Saturday, July 2, 2011

Clothesline Too High?

If you're like me and don't have a deck near your clothesline to stand on while you hang your laundry, your line must be either really low to the ground (and you can't hang big things like blankets or the kids/animals can reach & muck up your nice clean laundry) or you stand in the middle of the line (the lowest point) and strain to reach from the ground and have to walk back and forth. Frustrating isn't it?
If only your line could be high enough off the ground for the laundry not to get dirty again, and be able to stand at the end of the line (to access the whole length efficiently) while reaching the line at a comfortable height.
Well do I have a solution for you my friend!

A laundry stand! 
Friday, I stopped by the lumber store to pick up $50 worth of supplies and by Sunday morning I was hanging laundry within a comfortable arms reach by standing in one place the whole time! It really doesn't take that long, but I had to stop once in a while to feed the kids and recharge my drill battery.

Dimensions:
45" wide x 24" deep (plus 18" for the steps) x 58"-60" tall
My clothesline is 8 feet off the ground at the end closest to my house, and I am 5'7". I measured that for my arms to be at a comfortable height while reaching the end of the line I would have to be 30" off the ground. You could easily figure this out by standing on a chair, table, or ladder where you want your stand to go. If your stand needs to be a different height, simply adjust the length of the legs and your stairs (you may even be able to find a stool or small ladder instead). I then decided that 24" square platform was sufficient for me to stand on comfortably, and that my basket would need a table with a minimum width of 21".

Supply List:
Use all pressure treated lumber, or other weather resistant lumber (like cedar) and decking screws so that your hard work lasts for a long time.
Ten 8 foot long 2x4s
Two 8 foot long 2x6s
Box of 2.5"-3" long Screws
Drill & Appropriate Bit

Cut List:
From the 8 foot long 2x4s:
56" + 28" + 8"
56" + 28" + 8"
56" +  20" + 18"
56" + 18" + 12"
50" + 45"
50" + 45"
26" + 26" + 26" + 12"
26" + 26" + 26"
21" + 21" +20"
24" + 24" + 24" +24" (These are the X-braces on the sides, if you're skipping those like I did, you wont need this board)
From the 8 foot long 2x6s:
24" + 24" + 24" +24"
26" + 26" + 22" + 22"
It's a good idea to paint the cut ends of pressure treated lumber with a sealant, so the whole board stays protected from the weather over time. You can buy it at any home improvement store, at the same time you buy your pressure treated lumber. I haven't done mine yet, but I will once we find it in our garage.

Notes:
Each square in the diagrams represent 2", unless I've cut it in half. Generally the first part of the step will be dark grey, and the second instruction will be green - they will be noted by each measurement. Use 2 screws in each spot (unless otherwise noted), and on a diagonal where possible - marked with black circles in the diagrams. Cut or notch lines will be marked with red.

Step 1:
Using two 2x4x56 pieces and one 2x4x28 piece, start by laying out the legs for the back side - they lay on edge, not flat. Screw one 2x4x21 and one 2x4x45 horizontal support down (laying flat) onto the legs, making sure everything is square, flush and spaced out according to the measurements.
It helps to temporarily screw a full-size 2x4 along the bottom to act as the ground, measure that the 3 legs are spaced properly so everything ends up square.

Step 2: (This is probably the hardest part of the whole project) 
If you are comfortable using a reciprocating or circular saw freehand to trim them once they're screwed on, you can skip this marking step - Place the 2x4x50 X-braces on the lower section of the legs (not the horizontal support) leaving a couple inches from the end of the leg (in case you need to trim it on unlevel ground) and mark where to trim each one so it is flush with the outside of the legs. Also mark where they cross in the center, so you can notch half of each board out and they sit flat together.  It worked out that I could use the 33.5 degree angle setting on my miter saw (what I use to cut everything.) Once trimmed, screw in place so they are the same level (distance from work space) as your horizontal support. Use 2-3 screws in the center of the X (if it doesn't line up with your center leg, make sure you use shorter screws like 1.5".)

Step 3: 
Repeat step 1 for the front side, but opposite (so the short leg is on the right of the two long legs).

Step 4: 
Lay the front and back down on their long sides parallel to each other 1 foot apart, so that both of the short legs are in the air. To do this you may need a helper, a wall, or what I ended up doing was leaning them against a chair on each outer side. We're about to make the deck part that you will eventually stand on.

Step 5:
Line up a 2x6x24 to the top of the middle leg, making sure the edges are all flush and secure with one screw in the bottom right (into the beam below). Bridge this 2x6 to the other side and secure again with one screw in the bottom left (into the beam below). Adjust the legs if necessary so that everything is square, plum, true, parallel and flush. Once satisfied with alignment, secure the second board using 2 screws on each support beam, but leave a small gap between the two deck boards (a carpenter's pencil or two is great for this, or you could use a folded piece of cardboard, piece of scrap wood, or a twig really).

At this point your structure is strong enough to tip upwards so it stands on it's legs. It will be easier to add the rest of the deck boards, lay out the remaining boards and space them evenly, adjusting the gap so there is either no gap at the end or an overhang. Continue with the rest of the boards until your deck is finished (with at least four screws in each of the four 2x6x24s). There may be a little over hang on the last board depending on the gaps you left, this is fine. Go ahead and put some screws through to the tops of the 2 short legs too.
 
I used two carpenter's pencils to space them enough so all my edges were flush with the legs.

Step 6:
Now we have to take/drag it to the exact location you'll be using it, as long as your tools can still be used there (but really, who uses a corded drill these days?) and you'll probably need some help. Choose a spot where you are comfortable standing to hang laundry, use a level to make sure it's as straight, square, plum, true and parallel as possible. If it's off a bit because of a hill, slop or dent in the ground, trim any legs to help it sit level.  

Tip it over so you can access the bottoms of the legs. Using your 2x4 scraps, cut "feet" about 4" long and screw to the bottom of your legs, the additional 1.75" they add to the height of your stand won't be noticeable. These little feet will help your stand's legs to not sink into the ground on wet days.
Mine worked out so that if I added the feet to all the legs except one, it was relatively level... apparently there is a little hill under that one leg. My "table top" boards are just there temporarily.
Wow, I really should have cut the grass before permanently installing this here.

Step 7:
I screwed the back right leg of mine into the wooden clothesline post it is directly beside, which made it sturdy enough.
Depending on how level your ground is, it might be good as it is or you might want it a little stronger. To make it sturdier (and I'm sure that's a word because spell check didn't assault me) you can add a small X-brace on one or each side. Basically repeat step 2... twice. If you don't want to notch these out, you could secure them on either side of the legs, so the legs are between the X-brace boards. But I think it looks nicer notched out.
Step 8:
Now we're going to build the stairs, depending on your desired platform height, you may be able to use pre-cut stair joists or metal brackets. I'm making mine from scratch. Lay out a 2x4x12 and a 2x4x20 parallel to each other about 6" apart and then at right angles to those, a 2x4x18 and a 2x4x8 according to the diagram. Assuring everything is square and ends are flush, screw together (it is important to use the screw pattern I show in this picture, otherwise your screws for the stair treads will be interrupted). This forms the right side.

Step 9:
Repeat step 8 for the left side, but again opposite (so the short leg is on the right).

Step 10:
Working with the front side (without the X) facing you - take the left stair side and stand it up on the inside of the short leg (to the right of the far left leg). The leg of the stair (dark green in the diagram) should be at the same depth as the leg of the stand (dark grey). Use a level on the light green boards, make sure the backs of the 12'" & 20" boards are flush with the stand's leg and screw it all together.

Step 11:
Take the right stair side and stand it up as you did in step 10, but this one goes on the middle leg. Your project should now look like this (it's almost finished!):

Step 12:
Screw a 2x6x26 piece down, across the front of each stair joining the parts you made in steps 4 & 5. Make sure everything is square and the edges are flush, secure with two screws on each side into the horizontal supports (you can see now why it was important to place the screws in the stair supports like I showed you). I should look like this:

Step 13:
Continue with the stair treads, this time using 2x6x22s to fit inside the "legs" of your stairs. If it's too tight, you might have to trim them slightly to fit in between. You could also notch these 2x6s to fit around the stair leg.

Step 14:
With your structure almost complete, we're going to make the table top. First you are going to find the center of the top area. It should be 10.5", mark this on both support beams. Using a 2x4x26 (for a 1" overhang or you could also cut them to 24" to be flush), place the first table top board and beside with your spacer on the center line, and secure with one screw on the right side (into the beam below). Bridge this 2x4 to the other side and secure again with one screw on the left (into the beam below). Adjust the legs if necessary again. Once satisfied with alignment, secure the second board to the other side of the the center line (and spacer) using 2 screws on each support beam, but of course leave a small gap between the two boards again (I used one carpenter's pencil). Add the second screws to the previous board.
 Continue with the rest of the 2x4x26s (or 2x4x24"s) not forgetting to space them evenly, until your table top is finished (with six 2x4s). Go ahead and put 2 screws through to the tops of the 4 long legs again.
*Please note - For this grid, every square is 1" (not 2" like the rest)*
I didn't even get a chance to get all the boards on and the birds already had to "enjoy" it...

VoilĂ ! There you have it!
Obviously there are a tonne of disclaimers that should come with this...
Do not let children play on or under this structure.
Be careful not to step off the edge (or build a railing if you're nervous).
Do not jump off the top of the table or use as a diving board.
Do not blame me if yours is wonky.

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