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: 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: 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 Bath: Demolition

With the major work in the laundry room completed and those nagging fine details left, we have begun to focus our efforts on the master bath. So what are we doing to this move in ready bathroom? New flooring, paint, single vanity is being replaced with a double. This means the existing linen closet is going to be replaced with a smaller one. Smart moves for a house that is already short on storage. We hope to recoup some of our lost linen closet storage space with some overhead cubbies.

What the master bath looked like before we decided to overhaul it.
What the master bath looked like before we decided to overhaul it.

First step of the process – demolition! First sub-step of demolition – remove the toilet and vanity. The vanity was not installed correctly, so removing it was a simple as dragging it out of the bathroom (once the plumbing connections were disconnected). The vanity will be given a new top a re-used in the hall bath. Until that day, it shall live in the garage. Next sub-step of demolition was the removal of the shelves from the linen closet followed by the drywall. Stripping off the drywall was the moment of truth – and we were lucky. No nasty surprised like a pipe in the wall we wanted to remove. The project can proceed unhindered! The framing was removed and was in such good shape it could be reused.

The floor tiles, vinyl, but not peel and stick, were well adhered to subfloor with mastic. With the exception of a few tiles in the closet that were pulling up, the tiles were not removed. 3/8″ plywood was screwed down on top of the tile to provide a clean surface for the thin-set to adhere to. Check out our first laundry room post for flooring details.

Final part of the demo process was creating the cut-outs for the recessed medicine cabinets. Our first surprise arrived in the form of a vent pipe where the cabinet was supposed to be recessed. Since the cabinets are recess or surface mount, plans were changed and the medicine cabinets will now be mounted on the wall surface.

Preparation: Remove light fixtures, toilet, vanity

Critical Tools: Sawzall, hammer, scraper, wrenches, strong back, beer

Skill Level: Easy

Tip(s): Have more trash bags than you think you are going to need. When in doubt, buy the big box of heavy duty contractor bags. Drywall weighs a lot.

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

Drain the water from the toilet. Wear rubber gloves and have an old towel that you can throw away. You need that towel to stuff in the sewer pipe (the hole in the floor).

Turn off your water valves.

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Laundry Room: Paint, Cabinets, and Countertops

Next stage of the laundry room remodel is paint and cabinets! Paint is always a challenge. The laundry room original color scheme was mauve and tan, which simply had to go. We decided on a color scheme that had grey undertones, so that at least narrowed down our options from thousands to hundreds.

We settled on Balboa Mist (Benjamin Moore #1549) . A grey with blue/lavender undertones. Light in color because the laundry room is on the north side of the house and does not get a lot of natural light. In hindsight, we could have selected something with a little more color in it, but it works for now and we shall see if we are still liking it the next time our preferred paint comes on sale.

Preparation: Removed the single shelf from the wall and patched holes and the drywall bulge. Use fibrous tape when patching. Much better results and the homeowners that follow you won’t curse your repair nearly as vehemently.

Paint: Benjamin Moore Regal Select Matte Balboa Mist #1549. We have had a great experience with Benjamin Moore Regal Select paint. It is a thicker paint and provides excellent coverage. Durable as well.

Cabinets: All were Arcadia Diamond NOW cabinets available at Lowe’s. One sink cabinet, one 30″ wide base, one 30″W X 18″H wall, and one 36″W X 30″H (wanted 18″H, but that was ‘unavailable’ even to order).

Counter top: Laminate counter top purchased from Lowe’s. Since the picture is rather small on the website and doesn’t really get bigger with zooming, we took a it of a chance. Besides, it was sold in a 6 foot length and we needed just under 6 feet. Turned out fine. Nice combination of browns and golds.

Critical Tools: Laser level, Dewalt drill/driver, jigsaw, planer, palm sander, pipe cutter, oscillating tool

Skill Level: Cabinets – intermediate; counter tops – expert. The counter tops would have been intermediate except for the log wall. That required a specialty cut utilizing a jig saw, planer, and palm sander. Fine details but the difference between wondering if the job was done by a professional or knowing it was done by the local yokel after a few beers. Check out this YouTube video for cutting laminate counter tops.

Tip(s): Buy a good laser level. It makes setting the cabinets so much easier.

Shark bites (or whatever brand you prefer). Spend the money. Hate plumbing work slightly less.

Spend the 40 or so dollars and buy the classic and affinity color fans (or the color fans for whatever line of paint you choose). We used to grab one or two of the color sample strips, take them home, decide we really didn’t like any of the colors, and go back to the store for more options. Having the color fans was SO. MUCH. EASIER.

When you show up at the paint store at 7 am, they assume you are a contractor and have an account.

Easiest way to keep an active toddler from helping? One parent takes the kiddo 2000 or so miles away to visit grandparents. This equates to almost a week of uninterrupted work.

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