24 Oct

The Deck That Georgie Built

Bruno the Blog may be suffering from neglect, but Bruno the 4Runner is still proving his unlimited worth! What’s kept us away from the blog, you ask? Well, we’ve sufficiently finished our indoor repairs to dabble with hosting Airbnb guests. This lucrative side hustle will definitely show its impact in year-end financial posts. The arrival of Amanda’s parents at the end of August also kicked off the marathon work project that is “landscaping”.

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Holy crap, can you ever sink dollars into beautifying the outdoors! Who knew plants, trees, and rocks were so costly? They’re everywhere! Can’t we just transplant from nature? I’m fairly certain that in most urban areas, this would be considered stealing (I know the National Parks Service seems to think so). With the inside of the home being livable and generating cash, it was time to start in on landscaping the crabgrass in the front yard, clearing the back yard jungle (if only we had returned from Central America with a machete…) and rebuilding the existing back deck, which looked like this:

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As we spent more time outdoors, we got to know more of our neighbors and learned of the existence of the Asheville Tool Library (AVLTL). Without spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars outfitting our non-existent supply of tools, this revelation came to us like a mirage of water in the desert.asheville-tool-library

“What the heck is a Tool Library?” is one question we’ve recently received from friends. And since it has been such an abundant resource, we figured it deserved a short post of its own.

Usually run by volunteers – like Freedom With Bruno’s very own Travis – and sometimes funded by member donations, as it is in Asheville. If you’re lucky enough, it’ll be part of your city’s public library system *FREE*, like it was for us in Oakland, California. A Tool Library is exactly what it sounds like: a long list of usable hand tools, power tools, yard equipment, camping gear available on loan, which creates a sharing community within the neighborhood.

In Asheville, membership costs anywhere from $50-$150 per year – you choose your donation amount. So we set out to build a two-story deck for $50. OK, not really. We also bought a shit-ton of lumber and fasteners, but without the Tool Library, we would have had to invest in hundreds of dollars worth of tools that we may only use a couple times.

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Many will argue that there are certain “key” tools every homeowner should have at their immediate disposal. Well, our home is limited on storage (no garage to fill up with junk – hurray!) and this is one of the best benefits of the Tool Library. They are basically storing a vast amount of tools for you – ready when you are to just bike over and grab one.

Two Asheville residents came up with the idea for the city’s first Tool Library back in 2012. With the addition of a third co-founder who had experience running cooperative community organizations, AVLTL was born. It is currently run by two more tool enthusiasts, carpenters Kara and Ben, both coincidentally from the San Francisco Bay Area and familiar with the Oakland Public Library set-up. The AVLTL shares a rental space with another non-profit and is supported by annual membership fees, donations of both money and tools, and the occasional grant.

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The title of this post is a nod to Amanda’s Dad, who not only endured Travis’ affectionate pet name, but also put in countless labor hours and restless sleeps engineering the structural frame. Our consultant was extremely patient with us and gave us free council in exchange for room, board and hugs day and night. Meanwhile, the garden consultant was no slouch either. Amanda’s Mom turned the front and side yards from nappy grass and weeds into an Appalachian Oasis. A grown-over walkway became the talk of the street (mainly because we spent so many hours in front of the house). What a great way to meet new neighbors!

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If a Tool Lending Library doesn’t exist in your town, at a minimum you can create an inventoried list of who owns what particular tool on your street and share the Google Doc with neighbor participants. Looking for a 25-foot ladder? Jimbo Jones has one 6 houses down. Need a gas-powered chain saw to tackle the jungle that is your backyard? Tonya Two-Toes has one around the corner to lend you!

Would love to know if this has worked anywhere (let us know in the comments)! Since moving to the US, we’ve been so fortunate to always have a Tool Library at our disposal. It makes even more sense when you’re renting a space, because who the heck needs to invest in that many tools to fix up a rental??

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It wasn’t all work… the laborers made time for an East Coast getaway: the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we met up with more family from Ontario, Canada.

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And for some spectacular hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

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Cooler weather is finally upon us at the end of October, and we’re expecting our next set of worker bees any day now (Travis’ parents)! Stay tuned to find out if we can actually complete our construction project before the holidays!

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  • That deck is going to be great! Can’t wait to see the finished results.

    Tool libraries are indeed great things. I’ve also found a lot of people also give away perfectly serviceable tools for free on Freecycle or BuyNothing. The vast majority of my tools have come to me this way — completely free!

    • Amanda

      Thanks Mr. Tako! Just perused through your site and it’s quite entertaining! I have yet to use Freecycle, but I have been known to lazily scan through the Free section of Craigslist now and again 🙂

  • 1. That deck looks pretty sweet. I’ll have to hide the pics from Mrs. Root of Good because she wants to build a second story deck addition (with roof above it!) and I’m pretty lazy and cheap. 🙂 Interesting choice for plywood for the second level deck instead of 1×6 or 1×8 or whatever decking boards usually are. Why the plywood? Going to seal it up or cover it with something else? That stuff can fall apart if it gets wet routinely.

    And any plans to screen in that back porch on the bottom? Might be a nice way to keep out the skeeters (aka mosquitoes in case you haven’t learned Redneck speak yet).

    2. No tool library here in Raleigh that I know of. But I make a point to take mental notes on who has what and who the “tool guys” are around the hood. If I need a chainsaw or a table router or a long ladder etc I know who to call. If they don’t have it a friend of theirs probably does. And there are a bunch of carpenters and general contractors here in the ‘hood (yay blue collar/white collar mixed neighborhood!) so I can always bug them and maybe get some free/cheap help to boot.

    • Amanda

      Hey Justin!

      The top level deck is still under construction, but the plywood is meant for some temporary exposure to the elements. Travis has devised a plan with one of his Tool Library buddies – we’re going to coat the plywood with some sort of waterproof rubber sealant (details undetermined as of yet), then lay down some spacers and finish with identical decking boards to downstairs (1×6’s). We’re hoping this gets us to a waterproof “ceiling” over the downstairs deck.

      We’ve designed the bottom deck to be able to add screened-in panels in the future. I’m thinking we’ll go through another summer sans mosquito safe room, but Travis may have had it by then and it’ll be next year’s fall project for us. All of this also depends on whether Airbnb continues to fund some of these projects 🙂

  • Greg z

    Glad to see you guys posting again! Appreciate the updates.

    • Amanda

      Thanks for continuing to read, Greg 🙂

  • Deck looks great. The top level looks like it will support some great views especially for fall foliage.

    • Amanda

      We are absolutely enjoying the fall colors from the deck. Even if it’s just sitting on plywood in the sunshine 🙂