Larger Temporary Platform at WildSnow Field HQ

Post by blogger | November 6, 2012      

A view too good to neglect, Lou enjoys our remodeled platform. Even chainsaw carpenters can sip an espresso now and then.

Another dry weekend before the snow hits gives us a chance to get one more project done at our backcountry port-a-hut camping shelter. Colorado touts something like 360 sunny days a year and we spend a lot of those days outside enjoying our temperate weather zone. Our temporary “observation platform” was a bit small. Something more practical for laying out a sleeping bag or even pitching a small tent was our goal. Structure built to be temporary, everything sitting on the ground, easily removed or changed.


Aspen mega-mansions don't get built with a chainsaw (at least not when the owner is looking), but it works for our backcountry digs. Especially when we're building stuff that's intended to be removed once we get along with greater plans for our property. More, by keeping things small and temporary, set on the ground instead of attached to a foundation, we conform to land use regulations.


The footprint.


Simpson bracketry speeds the project along.

twisted boards

We kept costs down by buying lumber from the lumberyard cull pile. Most of the 2x6 planks were as twisted as Red Vine licorice.


The peaks glow honey as the sun sets.


Ever the zealot, Lou puts on his headlamp and drills the boards late into the night.

trim front

After all the boards are screwed down, Lou trims them off. As a former Aspen trim carpenter who had something he calls 'one board days,' he gloats about now being a 'chain saw carpenter.'


Almost done!


Last few cuts and we have a larger platform that's well braced and strong, but set on the ground and easily moved or removed.

Technical from Lou: “To keep it kosher for the building regulations the platform is not tied to the camp shelter trailer nor ground in any way, and obviously could be moved or easily removed as it’s not installed on any sort of foundation. I’ve built these sorts of temporary structures for years. One thing that’s stood the test of time in our dry Colorado climate (I’ve gone back and looked at some stuff I built that’s more than 25 years old) is to simply set 6×6 and 4×4 ground-contact treated landscape timbers as your support posts or lay them flat as ‘skids’ if you don’t need much height. Since the platform is temporary and “floating,” the posts only need to be in shallow holes or simply set on undisturbed ground. As you build, hold the posts up plumb with temporary braces, then place permanent X bracing once everything is done, so the posts and platform act as one unitized structure.

Since these are temporary structures intended for eventual removal, I use screws for most fasteners including those with shear load. Deck and drywall screws are weak in shear loads (yeah, I’ve made some mistakes, used them where I shouldn’t have, and seen them break), so I compensate by using more and thicker screws. One recent upgrade to my building systems is the use of star drive (Torx) screws instead of Phillips head. Phillips are designed so the driver “cams out” of the screw head to prevent over torque, but that results in immediate bit damage (and frustration) when using hardened screws. Torx doesn’t cam out, but will break the bit or screw if over-torqued. Easy to deal with: just develop a feel for the amount of torque, and set your drill’s selectable maximum torque to a safe level. Star drive self-drilling decking screws tend to be a bit pricey, but the time and bits they save (not to mention ruined Phillips screws) more than make up for the extra cost. Kudos to Dynafit for the inspiration regarding star drive. When they first changed to Torx screws with their bindings I thought it was lame, but they won me over. Now I’m a Torx star-drive evangelist!

Be careful of trying to save money with over spanning your floor joists — a mistake a lot of homeowner deck builders make when they try to do their own engineering. Use the rule of thumb for dimensional lumber spans then go a bit shorter for snow load and less of a bouncy feeling, and be sure to block or strap the floor joists to prevent twisting under load. Rule of thumb for a solid feeling deck that can handle snow load is span = cross section if joists are installed on 16 inch centers. Thus, for an 8 foot span you’d use at least 2×8 lumber. I used 2×10 from the cull pile for spans of about 7 feet. Definitely over-built but we don’t have to worry about big snow loads if we’re not up there to shovel, and the cull wood was full of knots so it’s not as strong as selected structural sticks.

Liberal use of Simpson hardware speeds things up, but is not essential if you have some experience with framing carpentry. In terms of what Simpson stuff gives you the most bang for the buck: joist hangers of course.

A few words about using cull wood from the lumber yard. First, be sure to talk down the price as low as possible, as cull is difficult to work with and will include sticks that shatter or are so twisted as to be totally unusable (known in the trade as “propeller wood” or “boat boards”). Tool up with a selection of bar clamps you can use to de-warp the boards as you install. Have one bar clamp with a 38 inch bar to use as a “twister” your assistant can hold while you install fasteners. Cull may be dried out and brittle, so have an extra cordless drill handy with a bit for drilling pilot holes so your screws or nails don’t destroy your bargain cellulose. And finally, figure your reject cull will make fine firewood!

Weather resistance? In our climate at our high altitude, I’ve found that vertical untreated lumber that’s not in ground contact will last virtually forever if it’s protected from rain falling on horizontal surfaces. Thus, before installing the deck boards the superstructure gets protective strips of ice/water shield on top edges. The regular framing lumber deck boards also last quite well, especially if you mop them with wood preservative every few years. Problem places for the deck boards are wider areas where moisture might get trapped underneath the board, such as on top of 6×6 timber skids. In those situations use a few sticks of treated lumber or composite decking. If you’re in moist climates, you’ll need to use all treated wood or composite for these sorts of projects. That’s expensive, but you get more snow than we do so everything is equal (grin).”


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


11 Responses to “Larger Temporary Platform at WildSnow Field HQ”

  1. Glenn Sliva November 6th, 2012 9:21 am

    Three things eat wood besides bugs. Light, Air, and Water. Water is the easiest to control. I use Defy water emulsion epoxy stain. Nice pre-winter/snow story.

    It’s a good thing that chain saw doesn’t leak chain oil all over your nice clean deck! (referring to picture #1) Ha Ha. I’ve made that mistake before……..must be using some of that crisco stuff or ?

  2. Lou Dawson November 6th, 2012 10:00 am

    Glenn, my special winter mix of one quart 5/30 synthetic to 3 quarts bar oil, and yes it does spray but the platform ends up dark and weathered so it doesn’t show. If I was concerned, I’d use vegetable oil as chain lube since most cuts last seconds and the bar and chain never even heat up. Lou

  3. Lisa November 6th, 2012 10:15 am

    Another thing that eats wood are critters. They’ve even chewed on treated wood.

  4. Lou Dawson November 6th, 2012 10:23 am

    Yeah, and you know that “rodent” repellent they sell at the hardware store? I think it does sometimes work, but last time I dug it out an animal had gnawed the top off! Key with the critters is to use repellents and moth balls, but also just keep an eye on things and cover problem areas with sheet metal.

  5. Caleb Wray November 6th, 2012 10:55 am

    Wow guys. You weren’t kidding about the platform extension. Looks like enough room for a hot tub ;).

  6. Lou Dawson November 6th, 2012 11:09 am

    At some point there will be a hot tub somewhere up there!

  7. Lisa November 6th, 2012 12:56 pm

    WildSnow girls love hot tubs!

  8. Lou Dawson November 6th, 2012 2:17 pm

    I actually don’t know why I have not installed a hot tub up there already. Amazing how your priorities get messed up. Instead, I’m sitting here reviewing ski bindings. Not exactly a hot date.

  9. Frame November 7th, 2012 6:56 am

    Lou and Lisa,
    A bloke over here in the UK does tv shows about people building/renovating homes – Grand Designs.
    He did a spin-off show and built his own hut in a woodland. No mountains or skiing, but there seem to be some similar planning regulations – the hut is on wheels etc. In Series 1, ep 4, he builds himself a hot tub, using airplane parts from a airfield graveyard. At the very least it’s interesting to see the ideas he comes up with, for a low cost project, the hot tub is high on novelty value and looks pretty cool.

    If you watch, you’ll need some time, the show is 40 odd minutes and not all of that is on hot tubs… or chainsaws, though an earlier episode see’s him splitting oak logs with explosives

  10. Corey November 7th, 2012 7:48 pm

    Lou, is that a Stihl 024 Woodboss? Good chainsaw. Runs forever. Maybe you should do a chainsaw review.

  11. Lou Dawson November 8th, 2012 6:24 am

    Corey, it’s an MS 311, and does seem to just keep running… I’ve used it a bunch, probably should take it in for service. Overall I’m happy, but the defective fuel tank cap is a drag, it doesn’t attach unless you place it on there perfectly, but looks like it’s attached only to dump fuel on your leg when pick the saw up… Lou

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