I have put some comments in over at the Walden Effect Site on robust building. I’ve duplicated the post here and also included a pic of the Picnic table I mentioned.
I agree with some of the beneficial aspects of building codes, some code aspects however seem over bearing and limit artistic expression…more on that later. As an ICC certified (International Code Council) builder / carpenter for the last 7 years, and with a back ground in Engineering, I look at projects with a different eye than most. I have seen, and repaired, collapsed roofs, rotted wooden foundations, and all around shoddily built stuff. I have to tell you from experience that repairing a rotten wood foundations with the house still sitting on it, is 10 times harder than building it before the house goes up. In most cases like that, only the bottom has turned to mush, and the material from the knees up is great, worth keeping. With materials and labor costs what they are it only make sense to built it ONCE. You may have the vigor and strength of youth now but in 10 to 15 years do you really want to do all that work again…. with an aged body. There are days now that my near 50 year old body complains…Can I still do it when I’m 60 or 70…maybe? But do I want to bet on it? We recently put 2000 pounds of concrete into the footers for our cabin…80 pound bags carried 100+ yards to the building site, hand mixed and poured. I can say with confidence that I will …NEVER… have to do that again. In 20 years I hope to be sitting on the deck sipping a nice glass of Cognac, not rebuilding a foundation. 10 years will slip by faster that you think, and you will think back in your mind……damn this it work…..didn’t we just do this?
So, some code issues that I don’t agree with…Deck Railing Spacing is one that comes to mind…code says you can’t have a gap of more than 4″ between rails or to the deck itself…(this is to keep baby heads from getting stuck) even it you don’t have baby heads around, you still have this limitation. I intentionally set my bottom rail height at 7 1/2″ to allow for easier snow removal…I just push it off the deck rather than lift it up and over the rail…it makes perfect sense to me.
An example of of robust building, last year when we were getting things together for our ranch (before the cabin build) we wanted to camp on our land. For camping a picnic table is a pretty handy thing, so I knew we needed one. I saw some “kits” at Home Depot for a bout $150, decent enough for the average suburban backyard…but still just some cheap 2×6 con common lumber and cheesy brackets. Having seen hundreds of tables lasting decades or more, in a harsh abused environment throughout our park’s system. I decided to build a robust one…one that could still be enjoyed by my girls (or even their kids..should that happen). The end result is a 600 pound 4×6 timbered masterpiece that you could park a bus on.