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.

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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 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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Draperies!

And some of the finishing touches are coming in!

Living room drapes

These draperies were custom made by Best Fabric Store, a fantastic operation out of Alabama. We have been using them as a fabric source for a few years now. They also do custom sewing, and with splitting the time between the two houses, working, and commuting, this potential DIY project was contracted out.

We also selected blackout fabric as the lining. The sun can beat through the southern windows and to reduce solar gain (in the summer) and insulate against the chilly night air (winter) a heavier blackout fabric was selected.

A huge thanks to the Best Fabric Store team. We are thrilled with the quality of the workmanship. And a pat on our own backs for our hidden interior design skills (fabric and living room wall color play off of each other very well).

Fabric: Rockin’ Robin with blackout fabric

Color: Driftwood (Coral selected for master bedroom and not shown)

Size: 2 panels providing 1.85X coverage of an opening ~81 inches wide. Each panel was ~83 inches long

Master Bedroom: Closet Expansion

It is another demo and rebuild post! There seems to be a lot of demo and rebuilding posts (laundry room, master bath), but no posts showing the finished product. That would be a correct assessment. The answer is simple; because no room is completely done yet. The laundry room and master bath have been pushed to a point of functionality, but we still have a FinishingList. Why not finishing the finishing details? Well, we have a move in date in approximately 3 weeks. We want to get the really messy stuff done when we aren’t living there full time. The fine points can be done after we move in, if necessary.

That being said, what is being torn apart this time? The master bedroom closet and a coat closet on the other side of the wall (weirdest location, no where near a door that could be considered a main entrance of the house). The door to the coat closet will be walled in and the wall between the closets will be taken down. The opening of the closet in the master bedroom will be expanded. What can go wrong? Fun surprises like plumbing or vent pipes in the wall to be torn down. We can only wait and see.

No big surprises! A run of coaxial cable and nothing that would otherwise derail this project was found. Dave proceeded to close up the one opening and proceed with his favorite remodeling task – drywall work. Too bad Alex didn’t get to enjoy the giant running loop created by the removal of the wall.

So the question is, what are we going to do with the unpainted space? Built in cabinets. That is for another post though.

Preparation: Remove trim

Critical Tools: Sawzall, hammer, pry bar, beer

Skill Level: Medium – to reduce drywall repairs to the closet opening, you have to be careful with what you take down.

Tip(s): Measure carefully and be judicious in what you take down. If too much is taken down, more work will be created when you have to put it all back up.

Living in a drywall work environment is unpleasant. Sand when the least amount of people are around.

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