Downstairs: Demo

With the garage addition, demolition was rather limited. The real demo for the project was Dave breaching the foundation wall. This was messy work, as all demo should be, but it was not extensive. But not to fear, the first floor renovation provided an excellent opportunity to vent frustration through demolition. For a reminder of the master plan for the downstairs – wander over to this post.

First things first, the downstairs had to be cleared out. A vicious purge was held. Things given away willy nilly. Three crockpots is sufficient, having four is just heading into largess. Baby toys Evan has out grown. Currently used items were shifted upstairs. Dining room? A wonderful office. Toys creatively stashed in the living room and Alex’s room. But even then, it wasn’t enough. A storage unit was rented and the extra odds and ends that didn’t fit into the new garage or house were mothballed for storage.

After that, demo fun began. To no one’s surprise, quite the graveyard of mice were discovered. The poor things would run along in the ceiling joists then make their way down into the cavities and get trapped. Mice are not welcome in the house, but they are not wished a long and inhumane death.

The shortcuts and questionable decisions during the initial construction were discovered. The even more questionable decisions made by the previous owner during the installation of the illegal rental apartment were exposed. It was a longer than expected process, but the critical step to making things better.

Shoddy Shortcomings

  • “What we lack in quality of materials we will make up for in nails” was the theme of the original builder. Shitty materials? Use 75 million nails to hold it together?
  • It is a mountain build in the early 90s! Use whatever is on the truck so we don’t have to run down to the building supply yard in Boulder.
  • There were building codes in the early 90s. Either no one checked this build or some palms were seriously greased.
  • The house is not built according to the plans submitted to the town.
  • The steel beam to allow for a clear span garage was an after thought. Evidence: there was no pocket for it to sit in within the foundation wall (best practice) and the 3 2 x 6s were barely sitting above the footer.
  • Front wall had no vapor barrier and clear cracks and the fiberglass insulation had strips of dust where wind had been blowing in.
  • The original builder failed to seal around the windows properly allowing mice easy access into the house.
  • Two 15 amp electrical circuits for the entire first floor. No wonder singed wires were found.
  • Tiled around bathroom vanity.
  • There is more that has been blocked out with margaritas. At some point it will be remembered and shared.

Deck: Builder Comments

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.

Pry bar and clamps to take the warp out of a board or adjust spacing.

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?

Dry rotted joist to be replaced.
2 x 6 that is almost rotted through. The post that was askance and rotted out at the bottom was ‘attached’ in this area.

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.

Deck: (Mostly) Finished Product

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.

Gallery

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.

Gallery

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.

Gallery:

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.

Gallery

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.

Gallery