Sunday, July 27, 2014

Come on Baby, Light my Fire...

Well, our summer plans are not going as expected.  This isn't going to be a very exciting story, and has nothing to do with DIY,  but it's my blog.  Suck it up, buttercup.

My Great Grandma, who lived a long life, passed away peacefully the end of June.  While this post, regrettably, is not about her life, I do feel I owe her homage to start with her story.  She was 102, had been the valedictorian of her class, and I don't think she wore a pair of pants once in her life.  She was still quite the thinker to the end and always very polite. I'm glad I was able to visit her this past fall.  She had nine great-great grandchildren, three of them my kids :)


This is were the story takes a turn.  Friday, June 27th, we were heading from New Hampshire to New York for her funeral.  We prefer traveling on rural road through southern Vermont to driving on highways in Massachusetts.   We don't have A/C in our car, so cool shady Vermont is much preferred to hot traffic jams.  Because it still gets quite hot, I've actually learned to keep a cooler with a few bags of ice open in the car to cool off the car a bit.  We keep soda cans in there to pass around the car to cool us off (and sometimes drink).  I'm getting way over detailed here....  back to the point.

We had a car inspection the next Monday, but we still looked over the engine and checked the oil level before we left.  I packed the typical stuff for a weekend trip.  Some of our nicer day clothes, funeral clothes, nap mats, pillows, diaper bag, kindle, laptop, etc.  I actually packed my bin of receipts from 2014 that I had been meaning to sort.  Plus I decided to grab the kids teddy bears, even though none of them requested I packed them. I grabbed a few DVD's for the car, particularly Frozen, which is both a hit with the kids, and would help to keep their mind on ice and not the heat :D

So, we're driving along, the kids are disappointed because the Frozen disk was left at home.  Whateve.  We'll survive with the others. Eve pull stuff out of bag, reads a little, feels a little queezy, and puts her stuff away (thank goodness).  I say no movies for a bit, until I'm sure that Eve's queezness subsides. The boys fall asleep, and I think Eve started nodding off. 

Just as we're pulling into the last NH town, Brattleboro, Eve alerts us to her tummy woes.  I sprinted back to her with an empty chip bag we had devoured in no time (don't judge - Late July Dude Ranch... so yummy!) I made it in time, and thankfully the carsickness mess was contained.  Jon had pulled off while I was back there, which landed us in 99 Restaurant.

So, we have some lunch, use the potties and are back on the road.  I actually moved a lot of stuff in the cabin to the back, just in case there's more car sickness.  About 15 minutes out we pass Marlboro, and start heading up hogback mountain, which is known for it's view overlooking 4 states.  At the time though, we had no idea where were yet, because we hadn't gotten to the mountain yet.


Anyway, as we're climbing, Jon says "The transaxle light is on".  I wasn't super alarmed, it's come on before going through Vermont, we've pulled over, let the car rest and the light stayed off for the rest of the trip.  We had our mechanics check it out after, and they hadn't seen anything wrong.  I suggest we pull over.



As we're pulling over though Jon makes me very alarmed, and says, "We're stuck in 1st gear."  And as we hit the shoulder, thick white smoke starts pouring out of our vents.

I yell to the kids to "Get out now!" and I open the door and notice the ground is still moving beneath my bare feet,   I guess Jon hadn't come to a stop yet.  Isaac, our youngest at 3 1/2,  sits behind me and can't undo his buckle by himself, so my first thought is to get him out (um, duh) and I pull on the handle, and it doesn't open.  That fraction of a second induced Mom-panic.  Either because the car is locked, or even just not in park, cause either way it won't let the doors open.  I flip back to my open door and hit unlock at the same time Jon had hit it.  Thank God (no really) our electrical was still working, and the doors unlocked.  That would be the last time I saw the front seat, where I had my purse, sandals, and kindle.  Not that I give it the tiniest thought.  I hadn't even noticed I was barefoot yet. 

At this point, I get Isaac out.  The big kids did as they were told and quickly got out of the car on Jon's side.  They started towards the back to meet up with me.  Jon says at this point he went glanced back up front and saw flames licking out under the hood next to the front window, on the passenger side.  He runs to meet up with us.  I recall seeing two cars stop across the road, people yelling to us (I don't know what?) and a motorcycle behind us stopping.  The motorcycle wouldn't do anything to stop, or even alert traffic to slow down around the bend, so I was really worried about leaving the kids.  However, the women on the motorcycle hopped down and helped take care of our kids, so I ran back to the car. 

A man from the other side of the road had ran over to the drivers side of the car and was yelling "I would get this carseats out if I could just figure out how to do it!"  I got to the passenger side sliding door and respond, very uncharacteristically "The seats don't matter, get back!"  I'm a carseat nut, so I'm glad I have one moment to show safety is still my top priority.  But, again in less than a second I thought, I'm standing next to it, I should take the seats out.  Even with shaky hands, my experience uninstalling our Britax seats a million times came in handy, and in less than 2 seconds I had Isaac's seat out.  Have I mentioned, I LOVE the our Britax Boulevards?  I do. I really do.  They're so easy to install, but also easy to uninstall.  As I was getting it out, I'm sure I was taking in a bit of smoke, but I hadn't really noticed much.

I bring it to the back of the car, and that would be the first time I noticed I didn't have shoes on.  My guess is at this point probably 30 seconds has elapsed since I jumped out?  At most a minute.  I get it a distance away, turn around and see Jon carrying Eli's seat.  He saw that I had grabbed Isaac's seat and followed suit.  I took it from him and carried to the other seat, grabbed both and brought them not too much further back and turned around to look at the car. 

This was the point I realized the whole car was going to burn before anything could be done.  I hadn't really had a chance to think about it before then.  Honestly, my normal "directive thoughts" were just random pulses at this point.  Never before has my mind worked like that.  Most of the time was mind was divided between thoughts of... no more like constant feelings of "Got to get back to the kids" and "What if the car explodes?" Any cognitive decisions were few and acted upon quickly whether good or bad.

Anyway, with the realization that it was all going to go, I set down the seats ran back to the car again. Jon had already opened the trunk and together we started pitching EVERYTHING into the ditch.  I stood up, leaned over the backseat and grabbed Eve's bag and a book that was laying on the seat.  I am SO glad Eve had picked up all her toys and put them back in her bag.  I saw her RECARO carseat and knew I didn't have time to pull it out.  I went back to the trunk and started indiscriminately throwing stuff into the ditch as far back as a I could. 

I made two errors in thinking. 

The first was hard to recall for a few minutes.  The laptop bag was taken out by me.  I recall thinking, "Oh, thank goodness we got this" but lost the thought pretty much instantly and threw it into the ditch just as I did eveything else.   I had a nagging feeling I was forgetting something.  This could have been compounded actually, but I'll get back to that.

The second erroneous thought was that I saw the green bin of 'car stuff' in the car when I did my final lookover that I got everything.  I didn't throw that in the ditch.   My guess is that I'm so used to knowing that it's not luggage and it typically stays in the whenever we unload the car.  I recall the thought "That stays in the car."  It's crazy how autopilot I was.

I closed the trunk, mostly out of habit, because I can just barely remember it, and that was it.  The last time I touched the car.  I ran back to the seats and brought them to Jon, the kids and the motorcycle couple.  I had a nagging feeling that I needed to move the stuff we saved.  I wanted to go back so bad, but the car was getting worse every minute.  I couldn't remember what it was I wanted to get so bad.

The ditch was kinda odd, that in some places it was quite low, like where our luggage was and in further back there was no ditch and it went straight up the mountain.  At this point, I sat down into the side of the mountain and started to... pout?  It wasn't crying, I didn't have tears, but I was in disbelief.  Some of the cars on the other side that had stopped right across from us moved on (which is a good idea), and Jon had borrowed someone's phone to call 911. 

He was very frustrated with the 911 person.  They wouldn't alert the fire department until they knew exactly where we were, and we had to find a local to tell us that we were just in front of hogshead mountain.  I recall hearing him say "It's the CAR ON FIRE."  He said it took a full minute before they even connected him to the fire department for him to repeat everything again.  Meanwhile, I got a hold of myself and decided to borrow the woman on the motorcycle, Pat's, cellphone to call my Mom.  She didn't pick up, but I wanted to be super clear on the recording, so I said twice that we were all safe before I said it was a fire.  No reason to make my Mom panic.


I got off the phone, and we decided to move back again.  This is about the time I realized the purse and kindle were in there.  I asked her to take a picture, which is the one above.  It's one of two pictures we have.  You can see that my open door is still open from when I jumped out. 

So this is the second thing I think was nagging at me.  There's something burning on the ground at the back.  I think it's our garbage bag of pillows.  I can't remember, but my guess is that I didn't want to throw our nice clean pillows in the ditch, and I meant to carry it with me.  They're the only thing that was in the trunk that we found almost no trace of later.  Oh well, I guess.


My Mom called Pat's phone as this picture was being taken, and I talked to my Mom briefly.  The first two tires popped, and I got off the phone to move back again.  A off duty utility worked had gotten out of his car, thrown on his neon vest, and was directing traffic (and us) to move back because of the increasing chance of explosion.  We decided to round the bend completely and have the mountain between us and the car.

All the while, we were keeping our humor.  Once my initial shock wore off, I realized there was nothing we do, so we resorted to jokes like, "at least we don't have to worry about passing inspection".  Eli even got on board and said "Anyone have any marshmallows?" The kids were concerned about our money and our stuff, but I reassured them that we had insurance just for this reason, and explained how insurance works ::sad face::.


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It was a little odd.  People had got out of their cars to film it or take pictures.  There were several cars now much closer to it then us, and now we could see the line of cars past the bend who were frustrated because of the unknown blockage, and getting out to look around the bend.  Frustration and curiosity were sort of replaced by sympathy.  Sort of.  It's odd to see your misery being something of interest.  My sister found the above picture on twitter.  We were probably a bit behind this car on the side.


Anyway, I should move the story along.  The utility worker gave us water, which was great because my throat was burning (smoke inhalation anyone?).  A women in an RV gave a pair of flipflops, which I was so grateful for.  The tires all blew, and that was pretty loud.  When the last tire blew, we were like. "Wait. Five? Oh the spare!"

The town police came, and didn't say much expect that the state police handles all this.  The state police came and talked to us only briefly.  Finally the fire trucks came.  There was an ambulance, I guess, but it never came to us, because they were stuck on the other side of the road.  Nothing crossed for a long time. 

I'll skip the boring part.  We were there over 3 hours.  The fire chief was concerned because of the amount of fuel in the tank.  The bugs bit us. Eli, who WILL NOT pee in the woods, was forced to pee on the side of the road om front of the line of traffic.  He screamed and screamed.  He was  also upset he didn't have hand sanitizer, but a firewomen came through with some, but not early enough to spare us some screaming.

Pat and her fellow (I'm not even sure they were a couple, but probably were), stayed with us for a long long time, and helped us manage the kids.  Having an interim 'grandma' was wonderful.  The kids could go on talking to her about everything, and she took interest in them, which is an awesome form of entertainment for them.  But eventually, they had to leave because it was getting dark and they, like everyone else on the NH side, was blocked from their destination because of us.

Speaking of that.  We found out later, my uncle, who was heading to the funeral, was in the line of cars, and turned around.  I wish we would have known. 



Anyway, after the couple left, the fire winding down.  We were allowed to load our car seats in a police cruiser and warm up in there, away from mosquito's.  He said it's not normally allowed, but since we were two hours from any taxi, they made an exception.  Once the fire was out and clean-up was underway, we asked the firepeople to recover our stuff, particularly the laptop and the bag with teddy bears.  That's when we found out how much of our 'saved stuff' was damaged. 

The entire laptop bag had caught fire.  This picture was taken later, but that metal thing poking out of the laptop there is our harddrive :(

The bag with the kids teddy bears had melted on one side, so we had warned them that there could be damage.  Isaac's teddy bear was in the middle, unharmed and dry so I gave it to him right away. Eve's bear was on the melted side and his hat was stuck to the bag, but the body seemed salvageable.  Eli's bear was on top, and had some soot and burn spots, but also seemed reparable.  I was able to show the big kids, who were in and out of tears at the news of damage, the surviving parts of their lovies by holding up the whole bag, and they felt much better.

So once we had gathered up our stuff, we loaded ourselves into a police car and our singed stuff into a firewomen's truck. We were dropped off at "Dot's Diner", who were more than accommodating for us.  The kids were hungry and full of energy, and they were given toys to play with and food (their meals were on the house).  Then we just waited until my Mom came, which was only a few minutes after we got there.  My step dad was just a few minutes behind her.  We ate our meals and it was time to figure out what to do from there.

If anyone actually made it this far down the post, I'd say I think it's gotten long enough, and it's time for bed... so I guess there will be a part II!

Monday, June 9, 2014

PVC Constructon Set

This idea has been brewing in my head for a long time.  My kids are often asking me for extra pieces of wood, or to build projects with them.  And while I do sometimes help them with their grand ideas, often it's too much time or materials to expend for a fleeting project.

 So this was my hope.  Give the kids some kid sized building materials they can build with.  So we made ourselves a PVC construction set. 

My husband talked me into these $12 PVC pipe cutters.  I would have just used a miter saw, and sanded off the burrs, but he wanted something easy.  Wow, these made it easy.  I'd call this one of the easiest DIY projects we've done.


The cutters are really cool too.  They 'rachet' so that it takes little bites at a time..  which means those levers can output a lot of force.  It's awesome. 

I hadn't even finished cutting all the pieces when they started building with it. After drilling a few holes in the pipes it was time to test it out.


 I realize now that I had only taken video when this thing was blasted high.  We have a lever we found in the hose section that attaches the hose to the PVC, so the kids can adjust the water to the height they want.

This was the second water structure.

 And the massive third, using all three of the drilled pieces.

This isn't much on the way of instruction, but we're learning as we go right now.  I'm really hoping for some big construction in our future.  Even on not so hot days :)

And for no other reason than remembering these frog days of summer, here's Eve and her friends.



 


Monday, March 24, 2014

Sealed Up

Story #1:  A friend of the family was moving and my Mom suggested we head over to thier garage sale.  They owned a day care and worked in construction, so what they would be selling was right up our ally.  We got a pretty good price on a water table for the kids... 


...and then these.  There were at least 3 sets of pump jacks  priced at $10 a pair.  We just spent $100 for ours, so we were completely kicking ourselves.  I had scoured craigslist but nothing came up.  Yet there these were.  Completely bummed, we bought a pair anyway.  Not that we needed another set, but because...

...they came with two of these too.  We skipped out on buying these braces originally because it would add another $40 to the cost of our system, and we didn't even know if they would work.


So despite feeling bummed that I missed out on a great deal, we cut our loses and bought all four (FOR $10. Ten Dollars!!).  I thought about buying a second set, just for more braces, but we could not have fit them in the car.  These were already riding shotgun with me.

(I even tried to buy the braces seperatly, telling the owner that I was just planning on reselling them, but he said no way, and that I wouldn't find a buyer for the jacks alone.  His loss I guess.  I already sold them and got my $10 back.)

Right.  Back to the real point.  So now armed with better tools, we raised our posts up.  Planning ahead, I had already made the posts tall enough to use on this side (28 feet, I think?).


Story #2 - I don't have any pictures here, but the plan was to set the posts up, as we did above, put the tall ladder up, and then climb the latter up and screw the posts to the wall.  Pretty obvious plan, right?  So, Jon and I set the ladder up together, and given that Jon is more expendable has longer arms,we decided Jon would climb the ladder.  I would support him by handing him the drill out the window and holding up the siding.

So Jon starts climbing the ladder, and I run up two flights of stairs with the drill.  I get there, look at the top of the ladder and he's not there.  Scanning downward I find him.  Two steps up.  Completely frozen.  I laughed my butt off.  He really doesn't like heights.

Alas,  I came back down and I climbed the ladder, which I will not lie, was a harrowing experience.  It shakes a lot, it's really high up, and for most of the climb you're at least10 feet away from any surface.  I can understand Jon's trepidation.  However, not to be outdone (and because my knees were shaking), Jon bravely installed the second post.

I have to say, I am so stinking glad we bought the braces.  It was SO much easier than the wood posts, especially on a tall ladder, and all we needed to do was lift up the siding once we got there.

So up the posts go, and on goes the pump jacks. We installed a second set of wood braces just above the garage door because the span was so long.  It really helped with the stability.  (Given that it's mid November, the sun sets super early.  Most of these pictures will be dark.  )


Now we were back in business to replace this window.  We didn't have much in the way of outdoor lighting, so for a time, we just brought our lamp out.  It worked surprisingly well (as long as the weather was good.


 Which is wasn't for a lot of this project.  Using the tops of the poles, we made ourselves a little awning though, and just carried on.  As long as it was just rain, and not snow I was okay.


There was still some rotted wood, but all in all, the amount of rot wasn't that bad.


Story #3: At some point in all this demo, a neighbor (whom I work with) stopped by and checked out our progress.  We had installed the other boys room window at that point, and looking at it, he asked "Is that an egress window?"

Yeah, I had no idea that was a code thing, and no it was not an egress window.  Given that I was hoping to use that same size window on this side, I wasn't too happy with myself.  As I mentioned in this post, we had gone with smaller windows.  Well, the money was already spent, but at least the second window wasn't in yet.  So we bought another window, this time egress, for this side.  We decided it would be best to still keep it 4" shorter than it was, and go with a larger width.... Which meant we had to move the entire side stud and header.

::sighs::

Once that was all torn out, it was time for framing, which although a lot harder than all the other jobs, was doable.



 Once ever thing was flashed and sealed it was time for the window install.  I hadn't snapped many pictures of the install before, but we always had to seal the edges with caulk.  A great job for a tall husband.

While he wrapped that up, I carried the window up from the basement.  Two flights of stairs!  I was dang proud of my tiny self.


And boom! The last window we planned on getting in before winter is in!


Like the other, there's still lots of work to do on both the outside and the inside, but at least our home doesn't have any more giant holes in it.





Sunday, March 23, 2014

Double Trouble

Continuing from our last post, we're still running around trying to get some windows in before winter hits.

We left off here, with our pump jacks all set up and the moldy wood removed.



There were two things I really regret about all of these windows we're install installations.

The first was our choice of windows.  We decided to go with Andersen 200 windows, because they were vinyl wrapped wood, they brand seemed reputable and the price was fair.  The drawback was that they only came in standard stock sizes.  Not one of our windows was a exact replacement size width-wise, which created a lot of extra work having to resize windows.  Plus, it meant we'd have to lose about 2" of sunlight.  If we had paided for Andersen 400 windows, which pretty much double the cost, we could have skipped some (not all) resizing of the windows.

The second was our choice of windows (wait, whaa...?).  The original windows upstairs were really low to the ground, which both seemed like an kid-climbing-on-the-sill issue, and a we-can't-have anything-under-the-window issue.  So we decided to intentionally order windows about 8" shorter than the previous windows.  We figured we'd have to replace every framing sill anyway.  However, blissfully unaware as we were, we had no idea what an 'egress' window was :(  I'll get to that in another post.  Thankfully this room has another egress window in it, but we'd like to replace that one for sure, because it's [hopefully] going to end up with a master bathroom built around it someday. 

Anyway, back to the first point, we have to bring the stud of this window in a little bit, so I did some sleuthing in the attic to see what I was working with.  Jaw drop.

 

There is no top plate.  At all.  All those studs in the attic, for the most part are the same studs in our walls. 

Found Here

 This is the type of framing I was expecting.  Thrown into a whole new world now, I've learned that is called 'platform framing' and this is called 'balloon framing', more info found here.
I'm sure we don't have any fireblocking up there

So this is what we get.  Which makes it a lot harder to make changes.

Back to the pictures.



And you'd think, for the first picture, that the window is between those two doubled up studs.  Nope.  It's kinda weird, but they're sort of just thrown in the middle of everything.  I have no idea.  Still, since we're bringing the size of this window in, we were able to frame to the inside and move on.

My stepdad came back to help us, and thanks to the platform, were able to get the window framed out pretty quickly.

 


We went a little uncovential with this one.  Once the studs were in, instead of filling in the back with plywood, we taped up the moisture barrier.  I knew it would be kinda tough to do at the end around the studs and then filled in with insulation.


One the plywood on the exterior was in, we finished up for the night with a fully framed window.


The next, part was sealing everything up with housewrap, which wasn't that hard with the scaffolding.  However, the hard part was actually removing the scaffolding supports so that the wrap could go wrap around to the inside of the window.  It was surprisingly hard, because we had to do it without using the scaffolding.  Additionally, we had to relocate the brace on the right because we had originally attached it where the window would need to go.  Thanks to the radon system, that was really hard to do and was surprisingly time consuming.


But once that was settled we were back on track to install our flashing (I've said it before, I love this stuff).


No pictures for the install as it was all hands on deck, with my parents helping out again.  The pump jacks worked great getting the window up there.  We ran into a little snag in that  we framed the width a little too small, so we actually didn't shim it at all.  I'm not [too] worried because everything measured great once in.


As with the other window, we left the siding a complete mess. For now, our focus was getting the windows in. You'll notice though, we have  smaller window now, and all the panels on the left side of the window are too short, which is a little concern.   We'll get that later.


 So here's we are on our plan for upgrading windows:

Eve's Room Dormer- Install
Eve's Room #2 - Doesn't exist yet, install next summer
Boy's Room #1 - Install
Boy's Room #2 - Install
Master Bedroom Domer - Install next summer
Master Bedroom Double - Install
Master Bedroom Back - Upgrade TBD (Master bath..?)
Bathroom - Upgrade TBD
You can read about the other window posts here and here.  Most of installations we were planning before are in (although not cleaned up inside or out), but we still have some one lingering window.

All in all, these projects haven't been awful, but they sure are time and energy consuming.  One bonus, I'm getting much more comfortable about heights.  My first trip up our ladder to fix the shed roof gave me a little trepidation, but now that seems like nothing.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pump, Pump it up...

 Note: this all happened in waaayyyy back in November.

Even though we didn't finish up the inside work the either of the kids room windows, we decided to move on with our window to get the most of the windows in by the winter.  The next up was our room.


We were really concerned about what we'd find under this window.  It was one of the worst looking windows, and we were worried the damage would spread to the floors, which could be a hard fix given the heater right there.




Once we pulled out the window, we weren't surprised with the lack of flashing, poorly done housewrap, and signs of damaged plywood.  I warn you, put down your lunch.  It gets gross.

It was clear we needed to investigate, so we cut the drywall under the window. Ew.  Not what we want to see.  Explains the musty/moldy smell though.



And then we start removing the siding.  Again, if your housewrap looks like this...  you don't want to know what's under there.

...But we had to find out.  Surprise! It's more mold!
So we started the same old, now.  Cutting away everything rotten.  Thankfully,  the floor and even the sill plate were completely fine.

 
At this point we wrapped everything up and put some rails across our giant hole in the wall.


We had to stop not just because the night brought the weekend to a close...  we actually couldn't go on farther without a plan.  We needed a way to both work on the window from the outside and get the large window up to the outside of the hole when it was ready to go in. We also needed a way to get to the other boys room window, which is 25' up, so finding something for both was in order.

We priced out scaffolding which would be well over $100, a significant drive, put us on a time constraint and possibly not tall enough for the boys room window.  That was out. Options that involved two ladders and plank looked interesting, but given we don't own a tall ladder (we had one to borrow) it would cost a least $150 for the supplies.  Plus it wouldn't help us get the window up there. I also looked at alternative 'leaning' wood forms of scaffolding that we could DIY, but those didn't seem safe, especially at 25'.

What I found was that least expensive, yet still safe option was something called 'pump jacks'.  For $100, plus the cost of wood, we could own them too.  As an added bonus, the platform raises and lowers, which also solved the issue of getting the window up there, and they're safe up to 25'.

It was actually hard to find a video to explain how it works, but I was able to dig this one up, which was super helpful, because I wasn't getting initially from just the description.  Although I did have the urge to put my ponytail to the side and rock my TMNT shirt while watching it.

I wrote that.  Then just had to.
 Anyway, I bought two Qualcraft Pump Jacks from Amazon for $50 each.  Wood was tough to source, because the wood type is so critical to these jacks working correctly.  Everywhere I saw recommended douglas fir, and although I looked ALL OVER I couldn't find any douglas fir 2x4's in our area.   Doing a little digging on the internet, I did find that hem fir is a very similar wood and a fine replacement (and this PDF just says fir).  Which of course, was available at our closest Lowes, the first place I looked.  It took about an hour digging through and finding the absolute best boards I could.  The associates kept giving me looks, so I sent Eve over to entertain them with stories :D 

The cost of the wood (posts, scafolding and for bracing), nails and mending plate did add up.  I cheaped out and just got regular 2x8's  for the scaffolding. I say somewhere between $50-$75, making them about $175.  Still less than what it would have been had we rented.

So while I waited for our pump jacks to arrive, I assembled the posts  in the basement, which thankfully had an opening about 40' long, by using the space under the stairs.  I followed the instructions on the PDF down to the letter.  I didn't want these things to fail while we were on them.  I screwed the two scaffolding boards together to help with weight distribution and remove a trip hazard (one board higher than the other).  I was glad I did, because if you put too much weight on the end... you want those things to be tied together to keep it balanced longer.

We had to be super careful putting this up because of the power lines.  My stepdad came over and helped us, which was great.  We needed the extra set of hands, for sure.  We were able to get the posts up and secured to the wall with a could boards without any interference to the power lines.
Despite digging holes for the bottom, they were feeling a little bit wobbly when we put them up.  I braced them with some 2x4s at the bottom and they were much more secure after that.  We dropped the scaffolding on, and later on placed a toe kick 2x4" on each end.  We were glad on many occasions to have that toe kick to both stop our feet and our tools.
  
I had my stepdad take a picture of us as we brought the plank up to position for the first time.  I look like I'm clinging to the pole for dear life... because I'm clinging to the pole for dear life.  But they held us just fine.


However, when we tested how to get them down, it wasn't working right.  We unclasped the top as we're supposed to and turned the handle, but it wasn't budging.  Quite foolishly I remembered that I needed to depress the the bar at the bottom with my foot, and tried it immediately...    forgetting that I disengaged the top and not knowing I needed to have the foot press up.

This caused two things to happen.  One, I dropped at least a foot without warning and gave a nice yelp of surprise.  Two, I had a heart attack the foot rest swung up with such speed and force, that I'm sure if I were a boy, our prospect for future children would look dim. Thankfully, I'm not, and it just barely missed me.  Be forewarned boys - Have the petal up before you step on the release.  After that fun, everything was fine and my trust was completely restored in the system.  It was actually a little fun unwinding it; I will admit to yelling yee-haw every time we rode that thing down. 

Once we got the braces into position, we screwed in back bracing.  Also helped keep it sturdy and give us some bounds when working up there.  The image below shows them on, but the platform was dropped back down to work on the lowest part of the damage, so they're not in the right place.

That pretty much wraps up the first half of our long window demo.