Building a play structure for an adult

November 28, 2011

The local code was clear: if I confined the size of the building to 580 square feet, a concrete slab would do as a foundation. Because I had no idea of what getting a set of engineer’s drawings entailed, this do-it-yourself option looked good to me. 29 by 20 provided a useful hobby room, though Charlie insisted upon a twelve-foot ceiling to accommodate a full-height car hoist.

A year earlier we had started a play structure for a sixty year-old male child, and the workshop had taken shape nicely over the winter. So we knew the basics.

A succession of Charlie’s pals from Kingston poured the slab on a busy fall day.

In spring the walls went up. In real dollars, spruce lumber is cheaper now than at any time I recall. Most of what we used was also of remarkably high quality, evidence of a depressed lumber market. OSB sheeting is also cheap. We wore out one nail gun and replaced it with another.

I had the task of lifting the walls into place. For the workshop the previous year the panels were made of 2X4’s and only stood 9’ high. The old Massey Ferguson proved able to tip them up, sheeting and all, and place them with careful manoeuvres within the 24 by 24 footprint. But these panels were made of 2X6’s and stood 12’ 3” tall. And the floor was only 19’ wide. How could we do it?

Over the winter Peter Myers had welded some lifting hooks onto the upper corners of the bucket of the more modern 35 hp. TAFE tractor, so I determined to use its loader for the task. Nine feet in lift height didn’t seem a problem, so I drilled holes at that level in a couple of studs in each panel, then threaded short chains through them before the sheeting went on.

For each panel lying on the concrete floor I would get the bucket as close as possible to the top, hook on the chains, then lift and curl the bucket as the wall came up. This took the slack out of the chains and allowed the panels to balance pretty well on their suspension points 3/4 of the way up. With the help of an assistant I was able to fit the panels neatly over the anchor bolts in the concrete. The TAFE’s power steering let me make some pretty designs in shredded rubber on the fresh gray floor, but to my disappointment they faded soon after.

The trusses were much lighter than those for the workshop, so placing them on the high walls proved easier than I had hoped. Martin and Charlie practically did this operation by themselves.

A year before I had let a salesman talk me into ¾” OSB sheeting for the roof of the workshop. The sheets proved too heavy for one man to handle, so we went with the lighter size for this roof. The modest 5:12 pitch also made work on the roof less fraught with anxiety than on the ostentatious 8:12 of my workshop. My two sessions of shingle surfing* had left Bet a nervous wreck as soon as I touched a ladder and Charlie determined to keep me off his roof.

But an additional trailer-load of scaffold enabled us to work efficiently around the new building. A pair of white oak forks bolted to the bucket of the TAFE did the heavy lifting.

We had three large windows left over from the workshop project and I later found a fourth on Kijiji. Martin and Charlie insisted on doing the soffits and fascia on their own. All I got to do was cut the aluminum on my ancient radial arm saw.

Fibreglass insulation is expensive. A heavy vapour barrier is essential. Sheetrock is cheap. These stages of construction go quickly.

Last week Charlie and Rob showed up to lay the bricks for the stove pedestal. For safety reasons a wood stove must be at least 18” above the floor in a room which may house a motor vehicle. Gas fumes are heavier than air. At the end of the evening they proudly lifted the stove into place on their masterpiece. The next day Bet and I hooked up the stove pipes.

So then it came down to me to close in the gaping 10 X 9 entrance. For my workshop I had found a mahogany door left over from a building project in Lakefield. To justify its price I resolved to build a copy of it for another building, so I ordered the shaper cutters, laid in a supply of hemlock (what they use for frames on a “solid mahogany” door) and glued up and beveled twenty-four black walnut panels. Though it’s strong and resistant to rot, in quality local hemlock ranges from excellent to unusable, so it’s wise to buy lots of material for something like this.

Kevin at Commercial Door Systems of Kingston took an interest in the project and set me up with a kit of heavy duty hardware. Yesterday we completed the assembly, so now Charlie has a weatherproof play structure for his automotive activities. Next step: assemble the hydraulic hoist.



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