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Finally:  a railing!

I could put it off no longer.  I just couldn't wait to get the railing up along the stairs and loft, since it was weighing heavily upon my conscience, but despite all that I still couldn't find the time and motivation to actually do it.

But last weekend, I got started on the job by beginning to prepare some of the lumber required for the work.  For months, I had had pine 4x4s and pine 2x4s in stock awaiting use on the railings and posts, but they needed to be sanded and shaped as necessary before installation.  With so much else going on, I hadn't managed to set the time aside to take care of this.  But I finally managed to sand up the post material (4x4), and then late Tuesday afternoon, I milled a nice 3/4" roundover edge on the 2x4 railing stock and sanded them smooth in preparation for installation.

With the basic pieces milled and sanded, I set aside Wednesday afternoon and evening to take care of the job.  I'm glad I set allowed as much time as I did, since between loading and transporting materials and tools from the shop to the house, getting set up, the installation, and the cleanup, the job took about 8 hours start to finish.  Well, "finish" is a loose term, but you'll see.

Building the railing wasn't overly difficult, beyond the challenge and mess of working in a finished house...and, with the open design of the stairs and loft, there was no way to attempt to contain the project or the mess. 

The dogs helped.  Chloe was always there to pick up my discarded bits of scrap for me.

I began by installing the 4x4 posts--6 in all.  I kept the posts overlong for trimming later--which turned out to be a messy process, but is really the only way to ensure that the posts are cut at the proper length and (on the stairs) angle.  I started with the Newell post at the base of the stairs, which needed to pass through the stair tread and then be secured to the framing beneath.  I removed the tread (which I had only tacked in place months ago with this in mind) and managed to install the post without too much trouble, though I split the stair stringer (the framing) with a lag bolt and had to make some repairs there. 

Then, I had to remove the second stair tread so that I could pass the first tread back down over the post, since the enclosed cutout for the post wouldn't allow enough room for the tread to pass by the overhang of the second tread.  No big deal.  On the first two treads, I counterbored for and installed screws to secure the tread, since we had had some creaking problems with only finish nails holding the treads in place.  Later, I planned to secure all the treads with screws (which counterbores will eventually be filled with plugs).


I continued with the top post on the stairs, which I lagged into the hefty support beam beneath the loft through the stair riser.  With these two posts in place, I then installed a third post halfway between, lagging into the stair riser and ensuring that the three posts aligned properly.

In similar manner I installed the posts around the loft.  These posts needed to be cut into the overhanging flooring, and then pass down beneath the floor and secured to the exterior of the loft beam.  Since they'd be exposed in this way, I cut a bevel on the bottom edge of the post to make them more attractive.  I hung the posts down 8" beneath the floor, which corresponded to the height of the stair risers.


Once I had all the posts installed, I measured for a 36" height and snapped a line with a chalk line on the stairs so that I could determine the proper angle and height for the cut.  This ended up being a mistake, though I don't know how else I would have done it.  I hadn't considered how much excess black chalk would end up falling out of the line and covering the still-unfinished stairs.  This made a huge mess that I had terrible difficulty cleaning up, as the chalk infiltrated the wood somewhat.    I found that a vacuum only spread it around, since the static from the vacuum made the chalk stick inside the end, and then simply drew black chalky lines around afterwards, enhancing--rather than reducing--the mess.  Lovely.

Eventually, some acetone, and later 409, helped reduce the gross mess.  I may need to lightly sand the stair treads before applying finish, though.  What an annoyance.

With the posts duly marked, I used a circular saw to cut them at the proper height--another hugely messy chore that threw dust and debris throughout the house.  But what else could I do?  I wished, for about the 12,322nd time, that I'd been able to complete this job before we moved in.  Alas, that was not to be, nor could it have been.  Still...

After thoroughly washing my black hands to ensure that I didn't mark up all the clean pine, I turned my attention to the railing.  Since I had a common post to accommodate both the angled stair rail and the horizontal loft rail, the stair railing had to butt into the edge of the post, not the top, with the horizontal rail extending over the top of the post.  After determining the proper angle, I cut off the end of the rail, which then butted cleanly into the post.  From there, installation was straightforward.  Because I didn't have stock long enough for the stair railing, I needed two shorter sections, which I  butted with a miter cut at the center post.

The two loft railing sections were one piece of stock each.  Since the longer piece came into the post at the top of the stairs at an angle, I marked the end for a couple cuts to allow it to end flush with the post sides, and then routed the newly-cut edges to match the smooth sides of the railing.  The end of the railing on the final side of the loft butted cleanly into the ceiling boards at a 45 angle.




Now, all that was left was cleanup--tools, scraps, dust, and detritus.  It took quite some time to vacuum up everything and c lean up the house, and I'll be dealing with residual dust for days.

Next:  some balusters.  I need to mill, sand, and pre-finish them before installation.  At least we have a railing, though!  The worst is over.


There are some changes afoot--not with us, but with our farmer neighbor.

We don't own everything that we see from the house, unfortunately.  The broad hayfield surrounding the house is mostly ours, but there's a portion far out that is owned by others. It's a long way away from us, but  because it's so open it seems closer than it is.  So changes to the character of that field have always been a concern for us, but we figured that there wouldn't likely be any changes for some years.

For the past couple weeks, we could hear--but not see--some loud machinery somewhere over yonder, and wondered actively what was going on.  Then, on Monday, it became clear that the noise was one of those serious tree harvesters, which saw and pluck up the trees about as effortlessly as cutting a lawn, along with a skidder to pull the trees out to the road somewhere.  So there's a clear cut area now at the far end of his field, near our far corner, and some more further down, which is much less visible from our house.  (fortunately).  The clear cut area is quite evident and has exposed a good-size hill that I didn't know was there.
We still don't know what's happening--some clearing for future house lots maybe?  We don't know.  It seems that the tree harvester must have been working its way out along the 1/2 mile long gravel road that services that field from the farmer's property.  But I'm tired of guessing, and it'll be OK whatever it is--and there's nothing we can do about it regardless.  Today, for the first time in weeks, there's no sign (sound or sight) of the equipment, so maybe it's over.  We can hope!  It's not too bad, if it stays the way it is.  I'd hate to see too many more trees come down.

In a way, it's sort of a relief to have something happening to the land beyond.  It's been an underlying source of worry and stress since buying our property.  While we're surprised by this turn of events, I think that it will be OK, and if it minimizes the farmer's presence (minimal already, but there in a sort of creepy way somehow) so much the better.  He's a real winner, that one.

It's clear that we will now focus efforts on planting trees, etc. to help begin screening out the back field that we don't own.  (We own as far as the snow-buried stone wall that runs through that lone white pine seen in the first photo; maybe you can see the demarcation, unless you've been here, in which case you already know.)  Worst-case scenario would involve a tall fence along the border, but we'll wait and see what happens.





Nothing's really changed since the last time, but I thought I'd post a few pictures of a very pretty snowstorm we had overnight--only 4-5", but one of those sticky snows that coat the trees.




Here are a couple more photos of the fireplace.  Bob came this morning to acid wash the stone, which definitely made a difference. Hopefully you can see some of the color variation in the pieces of stone.

We bought a screen and grate for the fireplace, but I couldn't lay my hands on the fireplace tools.  I thought they were in the attic in the barn, and I searched for them, but the fumes were strong from my morning's painting of a boat inside, and I was tired, so I called off the search after a time.



Bob got the rest of the stone for the fireplace wall installed today, and they also picked up the debris beneath the deck.  All that remains now is the hearth, which will also be the same stone.  It looks great!
In other news, I installed the shower head and controls in the upstairs shower, completing the work there.   The first test was a success!  The floor wasn't all I had hoped, however, with a few low spots that I hadn't noticed before.  This meant that the floor would hold a bit of water, rather than completely draining to the center.  Oh well.  One gets what one pays for!  I'll figure out something later.  For now, I am done with this bathroom!

Well, almost.  There's still the small matter of the outside trim on the shower opening.  To that end, I used the tile saw one last time to make all the required cuts on the bullnose tiles for the job, and made a count of how many more we needed, since we didn't have enough in stock for the job.  But I had enough to make all the cuts, so afterwards I cleaned up and packed up the tile saw.

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Photos and Text 2006-2015 by Timothy C. Lackey.  All Rights Reserved.

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