After all of Dave’s hard work, the blog seemed like a good place for his reflections as well as some answers to questions asked during the process (by ourselves or others). It always a good thing to publish a long forgotten draft.
Q: How critical is that first row?
A: Extremely. Any mistake will be magnified in every following row. It will look terrible and there is the strong likelihood of having to rip a board (uneven and unsightly) or redo all the work. Or, ignore and let the next sap of a homeowner deal with it. Take the time, do it right the first time, starting at the first row.
Q: How did we ensure that all rows following the critical first row were done correctly? How did we keep the boards straight?
A: This is a benefit of manufactured decking. It is uniform coming from the factory. There was some slightly bowing due to transport and storage (the stuff is surprisingly flexible), but using clamps during the process solved that issue.
For where wood was used (such as the framing), Dave took the time to hand select the pieces, eliminating anything that looked like snow skis (badly bowed).
Q: There is rot and structural deficiencies detailed in many photos. Wasn’t this caught on home inspection?
A: Some of it was. Our inspector found the issues with the stair joists and the cantilever. Unfortunately some of the issues were not visible until the decking was removed.
Q: What was holding parts of that deck together?
A: Nails. Luck. Carpenter ants holding hands and singing kumbaya.
Ah, the deck. The original two week estimate to completion quickly morphed into five. Why the 250% increase? The major reason was that sections of the deck were poorly done and required more repair work than originally estimated (see this post (demo 2/3) and this post (assembly 2/3) and this post (demo 3/3)). Part was also finding the proper demolition technique (see this post). And wrangling Alex (summer camps, meeting cereal demands) takes time away from deck repair.
What is left to be done:
Screening around the hot tub area.
Benches/table in the hot tub area.
Post caps. Sooner or later we will make a decision on what to buy.
What we like most: The hot tub. It is amazing how time flies while one is soaking.
The gates. We hired a local metal artist to create two custom gates for us. Marion did a wonderful job and we look forward to commissioning more functional art from him in the future.
Having a stable and safe deck. No more sloping due to improperly installed cantilevers. No more over cut stair horses. Just a nice solid feeling deck.
The railing. We now have vertical railing balusters that Alex can’t climb, although, not for a lack of trying. Not only have we removed Alex’s ladder, but we have helped modernize the look of the deck. Gone are the heavy rustic log balusters, in are the sleek black powder-coated iron balusters. Add in the cocktail rail, and life is good. The aesthetic transformation is impressive.
The color of the deck. After some debate, the Clamshell (medium grey) camp won out arguing that contrast was better than trying to match the color of the house and failing. Combined with the black railing, it looks sharp.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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)
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.
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.