Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 23 (4/21)

No work on Wednesday due to other activities, and Thursday was packed too – but after I got home and put the kids to bed, I wanted to at least get in a little bit of work, even though it was almost dark.

I had the monkey bars assembled, so I went ahead and attached them to the playset.

This picture was taken the next day but shows the monkey bars. They just drill in to the playset and then there are stakes that have to be rotated and put in the ground (and then bolted to the base of the A-beam.

The only tricky part was trying to get them level. Since we did not level out the ground before we started (though our ground is what someone from The Princess Bride might call “mostly” level), it’s always an adventure. Especially since we had dug and lowered the ground somewhat to get the main clubhouse set and level.

Day 23 time: 1.0 hours
Total time: 40.0 hours
Mistakes made: 0 today (17 total)
Steps completed: 81-82 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 15 (4/13)

After getting in a few hours on Saturday after the rain, I did not work on Sunday as usual and then was rained out on Monday. Tuesday we had van troubles and I was not in the mood to continue playset work, so it was Wednesday before I was able to get back into things.

My co-worker Geoff and I had agreed to work again on Monday, but as mentioned earlier, rain. We seem to have a knack for scheduling work days during monsoons. But Wednesday looked like a good day and we were able to get started a bit after work.

First order of business was fixing the bolt hole that was not lining up. We drilled an extra hole and secured the post with bolts.

The next few steps were putting in some of the wall boards to enclose the playset. Here’s Geoff attempting to secure the first vertical board.

That was when we realized Mistake #1. The holes in the vertical board did not line up with the horizontal board. So we moved the horizontal board down to line up with a different board and secured it.

Then we realized that vertical board did not go there (Mistake #2), so we unscrewed it and moved it to where it belongs. Then when we got here, we realized that our horizontal board was right in the first place (Mistake #3), so we had to fix that.

Here you can see the extra holes

And finally, a few shots of where we ended up for the day.

We ended up stopping for the day because the next step we needed to do required 1″ wood screws, which we could not find. It was getting dark though so I decided to stop and look for it the next day when it was light out.

Day 11 time: 5 hours (2.5 hours * 2 people)
Total time: 27.5 hours
Mistakes made: 3 today (10 total)
Steps completed: 42-53 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 11 (4/9)

Saturday was a very rainy day. Yup, it pretty much rained ALL DAY. It finally tapered off in the late afternoon, so I was able to work a bit on the playset. So last time you may remember that there was a bit of a problem on Step 32.

This bolt was not lining up. It’s a thick piece of wood that gets hex bolted in to perpendicular boards in 3 places. The ones on either end lined up perfectly, but the hole for the bolt in the middle was off slightly. Now that I got a better look at it, it looked like the only option was going to be to drill a matching hole. I was a little leery to do this just because you never know what that might affect several steps down the road, but after inspection, it seemed like the best option. I’m not counting that as a mistake (by me), because I can not see what I could have done that would have averted the problem.

Progress was going rather quickly – these steps were pretty easy to understand and pretty easy to do. I was getting into a good rhythm of getting the wood and fasteners for one page of instructions (usually 2-3 steps), take it back to the playset, and then install the boards, and go back.

Here’s a good example of what I’d like to see MORE of from the instructions

You may have to click to expand and see a larger picture, but in the bottom corner there’s a note indicating that on the P22 board, the holes are closer to the bottom of the board. See? Was that so hard?

Here’s a final shot of the day

Day 11 time: 1.5 hours
Total time: 22.5 hours
Mistakes made: 0 today (7 total)
Steps completed: 32-41 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 10 (4/8)

Friday night promised to be another good day for playset building. Weather was going to cooperate, and Carolyn was going to take a kid to soccer, leaving me free to continue work.

As I mentioned last time, work for today was going to be up on the top level of the clubhouse. And of course, there’s no ladder or any other means to get up there until Step 74, so there was a lot of pulling myself up and jumping down, to get more parts. For some reason, all my part fetchers were not in the mood to help :-)

For the most part, it hasn’t really been a problem that generally I have been doing this by myself. Today though it was a bit tricky in some parts.

That’s me trying to screw in both sides of a barrel nut :-) . I’m actually not sure I got that completely right – it’s not as snug as I’d like it but it’s okay for now and I’m going to revisit that a bit later.

Other than that, things went pretty well. Here’s the finished (for the evening) product

I stopped because a) it was getting dark (as you can see) and b) Step 32 was not working out right. There was a bolt that was not lining up with the bolt hole it was supposed to go in. I couldn’t really figure it out because c) did I mention it was getting dark, so I decided to give it a try next time.

Day 10 time: 2.5 hours
Total time: 21 hours
Mistakes made: 4
Steps completed: 25-31 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 9 (4/7)

They say it’s my birthday!! Doo doo doo doo doo duh doo!

But what could be more fun to do on your birthday than continue building a giant playset?!?!? I’m not sure.

Now that the playset is out in its “final resting place”, it is a little more challenging to get set up and put things away each day. Especially since my drill is not cordless :-(

First order of business was to continue working on the picnic. I knew that I would have a few hours and the weather forecast was pretty good, so I set the ambitious goal to get from Step 19 all the way up to 30.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck early on as I realized that something was not right.

I was trying to lay the boards for the top of the picnic table, which are supposed to lay crosswise across the support pieces near where my son is sitting. You can see the first three placed there, but if you look closely, the spot where the last two are supposed to go is blocked by a board sticking up.

Turns out that (once again), Leisure Time did not provide adequate instructions as to orientation of the boards, and I had that board flipped the wrong way. In fact, I was so annoyed with the instructions, I thought it was worth its own pic

You may need to click to see the detail, but there is the board (K14) in question. If you look closely, you can see that it does indicate that the hole on the top is closer to the top of the board than the hole on the bottom is to the bottom of the board. But again, would it have killed them to just call that out!!!

Luckily it wasn’t a big deal and I was able to just unbolt it, turn it around, and put it back in.

With the picnic table fully assembled, it was time for the inaugural snack!

After snack time, it was time to put the troops to work again.

They’re carrying the “fence” boards that go around two sides of the picnic table area. I got the one side on without a problem, but then see if you can spot the problem in this pic?

It’s kind of like a mobius strip or an MC Escher puzzle! :-) If you haven’t noticed, the top board is behind the post, and the bottom board is in front of the post. Which makes it kind of hard to level-ly attach the up and down posts. Again I was lucky that it wasn’t hard to figure out which board was wrong (the bottom one) nor was it difficult to take it out and put it where it belonged.

You have to space the boards out with a certain amount between each one, and all of my experience putting the balusters on our deck came in very handy here. I settled in to a rhythm pretty easily – measure it out, attach the tops, level the board, and attach it on the bottom. Every two or three, I measured my remaining space and adjusted accordingly. The reason for that is that if you’re even 1/4 inch off on each board, you don’t want to leave a huge (or tiny) gap between the last board and the edge. So by re-measuring every few boards, you can check and adjust your space if you need to. Nobody’s going to notice that one set of boards is 3″ apart instead of 3 1/8″, but they’ll definitely notice if all the boards are 3 1/8″ and the last set are only 2″ apart.

It was all looking good but then it started to rain, and this was a good stopping place, since the next step starts with the 2nd story of the clubhouse, so I called it a day.

Day 9 time: 2.5 hours
Total time: 18.5 hours
Mistakes made: 2 today (4 total)
Steps completed: 19-24 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 8 (4/6)

Things have been pretty busy over here. I was not able to work at all yesterday, and today I didn’t have much time after I took a kid to soccer practice. But I was actually pretty stoked to continue work, so as soon as I got home and put the kids to bed, I went out to “work”

The next steps are starting to put the picnic table together. So today I put the rail on, and then some of the supports and finally the seats. I actually managed to get 4 steps in today in just one hour. I figured if I can average 4 steps an hour, then it should take me only another 21 hours to finish :-)

Day 8 time: 1 hour
Total time: 16 hours
Mistakes made: 2
Steps completed: 15-18 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 6 (4/4)

Day 5 was Sunday aka a Day of Rest. So no work done until Monday (4/4/11). I had originally coordinated with my coworker Geoff to come over on Saturday. He is also building a playset this summer, so the thought was that we would swap labor – he’d help me on mine, and I’d help him with his. So originally he was going to come over on Saturday, but after I reviewed the progress from last week, I decided Saturday wasn’t a good day – I wanted to make sure that I knew a bit more of what I was doing before I brought in another person.

So upon checking schedules, Monday was the only day that worked for us, so we set that up. It seemed like it was going to work out perfectly since I was on Step 13, which was the step where we’d need to move it from its interim spot in the driveway back into the backyard, something that was clearly going to require (at least) two people. The tragedy in all this was the fact that when Monday dawned, it was scheduled for thunderstorms and heavy winds all day, with a 100% chance of precipitation :-( . And sure enough, skies were dark all day, with lots of rain and wind.

But by the time we got off work and over to the house, the rain had definitely calmed down. It was still drizzling a bit, but certainly nothing too terrible. First order of business was to carry it back into the back yard. There was some measuring and some visualization and Carolyn came out too to give her thoughts on where it should go. Once we settled on a spot, then we set to level the ground.

It took quite a bit of time actually – digging it out and checking level from every possible angle. Once we got it pretty close, we figured out that rather than picking the whole playset all the way up and moving it in order to dig around it – we could just lift up part of it and dig the dirt out. I’m sure Geoff must have volunteered at one point to “shoulder” the load…

Finally…. success!

Then came the real fun of what we would come to refer to as the “infamous” Step 13. I know I mentioned in an earlier post that it seemed like the technical writers were charged by the word – so many places it just seemed like an extra sentence or paragraph would have been SO useful. But Step 13 was so over the top that I felt the need to show you, in its entirety, the instructions.

First sentence – “time to position playset in permanent location and secure to ground”. Check – we did that and had it all nice and level. Now we get those 4 “Y41″ stakes and measure out 6″ from either side in the corners. Okay we did that, but then it starts talking about securing them to the baseboards with 1″ bolts – how can you possibly do that if they’re 6″ from the board? Geoff and I noodled on that one for a long time. Was there some other board involved? A longer bolt?

Plus who would want a stake sticking 3″ out of the ground inside the playset? We thought maybe the interior ones were supposed to be covered up by the “O5″ sandbox seat boards (shown in the bottom instruction picture), but what about the ones that were 6″ outside the playset on the other side? Talk about tripping hazard!

Finally we figured (and I THINK correctly) that the stakes were supposed to end up flush against the baseboards and the 6″ was only so you’d have some room / leverage to twist them down into the ground. So we marked the spots where the stakes were supposed to go

Then moved the playset a foot or so to the side, twisted the stakes into the ground (yay moist ground due to rain all day!), and moved the playset back into place.

But the next problem came on the other side. These bolts / nuts required access on both sides (one to drill in the bolt, and one to secure the nut on the other side so it didn’t just spin). But the other side was blocked by the picnic table floor boards (part of Step 11). So we had to remove those in order to secure the stakes on that side.

They were annoying too because they were VERY tight and hard to get out and then back on.

This whole step really made very little sense. There’s no mention of moving things 6″ before Step 13. Am I alone in wanting the playset to be in a specific spot in the yard, rather than just “over there somewhere”? Why would anyone start building the playset 6″ off of where they really wanted it to be? And would it have killed them to at least mention this whole 6″ move somewhere in the beginning of the instructions? And that’s not even mentioning the whole picnic table floor board fiasco.

In any case, I’m pretty sure we eventually got it right, and we managed to knock out Step 14 too before it got dark.

Day 6 time: 4.5 hours (2 1/4 hours * 2 people)
Total time: 15 hours
Mistakes made: 2
Steps completed: 13-14 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 4 (4/2)

Friday night it stormed pretty good, with some ice / hail thrown in for good measure. I worried as I lay in bed. I mean obviously the playset can’t be hidden from the elements forever, right? It is going to live outside after all! Still, we hadn’t sealed or stained it yet and I worried about it. Plus our carport is open on the side and I wondered how much rain would get in there on all the boards.

We had a pretty busy day lined up on Saturday (as usual) but I was able to go outside for a bit early in the morning to check things out. The assembled playset was a bit wet but not really worse for wear. Inside the carport though, quite a few of the boards were laying in puddles of water. I decided to move some of them around and prop up some of the wet ones so that at least they wouldn’t just sit in wet for awhile.

That picture is actually from the end of Saturday after we had used a fair number of pieces as well as cleaned out the garage and so I moved some of the pieces that were sitting in the “low-lying” parts into the garage. For much of the day, Carolyn was cleaning out the garage (with my occasional help) while I worked on the playset. We were joking about the Amazing Race, which is one of our favorite TV shows (okay well actually the only show we watch). We’ve already determined that to save the marriage that we must never go on TAR together, but all day Saturday we were making jokes like “In this roadblock, teams must choose between 2 Miller Saturday tasks – their choice: Clean the Garage… or Install the Playset”, etc. You know, because we’re “cool” like that!

So in my early inspection, as I looked at Step 7, I realized that I had made my first mistake.

You’ll probably have to click to enlarge the photo to see, but there’s a floor joist (H7!) that is supposed to go between the left and center posts. There are two holes drilled in the bottom board (H4) for screws to attach H7, but the holes are between the center and right – i.e. I have that H4 board flipped. Oddly enough, I managed to have BOTH boards flipped the wrong way. I didn’t have time to fix it in the morning, and while we were out, I tried to think of whether it would be possible to unbolt the boards and flip them or whether I’d need to just drill holes in the other side.

I didn’t want to have two extra holes in the board, so luckily I found that the board came unbolted pretty easily. I set my 9 year old assistant to the job!

The weather on the day would not seem to make up its mind. It would get cold, then warm, then rain, then stop, and at one point it rained while the sun was shining! Thankfully it never rained more than a drizzle, so I just kept on working – alternately putting my hood up, down, jacket off, on, etc.

The next few steps went well – after installing the floor joists (Step 7) and floor supports (Step 8), we moved on to the deck braces (Step 9). There are 8 deck braces (E11!), so I installed the first 4

Then I got cocky and started installing the next 4 on the other side. I pre-drilled my first hole and went to line it up, only to find that there was no corresponding holes on the other side to bolt in. Then I re-read the instructions and found that these deck braces were supposed to go on the other two sides for some reason. I’m sure it will be very clear why that is at some point in the process (around Step 57, perhaps?) . In any case, I have an extra hole now

Next it’s time to start putting the floor boards on the 2nd story. I specifically checked, and although it’s very early on that you start working on the upper floor, it is not until Step 74 (!) that you install the actual ladder to actually be able to REACH those floors … I don’t know if that’s a safety thing (they don’t want the ladder to go up before it’s all “safe” up there) or what, but it’s kind of annoying

Note the makeshift ladder I had to use to climb up there. My assistant was very helpful in putting all the screws in while I drilled them in – it was a definite time saver to not have to keep going back and forth to the screw bucket. We did notice that we had put a few of the boards in backwards, but luckily we noticed that before screwed them in. They didn’t line up with the rest of the boards over the floor joists – so we just turned them over and all was well.

One other annoying thing was that the corner posts for some reason (probably installer error) stick up a bit more than the side beams – so the floor boards on the edge stick up slightly higher than the rest of the floor. I’m not sure that there’s anything that can be done about that so hopefully it’s not a big deal.

After that, the final step of the day was installing the floor of what I believe is the picnic table area. Here are two of my assistants posing in front of the final product

Day 5 time: 5 hours
Total time: 10.5 hours
Mistakes made: 2
Steps completed: 7-12 (of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 3 (4/1)

Day 3 was another cold day. When I got home, I immediately set out to continue progress!

I had stored the first part of the playset underneath the carport to protect it from the elements, but obviously that was not going to be possible very much longer.

You can see the first section in the background behind me as i worked on Step 2, which is building a similar section to the first one.

Carolyn actually had a party to go to, so I had all the kids with me. Luckily the youngest went to bed early, so I just had the rest of them out here with me. She took the camera though, which is why there aren’t any more pictures of the evening’s work.

Steps 3-6 involve putting the sections from the first two steps together into the base of the clubhouse. Work went pretty well and I was able to complete up through Step 6

Day 3 time: 2 hours
Total time: 5.5 hours
Mistakes made: 0
Steps completed: 2-6 (of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 1 (3/30)

As we mentioned previously, Day 1 was Wednesday March 30th. The playset was delivered in the afternoon and my wife let me know while I was at work.

I know that the stereotype of these types of endeavors is that it’s a ton of work and not enjoyable at all. But at least at this point, I was really looking forward to it.

The kids and I often do these Build and Grow kids clinics at Lowe’s. They’re just free kits that let kids build various things out of wood. So we were just calling the playset “Dad’s Build and Grow” :-D

So I was pretty stoked to come home. Unfortunately, I was informed that there was a Toys R Us Birthday Gift “emergency”. So I had to take him down there which cut into my day time.

But when I got back, everyone was excited to start!

When I got home, I asked if there were “instructions” or anything and Carolyn said she didn’t know. An examination of the boxes indicated that the instructions were, oddly enough, in the box labeled “Instructions in this box”! The site said it came in 5 boxes, though it turned out that one of the “boxes” was just the slide. The other 4 boxes were chock full of wood (and fastening and other hardware)

The kids all know what the first step of any Build and Grow is – “make sure you have all the pieces!” So that’s what we started with. You can see us in the first picture all carrying piece “A1″.

We started out trying to find all the pieces in order (As, then B, etc.), but quickly found that to be difficult – each box had a packing list that did say which pieces were in which box, but within each box, they could be anywhere in the box, so it was hard to find where in the box a particular part would be.

So we decided to just take all the parts out of the boxes, organize them, and then inventory them after they were all organized and out of the boxes. When darkness fell, we had managed to empty out the first two boxes.

Day 1 time: 1.5 hours
Total time: 1.5 hours
Mistakes made: 0 (but can you feeel the foreshadowing?)