Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Fixing an unexpected problem

Yesterday, I completed an unanticipated project, something that amounted to re-doing what had been a completed project. On the other hand. It was also an opportunity to not merely re-do the project, but to do it better. And that’s a good thing.

Back in December of last year, I put a cover over the table and chairs on my patio. It was something I needed to do because the furniture had been exposed to the elements ever since Nigel and I moved to our last house in early 2017, and they were deteriorating. I’d have preferred to have the entire patio covered, however, that wasn’t in the budget. This was an affordable option that left the table and chairs outside in case I wanted to use them—and out of the garage, where there wasn’t any room, anyway.

Fast forward to last week when I mowed the lawns. I was out on the patio at one point and happened to glance at the cover. I noticed that the tops of the chairs had rubbed holes into the cover (before and after in the photo above).

Repairing the holes, while possible, wasn’t really the best option because the whole point is that the cover has to be as weatherproof as possible, and patches may not be. Since I was going to replace the cover anyway, I needed to work out how to prevent it from happening again. At first I thought about putting fabric on the stops of the chairs, and then I suddenly realised that the perfect solution was pool noodles—and I have no idea why I thought of that.

I’d never heard of pool noodles until a few years ago, and even then it was only because some were being sold in one of the home centres under that name. Later, I found out through YouTube videos and Pinterest that people made stuff out of them. Somewhere along the line, they must have wormed their way into my noodle—um, brain.

It turns out, there’s something of a DIY genre devoted to using pool noodles for all sorts of projects and “hacks”, and I guess I’ve now joined them. Well, I did once I finally got some.

My first challenge was to find them. It’s still winter here, not exactly prime season for them, so I wasn’t sure if the home centres would have them in stock. Their websites said that they did, as did another store recommended to me. In the end, I went to one of the home centres where, reviews told me, they were being sold for “the best price in New Zealand”, and they were—at least a third less than the next nearest price. A bigger draw, however, was that I could get the new cover at the same place.

My next dilemma was noodle colour. My instinct was to choose blue, but this is an election year in New Zealand, and blue is the colour of the conservative National Party, so that wasn’t an option. Red is the colour of the centre-left Labour Party, but the red noodle looked kind of orange. So, I went with a kind of lavender colour, mainly because I’m old enough to remember when lavender was used a lot by LGBT folks (supposedly because it was a blend of pink and blue, though I’ve never found a source for that claim). I picked out three.

Next, I wanted some carabiners to use to make some quick-release ropes for added tie-down protection. In my original version, I tied rope to the table legs, but my new approach would be much faster and easier to undo if I wanted to use the table. But—which ones should I buy?

I wanted a pack of them so I could make sure I could make enough ropes, and I found a pack of nine at a good price, but there were three matched pairs and three single ones in different colours. I’m not OCD, but this pushed me toward that. I ended up buying two packs so each colour would be paired. Why? So I can easily see which rope I’m undoing by looking at the colour of the carabiner—both ends of the rope will be the same colour (a bit like electrical or data wiring).

Finally, I bought a grommet kit so I could add some grommets to the bottom of the cover to give me something to hook the ropes onto. That part was dead easy.

All up, around $100 for everything.

I started cutting the noodles into thirds (50cm long, the width of a chair back). That was relatively easy. Cutting them lengthways to make the slit to go over the chair backs was a little more challenging, but it only had to be a reasonably straight line—perfection wasn’t necessary. I used an ordinary shop knife to cut the noodles (photo at right).

I took the old cover off and put the first noodle onto a chair back, something that was more difficult than I anticipated because the tops of the chair backs are actually a little deeper than I realised because I didn’t take the cover off until that point. The back itself is a stretched mesh fabric that sits around a centimetre in front of the top metal frame, and that meant that I needed to spread the noodles open a bit more than was possibly a good idea. One them split a bit at one end, but enough was intact to keep it attached to the chair back—I think? I have one entire pool noodle extra, though, so I can easily make replacements if I need to.

When I put the new cover on, I could see that it was sitting on the chair backs much better than it had before. At the moment, it looks like it turned out exactly as I wanted it to. We'll see what happens in the next big storm.

Just like when I bought the cover in December of last year, this is meant to be a relatively short-term solution, something to protect the table and chairs until I can have a fixed cover built over the patio. But that’s a longer-term thing, possibly a year or two away (maybe more…). The cover for the table was a good idea last year, and my new, improved version is an even better idea. If I need a third attempt, though, maybe I’ll need to find a way to hurry the building of the cover. I should add that I plan to cut the old cover into smaller tarpaulins, so it's not headed to landfill.

Yesterday I completed an unanticipated re-do of a project, but that gave me the opportunity to do the project much better than the first time. It turned out to be a very good thing—so far.


Roger Owen Green said...

That's using your noodle in every sense pf the word.

Arthur Schenck said...

I so wanted to use that in the title, but I was concerned some folks might not get it. I don't think I've heard the phrase used in "quite some time".