Posted on 23/10/2009 at 15:36

Terrace Project


I'm lucky enough, since I moved in (in December 2007), to have a nice terrace, and even a small garden.
But everything here has to be done, nothing has been set up yet.

So, this will be a new topic on ShamWerks : setting up my terrace, this is the "Terrasse Project". icone smiley laugh (you understood that "terrasse" is the French wording...)
I hope this will give some of you ideas and/or some help.

Inventory :

So, in the beginning, I have a 30m² terrace (4.7m wide per 6.3m long), covered with unskillfully installed concrete tiles (over a sand bed), with a separation from my neighbors' garden made of plastic-reeds-and-wire-mesh-that-fly-away-as-soon-as-there's-some-wind (lovely stuff)...

We get to the terrace via a 5m² loggia, i.e. not enough to make anything of it, specially with its ugly orange shaded tiling...

To plan things, I use Sketchup (as usual - I'm getting good at that soft!), transferring all the measurements, to get an accurate virtual representation of my terrace :
To sum it up : nice place, lots of potential, but nothing sexy either.

The Project :

After putting my brain upside-down for quite a while, trying to put up a project that would be coherent, comfy and trendy, but not cold-designed, easy to maintain, and that would blend nicely with the 30's house facade... I ended up with that :

Compare the pictures with the ones on row above for the "before/after" effect.

This involves several sub-projects, that I will write about in detail in as many dedicated articles :


So... Some work to be done, uh?... To be continued! icone smiley wink
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Posted on 10/11/2009 at 18:33

Terrace Project : Wooden fence

Wooden fence
Here we go, May 2009, building the wooden fence...
I've used 180x180cm panels made of autoclaved pine, found at the DIY superstore ; these are thick, with a solid a assembly and stainless screws, while the el cheapo models wouldn't resist more than a week...

The first (and so tedious!) step is to brush two layers of wood surface coating (both sides). Autoclaved or not, pine wood outside wouldn't make it through winter without it (even I live in sunny French Riviera). I'm using V33 coating, said to be guaranteed 8 years. That's free advertising, I'm happy with it for now, we'll see later how it turns out.
The panels are fixed with four 70 x 70mm posts , made of pine wood as well, surface coated the same way as the panels.
As a small 50cm wall was there, I fixed my posts on it, using four 120mm long bolts ; the leftmost and rightmost posts have an additional long bolt at their top, to fix them on their side wall. Sometimes the are some strong winds at my place, I wanted to be sure nothing would move... And, well, I believe this could take an earthquake.

I only have one single picture of the assembly process : bottom left, you can see the column drill I use to drill down really square into the posts ; in the corner, you can see the bottom of one of the posts, drilled, with its four long bolts in place.

The long bolts heads are not directly in contact with the wood, but with a large washer, unless the pressure would make the head go through the soft wood. The bolt head, and its washer, are in a small 5mm deep hole, made with a 35mm drill... Aesthetic detail! icone smiley laugh

Here we are! It took me way longer than expected, but I really wanted to make sure it would last long. And some details take a looooong time to achieve, like the modification of the left panel : narrowing and notching to deal with the step...
Phewww... Done. Next! icone smiley wink
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Posted on 17/11/2009 at 19:38

Terrace Project : Japanese Garden Tsuboniwa Chaniwa

Tsuboniwa Chaniwa
Second step of the Terrace Project, setting up a small japanese garden...

Since I only had a few square meters, I chose a tsuboniwa-style garden ("courtyard garden") was necessary. These are very small gardens, integrated into closed spaces insides habitations and temples, using the same constitutive elements as their big-brothers : the chaniwa ("tea garden") and the karesensui ("dry garden", usually named "Zen garden" in occident).
This one will be kind of a reduced version of a "tea garden". These gardens are leading to the little house where takes place the ceremony of... tea, you guessed it right. icone smiley wink

Here we go! First step, cutting off the concrete tiles to get a nice round shape. It's easier than it looks actually, using an angle grinder with a segmented diamond disc. You just want to go slowly, tracing the cut line on both sides of the tile, then cutting half-way through only (don't try cutting all the way through, you'd block the disc).
Then I put the two big trees that will structure the whole set.

The chaniwa gives me the opportunity to integrate Japanese mapple trees, a tree that I really like a lot, which leaves turn bright red at the autumn.
The taller one is anAcer Palmatum Matsumurae while the smaller one is an Acer Palmatum Dissectum (one can recognize it thanks to its dissected leaves). Mapple trees do not like the clay-ish soil of my garden, therefore I gave them a mix of peaty soil, leaf mould and sand, which they seem to appreciate.

Thanks, by the way, to "Blue Toad", my '88 mk.II Rabbit, that has transported absolutely everything possible those past few years... icone smiley wink
Next, putting in place the tank for the closed-circuit fountain. It's a tsukubai ; traditionally, the stone basin (chozubachi) is here to allow one to perform his ablutions right before arriving to the tea house. And since the basin is low, it makes everyone, whatever their social rank, putting a knee to the ground, though prompting to humility. Well, in my case, I only wanted to hear the water flowing noise! icone smiley laugh
In the other hand, I did not want the shishi-odoshi made famous by the movie Kill Bill (remember, the fight between Lucy Liù and Uma Thurman in a Japanese garden : that was the bamboo fountain making a regular tocking noise) : too noisy, I only want a tiny whisper of water flow, not giving my neighbors a reason to call the cops... Traditionally, it was supposed to scare away the deers, but well, they are pretty seldom in my neighborhood these days. icone smiley wink
For the tank, I used a plastic storage box. Plus, its hadles holes are nice overflow security : in case of rain, the tank won't be overflowed, the water will get out through those holes. The tank is surrounded with stones, gravels and sand, to drain the water away. Beware of the spiky stones anyway, I've broken the bottom of two boxes before I actually could put it in place correctly!
A small aquarium pump pushed the water into the bamboo spout, it flows into the sink, overflows into the tank below... Circuit closed.

Next on the list are the plants.

On the ground, some Helexine (creeping plant originating from Corsica, with very small leaves, looks like moss), some Adiantum Fragrans around the tsukubai, and a fern behind the three stones.

These three stones are yet another traditional element of a japanese garden, named sanzoniwagumi, "Buddhist triad stone ", the biggest one representing Buddha.

The naked soil is first covered with geotextile fabric, to avoid unwanted wild grass to grow.

Above, a layer of Carrare white marble pebbles : a bit too shiny at the beginning, but it tend to take a nice patina through time.

At the foot of the maple trees, and of the basin, black slate flakes bring in some contrast.
Here is the result in August, i.e. two month after the original setup : all the plants look fine, the Adiantum Fragrans have exploded,the helexine is creeping away covering everything (I'll have to keep an eye on it), the granite basin got some patina.
The lantern is a ceramic model bought in a garden centre ; it's not the cutest ever, but it will do fine until I find a nicer one (not easy in such a small size)...
Same thing for the basin : I originally wanted something more natural (evoking Noguchi's fountain at the NYC Metropolitan museum), that one will stay here until I find the perfect one.
Even I'm more than satisfied with the result, it's not really a "Japanese" garden, but more a "Japanese-inspired" one. I've tried as hard as possible to follow the rules and codes of a traditional Japanese garden (whereas adapting it with the local plants and available space), but I'm very far from the look and feel of the masters in that art!
Anyway, I won't stay at that point, a "cloud-shaped" boxtree will come later behind the angle of the building, the whole set up will be harmonized, the rest of the garden will be landscaped as well... To be continued, so.

I've read a lot on the subject before I actually stepped in, studying the different options... If you're interested, I highly recommend the following web sites (all in French, sorry guys, just watch the pictures!) :
  • Fuji-Jardins, made by a true enthusiast, it's complete, detailled, pleasant to read, and, last but tnot least, graphically superb.
  • Erik Borja's garden is one of the references in this domain, and his website is brilliant.
  • Fullhouse-Niwa, a blog following the creation of a Japanese garden, from its "soul-less square of soil" to the final small piece of Japan.
That's all folks... I'm off, I'm going back to my terrace for some meditation. icone smiley wink
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Posted on 30/11/2009 at 17:35

Terrace Project : Bamboo containers

Bamboo containers
Large garden containers aren't easy to find, and really expensive... Additionnaly, I wanted mines to be high enough for the bamboos to settle correctly, while not too wide, and more than 3.20 meters long!

So I built them from scratch, based on an idea found on Vialbost.org. On Sketchup, I adapted the plan to my dimensions, trying to optimize the cuts in my boards and struts ; if you're interested, you'll find my Sketchup plan here.
So, I've made two identical containers, measuring 163cm long per 42cm wide.
The sides are made of autoclaved pine weather-boards, 179x14.5cm, 2cm thick. You can use it just like you would paneling, the boards fitting into each other. The "strip" of the last (top) board is removed with a circular saw, for aesthetic reasons (use a plane block and sandpaper for finishing) ; that strip is then glued into the bottom groove, for enhanced solidity and to avoid moist getting in there. The boards are glued with polyurethane wood glue and clamped using ratchet straps, while waiting for the glue to set.
The bottom of the containers is made out of 18mm thick OSB ; that's a purely economic choice, 9 euros for both, it's a real bargain! It would have cost arround 60 euros in plywood... OSB is far from being as solid as plywood, but here, with less than 30cm between each bottom supports, it will be more than enough. In the other hand, OSB is very sensitive to moisture/humidity, you must protect it. Three layers of wood surface coating (inside and outside), along with the inside tarpaulin, should do the job.
All reinforcements and uprights are made of 70x32mm autoclaved pine struts. These are the very same struts I used for the decks.
I used a stock of 4x40mm. stainless Torx screws I bought by mistake (not the right dimension) for the decks. Since I had 500 of them, I did not hesitate in the number of sreews during assembly, to make sure it will remain solid though time : 175 screws per container! icone smiley laugh
The bamboos are not planted yet, I was late and I believe I will wait till next spring to install them.
Phew! Yet another thing done! icone smiley wink

Edit 24/06/2010 :

By Internet Magic, we already are on next spring!
So, end of May, Blue Toad is on duty again to fetch 6 containers filled with 160 to 180cm high bamboos. I felt like I was inventing green tuning in my car. icone smiley wink
So, finally, here is the result of my bamboo containers... I must say I'm quite impressed by the speed at which these guys grow, almost 40 centimeters the first 2 weeks after I installed them!
The 4 wire you can see in the front of the containers are for lights, they'll be hidden by the couch.
Bamboo containers... Check!
By the way, good to see that my design inspired other realisations : here on Zep's blog! (french only)

Edit 05/05/2015 :

This article is the most read on ShamWerks, and I'm often asked how are my bamboo container doing now.
So, 5 years later, here's a quick update! icone smiley wink

Below are a few pictures of my containers as they are today :
In short : everything's fine! icone smiley smile
For those of you who feared the bamboo roots would pierce through the wooden containers, here's the proof they're doing just fine. The left one just got a bit of a billow because of the roots pressure (about 3cm measured in the middle), but no sign of weakness, crack or leak.
The bamboos are now about 3 meters high.

If I had to do it all over again, I'd change the tarp : that el cheapo one doesn't handle humidity too well, I should rather have installed one of those heavy duty root barriers, which would have kept it water-tightness (the objective being to protect the wood from humidity). Or maybe, simply brush a few coats of tar in there.
The OSB bottom is doing fine too, giving no signs of fatigue ; thinking about it, I should probably have gone with the more expensive plywood anyway, just for my peace of mind.

The coating looks perfect. It was V33 brand "8 years warranty", a really good product, I'd gladly use it again. Well, to be fair, the containers are quite protected from wind and sun ; the wooden panels behind them received the same coating, but being more exposed, they don't look as pristine.

I finally replaced the originally halogen lights by LED ones ; Halogen got too hot, and front glass broke all the time because of thermal shock with humidity... No more problem with LEDs that barely heat at all - and draw much less power!

So, that's it for this update! I'll keep you informed about the evolution of these containers in a couple of years from now! icone smiley laugh

Edit 05/09/2017 :

I had to make two additional bamboo containers! The article is here, go check it out! icone smiley wink
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Posted on 09/05/2010 at 14:44

Terrace Project : Deck Loggia

Sorry! This article has not yet been translated in english! Please come back later!


Deck 1 : Loggia
En fait de loggia, les plans d'origine de la maison (datant de 1925) indiquent "Promenoir". Mais "Deck Promenoir" ça sonnait moins bien, non?

Voila à quoi ressemblait l'endroit avant travaux (première photo à gauche) : hey, j'vous fait grâce des commentaires sur le contenu de l'endroit, hum? icone smiley wink.

La profondeur de cette surface étant trop faible pour y faire quoi que ce soit (160cm, impossible d'y caser une table et deux chaises, ou une paire de fauteuils...), j'ai décidé de la couvrir, en faisant un prolongement de près de 40cm au dessus de la marche pour obtenir une surface exploitable. Bref, regardez les photos, c'est plus parlant.

Première étape, aller chercher les matériaux, et c'est pas une mince affaire, ça pèse très vite très lourd, le bois exotique!
C'est encore une fois Krapo Bleu, ma vieille Golf '88, qui s'y colle...
La structure en dessous se compose de lambourdes en pin autoclavé, préparées de deux couches de lasure V33 8 ans "Cèdre Rouge". C'est une précaution dont j'aurais pu me passer, mais je ne voulais pas prendre le risque de voir mes lambourdes pourrir au bout de deux hivers...
Les lambourdes sont surélevées grace à des petites plaquettes de contre-plaqué, qui permettent à l'eau de passer en dessous. C'est que moi, je compte bien nettoyer le tout au jet d'eau ensuite! icone smiley wink
Les lambourdes sont fixées au sol via des vis/chevilles, dont les trous sont percés dans les joints entre les carreaux du carrelage. Comme ça, si un jour je devais enlever l'ensemble, il suffirait juste de reboucher quelques trous...
Le cadre de support sur la marche est fait de telle manière que les lames, une fois posées dessus, conservent la pente d'un centimètre par mètre de la terrasse.
Les lames venant par dessus sont en Almendrillo, un bois originaire du Brésil, naturellement imputrescible.
La réalisation demande surtout de la patience : chaque trou dans les lames doit être pré-percé et fraisé, sinon la lame se fissure à tous les coups. Pour cela, l'utilisation d'un foret avec fraise intégrée est impérative, sinon l'opération vire vite au cauchemar : un peu plus de 300 vis rien que pour cette partie de la terrasse!
J'ai utilisé des vis inox 5x50mm, tête fraisée, empreinte Torx : deux vis à chaque fois pour bien plaquer la lame (sinon elle "tuile"), tous les 50 cm maximum. A propos, achetez vous un embout tout neuf pour votre visseuse, il vous aidera bien... Et mollo sur le serrage final, au risque de fendre la lame ou de péter la tête de la vis.
Les lames sont posées quelques centimètres trop longues par rapport au besoin final : cela permet de les couper une fois en place à la scie circulaire, toutes d'un coup (avec une règle de maçon pour guide), pour avoir un alignement parfait. J'ai poussé le vice jusqu'au bout en passant un coup de défonceuse avec une fraise à 45° pour faire un chanfrein de 3mm, histoire de peaufiner la finition...
A propos, si vous vous lancez dans un tel projet, oubliez la lame fournie avec votre scie circulaire, tout juste bonne à débiter du bois pour la cheminée, et investissez dans une très bonne lame, avec beaucoup de dents, ça vous change la vie.

Et après "quelques" heures de patience, voila le résultat, ici en cours de traitement avec 2 couches d'huile dure! Il ne restera plus qu'à y intégrer quelques spots à LEDs...
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