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Deck Engineering (...for a backyard observatory)

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#1 mmalik

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 05:49 AM

With either POD or NEX in mind (...fill in other similar dome solutions of your choice) I would like to engineer a deck in the backyard. While information to build decks abound on the internet, I have a unique backyard scenario that requires bit more (deck) engineering than usual.

 

 

Most observatory decks I have seen are ground level (with varying heights) where ground underneath is somewhat level. I have a situation in the backyards where ground is 'not' level and has somewhat of a steep grade to it.

 

 

That't not all; I would also like to cover pier engineering under similar circumstance and expand the discussion to include building a warming solution (e.g., a shed on the deck) for extreme winter conditions, and cover other scenarios that mitigate deck vibrations for any outside-the-observatory viewings. Note: This is in addition to the pier inside the observatory which is also detached from the deck.

 

 

In short, I need you help to build a deck that encompasses but not limited to the following:

 

 

1. POD or NEX or other similar dome on the deck

 

2. A warming shed on the deck, but detached from the obervatory

 

3. An observing area outside the dome (a second pier or tripod area of sort) that is NOT affected by deck vibrations

 

4. POD or NEX on the deck will be primarily dedicated to DSO imaging at medium or longer FLs

 

5. While I envision a separate warming shed on the deck, I am open to discussing novel and advanced ideas to adding/extending a warming chamber to POD or NEX that wouldn't affect observatory operations. Kind of a rat hole type solution that leads to a heated extension that doesn't affect observatory milieu.

 

6. All of this has to be compact enough so that such a deck project doesn't turn into a project that its NOT

 

7. While warming shed is going to be really compact, it potentially could be used to control observatory operations if needed

 

8. I am NOT looking for observatory automation or remote operation per se, just having a warm space to shelter-in while managing manual operations at the observatory

 

9. Observing area on the deck (...outside the observatory) is a very limited space that potentially could be used for small out reach programs of visual observing kind, be it one person at a time

 

10. As you can tell, whole deck area is going to be quite compact, all structures on the deck also quite compact but main idea is to design some real solutions along the way. and in a budget and scale most could manage

 

 

Thanks in advance for your participation; I am hoping we can get very creative with such a project and take backyard imaging/observing to a new level!

 

 

Note: More on the deck dimensions, deck design, and area geography next...

 

 



#2 thesungazer

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 06:58 AM

A couple quick thoughts:

 

use pressure treated lumber

 

keep the deck a few inches above the ground

 

rent a cement mixer. your back will thank you

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Edited by thesungazer, 13 October 2019 - 06:59 AM.

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#3 mmalik

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 07:56 AM

Here are the deck initial dimensions; I have shared these in another thread but here we'll get into the details of the deck. Suggestions welcome regarding rectangle size and what's planned for it to contain. Regards

 

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#4 mmalik

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 08:07 AM

rent a cement mixer. your back will thank you

Given the height of the deck (~5' on the high side) and my novelty to concrete, I am thinking of going with wood posts for the deck. I might go for concrete pier for the scope but that's pretty much what my initial thoughts are as far concrete use goes. Please know that I am NO expert when it comes to building any of this; suggestions welcome. I am thinking following for the posts:

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Edited by mmalik, 13 October 2019 - 08:13 AM.


#5 lee14

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 08:28 AM

Wood posts for support are fine. There are three grades of pressure treated lumber, make sure you use the type rated for in-ground. The deck itself can be the type rated for ground contact. Keeping it a few inches above ground is fine, it makes for a simpler installation and leveling. The support posts can be done with minimal concrete work. You should go down below the frost level, but two feet is certainly sufficient to prevent heaving. Keep the width of the holes as narrow as possible. Place a few bricks or flat concrete block at the bottom, tamp them down with the post, plumb the post in two dimensions with temporary supports, empty a single 80 pound bag of concrete mix into the hole and pour a gallon of water over the dry mix. Let it cure for a day and fill the remaining space with soil. This method is commonly used for decks, it's relatively quick, stable, and avoids having to mix and pour concrete.

 

Lee



#6 TOMDEY

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 09:20 AM

So... It's 16x10 and 5 feet high, on the high side? So, is your ground slope actually 5/16 = 17o ? If so, yeah... that's getting quite steep! The 8"x8"x8' PT posts will certainly work... even 6"x6" would be fine. Reinforced concrete/steel all the way up on the scope pier is also prudent.

 

Your combination of dome + warm-up/control room + deck/outreach functions gets rather grandiose for a small footprint. Might consider going even larger, if you can. The one thing to not skimp on is the depth and population of support posts. More than four is prudent, will never regret ~overbuilding~ for stability and permanence. The space under helps cool-down and seeing a lot! Other than that, think through the details and decide to become semi-expert on construction. A local friend or contractor willing to help on the project would be a prudent plus. That, or contract out the entire build...

 

My situation is similar, the high side is about six feet above the ground. Here are a couple pictures of that. It has weathered the test of time - going on thirty years... The design and build were entirely my own, with a lot of erection assistance from friends!   Tom

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#7 TOMDEY

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 09:21 AM

nother pic >>>    Tom

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#8 mmalik

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Posted 31 October 2019 - 07:12 AM

Thanks!

 

 

It appears I went too big with 8x8; way too big and heavy lumber. I had to scale back to 6x6; I am thinking I an increase the number of posts from 3 to 4 along the long side to get the same kind of stability? Regards



#9 Ladyhawke

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Posted 31 October 2019 - 07:31 AM

My backyard is not leveled. I documented the build of my deck for a Skyshed POD a few years ago. See the thread below:

 

https://www.cloudyni...pod/?hl=new pod


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#10 mmalik

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Posted 24 October 2020 - 10:09 PM

Question: What is the best pier plate/bolt solution for concrete pour-in piers. I am looking for something universal and good quality. Basically the metal work that goes on top of the concrete pier? Where can I get it? What are good vendors? Details will be appreciated. Regards
 
 
Note: I am waiting on Mach2 which I am hoping should materialize early 2021

 

 

On a side note, some useful info I want to preserve...

 

The pier is an aluminum tube, whipped up by a friend in his Machine Shop. ($250.00 I think). I pulled a few boards off my deck, and dropped a 14" Sonatube into the ground with 3 - ⅝"x8' threaded rods thru the centre of it. The concrete is finished below the deck boards so the only thing coming thru the boards are the rods... double nutted to isolate it from deck movement.
Picture shows it bolted to the deck originally. Deck movement made me do the concrete thing.

 

post-291619-0-99797700-1603446666.jpg



#11 Ladyhawke

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Posted 26 October 2020 - 07:51 AM

Question: What is the best pier plate/bolt solution for concrete pour-in piers. I am looking for something universal and good quality. Basically the metal work that goes on top of the concrete pier? Where can I get it? What are good vendors? Details will be appreciated. Regards
 
 
Note: I am waiting on Mach2 which I am hoping should materialize early 2021

 

 

On a side note, some useful info I want to preserve...

For concrete piers, the best solution for a plate (and maybe the only one that I can remember when I was doing my research) is Dan's Pier Plates, I have one and it is as good as it can be and works well for my Mach1 so I'm sure it would work well for your Mach2.


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#12 mclewis1

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Posted 26 October 2020 - 08:16 AM

Dan's pier plates are probably still the gold standard. There are a few examples of mount specific pier plates around (and a bunch of DIY versions) but Dan's products stick around because of support (documentation), quality and flexibility.


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#13 mmalik

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Posted 26 November 2020 - 03:25 AM

Thanks!

 

 

I keep thinking about sinking a portable pier deep into the ground instead of pouring a concrete pier. Would like to hear what folks have to say? Regards

 

 

Note: Mount in scope is Mach2

 

post-205769-0-40245800-1606373099.jpg



#14 Ladyhawke

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Posted 26 November 2020 - 06:44 AM

Thanks!

 

 

I keep thinking about sinking a portable pier deep into the ground instead of pouring a concrete pier. Would like to hear what folks have to say? Regards

 

 

Note: Mount in scope is Mach2

 

post-205769-0-40245800-1606373099.jpg

I don't see why would anyone do this. If you don't want a concrete pier, you can make just the concrete base, deep enough to go below the frost layer and high enough to just under your deck or level with the ground then you can buy a metal pier like the ones SkyShed sells and bolt it to the concrete, this way you can remove your pier and cover the concrete base with dirt and grass when you move, if that's your concern. I am linking the post I made with detailed progress of my deck/pier built, it may give you some ideas.

 

https://www.cloudyni...ry-skyshed-pod/


Edited by Ladyhawke, 26 November 2020 - 06:47 AM.

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#15 kathyastro

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Posted 26 November 2020 - 07:43 AM

I keep thinking about sinking a portable pier deep into the ground instead of pouring a concrete pier. Would like to hear what folks have to say? Regards

What is the pier made of?  It is probably steel, which means that, in five or ten years, it will be rusted out.  You don't want to do that to a nice portable pier.

 

The only way to bury it is to dig a hole, drop it in and back-fill it.  Which means that it will be in disturbed soil, and won't be as rigid as you would like..  A concrete footing can be poured in undisturbed soil and made very rigid.


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#16 mmalik

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Posted 26 November 2020 - 06:56 PM

I guess I keep beating around the bush (i.e., mount) in terms of NOT having to pour in a concrete pier which I think I'll have to do in the end. Metal pier on top of concrete pier base is a good option to consider.

 

 

All of your feedback is greatly appreciated. I have been procrastinating and main reason is that Mach2 hasn't transpired yet. I am hoping I should be a able to secure one in the first half of 2021, may be just in time for the next year's imaging season. Regards

 



#17 speedster

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Posted 29 November 2020 - 04:21 PM

As Kathy and others have pointed out, burying a tri pier is bad.  You'll ruin an expensive bit of kit and you'll have far more deflection than just putting the pier on the ground. 

 

If you put the POD door on the edge of the deck, so you step up 6"-8" to get in, it's a lot easier to get in and out of that short door.  You don't have to bend over as far. 

 

Let me question your motives for just a moment.  Sometimes (often), we do things because we've seen someone else do it.  That's not wrong, we just accept what we know and don't question the premise.  For a moment, forget you ever saw a warm room.  They have a history but technology has changed and are they still relevant?  We don't accept inferior equipment but don't question putting ourselves in a cramped, poorly finished box with clumsy lighting that is still cold in winter and hot in summer.  If we are doing visual, we are at the scope so no need for warm room.  If we are imaging, a warm room can be considered a torture device from the middle ages.  If we saw one for the first time we might think it a time-out space for naughty astronomers.  Again, they are certainly not wrong but are they the best solution today?  What if you went out,opened the POD, powered up, used a laptop to start CPWI, PHD2, NINA, and VNC viewer, then went back inside to the comfort and space of your home where you set up your sequence, plate solve and slew to target, start your sequence, have dinner, watch Netflix, or maybe enjoy live stacking on the 70" flat screen with guests, and go to sleep whenever you want with NINA completing the sequence, homing the mount, disconnecting everything, turning off power, and shutting down the laptop?  When you wake up, you go out and close the dome.  Other software will do the same thing.  This is just an example of what free stuff will do.  If you have teenagers or your spouse is a dripping faucet and your warm room is your escape, then that is a different story.



#18 MikiSJ

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Posted 29 November 2020 - 09:55 PM

There are three grades of pressure treated lumber, make sure you use the type rated for in-ground. 

Pressure Treat Lumber for ground contact use is UC4(A-C). If you decide to go this route (I would suggest concrete piers instead) then make sure you use a full-mask respirator (such as 3M™ Mold Remediation Respirator Kit 69097) and heavy gauge work cloves for the UC4(A-C) series of pressure treated wood. This is NOT OVERKILL.

 

A fellow general contractor with many more years experience then I lost two fingers to splinters from contact rated pressure treated lumber (LP4 [an older grade]) that went untreated for a week.

 

If you decide to use any type of pressure treated wood - DO NOT BURN! The fumes are very toxic.

 

(I am a licensed General Contractor [1978] and have bought many millions board feet of lumber) 


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