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This series deals with the construction of fences, fireplaces, terraces, garden pools, and many other structures that enhance modern home life. It is addressed chiefly to those capable and fortunate persons the home mechanics who build things for the fun of it, and (sometimes) because their bank accounts will not stand the burden of having them built by professionals. It should be informative and useful also to persons who have no intention of mixing a bucket of mortar or placing one stone upon another, but who want to know how such things are done and what can be accomplished by doing them.
One of the better changes that has occurred in American life in our era is a greater appreciation of the outdoors. Not many decades ago, the yard about the typical American home was used chiefly for the growing of grass and for such utilitarian purposes as drying the wash. In pleasant weather, the family relaxed on the front porch and only occasionally ventured into the sun for a game of croquet Pools, tennis courts, and fireplaces were constructed on the estates of the rich, but few owners of 60 by 100 lots thought of encumbering their modest sites with such appurtenances of wealth and luxury.
Now, however, the benefits, including the fun, of being outdoors when the weather is good are not looked upon as privileges limited to persons with impressive incomes. City, rural and suburban dwellers, all, take to the outdoors in favorable weather. The old-time front porch has almost disappeared, but the terrace usually without a roof overheadhas taken its place. Outdoor fireplaces are built even on small city lots. The yard is rightfully viewed as a living area only slightly less useful than the rooms within the house.
The Yankee abilities, self-confidence and daring of the numerous tribe of those sometimes labeled "amateur craftsmen" but who are more often called "home mechanics" have been major factors in this change. Outdoor structures such as are described in this book are simple in comparison to dwelling houses and larger structures. Almost any adult can build them. Nevertheless, they are exacting enough that good taste and workmanship show unmistakably in the final product. Some of our readers may feel that we have said too much on such points as the use of decay-resistant wood, proper damp-curing of concrete, and careful selection of materials.
We have pointed out the importance of such things over and over because only by observing them can structures of fair permanence be achieved. It is simple, indeed, for anyone who is not interested in building durable things to be less discriminating in his choice of materials and methods.
Most of the material in this book appeared first in the authors' Home Mechanic's Outdoor Handbook. It has been republished in this series of smaller books because there was a demand for less comprehensive (and less expensive) books from a good many people who were interested in building only one or two kinds of outdoor structures. Most of the text is the same as in the pertinent chapters of the larger volume, but some of it has been rewritten to make it shorter or clearer. The special arrangement of this book is discussed in Section 372, the first section under Basic Operations.
We have striven to be as nontechnical as possible, but it is not possible to discuss building of any kind without using some technical terminology. However, few readers will encounter many terms which they have not met with heretofore. We have purposely avoided symbols such as constitute a considerable part of the professional language of builders and architects, but we have had to use a few which will be explained here. In some of the drawings we have used the sign " for inch and inches, and its companion ' for foot and feet. Also, we have used "o.c," the meaning of which is on center; in other words, the measurement indicated is taken from the center line of some building element, such as a stud, to the center of another. In a few places we have used "min." and "max.," but these are common abbreviations for "minimum" and "maximum." The only other symbol that may give trouble is a small circle with a vertical line through it. This means round.