I really do love the simplicity that is my house. I’m in a quiet little corner of the neighborhood and technically have a corner lot, although they didn’t finish out the street on one side of me. I hope they never do.
My house pretty much has NO trees to speak of. There’s woods on two sides of my lot. And I have a noxious Chinese Tallow Tree in my back yard at the back of the lot. Trouble is, the sun travels over my house and beats down mercilessly on the side OPPOSITE the trees. I’ve been here through two summers now and I’m heading into my third. The poor AC unit just hasn’t been able to keep up. When it’s 80+ outside, and you have your AC unit set on 77, and you come home at the end of the day and the house is about 82…there’s a problem. And moreso when the AC will run 12-14 hours per day to try to keep it at 77 which it just can’t do.
I purchased some blackout curtains this year though for the hottest side of my house. And I also got some foam sealer to put in around the windows on the back of the house that catch the brunt of the sun during the day. Since Spring/Summer temps have showed up early, I’ve already gotten to experience a HUGE improvement on doing just those two things. My AC unit can actually *maintain* the temperature it’s set on now. It may run for hours at a time still, but at least it’s not oppressively hot, and it will actually shut off once the brunt of the day’s heat goes away.
Naturally though, this isn’t enough for me. My kitchen and living room are on the hot side of the house. And my house is brick. So there’s a wall that BAKES all day long in the sun. I’d wanted to install a patio cover or a pergola or something to shade that side but…well…money keeps you from doing the things you want to do.
Well, about a month ago, I happened across a shade sail that was considerably larger than the ones I’d seen previously. See, once the heat started rolling in early, I started having “mini freak-outs” about my electricity bill for the summer months. I started researching the aluminum patio covers you could buy from the big box stores. I started looking at the materials for wood to build my own instead. The aluminum patio covers were easily $1300. The cost for the wood alone for that option was still looking to be about $500 at a minimum. No labor. I was actually hoping to beg and plead friends for help if I went that route. Knowing me, however, I knew that wasn’t going to go over very well. And this was just for an area of about 10×20 feet. So. I started looking around on eBay (yes, I am a bit of an eBay whore…) for alternatives or other ideas. That’s when I came across the MTN Shade Sail, 24×24 for about $140. Still a bit pricey to me BUT! The side area next to my house is about 20×25. So that size sail would be IDEAL to cover that huge area.
I thought about it for a few hours. Mulled over it. Got sad about thinking of spending any money at all on something I couldn’t reasonably predict would help me to eventually pay for itself in a reasonable amount of time to justify the initial expense. And then. It warmed up outside and I was quickly reminded why I’d considered it in the first place.
So let’s take a look at the overhead view of my house so you can see the area I’m talking about adding shade to. Take note of the shadows too.
You see the driveway? Immediately behind that is the start of my fence that “squares up” to the side of my house before angling off. The shade from my fence never reaches the house mind you…
Now, to the project…
To give some better “up close” reference, this pic was taken shortly after the fence was completed in January 2011.
Yes, my gate is pretty damn fabulous! But, enough of my gloating 🙂
This next image is probably the only “good” pic of the area I need to shade from the “back” of the yard. And, well…it’s really just NOT a good pic, with the corner of the “dead body shed” showing…and that’s another project all on it’s own. But anywho.
So, yeah. Sun beams on that side of the house ALL day long and makes it hard to keep the house cool. On to my “solution.”
After buying the shade sail, I needed to craft a way to better secure the fence side of the sail, since there’d be a 4 foot overhang on that side. I didn’t want to risk the sail pulling on my fence and possibly damaging it. I decided on seven 10 foot pieces of 2 inch round PVC. Four would act as posts, right along with the existing posts of the fence, and three pieces (and their respective couplings) for the tops. I would then install a couple of hooks to the underside of the eaves on the house. Now. The eaves aren’t exactly 10 feet high at the ends. That means I’d have to dig down deep for the holes, or spend more time cutting more pieces of pipe.
Let me tell YOU! Digging out clay is NOT fun. None. I don’t recommend it. Unless of course you’re a persistent do it yourselfer and desperately want shade on your house. Then, go for it and get that post hole digger out and start a fight! Yes, a fight indeed…
See, when you’re digging down 2 feet (yes, TWO WHOLE FEET!), you’re bound to run into debris left behind by the builder…post hole diggers don’t really like bricks and rocks too much so, you kinda have to dive into the clay and dig them out yourself.
Now, something else you also may run into digging down that far…scrap pieces of 2×4. And of course they won’t be in any position that you can actually get it out of the hole. I think the builders leave crap like that laying around so that if someone does happen to dig down one day, the digger may be left to wonder if they found a secret treasure box! Oh if only….
So…did I happen to mention yet that I took on this stroke of genius project…alone? Yeah…I kinda just happen to do things like that. I get my four holes dug and then go to ask my neighbor if he has a saw I can borrow. I DO in fact have to cut the three pipes that will be going along the top after all. So we chit chat for a bit and I come back and lay down my posts on the ground to start connecting and cutting. If you’re doing something like this on your own and don’t want to use tape measures and stuff (kinda like yours truly), then make SURE your pieces are laid out properly near the holes and after you cut the pieces, connect them so you aren’t moving things out of alignment! I almost had a very big boo boo. But caught myself before I started cutting away. *phew*
Now, these are still hefty pieces when all is said and done. I’m pretty tall, but…well I just simply couldn’t lift any of the pieces up at the same time without the couplings separating. I almost admitted defeat that I couldn’t do it alone. And then I remembered I had rocks and bricks…
Yes, some ingenuity afforded me a “helping hand” to stabilize the support posts enough so I could add the top pieces 🙂 It’s times like this that make me glad not to give up so easily 😉
And tada! Is it perfect? No. I’m a girl. Maybe a bit of a different girl from the norm but a girl nonetheless. I was looking for functionality over “cute” and I think this will accomplish it. I’ll get some rope to “support” the end pieces to the fence posts. The canopy is going to drape over the PVC but will be within the fence, and not draped over the fence too.
I made a few minor adjustments AFTER this pic was taken to straighten things out a little bit. There’s still some “off” wave to it, but, I was tired of messing with the posts and was really afraid things were just going to topple to the ground at a moments notice. I decided to go ahead and fill in the post holes.
Of course it also decided to rain at that point too… But! No pain, no gain right? Well, it’s not really as though rain would hurt me…but it wasn’t very pleasant either. One of my dogs kept wandering outside to check on me and figure out why I was on my knees, playing in the dirt. The rain would pick back up and she’d go back in the house. All things considered, it was a good day to start the project, even if it was a bit damp. The temps cooled off significantly so I wasn’t sweating bullets trying to get things accomplished.
Naturally though, after getting rained on and muddied up, and after 5 hours working at that thing (I told you, did it by myself! I can’t move THAT fast), it was time for a much needed break and a shower.
Adding PVC glue to the couplings, installing the hooks on the house and actually hanging the shade sail will have to wait. Which means, so will you 😉