The sun is shining, we know....sssh! Keep Mum! Don't say a word or it will start to piss down before the end of this sentence. As you know, we are in the process of creating a new roof for our shed, we have cleared the ground and leveled it, we have dug post holes and today, yes you guessed it we are putting in the posts.
Building a new roof on an existing structure that probably has settled down into the landscape over the last few years is never easy. Our posts are placed at 950mm (37.4 inches in shillings) away from the existing shed. You may think this is a simple plonk in the hole with some postcrete (hate the stuff because it never bloody works as well as it says it will) and walk away but then as you walk away the post will hit you in the backside. So, we have got some bracers to anchor onto the posts and the shed. This simply means: 2 x 1 inch wood and some screws, a pencil mark to show where 950mm ends and a set square to make sure we are, well, square. Which means in line with the shed.
We also have some hardcore to put in the holes, this is simply broken up concrete flags that have been dug out of the garden - just showing that nothing is wasted here. We have to be honest, concrete flags weigh a ton, even when broken up, so we simply can't be bothered taking them away. We simply invent projects to use them in, such as stone walls!
You will need a spirit level too, a spirit level does what it says on the tin, it gives you the level of your wood, whether it is straight but it doesn't raise spirits and you can't drink it before the pubs open. You need to make sure your posts are level, if your shed isn't then there's nothing that can be done about that, tell people that the shed is quirky. That will buy you sometime before a DIY bore or civil engineer simply tells everyone that your joinery skills are far from perfect. Think Full Monty. Think that line where one of them says, 'She can't weld for toffee'. That's what people will say about your wonky shed, but if you can dance who cares? If your posts are straight it will flummox them until you can crack open a spirit and level with them (we know, pun time).
We have three bracers, two for the width (950mm/37.4 inches) and one for the length (the long one is 2050mm/80.7 inches), that's the length of the shed. A tip about measuring, measure it once, then measure again, it's better to have checked twice than be a fool forever. We have a power drill that shoots the screws into the posts quickly and whilst on these bracers we can mess around with each post to get them level and plumb with the corners of the shed. It's called wiggle room. Use it. It won't improve your welding though, or your dancing.
That hardcore we have 'saved' is used in the bottom the post hole to stop the posts from moving but also as drainage to some extent. It packs the posts tight before we pour the concrete because the pouring of concrete can shift posts, even posts this thick. We mix the concrete the old fashioned way in a wheelbarrow with a deflating tire and a spade we don't like. These two post holes will take half a bag of cement and then throw in another two spade fulls for luck, and a bag and half of sand. Some water, and for goodness sake's keep turning it or else in the sun it will go off too quick and you'll have a wheelbarrow with a flat tyre and a concrete overcoat. Andrew's Dad use to add detergent to such small projects, supposedly it stops the concrete from cracking and gives you longer to work it. This prevents your concrete from going solid too quick, after which your wheelbarrow will literally sleep with the fishes. You want to mix the cement and sand whilst it is dry, mix it until it becomes a wheelbarrow of greyness and no sand can be seen, then you add water by making a 'well' with your spade, just a hole so you can see the bottom of the wheelbarrow and then fill this well with water and work the dry mix into it. Keep chopping down with the spade, like making little furrows of grey. It's best, unless you're good at it, to add a little water and often, you want to go a consistency somewhere around cake mix meets thick mud. It should feel silky as you work it rather than grainy.
You want to then get it into your post holes one spadeful at a time, working it around the posts, you can use a piece of wood to do this and the idea is to knock any air pockets out of the holes by pushing the concrete down. This is called 'tamping'. Your wheelbarrow will be full, so it's best to mix the concrete as close to the job as possible, so it can be poured as quickly as possible. Hot sun is not a friend of concrete, neither is rain, frankly how it has become a wonder material in the UK is beyond us, we're not known for our lack of rain.
After you have used your entire wheelbarrow, and you will do if you followed the size of holes we stated yesterday, take a building trowel (looks like a kite welded to a handle and it can dance if you know how to wield one) and smooth off the concrete in the holes. It should be about 25mm (1 inch) below the surface of the ground. Remember that we are laying a brick path, so the end of these posts when finished will be 580mm (approximately 23 inches) below the final surface. Next comes the roof struts and the altering of the pitch of this roof.