July 14, 2024


Built General Tough

A screwball home improvement caper

Wood screws from the old deck. Who has the last laugh now, suckers? Photo: Mitch Teich

With great fanfare, the UPS truck delivered the sawhorse brackets this week.  This was a surprise to me, as I was not expecting any sawhorse brackets, but as I got the package off the porch, my wife said, “Oh, I bet those are the sawhorse brackets.”

I’m fifty-two years old, and not only have I never owned sawhorse brackets, but I believe this morning marks the first time I have ever typed the words “sawhorse brackets.”  And now I’ve typed them five times.

We ordered sawhorse brackets (there’s the sixth) because we are building a new deck.  Although it will not be a shock to learn, given that it was my wife who ordered the sawhorse brackets (seven!), that I am not heading up this project.  When the other kids were taking shop and other practical classes in high school, I was co-authoring a story in Advanced Composition about the only two baseball teams to survive the apocalypse, playing a never-ending game, in front of no one, as society came to an end.  It may have been set in 2020.

My father-in-law is coming to town in a few weeks, and he and my wife will be doing the vast majority of the labor.  But in preparation, he’s asked us to do a little reconnaissance – namely, investigating what lies beneath the various deck boards that have been decomposing over the years.  This requires removing some of the 85,000 wood screws that the original deck builders put in, in the hopes that it would discourage future owners of the house of removing their masterpiece.

Despite her general handiness and willingness to wade into projects like this, my wife is not a huge fan of power tools.  And that’s fine, because until last week, our collection of power tools consisted of one friendly cordless drill just powerful enough to drill small holes in drywall to hang pictures.  The wood screws in our deck were cackling in anticipation of using such a tool for this job.  So I went out and acquired a rechargeable impact driver, and instantly the hairs on my chest grew another inch.  Because despite the fact that sarcastic comments are my major contribution to home improvement projects, I appreciate the efficiency of a good power tool.

So with marching orders (inspect the joists!), I dutifully set out to remove the deck boards closest to the house, and immediately stripped the heads of the first three screws.  Fortunately, I had plenty of sarcastic comments handy – plus the expertise of my NCPR colleague, Bill, who came by with his impact driver and – more importantly – the appropriate bits, and within no time, we were inspecting joists.  And they looked good – much better than the deck boards, in fact. 

And Bill left, and – newly empowered – I kept removing boards, with the premise that it was worth inspecting what was under the other parts of the deck (more joists!).  But eventually, my wife suggested we probably want to be able to use the deck for a couple more weeks.  And so I got to reverse the impact driver and put the screws and the boards back in, secure in the knowledge that I will soon get to remove them again, at least if I remember to recharge the batteries.

Now what do I do with these sawhorse brackets?