Coping: Engineering an “All Purpose” Future

Friday Board of Directors meeting.  You’re in.

If you remember, your punishment for reading this column is volunteering to serve (free)  on my purely advisory BoD when I run up against a real stumper.

So let me wheel in the white board, sniff up on the market, light off a second cup and put on my presentation to “the Bored.”

No, we are not THAT worried about EMP yet, but the wording Electric Skies in Thursday’s column got a number of readers thinking in that direction again.  And amongst those readers was Joyce:

Reading Electric Skies reminds me of Nostradamus’ Century 6, Quatrain 97 that mentions “the sky will burn at 45 degrees” and “immediately scattered flame leaps up.” I used to wonder how the sky could burn, but now I think it means an EMP. NYC is the supposed target city. “Scattered flame” makes me think of lightning or meteor scatter. But no matter what, Electric Skies made me stop and go check my preps. Thanks for the reminder.

Not sure how that all plays out, but G.A. Stewart’s Age of Desolation site is a fine place to watch as the tumblers in the big lock of history click into place.

Not that we worry, to an excess, about such eventualities:  But it is important background point #1.

Point #2:  Thanks to having a built-in ranch-sitter (Elaine’s retired SF/Ranger brother lives with us in his apartment on the property) we will be taking off for a few days in two weeks foe the Peoplenomics cruise.

Not that anyone is going with us, other than the Landry’s and a couple from Georgia (or some-suck) that was going anyway.  But it’s serious unplug and work time for Robin and I to spend a couple of hours on charts, outlooks, and decompressing in general.

This cruise is also timed to coincide with  a short week for the market:  On the 7th of September we have Labor Day so I don’t look to miss much and besides, internet on ships is pretty good.

Pointy #3:  As usual, before anyone comes to visit, Elaine has me working on “necessary projects” – like changing out the BBQ.

You would think that in an advanced country, we’d be able to build a BBQ that would stand up to more than 6-seasons of use.  But darned if I have been able to find one, yet.  The fact that spare burners and heat bars are even sold screams room for improvement is you are a budding mechanical or materials engineer.

There’s a four burner plus side burner, stainless that we picked up at Lowes.  There’s normally on the order of $269 but on sale now for $197.  Fall is definitely the time of year to stock up for next summer on whatever you need.  Patio furniture gets cheap, replacement cushions, almost anything you can figure for outdoors.

Not that you need to have a good BBQ in the winter, most places.  But I live them because they are seriously EMP resistant and if you have enough propane for a year, or two, worth of coming, they are be really damn nice as a convenience.

And, speaking of convenience, we also might set up our Camp Chef Camping Outdoor Oven with 2 Burner Camping Stove which has been gathering dust, waiting for bad economic times.  When I (eventually) sell the airplane (next summer), we will be putting in a gas range, again, in case of EMP.

Granted, the EMP worries are very low in the next month, or three, but when we look out two or three years, and when the economy begins to fall into collapse, there are a number of “unthinkables” that will begin to creep up the policy option lists.  And that’s when you will want to be stocked and prepped to the gills.  Not later than Jan 1 of 2017, I’m thinking.

In the meantime, since my life tends to run 10-15 years ahead of the crowd, I would probably already be dead of a heart attack had I sucked up any longer in the corporate world.  Being out here in the low population density part of America 10 years early is better than a day late.

Why?  Because we have had 10-years of schooling.

The Real Problem for the Board:

My latest is this rot problem that Elaine found on the deck I built 8-years ago;.  Got the last of the old wood taken out yesterday.  Now, it’s just a matter of time waiting for the drop in building materials prices that’s sure to come along one of these years.  Yes it was treated wood.  Yet it rotted.

Dealing with wood rot is one of those problems that is begging for an answer from technology.  Salt, Borax, and creosote if you can find it…

Or, more correctly, there are answers, but the good ones have been legislated out of existence.  One such example is pentachlorophenol  which was simply called “penta” when I was a kid,.  We (carefully, gloves on) used it on the big deck at my parent’s home and the stuff worked great.  The deck was still there 40-years later, when I last drove by the old family home.

Flip side is that penta is dangerous stuff and there has been legal action on it.

Creosote works great (witness all the long-lasting piers along bit city waterfronts, long before steel reinforced concrete pilings were adopted.  Creosote works great, but the aromatic hydrocarbons it gives off are carcinogenic.

That leaves me with a deck that is unfinished, two weeks from company, and wondering what will really stop wood rot forever.   Not sure I’ve got the “happy” answer yet.  Best think I can come up with so far is regular treated decking since most of that is done with salt water, anymore.  Like copper and tin-laced boat bottom paint, the stuff that really protects against fouling kills everything else, whether slowly or quickly.

Even the idea of simply “rock salting” the deck during the last heavy rain in springtime doesn’t work because you get salt water runoff which kills grass and tress.  Seems like there is no winning, sometimes.

But that does warm me to the point about cascading failures:  The wood failed.  I mean you could stand on it, but it t’weren’t right.  And then, disassembly became a nightmare because just enough wood deck screws failed to turn that into something less than fun. Hand me the monster pry bar, wouldja?  

As if that wasn’t enough, the wood needed to be hauled to the burn pile.  But couldn’t get there, so our comes the bush hog on the tractor.  Things grow that fast.

Except then the tractor somehow got water in the fuel, so it quit.  And then changing out the fuel filter, come to find that I’m  down to just two more fuel oil filters, and since those are backordered…

You see what I mean?  Things can cascade out here in the woods.

Living in the outback is a continuing education course.  In the city if something goes wrong, you simply apply a large enough coating of money and the problem goes away.  Out here in the woods, and (in theory) trying to be “retired” (which is a joke as anyone who lives on more than a 10,000 square foot lot knows – there is no retirement) you are constantly finding the subtle ways that we are each our own  worst enemy.

Sometimes it shows up as wood rot, or other times, emergency repair, or a replacement BBQ.  Everything in life is waiting to fail or wear out.

I’m bright enough not to have gotten the  Sawz-all out to finish deck deconstruction until the thunderstorms had passed Thursday, giving us 3/4” of rain which was damn nice.  But the “demising of the property” to put it in commercial real estate leasese is now done.

I have learned, thanks to the way things have been rolling out over the past week, that maturity is perhaps best measured by how long it takes from when you do something, to how long it is before that same problem reoccurs.  A Lexus will outlast a deck and a BBQ combined, as it turns out.  And a Beechcraft will, in turn, out last the Lexus, BBQ, and Deck. 

Both Elaine and I have already outlasted the Beechcraft…and so ends the monologue on things that wear out.

No, I don’t want to use an engineered wood product on the deck. I framed it for #1 grade 2X6 s on 20-inch centers for 2X6 decking and by golly, that is where my thinking is.. 

One of the more interesting ideas I’ve had, though, is to build the deck back (with some added wood rot preventative treatment this time) and then spray the whole undersides and top with concrete.  I know that it would likely crack over time and look like hell, but Gunite or Shotcrete sure sounds tempting.

Except for the out of budget part, of course.

To that, Zeus-the-Cat suggested I just use the wood for forms and pout a post and tensioned elevated slab on Sonotubes.  But when it came down to him not eating for the next 7-thousand years, he began to see things my way.

The logical mind says “If you didn’t let water get under the deck, there would be no rot at all.  So why not cover it.  Close-space the decking, caulk and put some of that 10-times tick deck goo on.  Or roof the whole thing…”  Priced 2X6 T&G decking – if you can find it?

Or, I could leave  the 10X20 part of the deck that isn’t starting rot, tighten it up, caulk and seal, and then build a 4-foot bridge to it from the house.”  That keeps me under budget, easy to do, but then the idea of the outside veggie garden on the deck goes out the window.  Or becomes too small to grow a useful amount of food.

Elaine likes this last one because I made the mistake of telling her one of Pappy’s best bits of father-son advice ever:  “Don’t plant a garden bigger than your wife can take care of.”

I see the wisdom of it now:  If that rule is ignored, it too could set off another round of cascading failures.  And I certainly don’t need another one of those.  But the 20X20 deck would be great for grow boxes…

So I’m kinda open to ideas at this point.

Here’s the proposed tab to fix things in a “normal” way:  Not counting the $35 delivery fee because I am not putting 20-footers in the pickup, thanks:


So there you have it:  My presentation of the problem:  How would you solve it and within a max budget of $500, but $0 is better?

A lot of websites talk about prepping.  But there’s  the broader problem-solving course here:  Yeah, prepping for EMP is one thing.  But planning to old age is a lot more certain (provided you don’t step in front of a bus).  And a big deck with growing spaces….well, healthy eating got us this far…

Either way, old or EMP,.  it’s a different future than the one you’re thinking about most of the time, which seldom extends much past dinnertime.  But the real skill to be learned from reading all the prepping and Sunset Magazine and Family Handyman, and Woodworker’s Journal is what?

To be able to create the best possible “all purpose future” for yourself.

Send it suggestions before my shopping cart cookie expires.

Have a great weekend, see you Monday and write when you break-even.


author avatar
George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

31 thoughts on “Coping: Engineering an “All Purpose” Future”

  1. After living in Montana for a number of years, land of the log house, the contractors will all tell you that to have a wood deck last you have to put a roof over it.
    At your age, my age too, the deck only has to outlast you. Didn’t you talk about selling the property?
    You are putting grow boxes on the railing. If any water at all leaks from the boxes or hits the deck when watering, you will greatly accelerate the process of dry rot.

  2. George: I’ve only used it once, but “OneTime Wood” worked for me. I put it on a 16X16 deck. In year seven we moved, but it was in great shape at that time. They call it a liquid solid. Yes, that doesn’t make sense. UV light cures it so don’t apply it in direct sunlight.

    I used a paint roller and a sprayer to cover the surfaces. You would have to do it twice (joist and then decking). Went on easier than paint.
    …STeve – KF5VH

  3. You’ve outlasted the Beechcraft so far and you got a head start, but it’s not done yet. Not saying you are done, but it’s too early to call. Of course you could all reach the finish line together.

  4. George, an old wooden boat builders trick is to treat wooden boats with double-boiled linseed oil. A friend of mine had a Chincoteague skiff (19 ft) made out of mahogany and white oak that was treated with double boiled linseed oil once every two years and he got 30 plus years before it sank at the pier. There are wooden boats out there that last over 100 years with this treatment. Linseed oil is eco-friendly, but highly flammable. Any rags that are used must be treated with kid gloves as they will spontaneously combust. Double boiled linseed oil is flaxseed oil that has dryers added. Can be applied with a metal bottled sprayer after warming in a double boiler, but again, this is tricky due to high flammability. Woodworkers have been using this as a finish for years. Enjoy….R/Mark

  5. Prior to construction let the treated lumber age a least one week (up to 2 months)then coat all sides with a wood protectant such as Flood or Olympic wood stain. We us Flood Solid Color (can be tinted) because that’s what is locally available. Coat everything, even the parts that don’t show. The vertical surfaces of our last outdoor wood project still look like new after 9 years under the West Texas sun, hail and rain.

    As an aside, we used Flood on some T1-11 and although the stain did not fail the T1-11 just did not hold up in this hot and dry environment. We have since used Flood on some Smart Siding panels which is holding up beautifully.

  6. I was an architectural draftsman most of my career and am familiar with construction technology. Forget engineered wood or any organic material in that steam cabinet you call Texas (been there). Instead, look at the entirely synthetic products available.,,20364011,00.html Many of the best commercial construction materials now are synthetic. Hope this helps. P.S. may not be available “locally” to you.

    • I concur, after having to have replaced several decks over the years. Wood, being organic, can only deteriorate over time – cracking, warping, molding, rotting. Too much effort to maintain for a man getting older. Take some of that cash you’re in, while it’s still worth something, and build for the rest of your life. I’m certain that would also pay handsomely in the event you do decide to sell.

  7. goes another book LOL. an emp I haven’t given that any thought for a long time. but if you are personally prepared can make fuel or have solar and a backup generator and far enough from the epicenter you might do fair..I personally think our biggest worry is with infrastructure. our congress has been shelling out dough to other countries as relief, wars and big corp for so long that they have created a system of offensive maintenance to our infrastructure instead of defensive maintenance leaving us with a larger problem that is unfortunately under ground out of sight… (the aqueducts the gas lines the electric grid, water lines that in some cases haven’t been touched except to do emergency repairs for decades some haven’t been touched since they were created).. we built nuclear power plants on fault lines and unstable earth…. well even with all that an emp could be a possibility for a future happening by some other country then there would be fallout after the event… I personally think the further you are from the epicenter though the better off you will be if prepared.. the results would set us back ten thousand years.
    There are plenty of resources to hold us over for a year or two after such an event but I think the big problem with all of that is that we have outsourced our manufacturing. very little is made in our country any longer . . shoot the steel from the twin towers was shipped away instead of sending it to the steel mills in the usa.. the last time I checked the estimated time to retool for our loss was five years.. and another thing we have gotten away from books.. paper and pen.. kids no longer read america has a population of kids that can’t even read and understand the daily news paper we charge to much for an education and kids don’t have the desire to learn… a congress that is so bent on working for special interest groups and people that they take what is handed them for granted and doesn’t even take the time to read what they are voting on. where in my world they should not only be reading them but writing them and in a language that any high school graduate can understand. I attempted to read the health bill it was so complicated and referred you to so many other sources that by six hundred pages into it I quit reading it.. I am guessing that it isn’t just a few thousand pages long but many thousand pages long in reality making it virtually unreadable by even a harvard law professor the old confuse and complicate.. send the readers to so many places that they finally give up.the strategy that is being used can be found in this book.. ..

    we in my opinion dont’ have to worry about threats outside our nation but from our own ignorance. what was it that plato said.. a society is destroyed by greed from those that lead and ignorance from those they lead. and with the majority of our books now are all in electronic media on the cloud.
    I sometimes wonder has anyone ever thought about the libraries of the world.. like the lost library of timgad, alexandria,hamadie library,pantinos,takashila, etc etc and many we haven’t even heard of.. from some past event that we don’t’ know of that happened long ago that distroyed them or hid them from view so that we as a race has had to reboot learning everything all over again. I think with digital media we would be in the same boat with our vast libraries lost to mankind. and as the older skilled craftsmen are getting to the age that they are passing on to our maker.. would the youth be able to make a pencil, make a gun, know how to trap.. sure you have stock set up but what if the big what if happened.. once you ran out of your stock can you replace it.. anyway a good subject.. also trex.. it is made our of waste sawdust and refuse plastic you can cut it put it through the router to make moldings and has a life span warrantied not to rot for fifty years.paintable stainable beautiful stuff..

    • Our country the US makes houses out of wood and if there was a nuclear explosion they would all be blown down and burnt to a crisp compared to other countries that have their houses made out of brick mortar dirt or excetra and this was designed by a plan way way back then that so when the Anana States was nuked all their houses would go up in smoke

  8. My husband’s cousin in Germany lives in her family home built in the 1800’s. They wanted to add to the house but keep the original “flavor” and were concerned about how the wood would hold up. Her uncle told her the way to preserve the wood was to soak it for a week in used motor oil. 20 years later and everything (including the deck) are still solid.

    Don’t know the ecological ramifications but it does seem to have worked.

  9. It is clear that the Value of the Dollar has descended more than I realized when the Camp Chef Camping Outdoor Oven I purchased four years ago and use often while camping now sells for $199 when I paid $149 and that included the storage bag.

    As for cascading failures, living on a homestead I understand them well. Your example of a simple trip to the burn piles rings true.

  10. I know this isn’t exactly what you want I guess, but have you considered composite decking? It last forever in more humid locations (Southern Indiana), though I don’t know how UV resistant it is. The only reason my Dad didn’t go with it was because it cost so much more. I think he might be rethinking that since his deck is rotting in several places too.

  11. Your wood deck failed because of the fasteners exposing untreated wood. We built corrals using an oil can to squirt penta into every 16 penny nail hole, drilled to keep the lumber from splitting. Linseed oil mixed into the paint, still standing 50 years later with repainting every 10 years. Neighbors used redwood for the foundation of a dairy barn, put the wood right into the earth. Still solid after 60 years. That was quite a phenomenon back in the days.

  12. regarding deck screws- if you want them to come back out in the future, make sure to use the screws that have the torx heads! Torx beats both philips and square hands down.

  13. If you are concerned about water under the deck, my builder draped rubber sheeting between the rafters that acted as funnels to a gutter under the front edge of the deck that further diverted rain water away. The area under the deck has been bone dry for several years now.

  14. the 4x vertical from home depot on the joist, around 30$ (fed notes) a gallon, and 10x on the deck both sides with a seal coat when you are done should last, but you are right, anything that lasts longer is not available anymore, good luck with those Chinese pos screws, grin.

  15. You can go to and save at least 7% by buying gift cards to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Also, if you’re a veteran, Home Depot will reduce by an extra 10%. I’ve used the combination gift cards and military discounts to save around 20% at HD for years. If you have an ag exemption in Texas, no sales tax.

  16. …stock market looking shaky, oil prices plummeting, nut job Trump is a frontrunner in the presidential campaign….could things get any crazier?? If The Donald (arrggh…that hair..)actually wins this election, it’s time to say bye-bye to means everyone who can has already left the building because the situation is hopeless…let Trump turn out the lights.

  17. George, Im tired of hereing about this stupid deck. Aren’t Elaine and you taking a cruise. Pony up the money and fix the freaking deck. Price of materials and the quality of materials are not coming down. You could have had it fixed by now with all the wining about it you do. Id come and help you if you lived closer, sounds like a minute steak to me.

  18. Your treated wood deck failed you after a only 8 years?! Shocking! Growing up, my dad thought he could get away with building a deck with non treated pine, though painting it redwood paint on the upper side, and it fell apart in about 5 yrs. It makes me wonder what they are treating the pine with these days since they have gotten more earthly friendly.

    I’ve 1×6 redwood that was on a deck (I built 1980) and stole to side an outhouse in 1993. The outhouse is still standing. The deck was re-decked with 2×6 cedar, over kill for the 16″ on center. That deck is still in great shape except for the deep scratches made from 2 huge dogs, now deceased. And, I’ve a 2×6 treated wood deck built in 1988 (facing west), that is still in great shape. Mind you, these decks endure Minnesota winters and more rain than average dry states.

    I’ve never heard of treated wood failing. Though I’ve always kept some kind of a protecting surface – In the early years, an oil based stain, and now porch/deck stain or paint. Also, I learned about 20 yrs ago to seal up all end grains with caulk. None of these deck have a covered porch, but the one 40′ long does have an overhang with a gutter and is facing east.

    George, if it was deck lumber treated with poison, it shouldn’t be burned.

  19. We just replaced an 75 foot dock with trex. The last decking didn’t last 10 years.
    Great colors and don’t have to worry about it again. You have to put a value on your time and how many times you want to deal with this . We bought in on sale . And some times you can buy small leftover lots on Craig’s list .

  20. Hi George,

    Here in high UV, sunny, and occasionally very rainy desert NM, the only thing I would use for a deck would be either steel or concrete. I prefer to work with steel as cutting and welding it is quite easy these days. Wood is destroyed quickly by sun, and so are the plastics, such as vinyl and trex.

    Whatever you use, do yourself a favor and make a headache rack for your truck that has a rack top for carrying things. Make another one and clamp it to the tail of your bed. I used three inch angle for the base and two inch for the rest, and of course triangulated it well. I’ve carried well over 1000 lbs of steel and/or wood many times supported on these two fixtures. I just clamp them in place with C-clamps. The thing is that you can carry 24 foot long pieces legally and safely, and don’t have to bother with a trailer. I have a 3/4 ton Dodge with an 8′ bed and it’s simple. It took about an hour to cut, fit, and weld each rack, and you can mount or remove them solo.

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