Posts Tagged ‘steel’

mystery solved

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Back to the deck. The other day, it was taken apart. And the findings? Tell us all about it, David…


So. Exploratory surgery has exposed the truth about the deck…

the deck wall has been removed




















Some is ugly… well, all of it is ugly. But we kind of knew that going in.

Insects had their way with the original deck and it’s apparent that in the early ’80s the deck was rebuilt. Unfortunately not by craftspeople, or in fact by carpenters. In any event, we will now repair what’s there as well as build it to the original ’70s design, as intended by architect Irving Haynes (click to biggify)…

architectural rendering of our house, circa ’70 | Haynes and Associates










Cantilevered. Which means we’ll be taking out the three spindly support posts currently there.

Our engineer provided us with drawings of an ideal situation (click to biggify)…

engineering drawing | deck, 04/02/12











The plan:

  • A pair of LVL beams (same as we used to support the living room floor/downstairs ceiling) will carry the deck load across the front of the house.
  • Two steel corners will tie all the wood together at the outside corners.
  • Two long steel straps bolted to each framing member they cross will support the outside corners by spreading the load across the sides of the house.
  • And with slight modification of the steel corner, we will proceed. After the building department gives us a permit, that is.


Once the framing is all sorted we’ll add some nice new decking, an affordable teak alternative called Garapa Gold. But that’s a story for another day.

In the meantime, everyone can see us from the street…

please don’t go out on the deck

path lighting decision

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

After much haggling back and forth over something as silly as angled or L-shaped path lights, David and I finally settled on one…

hinkley path light in titanium |















Does any of this really matter? Not much, no, but L-shaped it is. That’s the Atlantis 1518TT-LED by Hinkley Lighting. David turned his nose up at the Bronze finish. So I ordered the Titanium and Hematite finish samples from Hinkley. Not only were they FREE, they arrived just a few days later.

We looked at them against the granite (Titanium top, Hematite bottom)…

samples against granite




















Titanium is clearly more reflective. Hematite would blend into the background better, as I assumed.

Then we checked them against the galvanized steel we have on some of the steps, the veggie garden planter boxes and our steel cable railing…

samples against galvanized steel




















We’re not trying to match the galvanized, mind you. But the various finishes outside have to play friendly. Out back there’s also that rusty Corten steel drama queen of a fire pit/grill vying for your attention. So rather than have another dark finish nearby competing with the Phoenix, we settled on Titanium.

Done. Ordering!

how to walk on water?

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

It’s officially the first day of Spring! Which means it’s time to get the outdoor projects moving again. Tomorrow we’re meeting with Jim Egan of Land Design Associates for the first time since early December. Up for discussion: how to get across the koi pond.

Let me refresh your memory. This is where we left off with the pond in December, with walls in and the bottom tamped down…

the pond as we left it

This is the original plan for the pond, with “floating” steps across the water on both sections of the L…

the original plan for the koi pond

They’d look something like this only only slightly staggered and in granite planks rather than concrete…

Singleton Residence, Richard Neutra |

Singleton Residence, Richard Neutra |

But how the heck do you make that a reality? The Neutra pond looks like it has a concrete bottom. In which case it likely has concrete piers underneath the stepping stones for support, like this…

pond | steps on piers

Our pond will have a flexible EPDM liner, so piers won’t work. Intrusions into your liner = leaks.

So if we can’t support the stepping stones from below, we have to support them somehow across the width of the pond. You could attach them to a steel rail bridge, keeping in mind that you want the stones flush with the top of the wall…

pond | steps on rails

But that makes it difficult to stagger the steps as Jim did in the original drawing. There’s also some question about how many rails we’d require to carry the load and what the maximum overhang of the rock could be based on its flexural strength.

Floating steps are my first choice. But if they turn out to be too complicated or too expensive to make, I now have a third approach I could live with. While flipping through the pages of this amazing tome

True Life | Steven Harris Architects

I spied this bridge…

pond: a wooden bridge

As you can see, the wood planks are fixed to steel rails that are inset into the concrete, which in our case would be the granite cap that will top off our cinder block walls. No floating steps but still pretty minimal.

Love that look but the bridge wouldn’t necessarily have to be flush with the top of the wall. It could also rest on top of the stone cap. I’d be okay with that. I guess we’ll see what the consensus is tomorrow.

going off the rails…

Monday, September 20th, 2010

… on a crazy train. Thanks, Ozzy. So after weeks of waiting, the galvanized stainless steel cable railing finally went in on the back retaining wall today. Rhode Island Welding pulled up at 7:20 ready to rail. Here’s how it went down.

They drilled the holes for the railing posts…

drilling the holes

The railing arrived completely fabricated. They set the posts in place…

set in place

They added concrete to the holes…

concrete added

Threaded the cable through the pre-drilled holes…

threading the cable

They attached machine swaged fittings to the ends of the cables and tensioned the entire assembly to prevent sagging…

cable ends tensioned


railing as seen from below

Am mostly pleased. Wishing I had dictated squared posts so that we hadn’t ended up with round. Also wishing there were right angles and no curves…

a side view

Bah. Me being a cable railing snob I guess. What’s done is done. Moving on. The next project: patios!

modern benches at berkshire botanical

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Just spied on my recent getaway to the Berkshires: two drooltastic modern benches at Berkshire Botanical Garden

“baseball” bench at berkshire botanical garden

Designed by Douglas Thayer, “Baseball” (as this bench is curiously called) is made of reclaimed Greenheart, reclaimed Ipe and concrete. Looks like it could stand up to a New England Nor’easter. It’s a work of art you can sit on. Have I mentioned lately how much I love concrete?…

closeup on the concrete end piece

Underneath, there are two metal crosspieces… maybe steel?

view of the metal cross pieces underneath

Clearly seen through the wood planks…

view through the slats

No prices on his website. Dare I email him and find out how much such a piece might cost? I’m afraid.

Around the corner from Baseball sits this beauty…

another bench at berkshire botanical garden, same designer

Couldn’t locate a name or description for this one, but it’s obviously another creation by Thayer. Similar minimal aesthetic and concrete + wood design. The spots are raindrops, btw.

Here’s a closer look at the detail between the planks and on the concrete supports…

a look at the inset detail

detail closeup

There were lots of benches on display at Berkshire Botanical as part of their Garden Bench as Sculpture show, but those two were my favorites. Simple. Solid. Honest looking. According to their website, the show ends September 17:

info from Berkshire Botanical events calendar

august, undone

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

This month was a little disappointing. Lots of projects in the works but little actually finished. Or actually started. Let’s see…


We left off with David taking a weekend welding class in July with the intention of creating a bench for our entryway. Here’s where it stands…

steel legs, welded up but not done

Still to come: the sanding down of the welds for a smooth leg…

closeup of the weld

Also to come: the powder-coated finish. the wooden bench seat. and the satisfaction of being able to sit down and take off your muck boots at the door.


The railing for our retaining wall out back is still not a reality. We need to keep people from tumbling over that 7′ drop! Rhode Island Welding helped us with the galvanized steel raised veggie beds and stairs, so we talked to them about the railing….

cable railing discussion with Rhode Island Welding

Prior to measuring and drawing up what we wanted, there was much discussion about what kind of railing would work best here. David and I agree that we want something:

  • minimal to complement the simple lines of the house
  • you can see through, as we don’t want to block our view
  • that isn’t the star but fades into the background
  • that is obviously an accessory to the design of the house rather than something that looks like construction — meaning that if it’s solid wood, it begins to look like our wood siding and we don’t want to take away from the original envelope of the house
  • that we can use on our indoor stairway as well — both railings are within viewing distance of each other and should be similar

So several options were up for consideration…

glass |

glass |

Glass, my first choice. And ridiculously, prohibitively expensive. Damn. Definitely my top pick for indoors, as well. Not gonna happen.

cable |

cable |

Cable railing. Second choice. Much cheaper than glass but still pricey. A very clean look. Zoning regs are very clear on height, necessity of a top rail, distance between cables, etc., so there’s no budging on that. We looked at a lot of cable railing systems in order to find ways to cut costs. Basically comes down to quality and endurance, which is why we ultimately decided to have RI Welding make it right for us.

Also considered…

mesh | via flickr

mesh | via flickr

Galvanized steel mesh railing. Would still require the posts and top rail to be built by Rhode Island Welding (unless we went with wood supports and top rail) but the mesh would save us some cash — cable systems are pricey and cable system installation obviously takes longer. In the end, we decided the mesh grid just wasn’t something we wanted to repeat inside the house.

Wood. After looking at the cable railing price, we opened ourselves up to the possibilities of wood again… maybe slender, horizontal slats wouldn’t be too bad?  or even vertical?…

from apartment therapy |

from apartment therapy |

Something similar might be a good modern choice. But even a railing-height version would interrupt the view and force you to look at the fence. And it just wouldn’t work inside the house. So nix that. Cable railing it is!

Designs submitted to Rhode Island Welding. Fabrication in progress. Stay tuned.


So, the state of the stairs. The set in front, done except for the final addition of pea gravel…

front stairs need pea gravel to top off crushed stone

Back stairs? *sigh* Don’t ask.

When it’s all said and done, they’re supposed to look kinda like this…

gravel and steel steps by D-Crain |

gravel and steel steps by D-Crain |


The doors may be done but the insides of the storage closets aren’t yet outfitted for storing things. This is our current latching solution…

storage area lacks closure, heh heh

I seek closure. Before winter, please.


The paths are all dug…

one of our uphill paths

They pretty much look like that, with the dirt washing down the sides of the beds and into the paths every time it rains because none of the plants have grown in enough to hold the soil.

No point in adding pea gravel to the paths until I can solve the constant erosion issue that comes with having a slope. I’ll save the details for another post but suffice it to say that standard edging isn’t tall enough and gabions look like the right solution.


Close to the house, we still need to turn this…

buffer around house needs edging and beach pebbles

… into this — minus the concrete edging and fabulousness of an iconic modernist house, of course.

beach pebble buffer at Johnson House, Piere Koenig |

beach pebble buffer at Johnson House, Piere Koenig |

And make this…

path needs edging

… look a little more like this:

steel edging by Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture |

steel edging by Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture |

The 2′ buffer around the house needs edging and topping off with beach pebbles. In the past, we’ve gotten them through Stoneyard in Massachusetts. Their Mexican Beach Pebbles are dark, flat and the classic choice. Their New England pebbles, more irregular and frequently egg-shaped. Blech. In Rhody, Watson Mulch has a nice, small, tumbled pea gravel but their pebbles, not so much.

Have spent an embarrassing amount of time researching edging. Plastic and rubber, yuck. Stone, too pricey, too cottagey. Metal is by far the most minimal. Aluminum looks cheap and insubstantial to me — like it’ll crimp if you breathe on it wrong. Yes, have looked at all the brands out there at various price points and don’t like any of them. Decided since we have steel in the rest of our hardscape, maybe that’s the best choice. I’ll save details for another entry but the best contender so far is Border Guard — it even comes in galvanized steel so it would tie in with the rest of our hardscape. Sold.


I won’t waste your time repeating my patio wishes. Let’s just leave it at “it ain’t done yet.” We did, however, manage to meet with Tom Zilion of Madstone Concrete to discuss what all this vision might cost. He’s all about the nuances of finish and color…

overwhelmed by colors

Any color, including black. And yet we find ourselves drawn to the straight-forward grey…

you just can’t go wrong with classic grey

God, we’re boring. But it just makes the most sense when you want the house to be the hero, not the patio. Black would look amazing, but it gets hot in the sun. Not ideal for bare kiddie feet. We’re still discussing possibilities with Tom. He does beautiful work, so expect to hear more about it.

See what you missed while I was out? Nothing. Just project after project, and all of them Undone.

mmmmm, benchy

Saturday, July 24th, 2010
Semigood Rian RTA Bench |

Semigood Rian RTA Bench |

David’s taking the welding class at The Steel Yard this weekend. Thinking a bench similar to this minimal Rian RTA Bench by Semigood would be perfect just inside our door as a place to sit down and kick off your muddy shoes before you come up the stairs. Semigood makes a gorgeous wood version but I don’t think the woven seat makes sense with wet coats and boots.

RTA Cantilever Bench |

RTA Cantilever Bench |

Semigood’s lovely Cantilever Stool above? Not to be riffed on. Investment quality. Definitely one of those pieces you could pass down through the generations. In my dreams…

the last riser

Monday, July 12th, 2010

With grievous amounts of sweat and consternation…


David got it on this weekend and bolted in the last of the hot dip galvanized steel risers for the stairs that lead up to the veggie garden…

the veggie garden steps are in!

front view

YES!! Still the stairs of death and completely impassable until we backfill them with pea gravel, but that should happen soon. Our wicked slope makes it look like the steps are crooked. Don’t worry, they’re squared up and it will all make sense when it’s done.

Easier to see how it starts to come together if you step back a little. See how the steps match the galvanized veggie beds?

view from across the street

Now picture it with the patchy grass filled in and a lovely espaliered asian pear across that long, empty concrete retaining wall surface. Perty.

grill porn

Friday, July 9th, 2010

The Phoenix! Picked up yesterday, our new grill/firepit is sitting in its temporary spot on the gravel as we await a patio build. Thought I’d share shots of it because, frankly, the two existing pictures on your site suck, Wittus.

Why not show it off for the true beauty it is? Surely you can hire someone who takes better shots than I did. Here it is in all its increasingly rusticated glory…

it’s here! it’s here!

full view of the back

A slender 25″ W x 20″ D x 74″ H and 220 lbs. Does not come with cup holders, thank gawd, although it does come with Stay Cool stainless steel grill rack handles…

view from below

ooh, phoenixy!

from another angle

The angle on the walls is very similar to the angle on the house…

nice echo of the house angles

And the lines echo our vertical wood siding…

an echo of the house’s vertical siding

A closeup on the detail on the lip of the chimney…

view of the top lip detail

The grill rack is made of stainless steel 5mm rods. Slits in the curved steel wall allow you to adjust the grill rack height….

the grill can be repositioned

The bar across the back locks the grill pan in place…

shot of the curved rear detail

grill pan attachment detail

Pull out the bar and you can remove the pan…

a look at the pan with the grilling surface removed

Like so…

with the bar removed, the pan pulls right out

pan removed

Ooh, and here’s a bonus not mentioned on the Wittus website: also functions as a cat cave!

and it’s also a cat cave!

glamour shot

Why we’ve been ogling this grill/firepit for the last few years:

  • The strong angles echo the modern architecture of the house
  • Multi-functional and multi-seasonal… works as both a charcoal grill and a wood-fired pit
  • The tall chimney is supposed to funnel smoke up and away… we’ll test this out and confirm
  • When not in use, it looks like art… and if something is going to take up valuable space in your smallish entertaining space, shouldn’t it be something you want to look at?
  • Brushed Corten steel, an awesome thing to touch… we share an undying love for it

Thanks Joe and David for lugging that sexy thing home. My, my, what the neighbors must think of us now!

thanks to joe and david

my love burns hot for you, baby

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Better late than never (I hope), David’s Father’s Day present just arrived: the Wittus Phoenix. A 250-lb hunk of Corten steel. Part grill. Part fire pit. Part sculpture…

wittus phoenix grill |

wittus phoenix grill |

I see s’mores in our future. Yum. Photos to come.