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Prairie Border, Minnestrista, Minnesota


Prairie planted alongside a pole barn. Sunny on the east side and shady on the west, the prairie moves from sun loving grasses and forbs toward savanna plantings and ends with shade lovers. There are four seasons of interest in this five by forty foot bed. Soil was construction compacted three years ago, so I planted a combination of potted natives and some seeding. It is now a full blown pollinator haven and wonderful to explore and relatively well-mannered too due to its limited height.


Blue Grama inflorescence with prairie clover stem visible behind -just two of the three dozen species present in this prairie planting.



Raised Beds and Border, Minnestrista, Minnesota


Three 4 x 10 x 1 foot raised beds spaced evenly within a cedar-bordered garden arena. Landscape fabric and woodchips were added to keep down weeds in a space homeowner didn't want to mow and where vegetables shaded grass. New sod was laid around the border which terminated at the long raised bed already on site, near the greenhouse.



Raised Beds, White Bear Lake, Minnesota


These four raised beds were made to order within client's budget constraints and height requirements.  Each of four beds are 17 inches tall, made of Western Red Cedar deck planks and 7/8ths thick trim pieces all around. Interior framing is made of dimensional WR Cedar and an aluminum cross strap is included to prohibit bowing of long sides. Very unusual to find this much cedar decking comprised of mostly dark heartwood. Delivered to back yard site; client will level.







 Raised Beds, Minneapolis, Minnesota


Two solid four by six foot 12 inch tall Western Red Cedar raised beds. All structural lumber is rough sawn. Trim is completed in WR Cedar and all interior bracketing is aluminum. These two beds will grace the entry to this South Minneapolis home.





Raised Beds, Minneapolis, Minnesota


Three custom sized twelve-inch tall beds for Rich in Minneapolis. Lumber is true to size, 1-3/4 inch rough sawn western red cedar. Brackets are aluminum. Should give his family years of vegetable growing!





Raised Beds, Minnetrista, Minnesota


Four foot wide by ten foot long, this one foot tall raised bed (one of two, more to come) surrounds potatoes planted ahead of time. As the potatoes grow, straw and compost will be added to produce a bumper crop.


The lumber is rough-sawn western red cedar chosen to match the trim of the house. An added benefit of rough-sawn is the additional quarter inch of thickness over common, surfaced two-by cedar lumber. The corners are trimmed with the rough sides of one by four cedar while the top cap is trimmed with the smooth side. The top cap is corner planed to reduce splinters.


The cap is butt-jointed because mitered corners on outdoor wood structures tend to warp and split. Fasteners on top trim are stainless steel trim screws, while all others are ceramic-coated exterior grade screws. The large boards that form the container are not fastened to each other directly, but are joined with aluminum corner angles secured by heavy duty, ceramic-coated exterior washer head screws. Under the trim cap, along each ten-foot side, is a half-inch steel rod that fixes the two stacked boards together and anchors the structure to the ground beneath it.



Goat Shed, Unity, Maine

Designed and built for the client's male goat, the shed includes a sliding door and rough sawn cedar vertical siding.


The client requested no treated lumber or concrete. Support posts are Port Oroford cedar set in gravel to below the frost line.


The roofing is standard 20 year asphalt and flashing copper sheet. All wood was left raw as per the client's request.



Swing For Two, East Madison, Maine

A swing designed and built for two people sitting back to back.


The seat is constructed of Port Oroford cedar attached via nylon rope to the temporary hemlock superstructure. This species of cedar is of limited availability and expensive, yet is ideal for its appearance, workability, and decay resistance.



Back Deck, Brooklyn, New York

Toward the end of a lengthy gut renovation, I built this difficult to photograph deck in a Brooklyn backyard. On the right, a detail of the floating steps. In the full shade, I ensured that these planks didn't rest on each other to help avoid trapping moisture.


The STK cedar deck extends from a french door and has perpendicular edge banding. On the right is a detail of the edge banding and horizontal side skirt made from the same STK cedar planks. The homeowner allowed the deck to weather to its natural silvery gray color.


On the left, a door set into the deck to access to a landscape drain that clogs often. On the right, vertical framing of skirt planks and hose bib extension.


Five concrete piers were poured below the frost line with galvanized, heavy duty deck supports inserted, aligned, and leveled before the concrete set. Inserted into these supports are a network of doubled beams and joists made of treated southern yellow pine. 



Replacement Staircase, Minnetrista, MN

A staircase with a rise too high and rotting railings needed to be replaced. The client requested that I re-use any intact cedar boards and in this case only two risers planks were salvageable.


 Details of the junction of the railing post and tread.


The client requested off the shelf, treated and dyed handrails, posts and balusters. Off the shelf cedar would be less likely to warp or check, but more than doubles the cost of these components.


The structure needed to be updated and replaced with new, custom stringers and support posts. On the left is a galvanized post to rim joist tie that wasn't required when the porch was built. On the right is the post-pier connection. The ground contact rated treated southern yellow pine post is set-off the concrete by a structural plastic base and anchored to the pier with a heavy duty galvanized bracket and concrete anchor. The old posts were not connected to the concrete, a practice that would no longer be allowed.


cedar outdoor woodwork minneapolis
The risers are made of rough-sawn dimensional STK cedar and the treads finished with rough-sawn, 1.5 inch thick cedar.



Replacement Landing, Minnetrista, MN

Too many homes were built with the landing deck running right up to the door sill resulting in a rotted sill after 15 years of exposure. The landing railings were shot, but the structure was decent. However, to get to the sill the landing needed to be removed, so the client chose to replace it.


This created an opportunity to lower the landing deck so that snow doesn't sit above the sill. The STK cedar planks were run longitudinally with a slight slope to help run water away from the house. Retail treated and dyed southern yellow pine handrails and posts were used. When choosing this material, I am always mindful of the twisting and checking that will come once it is differentially moistened and cooled. In this instance, minor twisting and checks were acceptable if the client could save on material costs.


The STK cedar planks were treated with Thompson's Water Seal, a product I become more skeptical of each year. There are few if any treatments that offer true long term protection, especially if you are interested in a clear wood finish. Many add UV stabilizers to help protect the film, but most won't prevent graying of the wood much longer than untreated wood, are environmentally harmful, and have to be continually re-applied. In the case of Thompson's, I find that the waxes do not always absorb upon reapplication creating a greasy finish that is terribly slippery and visually offensive.

Some pigments (think rust red painted barns) added to stains offer protection because certain pigments will absorb UV radiation of the sun and convert it to heat energy, as opposed to chemical reactions within the coating or the wood underlying it. Chemical reactions are bad because they create oxidation and free radicals that, just as in the human body, begin the process of breaking down the organic polymers that make up the coating as well as the wood.




Reclaimed Slate Patio, Ft. Greene, NY

Fourteen months after setting a client's reclaimed slate patio, the garden looks lush and so does the moss growing between the stones. 


The Fort Greene, Brooklyn backyard looked like this when I arrived. The owner had begun taking garden plants out to create space for the larger slate patio.


The first task was to gather up all the available slate, removing it to an out of the way corner. Afterward, I excavated soil from the roughly 240 square foot area, distributing it throughout the garden. The perimeter of the new patio was excavated four inches deeper than the subgrade to accommodate the height of the large stones available for the retaining wall.


Bagged gravel and sand had to be hauled through the residence because there was no service passage to the backyard.


Although a Brooklyn backyard is unlikely to freeze deeply, I prefer the practice of preparing a tamped subgrade, gravel subbase, and course sand base to give the slate a sound foundation


The dry laid wall required me to mate random, uncut stones.


When working only with available on site materials, we can respect our achievements all the more.


The client insisted on the placement of one large stone on the perimeter independent of the wall. 


After the free-standing stone was set, the paver base was spread and readied for the slate.


Dry laid stonework is more art than science. It takes patience and a willingness to rearrange what had already fit in place in order to achieve the whole. This is the essence of gestalt.


Leveling irregular stones is also an art where stones must be constantly lifted, crusher fines added or removed, tamped and tamped again with a rubber mallet.


Once the arrangement has arrived at its best conclusion, crusher fines are added, in the manner of mortar, between the stones. The fines are hosed down a few times to force settlement, bring the grains tightly together, and clean up the dust left on the slate.


Before and after the slate.



Integrated Wall and Step, Park Slope, NY

This concrete wall was built to retain a yard's slope in a project to create a garden from an rubble-filled lot in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. The entire project lasted several months and included rubble removal, over one hundred yards of imported soil, drainage, wood structures including deck, door, and an arbor, concrete work, and finally, planting. In the back of this image you can see a slate pad and cedar door, part of the shed that was re-purposed from a pump house. Inside the shed was cedar decking and shelves throughout. 


The client wanted a minimalist wall and step with a raw concrete look. The footing was poured, forms built, and concrete poured. I am lucky to have these two images as I have no other images of this project. Sadly, the entire garden went under the wrecking ball just a handful of years later when the owner sold her building and this lot for development.