Notes from Windward: #62

The Permit

     It isn't every day that the County Building Department gets a request for a permit to build a castle. Well, actually it isn't any day since castle construction took a big down turn back when cannons were invented, but for our sake, the guys down at the building department were willing to overlook that. They did ask if they could use it for paint ball fights :-)

      There's a list of criteria that determine whether a given project needs a permit. For example, it the construction is more than 144 square feet in size, if it's more than $1,500 in materials, if it involves a platform that's more than 30 inches above ground level or if it's going to be a public use structure, you need a permit. And so, I drew up a series of drawings detailing the various structural parts of the castle, and applied for the permit.

     In record time, I got the call to come in and pick up the permit. The process went quickly probably because it's the fall and there's not much construction getting started, or perhaps because it was a more entertaining project that just another in the endless stream of three-bedroom, two-bath houses that they usually have to grind their way through.

     Whatever the reason for the speed, I'm delighted to relate that we have our permit, and that the construction process is officially underway.

Walt checking the two rows of holes dug to support the platform

     Actually, we started digging holes last week since I was very confident about the placement locations for the support poles for the platform, and that part of the work involved digging ten holes eighteen inches wide and thirty inches deep in dry, hard ground. We have had a little bit of rain but it's been a dry fall, and once you go down six inches, it's hard going.

     The solution we've developed to that problem involves using water and time to ease our way. After digging the first six inches, we just fill the hole up with water and come back the next day. By then, the bottom of the hole has turned to mud, and it's simple enough to dig out another six inches, refill the hole with water and repeat as necessary until you get to the depth you want. Since we had time to wait while the permit application was being reviewed, we weren't in a hurry anyway.

     Lots of folks resent having to go through the permit process, but I don't at all since it covers our organizational butt in a number of ways. No matter how smart someone may be about the things they know, they can be amazingly dense about other things. My favorite definition for the phrase "low bidder" is "the construction company that's trying to figure out what they left out." It's something that happens all too often with even the best of intentions.

     Since I'm the one who's going to look like a complete fool if some structure we build doesn't stand the load, I'm very happy to have the gang at the Building Department check my work, run the numbers and tell me where things need to be beefed up. And if something unfortunate should happen, then at least we did the right thing and let the pros call the shots on the structural details.

     In this case, the key change they made was to increase the number of horizontal supports under the platform. That sure seems reasonable since the platform is going to be supporting heavy fighters some nine feet in the air, and the deck and safety rails need to be rock solid.

Construction Phase One - Pouring the pads --- Notes from Windward, Vol. 62