Something About This Drill Just Didn’t Seem Right

I don’t pretend to know much of anything about building, yet here we are digging holes, mixing concrete, pouring footers, adding flashing, securing ledger boards, affixing joist hangers, checking measurements and making sure everything is square/level/plumb. I’ve been shown certain things like how to make sure an area is square (the two diagonal distances should be exactly the same length) and how to put a new tip on my handy-dandy, battery-powered (and therefore cordless) drill/screwdriver.

It used to be there were two kinds of screwheads/screwdrivers: Philips (like a cross) and regular (straight). Now there are endless varieties of star and polygon shapes, and all different sizes of those, so you need boxes of bits. Maybe they are called bits and not tips, I can’t remember. Maybe bit is for the drill and tip is for the one that fits into the top of a screw?

This is my great, lightweight and powerful drill/screwdriver. Clearly I am not sure if it is called a drill or a screwdriver, or both. It does both. Does it need to be called both? But the bigger question is: Whatever did they do in the old days without these things?! It’s fantastic!


Some of you are laughing at this picture of the drill already, I can tell.

How we got to this stage in the process is simple: The project that would result in a new front porch, or what you could call an extended front porch (extended off the porch we replaced last year), has been sitting all winter – well, almost all spring too – and I was getting tired of walking through a construction site to get to my front door. The plastic sheeting that has been covering what used to be front lawn was getting to me especially. I was chomping at the bit (not the screwdriver bit!) to make some progress. My son Bradley had had an idea that changed the porch layout design, adding some built-in benches under the soffit (I now know what a soffit is!). Yes, benches under the part where the roof overhangs. This meant more postholes, more footers, more work. But hey, benches!

If there’s one thing I can do, it’s dig. This past weekend I effectively ignored the nagging pain in my right shoulder and by golly, dug holes! You have to dig them right – to the right depth and in the right place. I speak as one who has re-dug holes too many times, including some of these, which comes of not having a very specific plan, but that is another conversation.

Holes. We have holes.


Into the holes we poured cement (is it cement or concrete? – that point is always confusing). Then we put a box on top, a box made of pressboard which is the wooden equivalent of salami – a whole lot of very small pieces all squished together to form a solid. This is what a box looks like up close, with the cement/concrete inside and a thing on top of it called a saddle, or at least that’s what we call it. A gigantic 6×6” post will fit into each saddle.

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The box is there to contain the wet concrete/cement until it sets, i.e. is dry enough to hold its shape and stand on its own. Here are the rest of the footers still with their boxes.

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Once the concrete/cement is set, you have to remove the box. To build the boxes, Sandy used very thin screws that have a weird star-shaped hole in the top. The morning after we had poured the concrete/cement, I found the weird star-shaped tip to put in the drill to unscrew the boxes, and I got it in. I wanted to free those boxes — we had framing to build!

Once you get the boxes apart to this point they just lift off, easy-peasy. I can dig, and I can take boxes apart!



box apart.2mp.jpg

See how nice it looks when all the footers are box-free? By the time Sandy came over, I had the whole lot of them unsheathed like this.

footers unsheathed.2mp.jpg

He was happy and I was happy because now we could move forward with framing. Then he looked at my tool and laughed. Do you see the little tip sticking out?


“Why didn’t you put the extender in?” he asked. Extender? The tip was sticking out enough for me to unscrew those boxes, but you know, something about it just hadn’t seemed right to me…

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