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Archive for the ‘Decks’ Category

At first the owner just wanted the decking replaced, but I noticed that the center of the deck was several inches higher than around it. I went to look underneath and discovered the problem. As I began removing decking boards, I paused to record the deterioration that caused the owner to contact me.

The old stain reminded me of weather worn whitewash on a New England coastal style house.

The pattern of boards was interesting but probably contributed to the deterioration and would certainly take more wood and more cost to replace.

Here was the real problem with the deck, a hidden hazard that I declared, “If you had had a party with 30 people on this deck, there may have been many of them in the hospital.” You see, the cracked 2 x 12 is bolted to the side of the post and expected to hold the weight of eight 2 x 8 joists. The 1/2 carriage bolts held, but the board did not. Notice the 2 x 8 at the right has dropped down with the settling 2 x 12. This is where the rise occurred on the decking boards, which must have been taking much of the weight as well.

The different perspective of the problem reveals more of the near failure of the joists.

I cleaned it all out except for the facing boards attached to the walls that had been under the overhangs with no deterioration.

The center post of the deck held a larger percentage of the total weight, so I increased the post from 4 x 4 to 6 x 6.

I did have to replace one facing board that was not holding well to the wall. I used numerous concrete screws and increased strength of the joist ends with joist hangers.

Take note that the joists now sit on top of the post, a much stronger configuration.

The part of the deck that you don’t normally see is the most important part that supports the weight, the part that takes the most energy to construct and get right, and the part many casually observers think shows little progress when being constructed.

In order to reduce leaf litter and deterioration, I caulked between brick and face plate.

And the decking begins!

The joints are not obvious and the area has a clean and spacious look.

The requested steps, near copies of the old ones were complex. I quit early this day for rain.

Getting standard stringers to fit the rise and run of available space is a significant challenge.

The lady of the house wanted the deck to have symmetry, so the landing and stairs running two ways.

Concrete for some reason that I don’t understand causes quicker deterioration of treated wood than straight clay. So I have taken to putting tar on posts to lengthen the their life.

Wow! It’s finished. All that I need to do is stain it. I finish it off with a belt sander on the railing especially and any other place that looks rough.

And there it is in its light gray stain, all matching the brick and trim and gray, wicker deck furniture and white, metal furniture that we moved onto the deck a few days later. Another good challenge for Decks and Such completed.

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I have been building decks as work arises for just over a year now, but before that when I was full time teacher, I would do projects in the summer and sometimes on weekends. The following deck was built in the summer of 2013 and turns 8 years old this month. Unlike another one that I built that had no maintenance in the ensuing years, this one has been taken good care of. I cannot find pictures of building the deck though I remember taking some. My two youngest sons helped me with the project which included replacing the front steps, installing a thermostatically controlled vent in the front porch shed roof, trimming two trees overhanging the house, reshaping the the contour of the ground above the house to direct water away from the house, and building the deck which replaced a similar one that had not been maintenanced properly. Besides being re-stained regularly since it was new, there have been improvements like the skirt underneath and the concrete pads at the base of the steps and underneath. The wall below the deck was there but has been landscaped along with other areas around the steps. Decks are certainly not permanent structures, but when taken care of properly may last and look good for more than 30 years.

Though you may take care of your deck and it may rot anyway because of circumstances of the wood quality or environment of the deck*, it is much more likely to last in good shape when you do some maintenance.

This idea of maintenance applies to all things that you own, but also applies to your body and relationships. Make time for taking care of yourself. Make time to get to know better those you love and those with whom you are acquainted. You will be happy with the result and the benefits will be long term.

*Things very detrimental to decks include intense solar radiation (south facing or reflection off of glass or radiation from brick or asphalt), residing under trees where there is much litter accumulated and constant moisture that promotes algae and mold growth.

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I renewed another deck near ruin. I had been asked to come and cut off the deteriorating beveled tops of the 6 x 6 posts so that a friend of the owner could install caps to protect the posts. Caps or top rails are a good idea because water and fungi will root a post from the top down. The owner asked me about the longevity of the deck. Upon quick inspection I saw that it had 8 to 10 16′ decking boards with rotten spots and some at ground level post deterioration and some top rail warping and rotting. Following is my effort to renew the deck.

The owner requested that I pressure wash the deck before repair and restaining and provided a pressure washer borrowed from a friend at church. The deck had not been stained in five years, a time well within the stain can’s recommendations and “guarantees”, but the elements know no such time scales. This deck is close enough to trees, though not overhung by them, to get their leaf litter, catkins in Spring, and Yellow Poplar samaras. These get down between the decking boards and collect moisture, fungi, and bacteria (read “rot”). Particularly on this deck the gap between boards was not sufficient to allow this detritus to fall through, so it collected. You can see from the picture that the stain acted more like paint, clinging only to the surface and peeling when pressure washed. That is not good and may have been a large part of the deterioration. I would not have thought much of which deck treatment to use before I started repairing them, but I have some strong opinions now.

So, time consuming and tedious as it was, I got down with my knee pads and wire brushed and whisk broomed the boards.

This deck had been put together with screws, square drive heads, so there was no warping in the decking.

I ended up replacing ten decking boards and was pleased with the ones I was able to pick out.

The caps are plastic and functional and I had to replace only two top rails and two balusters.

I feel like the end result looks like new and will last another good many years. I suggested to the owner that she treat the top surfaces yearly to prevent the deterioration that was happening. With a roller and stain the decking and top rails would take no more than 1 1/2 hours to treat. The look and longevity will be satisfying.

If you look closely, you can see the tar that I put around the base of the posts. In my experience, the interface of post to ground, an inch or two above and below grade is where the most intense deterioration occurs. Though the treated lumber is rated for below grade, and actually does fair quite well in the ground, it does not do so well at the interface. I guess the conditions of moisture, air, and temperature are conducive to rotting bacterial and fungal varieties.

By the time it weathers and she treats the decking boards again in a year, you won’t even be able to tell the new boards from the old as in this picture.

I am reminded of the preacher in Ecclesiastes who is reciting a polemic on the vanity of life. Several times he softens the blow of the discouraging speech with a commendation similar to the following: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) At a later time He even calls this enjoyment of life “the gift from God” (Eccl 3:13). So I end with thanksgiving to God for giving me strength to work, money for bills from my labor, and satisfaction that I have renewed a product to increased usefulness and slowed the deterioration in this fallen world for the benefit of a fellow being (in fact, fellow saint in this case). It is a gift from God that I can pass along to someone.

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