Saturday, November 16, 2013

Building a Deck, Step by Step.

    Hey there, friends, neighbors, and customers-both-future-and-past--we're building a new deck (11-2013) and I thought it might be fun to watch it unfold, a little at a time, as we build it. The deck was in a place that required something special, I thought, so watch and see if you agree with the design I came up with. Some of you know that I must be watched carefully, as my designs can be a little wild sometimes.
    The deck was to go between the house and a pool, and had a wide area length-wise, but only 10 feet between the house and the pool deck. It was to take the place of steps, so people could move from the porch to the ground-level pool, as well as serve as a place for the customer to show off his grilling skills. Because we were cramped in (the 10-foot limitation), I felt the deck needed to be large enough for a few chairs, so guests could relax and look down on the pool without actually being at the pool. We also were restricted by the fact that the customer required rain water flow to pass between the pool and the house, so our deck needed to be open underneath. My plan was to build a deck without a railing, and with steps all the way around it. We'll see--by the end of the project--if I was successful in my design.
    The best thing about this deck is that it took the place of steps that didn't have a landing, which can be dangerous. You can see the steps in the first few photos, and see how awkward it must have been to stand on the steps, open the screened door, and pass onto the porch--or vice versa.
     (Day 1) In the photo above you can see the steps and a temporary string used to give the customer an idea of what the deck will look like, size-wise.

     Wesley charges right in there and yanks the steps out. Notice how he's standing all alone, waiting for help. Chris and David seem to be nowhere around when Wes needs them.

                     He's still waiting. Where the deuce did those two go?

                                         At last! Help arrives.

                                           The steps are taken away.

    You can't see what happened next, because I left the job. The men ran a string, dug holes, and set 4x4s in concrete, then let them set up overnight. You can see them below as they stick up above the framing.

     It's Day 2, and here you can see the mid-point of the framing. We've built a landing, seven feet out from the house, sixteen feet long. There is a 2x10 band and 2x8 joists, 16-inches on center. The customer wanted the first step from the porch to be 6 1/2" down, so--hopefully--Wes, Dave, and Chris remembered that fact. Wes is holding a stair stringer--the beginning of the steps. Keep your eyes on the corner of the existing porch, on the right of the photo, near the shovel leaning against the house. The customer was worried about guests accidentally stepping off the corner of the porch and falling to the ground. Keep your eyes open and you'll see our solution.

    Building a deck requires a lot of work on all fours. Wesley will have dirt-stained jeans by the end of the day.

Here's a shot of David (on the left) and Chris (on the right). David started working with us three weeks ago. He's not a new man, however. David and I worked together 25 years ago. He actually helped me build the upstairs portion of my house, after Linda and I were married. The house had a huge, open attic, and we built a stairway, and then converted the attic into two bedrooms, a bathroom, a small office, and a game room, with three dormers to let in light. So you can see that David has a lot of experience. He'd been a carpenter for several years before we converted my attic. Man--that 25 years flashed by rather fast. It seems like yesterday. I blame Linda. She's been so sweet to me that every day zooms by like a burst of sunlight.

    Here's a photo of David cutting off the 4x4s, since we don't need them for railings. If we were going to have railings, we'd use the four-bys set in concrete to give them support. Notice that David is wearing safety glasses. Safety First!

    Here's a shot of Wes checking out the step stringer. He's making sure that the steps will be level, as well as seeing how much surface area he'll need to add under the 2x10 band to nail the stringer to. You can see a piece of Trex on top of the deck. Wes is using it as a gauge, to make sure the steps are the same height once we apply the decking. Wes is also wearing safety glasses. Safety First!
    Please take a good look at this deck. It's about as strong as a deck can be built. The 2x8 joists span seven feet, on sixteen-inch centers. The Building Code says that 2x8s on sixteen-inch centers can span 12-14 feet for floor joists (office space to sleeping rooms). We could have used 2x6s, but I wanted this deck to be "Better than Code." This baby is rock-solid. "It ain't going nowhere," as we literate carpenters like to say. Heck. It ain't. So, "Safety First!" and "Better than Code!" Our mottoes.
    That's all we have for this time. It began raining soon after, and we had to pack it in for the day. I keep telling Wes that we have rain suits and rubber boots for such occasions, but he seems not to hear me.

    Next--the stringers. You'll see the work slow down a little, because we have to get the stringers exactly right, or the entire project will look like you-know-what.

 Day 3. The Trex has been set on top of the joists, and now the work really slows down. The men have to check the following items: how will the deck boards meet the riser, the sample board you see David holding in his right hand? How much gap do we give each of the deck boards (Trex recommends between 1/4" and 3/8"); will the riser be outside or under the deck boards (I prefer the riser to be flush with the deck, hiding the edge of the boards); will the stringer (this is the zig-zag looking piece of 2 x 12 that will support the steps) be level? When will Earl leave so we can we go to lunch? Can you tell which of these questions is the most important? I can.
 The guys are still checking all the various ways the steps and deck boards can go together. I prefer it when the men say everything out loud, to tell me how they want to do the job, in front of me, and I'll then explain what I like, and they tell me if they agree or disagree. This way we get almost every problem worked out before it occurs. And I'm not always right, either. But when they disagree with me, they have to show me why. It isn't a contest to see who can be right most of the time. It's a way to solve problems. In our line of work, there are numerous ways to do anything, and each situation demands its own solutions. To me, remodeling doesn't mean making things prettier, or adding to a house--remodeling means solving a problem. And that's one reason I've always loved to remodel--I enjoy solving problems. You might ask, "What are the problems here? It's just a deck, Earl." I'll have to disagree. There are always problems. When we get to the end of the project, I'll tell you some of them, and you can ask yourself if they were real, and whether or not we solved them.
                               David's still looking it over.

 David and Chris start screwing down the deck boards. In just a little while we'll find out if they planned as well as they were supposed to.

 David is admiring the work. Chris, being the youngest, gets to do the fun part, bending over all afternoon. Zip! Zip! Driving screws is fun. I miss it. My bending-over-all-day-working days are gone.

 Can you look down the decking and see how nice and even the gaps are between the boards? If they aren't almost perfect, the owner, regardless how nice he is most of the time, will be sure and let us know about it. Chris and Dave keep their eyes on the deck. David and Chris have tacked a 2 x 6 to the outside to use as a gauge for the deck boards, to be sure the first one runs perfectly straight. Good idea.

 The first row of stringers that will carry the stair treads and risers, is attached to the deck. Wesley has nailed them to a pressure-treated 2x4 to keep them straight and in line. Another good idea--and it wasn't mine, either. These guys are using their heads. Maybe I scared them when I mentioned the owner's huge gun collection.

 Here's a shot of Wesley putting the stringers together as David and Chris work on the deck boards.

                        Wesley's still wearing his safety glasses. Safety First!

Day 4.

 Earl has to go get some more Trex. Trex is long (16 feet). Trex is not fun to tote.

 Earl had to stop off at the house to check for telephone messages after carrying the Trex from Lowe's to his house. Earl needs to get a life.

 When Earl came back outside, the Trex was still sticking out the rear end of his SUV. It's a good thing this is a work SUV, not a family-toting one.

When Earl arrives on the job, progress has been made. This is the slowest part of the job. Can you see how the stringers (the L-shaped boards that will carry the steps) are perfectly straight? Wesley, Dave, and Chris will fight you if you try and tell them the steps don't run straight.

 The guys are now laying out the treads, making sure they not only fit, but fit with a 1/4" to 3/8" gap between them, as the Trex Manual demands.

 Wesley takes a break and Chris tells him to get back to work or hit the highway.

                               Wesley does what Chris demands.

 Working together, the deck takes shape. Tomorrow, it will be finished. It's difficult, sometimes, to believe the time involved in building a deck, but as you have seen, there are many steps (what a pun!) involved.

Chris picks up a broom. Is he going after Wesley for taking a break earlier? Naw. He's cleaning the deck. If you let sawdust collect on the boards and walk on them, they tend to dig into, and scar, the face of the wood. Cleanliness First! Can you see the new screen door Wesley installed? Nice, huh? Actually, the customer picked it out. But without Wesley to install it, there would be an old door (Go back to Day 3) or a big hole there. Thank you, Wesley! And Chris! And David!

Day 5. The end is near!

 Well, here it is, folks. The finished deck--isn't she a beauty? I don't think I need to write another word--the pictures tell the story. Great job, guys!

                                                           The end.

1 comment:

  1. Dirt-stained jeans? The horror, the horror!