Deck: Reassembly Part 3

The deck is heading towards the home stretch! Part 2 of the deck reassembly covers many of the repairs (and then some) that the upper deck needed. New band board was put in along with joist hangers (that were nailed appropriately).

What was truly revolutionary were the StairLok stair brackets (purchased from Deck Superstore). Trex does not recommend an unsupported span greater than 16 inches for their product, which is an awful narrow stair. Our stair widths were 36 (lower to upper deck) and 40 inches (ground to lower deck). After some research, we opted for StairLok because they are easier to build, stronger, and use less material than traditional stair building methods. The gallery describes the process for building the stairs.

Preparation: Remove decking, watch rotten post fall away when railing is removed (see Demo post part 3)

Critical Tools: Stairs – carpenter’s square, screw gun, StairLok brackets, 2x4s, screws, chop saw, tape measure

Decking – Healthy amount of patience, well developed curse word vocabulary, screw gun, clamps, jig saw, circular saw, railing jig, level, nail gun, level, tap measure

Skill Level: Advanced/Expert. If you don’t know what you are doing, things will get ugly.

Tip(s): Check the step frame with a carpenters square. The brackets have a tendency to rack. Confirming that the stairs are square saves a ton of headache during the install.

Use a stop block when numerous pieces that same size need to be cut. Check to make sure the block hasn’t slid at regular intervals in the cutting process.

Set up an assembly line: pre-cut all the stair frames and cross bracing. Then start building. Nothing slows a process down like having to constantly switch tools.

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Deck Demolition: Part 3

With demolition parts one and two complete, along with the subsequent reassembly (one and two), the focus is fully on the stairs to the hot tub pad and the decking around it. Any hope that just perhaps this section of decking was done correctly was quickly lost. It was quickly evident that if this deck had been built in a more humid environment, it would have rotted away a dozen years ago. Even with the low humidity in Colorado, rotten spots were still found. Three cheers to the dry Colorado air. Enjoy the gallery of face palming construction decisions by a previous owner.

Critical Tools: Circular saw, pry bar, hammer, drill, pliers, knee pads, Sawzall, end of day margaritas.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Tip(s): Don’t use scrap wood to build a deck. Even if the scraps are a ‘good deal’.

The spacing between decking boards allows water to drain and air to circulate. Without the air circulation, the chances for rot are greatly increased.

Choose two of the three – good, fast, or cheap. Previous owners chose fast and cheap. Don’t be like the previous owners.

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Deck: Reassembly Part 2

So now that we have discovered the extent of the poor workmanship on the deck framing, it is time to repair the hazards and make this deck safe. Replacements included rotted support beams, an undersized beams, and improperly cantilevered joists. It is likely that the framing was not constructed fully from pressure treated lumber.

Check out the gallery captions for the nitty gritty details. Check out deck reassembly post 1 for information regarding the Trex installation. No Trex RainEscape here.

Preparation: Remove decking, curse at the unknown person(s) who built this portion of the deck

Critical Tools: Healthy amount of patience, well developed curse word vocabulary, screw gun, clamps, jig saw, circular saw, railing jig, level, nail gun, level, tap measure

Skill Level: Advanced/Expert. If you don’t know what you are doing, things will get ugly.

Tip(s): Step back to help see the forest for the trees. Some challenges are easily solved once it is determined the perceived problem does not affect the end goal.

Take the time to plan everything out. This will save so much trouble down the road.

Don’t go cheap on the materials. This is not the place to be a penny pinching skin flint. Don’t purchase your materials for some guy selling scraps of wood out of the back of his pick up. Buy real lumber. Pressure treated lumber.

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Deck Demolition: Part 2

With Part 1 of the deck demolition and rebuild complete, we get to see what structural disasters are hidden in part 2. How can we be so confident that this portion of the deck is not structurally sound? The most visible symptoms is the drooping corner and the improperly cantilevered boards.

Once the decking came off, the situation was worse than originally thought. Check out the gallery below for great pictures of rotted boards and improperly done construction. This deck was permitted and it is hard to believe it passed inspection, a score and four years ago. It is amazing the deck didn’t collapse long ago. Time to do things right and repair this shoddy work.

Demolition went quickly using technique 3 described in the first demolition post. Tips described in the previous post also apply here.

Critical Tools: Circular saw, pry bar, hammer, drill, pliers, knee pads, Sawzall, end of day margaritas.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Tip(s): Don’t step on boards that have been cut with the circular saw. This will result in a painful trip through the deck.

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Deck: Reassembly Part 1

What is demolished must be rebuilt. At least that is the logic for the deck – we need somewhere to drink our margaritas. The first two parts of the deck to be demolished and reassembled are the front of the house and the side to the kitchen door. These were thought to be the easy portion of the deck repair until the struggles of demolition were encountered (see demolition post part 1). Once these two sections are done, the deck will be over halfway done area wise and about 25% done work wise.

In the planning for the future part of the deck reassembly, Trex RainEscape is being installed under the decking along the front of the house. This system redirects rainwater and snow melt from dripping under the deck. So if you have grand plans to have a dry outdoor living space under your deck in the future, spend the money and install the system when you first put down the new decking.

We made the decision that we wanted the decking to run in the same direction, instead of running parallel to each side of the house. Front of the house was no problem – one small section of joists was replaced; the new joist orientation is perpendicular to the original. This was done there would be something to secure the decking to in the direction we wanted. The larger problem was the side deck up to the kitchen door. The joists ran the wrong way for the deck direction and did not need to be replaced. The solution? Blocking, nailed in perpendicular between the joists.

Railing is by Fortress.  It is iron with 4 layers of black powder coat. Here’s to hoping it lives up to its name and keeps Alex in and isn’t too damaged with multiple Tonka dump truck crashes.

Preparation: Remove decking

Critical Tools: Screw gun, clamps, pry bar, jig saw, circular saw, railing jig

Skill Level: Intermediate

Tip(s): Like with tile flooring, get your first board right. Everything else builds off of this board and if it isn’t square, the problem will only amplify.

Eat your Wheaties for breakfast. The Trex boards are heavy.

Trex boards may need to be trimmed slightly so they end at the center of the joist. Unless your carpenter was Jesus, the joists may vary slightly in their on center measurement.

Create a bracket jig. Saves from measuring posts over and over again to ensure proper bracket position.

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Deck: Demolition Part 1

Deck boards – some were replaced by the previous owner, entire deck desperately needs repainting.

With summer in full swing and the inside projects complete, it is time to tackle the deck! What is wrong with the deck one may ask? Best guess it is close to 25 years old. It desperately needs to be repainted, boards need to be replaced, and our home inspector cautioned us against standing too close to the edge in one portion (structure is unsound). Throw in the horizontal railings that a young boy can easily climb, combined with a 15 foot drop, the safety issue is even greater. With that in mind, time to replace the deck and railing!

Horizontal railings perfect for Adventure Alex to climb. Top rail broke while we leaned on it.

In general, the framing is in good condition and does not need replacement. The structurally unsound portion will be repaired to code and common sense. The decking will be replaced with Trex Enhance, color clamshell (grey). Grey was selected because there is so many brown tones with the log cabin, we didn’t want to look like we failed at matching. So we decide to do a cooler grey to help balance all that warm wood. Decking materials, including RainEscape for front deck, were purchased from Deck Superstore in Commerce City, CO (go check out their decking test area) and all lumber for framing repairs was purchased from Home Depot.

So, demolition, easy enough, right? Well, in this case some care had to be taken in removing the decking to avoid damage to the framing. We wanted to reuse as much as the framing as possible. So how was the decking removed?

Technique 1: Unscrew boards and pull them up.

Problems: Screw heads were filled with paint. Screws were stripped and could not be backed out. Screws were brittle and broke off. Boards had to be pried out with a crowbar and screws had to be broken off. A generous estimate was 10 feet of decking was removed in 4 hours.

Technique 2: Use a reciprocating saw with metal blade to cut screws (run between decking and joist.

Problems: Screws were far tougher than regular nails. Significant effort was required to cut through a few screws. This was draining on the saw batteries (multiple recharges would have been required throughout the day), saw blades, and Dave’s reserve of curse words.

Technique 3: Use a circular saw to cut decking boards between the joists from above. Knock board out, shearing the screw.

Problems: With the exception of copious amounts of saw dust generated and some wear and tear on the knees (if knee pads are owned, employ them here!) this technique was the winner! Very few screws that had to be broken off. 45 feet of decking was removed in 4 hours. A four-fold increase in productivity!

Preparation: Relocate planter, block off construction area (from the wanderings of dogs and child)

Critical Tools: Circular saw, pry bar, hammer, drill, pliers, knee pads, Sawzall

Skill Level: Intermediate

Tip(s): Have a bucket to throw screws in

Don’t use your tools of destruction recklessly. Recover and reuse what you can.

Clean up area every day, with a sharp eye on the look out for screws/nails in the driveway.

Check the joists carefully. An initial glance and the discoloration might be indicative of rot. In this case, it is where stain/paint dripped between deck boards.

Annoyed? Have a beer. Really annoyed? Go for the margarita.

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Master Bedroom: Finished Closet

The goals of the closet expansion was to

  1. Eliminate the illogically placed coat closet in the living room
  2. Increase our master bedroom closet space without truly extensive renovations
  3. Fit all of our clothes without requiring a dresser(s).

The verdict? Success! We ended up using  EasyClosets.com. Their DIY design interface was pretty easy to use and was truly DIY. Other sites wanted to send a consultant and we did not have time or tolerance for that. A consultant even verified that our design would work with our closet doors (more on that later). Only snafu was three drawers were missing from a box, one quick phone call later and they were shipped the next day. Other bonus of Easy Closets is two days after we ordered, the spring sale started. Asked nicely, and they retroactively applied the discount to our order. Will be ordering again from them.

So what was the deal with the closet doors? It wasn’t easy to get sliding doors on three separate tracks so 2/3 of the closet could be open at any given time. This was key to the closet organizer design. We thought we found the solution on Home Depot’s website, but the product had been discontinued. Dave ended up talking with the door guru who asked how handy he was. Dave responded that he was above average handy, and the guru proceeded to help him identify and order all the parts required to create the door. Only took 6 weeks for everything to come in.

So how are we doing without dressers? All of our clothes fit in the closet. It also helps that we are not clothes horses. And it also helps that we have a platform storage bed that can absorb some overflow as well as long term storage of seasonal items. Hanging more clothes and using the Kondo method for folding clothes made the no dresser system feasible. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop has a really useful tutorial. Swallow hard and follow the link, it was one of the best tutorials on the internet. It was truly amazing how much space the Kondo fold created in the drawers. Where did the dressers go? To a consignment shop in Fort Collins. With any luck, they sell.

Skill Level: Advanced intermediate. Doors were custom which meant there was no simple door with jam to install. Jams had to be built, track cut, spacers installed. The closet organizer was intermediate level assembly. If you can put together Ikea furniture, you will be fine. Hardest part of organizer install was getting the main support bar level and the proper height off of the floor.

Critical Tools: Laser level, hammer, screw gun

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