Archives July 2017

Stairs and Dock Progress

I’ve continued building the stairs and railing at the lake house. This past weekend, I added roughly 25 additional feet of railing.


I’ve also added cross-pieces parallel to the top railing, which makes it look better aesthetically and also adds additional structural integrity.


It’s been really hot and humid the past several weeks in southern Wisconsin, which has made this pretty exhausting work. Each weekend I’ve hauled over a ton of wood and concrete (plus buckets of water for mixing the concrete) up and down the hill (often I have to carry wood down the hill, measure it, carry it back up, cut it, and then carry it back down to be installed). It’s definitely made cocktails on the beach at the end of the day on weekends taste even better!


More updates will follow as this project progresses over the next few weeks. Also, we have finalized the proposal for the dock with Deano Docks, and it has been submitted to the manufacturer, Hewitt, for fabrication, with the goal of having it installed by the second week of August. We are going with a floating dock that uses Hewitt’s Thru-Flow decking.



Lastly, because of all of these ongoing projects at the lake house, I’ve decided to call in the professional excavators to complete the Hardin Access Pipeline. I had started doing the excavation work myself, but in the end it was going to take such a huge amount of time this summer that I don’t have. I am still planning on doing all of the plumbing work in the guest house itself, but the outdoor plumbing component will be handled by the pros.

Stairs to Lake Wisconsin

The new lake house is generally in very good condition for a house that has had a single owner since 1973. However, the stairs that lead from the house down to the lake have seen better days. Down by the water, they are in pretty good shape:


However, the closer to the house you get, the rougher the stairs (and especially the railing) get. Part of the stairs do not have railing at all. Therefore, I have started building new railing (and eventually new steps). I’m using treated cedar 4×4’s and 2×4’s for the wood (and no-mix concrete for post setting to anchor them into the ground), which were easily hauled up to the lake house in the F250.

I setup a work area near the truck, which primarily consisted of my miter saw and table. I used a miter saw instead of a table saw because it made the angled cuts required on both the posts and the railing easy.



After cutting the posts, I used a shovel to dig the post holes, and then set the posts, making sure that they were level and at the same height on either side of the path down to the lake:



Once the first view posts were in, adding more posts was easier because there was a solid, concrete-anchored base to attach the subsequent railing to. Currently, I am still working my way down the path towards the lake, after making the first turn and heading downhill.



I will post more as the project continues. I am going to add at least one additional parallel level of railing below the top rail. My goal is to get the full railing and steps, which zig-zag down roughly 50 feet of bluff, done by the end of the summer to coincide with the installation of the dock.

Lake House Painting

When we bought the lake house, one of the appealing things about it was how much character it had. It had a really interesting shape, cool brick, and gorgeous wood on the interior. There weren’t many things that immediately needed to be changed, but one thing that did was the stark white paint on the cement exterior around the bottom of the house:


The white paint clashed with the house’s “blended into nature” appearance, and so I painted it a dark brown color that I think fits the house much better.

It was pretty easy to paint using a paint sprayer and a brush over the course of two days. I had never used a paint sprayer before, and after using it for this project it’s hard to imagine using anything else for large outdoor painting projects.


In addition to the house, I also painted the doors to the shed, which before had been a bright red color that didn’t really fit the rest of the shed and the house.


Lake House Air Conditioning

It’s been awhile between posts on this blog since I’ve been busy getting the lake house in gear, and was also out of the country in London and Paris for several weeks. One of the first projects I tackled this summer was setting up air conditioning in the lake house. The house does a pretty good job of staying cool without air conditioning because of all the tree cover, but for particularly hot days having air conditioning on the top floor is definitely necessary. The house is not ducted for central air, and is not really big enough to require it, so I purchased a large LG portable air conditioning unit.


All of the windows in the lake house are casement style windows, so installing a through-the-window unit wouldn’t work. The portable unit still needs to be vented outside, however, and couldn’t go through the window for the same reason that the through-the-window unit wouldn’t work. With that in mind, I simply cut a hole through the drywall and used a sledge hammer to break a hole through the brick.


I ran the exhaust tube through the hole, and plugged the empty space with great stuff:


After the great stuff set, I cut and installed trim around the interior hole. The trim matches the rest of the stained oak trim in the house, and combined with the well-designed AC unit itself, is anything but an eyesore.


On the outside of the house, I repaired the brick damage using concrete filler, and installed a vent cover:


The air conditioner does an excellent job of quietly cooling the top floor of the house when required, and was an easy install that I completed in a single weekend.

Zero Turn Mower

After my old mower started having problems, I took the opportunity to buy a zero turn mower to replace it. Originally, I set out to buy a Cub Cadet from the Home Depot, but after a snafu where they ended up not having any in stock, they sold me a John Deere Z345M for the same price as the Cub Cadet.


The zero turn takes some getting used to, especially on hills, but ultimately it is a much faster way to mow all of my land compared to the traditional riding mower. However, the beginning of my ownership of this particular mower has been pretty rough. First, it had issues starting, which ultimately ended up being due to the auto-choke being overtightened by the dealership that did the initial delivery and setup of the mower. After several days at the Middleton Power Center, they were able to fix it (thankfully at no charge due to the John Deere warranty). As soon as I got it home and started mowing, it hit a bump and one of the bolts sheered off, causing the deck to crash into the ground and carve a nasty gouge into my lawn. Ultimately, I replaced the bolt and the mower has been fairly stable since then, but it has been an inauspicious start.


I had the MPC repair the old mower as well, so that I can use it to deal with rough terrain that might potentially damage the new mower. Hopefully, the two mowers together will be the best of both worlds for tackling mowing my land.