Friday, April 24, 2015

Father's Day Offensive 2015-Deck Mania

The old back deck had turned rickety and hostile.  One wrong move and you might get it.

Right between the toes.

It has been a situation of agitation for me since we first moved in four years ago.  I have actually tossed in a half dozen planks to replace some of the really bad ones.  Dry rot, especially at the ends, and loose screws everywhere, abounded.  It was time for the old wood to go and for the joists, if palpable, to sprout new planks like wings.  Or something like that.

Prior to getting hip deep in a brutal tear off assault, I first had to contend with, quite gingerly I might add, a delicate propane contusion situation type disorder thing.  You see, old Homeboy, the previous owner, was a gassy kind of guy.  I mean, he dealt in propane.  He loved all things gas.  So he ran a line run from under the house to the outside corner of the deck for the BBQ.  Which is fine I suppose if you BBQ every single day.  But every single day is not a holiday and some days the weather can be cold and inclement around here.  Some days we just wanna have a salad, know what I mean? 

I probably would have left it all alone 'cept there was this six inch flange contusion that protruded beyond the deck.  Right at the corner.  Somehow in the last four years no one has been shinned on it, but it was only a matter of time.

First I turned off the gas.  Yes, I want to ultimately demolish the deck, but not at the expense of blowing half the house up too.  Next I removed two rows of decking to get access to the gassy lollapalooza.  Then I proceeded to try and undo the fittings.   Both the top and side protrusions you see above were rusted tight, they wouldn't budge.  But then as I added just a touch more oomph, magically, the entire twenty foot line started coming undone at the juncture under house.  The place I was going to have to ultimately go and undo, only I thought it would be easier by removing all the odd angled crap at the other end first.  Go figure.  That saved me a whole lot of time and trouble.  Then I went and bought a six inch extension to replace the removed falderal and it's all now tucked nicely under the house.  No one should ever get shinned on that.

Then it was time for the all out demo assault.  Bazookas.  Machine guns.  Machetes.  I was taking no prisoners.  During the blitz I encountered three different types of screw heads.  And nails.  Crafty, sinister bastards.  All required different weaponry to remove, but I was up to the task.  And then, at one point, when I was hip deep in crocodiles and barracudas, a good friend dropped by.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh, reinforcements!

He saw the sweat on my brow and generously waded in to battle.  Two AARP ex-hippies gettin her done, slashing, whacking and biting.  The old lumber never had a chance.  Of course, neither one of us could move that night, but stories will be told of our heroic exploits that day.  That's for sure.

Once the tear off was complete, I removed any remaining hardware from old 2x4's.  Three one gallon buckets of metal were ultimately removed.  Then I stacked the better lumber which will be deployed later this summer for the tree house.  Re-purpose Re-purpose Re-purpose.

Complete tear off took a day and a half, then I took stock of the joists.  All of them were relatively sound, but most of them had suffered pretty fair dry rot along the tops.

The main problem with the old deck was that home boy did not leave any space between his top deck planks.  Typically you should have a 1/8-1/4 inch gap between each board, allowing for water to run off, down, through and away.  When they're solid the water will sit and the wood will start dry rotting, especially at the ends.  Even though it was redwood decking, homie had painted it over and essentially shit showed the entire bonanza beyond recognition.

Fortunately there is a way to deal with dry rot at the top.  It's called "sistering" the joist.  Or at least that's what we called it.  Basically you just nail or screw another board along the joist for whatever length you need.  Then screw the top plank into that instead of the dry rotted joist next to it.  Since I wanted a pretty solid screw line, I ran a sister the entire length of each joist.  I simply re-purposed some of the old deck 2x6's, the cost was nil.  If you're paying for the sister, then it would make sense to keep her in line with just the dry rotted section of the joist, which might only be a foot or two.

Once the entire under belly was solid, I treated it with a wood preservative.  That was completed on Thursday, allowing a couple days for the oil to sink in and the smell to dissipate before our fabulous son in law and grandson would be up to help install the new.     

The first thing we did Saturday morning was cover the joists.  Yeah, I preserved them, but I definitely don't want to go there again.  Not in this life time.  They make plastic snap on type covers and they also make a roll on.  Sort of like deodorant, only different.  There's a 4 inch wide roll, which would cover a sistered joist quite nicely.  Based on my figures, I would have needed two rolls.

There was also a 9 inch wide roll for about $5.00 more than the 4 inch roll.  I figured that would cover twice the amount of sistered joists and I would only need one roll, which would save me about $30 bucks.  It's called math.  It comes in handy some times.

The joist tape cut very cleanly with an exacta knife and attached quite easily with a staple gun.  An hour in and we were ready to start planking.

What did I choose for my plank material?  Redwood.  Basic redwood.  After looking at the pros and cons of all the happy horseshit non wood "maintenance free" products, I opted for the basic.  It'll last, as long as I splash a coat of water seal on it every year or two.

Look, Homie installed a "Maintenance Free" ironwood deck in front.  Only I have to splash some oil on it every year.  Which doesn't sound "maintenance free" to me.   And ironwood is a lot more expensive than redwood.  So I figured if I already have to annually maintain the front deck what's a couple extra hours to maintain the rear?

I once lived at a house that had trex deck.  That stuff absorbs the oil off a Dorito.  Drop a Dorito crumb and you end up with a Dorito oil stain on the deck.  Have a big party with the appropriate amount of alcohol and your deck is going to get chip besotted, spotted and stained.  Then you're going to have to refinish the entire thing with little corn chip chips so it all looks even.  Who wants to do that?

The first couple rows of redwood 2x6 planks took a little time.  One had to be notched to allow for some PVC, and a couple others needed to be sliced to allow for access to the house water line.  But once those were set we were ready to rock and roll.  My fabulous son in law took the helm, and assisted by our amazing grandson they tacked down the ends on all the wood I fed them.

Since the length of the deck was 20 feet I had ordered the appropriate amount of 12 footers and the appropriate amount of 8 footers to fill the original deck footprint.  How did I do this?  I counted the boards.
By ordering 8 and 12 footers, I was able to leave only two nice, clean seam lines.  Most decks have seams that are willy nilly everywhere, like old Homie did.  Not so here, now.

We did the big section first, then the little after deck off the dining room.  It was a full day of fun and frolic, and our amazing 8 year old grandson stayed in the game the entire way.  Most 8 year olds would have hung out for about ten minutes, then ran off to play.  Not so here.

He not only hung, he helped with the not so fun grunt stuff for most of the day.  His reward?  Once all the pieces were in place I started about fifty screws for him to finish off.

Sunday was a play day, but Monday I got another box of uber fabulous star red screws, which blend with redwood quite nicely, and spent the rest of the day trimming the edges and screwing off.  The deck that is.  Not the rest of the day.

A couple days later I addressed the deck long step issue, and with a little snap sizzle I was able to put it all together.  A little shimmy here, a little shammy there.  Once again, in the heat of battle, photos go by the wayside.  But here are a few of the finished product.

Next up will be the Front Fence Offensive.  All the 4x4's and T-Posts are in, having dug holes and pounded them in while the hard clay ground was still rain moist and malleable.  But there's a lot of wire and a couple gates left to do.  Small tomatoes. 

The next couple blog posts will be about a recent excursion my lovely wife and I made along the Northern California coast.   They will be chalk full of things you probably never knew existed.

My second book is just about half way complete.  I hope to have that available on Amazon later this fall, really really later in fall.  Probably early winter, actually.  Or maybe some time next year.  Anybody got a couple spare ten seconds they can lend me? 

My first book, as always, is still available on

Happy Spring Y'all.