot of time and work great. The only time I don’t use them is if the sign has a large surface area and is in a high wind area, or if the posts are over 8 feet above grade. I’ve often gone back to check the installation in the spring to see if the posts might be loose, but they’re always fine. I’ve had a couple in windy locations lean a bit over time, but I just pulled them out and reset them. It’s a very practical system.”
Doug Bergstrom, Xtreme Grafix, St. Albans, Vermont
www.signcraft.com (see the full article)| March/April 2018 | SignCraft 9
When I was in the Marines, a crimson signpost of two upright columns topped with a crossbar was a frequent sight. Usually, the unit’s sign and the names of its officers and senior non-commissioned officers swung from chains below the crossbar. It wasn’t until I was stationed in Okinawa that I learned where this came from. It’s called a torii, and it’s a type of gate used to mark the entrance to Shinto shrines in Japan. The military had taken a liking to the look of these and had begun using them wherever possible.
The ones outside unit headquarters caused me dread, usually because I only saw them when I was in trouble. The traditional ones, though, seemed like a lovely way to mark an entrance. When I finally bought my own home, I looked for a similar way to mark the entrance to my private sanctum. The idea that I hit upon was to build arbors over the gates to my backyard. They would lend a similar elegance to the threshold, and, hopefully, a similar feeling of leaving your worldly troubles behind as you cross through.
One of the best features a house can have is a stately old tree in the yard. Trees provide shade for a home, but more importantly, they shade the yard on a hot summer day and make it a joy to be outside. However, many of my friends have seen their stately old oaks, maples, and other trees get struck by lightning, contract diseases from unhygienic tree cutters, or just expire from any number of the factors that affect centenarians.
My friends, of course, plant new trees in place of the old ones. We are, after all, part of the generation that grew up with Carly Cardinal and the National Arbor Day Foundation spreading the word across the nation about trees. Where the old trees could shade an entire yard, though, the new trees will take some time to get to that height and lushness of foliage. But in the meantime, garden arbors with trellises can provide shade and a place for quicker-growing plants to grow.