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One frustrating project, part 2 of 2

Posted by joeabbott on April 2, 2014

When I started a post on this project, I had intended on just jumping into the action: telling you what I accomplished on the first day of my week vacation from work. And I do find it ironic that I take a break from “work” and do more labor in that week than I do almost the rest of the year. But, that’s not the point.

When I started the post on my frustrating project, I realized someone reading might benefit from context and, being the windbag that I am, the post got darned long; so I called it Part 1. In this post, we’ll actually get to the details of what I did to address the drainage issues around our chicken coop.

What I wanted to do

imageSuzy didn’t “get” my plan from the start and it frustrated me as the solution I was proposing wasn’t complex … clearly I wasn’t explaining well. I planned on taking a “funnel-shaped” bit of plastic, putting a screen over it, and layering rocks on top of that. I’d situate it beneath the rain chain and bury it under rocks … on the funnel end I’d attach a (buried) hose and take the water away. Easy peasy. Just, not really.

First, I couldn’t find a funnel-shaped bit of plastic and that really stopped things there. What I did find was a 9” catch basin … perfect! Except they cost about $40. Criminy!!!

While expensive, it was a perfect solution. So, after biting my nails and worrying with Suzy, we just picked up a pair of basins, a couple sections of 3.5” corrugated drainage hose, and then some concrete bricks (pavers) to edge the catch basin.

The idea was to use the bricks around the catch basin but to leave them higher than the basin itself; we’d then fill that area (covering the catch basin) with colorful rock. Sounded pretty and functional.

With those few supplies, I was ready to work.


The day started by removing our existing rain barrels and watering station, and then hauling the materials up to the project site. Not a bother: we have a good path and it felt good to stretch the legs and carry the basins, the drainage hoses, and the heavy bricks to the coop work site. At this point, I needed a few more trips for the pick (for getting through the stone and clay), shovel, and a couple other implements I’d need. Time to get to work!

I started by pulling up the stone pavers we’d laid down a few years back. That was tough (emotionally) as it took awhile to get those installed and stable, so undoing any successful project is a pain. I then used a plumb bob hanging from the drain to find where to place the center of the catch basin and dug a sizeable hole around that area: big enough for the 9” catch basin and then the 18” bricks that would surround it.

I then moved on to cutting a trench for the hose, terminating at our retaining wall. I knew we’d have to get through the wall, so I was ready … but not so ready that I had my level! Time to head into the garage and get the level to ensure I’d be drilling through the retaining wall in the right place. While in the garage, I picked up my drill, hole saw, and a couple extra batteries … I’m no dummy and this looked like a multi-battery project!

imageBack at the coop I ensured myself that my hole saw was bigger than the 3.5” drainage pipe; yup, drainage pipe was 3.5” and the hole saw was 3 5/8”; and then started in. Wait, I needed my knee pads.

Unfortunately, that discovery wasn’t a preemptive observation: it was only after dropping to my knees on a stone that I remembered to get them. Back to the garage, back to the coop. I was set.

After drilling through about an inch of the 3.5” wall, all three of my batteries were tapped and the project was starting to take on an industrial feel. I headed to the shop, got my corded drill, and an extension cord; then back to the coop.

Using my corded drill I got through about half of the wall but found I was bogging the drill down: the wood was very wet and if I turned the hole saw even a bit out of perfect alignment, the friction from the surrounding wood would grab the blade and cause the motor to labor.

Unfortunately, I needed to head back to the shop to get a proper drill bit to pierce the wall. Which I did and was able to start drilling from the opposite side.

And, by this time, I needed another word for “unfortunately” as my drill gave up the last vestiges of working at all and just died. Or, to be really precise, working on it on this project in the way I did caused me to kill it. Dead. Which was a shame but not because of the cost … it was a cheap drill from a company called Harbor Freight, which traffics in low-quality, cheap hardware … it was a shame because now I needed to go out and buy a new drill motor. And so I did. Set me back $20, but I was back at it in no time.

Now that’s unfortunate.

imageReturning to the task at hand, I continued drilling from the other side of the retaining wall and, about the time I got halfway through, I stopped making progress. In a bit of frustration, I used a hammer and chisel and smacked the remaining wood out of the center. And there it was. The thing that stopped me. A 3/8” spike I’d used to secure the retaining wall. Nearly dead center. Frustrating.

imageAfter clearing the hole that wasn’t spike, using a chisel and hammer, I returned to the garage for a hacksaw blade. Back at the retaining wall, I sawed and sawed and finally cut out the part of the spike blocking the hole. I then attempted to run the drain pipe through the hole and was stopped. The hole appeared too small.

Going back to the shop, I grabbed a couple of rasps and a wire brush (for clearing the rasp) and did the best I could to ensure the hole was round and without protrusions but, even then, I wasn’t able to run the drainage pipe through the hole. It didn’t appear to be too small, it was too small. Not sure how I screwed that up, but there you have it.

In a bit of desperation I thought to crimp one end of the pipe, run it through, and then with brute force, pull the pipe through. Didn’t work … I wasn’t brute enough. After pondering and mulling and noodling on this one, I concluded there was one thing to do … well, several but I chose the easiest and quickest: I cut the pipe along what would be the top.


I only cut the part from that would need to be threaded through the wall and I was unhappy doing it. But, it allowed me to continue the project. With a slice in the pipe, I was able to overlap the pipe at the cut, thread it through, and position the pipe so the cut remained at the top when I laid it down.

imageOh, and to do the cutting, you guessed it, I needed to return to the shop for another tool.

More snags

After getting the pipe through, I tried to attach it to the catch basin and found that the pipe I had was about 1/8” too small to fit the basin. I tried a LONG time to ram that pipe onto the basin … pushing, twisting, stretching … but nothing worked. So, I got out a knife, slit the end, fit the pipe onto the basin, and packed everything in snugly so the pipe was held in place with earth and gravel. Not my finest effort by a long shot. Not even in the top 100.

And to get everything in and stable, I took another trip to our potting shed for some crushed gravel. On the way back up, I was noticing that I was wearing a trough in the path.

Using the gravel I was able to get the basin level and one side was nearly done: just needed to ring it with the bricks (actually, concrete pavers) that I picked up.

And enter another problem

Here’s where I started hating this project. Not just frustrated by it … but truly and deeply hating it.

The pavers were 8”x16”x1.5” or something like that . We would place them on edge and ring the catch basin creating a small wall around it. One side, two side, three side … all well. And then that fourth side … the location next to the side of the catch basin from which the drainage pipe issues. Yeah … how did I intend on blocking out a side with my concrete brick when a 3.5” drainage pipe was coming out the side there? Huh? How?

imageI returned to the shop (really getting tired of this trip by now) with the paver and I set about drilling a series of holes along the path that I’d knock out so the pipe could pass through. Think of it as creating a small mouse hole type passage. Well, I had about nine holes drilled around the perimeter and thought that was enough. Took a whack with a cold chisel … and broke the bring into three parts. <sigh>

I cleared the other parts but still had three sections for this brick. I knew I’d return to the hardware store sometime, so I’d check for a different side bring that might work (I did return, they didn’t have anything that worked). Back up the hill to the coop and I tried to make the best of the situation.

imageWith a bit of work, I managed to get the bricks installed. It was tricky as I didn’t want the sides to be so high as to be a tripping hazard, but also didn’t want them flush with the ground as we’d get too much sand kicked into them by the chickens. In the end, one side of the bricks surrounding the basin was higher than the other but it looked reasonably square and seemed a good compromise. Oh, and one side was higher because the ground here was slightly sloped.

I then re-installed the pavers above the drainage tube but found that, regardless how well I packed the earth, the pavers would rock a bit. So, out to another hardware store that had crushed gravel … I needed a lot … and back home. And many trips between the car and coop, and I was able to pack the drainage pipe with gravel and get the pavers installed without rocking.

Damn this was a lot of work.

Side two … this side will be easier, right?

The second side would be easier in that I wouldn’t have to pull up stone pavers (no pavers on this side) and didn’t need to penetrate a retaining wall (no retaining wall either … I did mention the area around here is sloped, right?). But it carried its own challenges.

As I’ve dramatically recounted, there were a lot of places this project could go amiss: I still had to penetrate one of the paver bricks I’d use to surround the catch basin, the drainage pipe still didn’t seal well against the basin, and I needed to decide where to terminate the outflow.

The first two problems were addressed as I did on the first side: this side I tried using an angle grinder to cut out the portion of the paver brick I didn’t want but still broke the brick in three parts, and I ended up slicing the drainage tube collar and trusting a loose fit held in place by snugging the parts together with dirt. In terminating the outflow, I dragged the tube over toward the edge of a berm and covered it completely. For the water volume imageand pressure I imagine, I thought this would do. As I type this, however, I am struck that this configuration (terminating the drainage in the middle of a small hillside) could act like a blocked drain and fill up the basin … bet there’s another trip to the hardware store in here somewhere to get another section of tubing so I can extend it beyond the end of the berm. <sigh>


Finishing touches

After getting the basins in place and buried with their brick edging, we picked up some polished black river rock and filled the area above the basin to give it a decorative look. While it’s nice, I need a bit of time and distance between me and this project before I can look at it and see more than the problems and flaws.

Apologies for this post taking a downer tone. The frustrations of the many small issues that cropped up … and the less-than-solid solutions to them … put me in a cross mood. Fortunately we have a lot more projects to succeed at ahead of us for later in the week!

Thanks for dropping in.


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