Deck, Costs, Electrical, Geothermal, Water Heat, Insulation, Landscaping, Roof, Windows, Deck

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The summer of 2007 was spent replacing our old deck. Once again I took Fridays off through July and August. Ended up with just enough time to complete the project. The old deck was rotting in a couple of places and it looked like it had not been built well from the start - how little we knew! We had our "Day-before-Canada-Day-Party" on June 30 and then the next day tore out the old deck. Yikes! Good thing we never held a dance on that deck.

Here are the details...

Here is our old deck. It's 4 steps up from the lawn which puts it about 28" high. The rule is that the deck has to be no higher than 24" if you want to build it without rails. Having 4 steps without railings is an insurance issue as well. Note also the overhead wires less than 8 ft above the deck - they need to be 14 ft above (see electrical to see what we did). It was actually a lovely deck. Just not built to code.

The other problem was that the boards were rotting away. Although the entire top of the deck was built of good cedar the way the boards were put together caused rotting. Here you can see how a cross board was butted up against the ends of the deck boards. Bad practice - you can see the rot.

Here's the biggest problem. The entire deck was held up by these three bricks. These bricks are just house bricks - not rated for any load. They were cracked and ready to fall apart. These bricks hold up a 2x6 board (far less than what should be there). The deck was just about to collapse by our estimation.

The other problem was electrical. What idiot did this? These wires connected to a light on the edge of the deck. So many errors here: wrong wires for wet location, no junction box, not grounded, not accessible, etc. etc.. Highly dangerous. Glad we found and fixed this.

Another thing we found was that the corner of the porch was rotting away. I looked at this carefully and it appears that what had happened was that an old downspout used to be here. That caused the rot. Then the guys who built the deck placed a bit of pressure treated plywood over the area to cover it up. The rot is not progressing but the wood here holds up a corner of the back porch. This needed to be braced up immediately.

So under the porch we added a new support post. You can see all the water damage in the wood but on this side there is no wood rot yet. This post is only 2ft tall but sits on the concrete footing (I used a paving brick to level it - that brick is made for a load) and holds the porch floor joists up at the top. I'll check this over the next couple of years and tighten the post to see if I can stop the porch from sagging. Should work...

Here are the beams after the deck boards were pulled off. The beams are just regular spruce. The builder painted the tops of the beams with copper paint but the rest of the beams are untreated wood. Lots of rot were the water collected (the dirty spots) but overall the wood was in pretty good shape. Note the lonely little 2x6 holding up all the 2x8 deck beams. That one board was balanced on the 3 bricks (centre right).

Everything must go! After a weekend of effort we were able to get all the old deck out. There wasn't anything we thought was worth salvaging or recycling. Note that the foundation of the deck was just 6 patio pavers. Pretty simple but they actually held up well for the 30 years the deck was in place. We decided to continue with that form of foundation. Talking to the City about support posts was very frustrating. There is also a gas line that goes right through the deck location. In the end I decided to go with the patio pavers again.

Now we needed a way for Lucy to get in and out of the house while construction was under way. I built her this bridge from her pet door to the back yard. It took about 10 treats to train her how to use it but once she caught on she used it without fear.

In fact Lucy decided that this was the best place to watch the construction. She pretty much perched here all summer "supervising" the activity in the back yard. The bridge was placed so that it didn't have to come out until the rest of the deck was finished.

While we were taking out the deck we also went ahead and took out the sidewalks. The sidewalk at the side of the house has been sinking for some time and needed to go. South of the deck there were just patio stones to the garage. Those had to go too. So we started on the sidewalks first. Then we would build the deck to meet up with the new sidewalks.

But you can't throw out concrete in Edmonton with your construction garbage. It has to go to another concrete recycling facility. So we thought we'd use the concrete to fill in this big hole under the back door. The ground had settled badly here. So we compacted the bottom of the hole, lined it with construction fabric, and filled it with the broken concrete. Very solid. Those are the two fellows I hired to help the weekend we did all the compaction. Heavy work.

With the hole by the door filled we moved out under where the new deck would be. We extended the area for the deck by creating this wrapped faced wall with construction fabric. That got all the area level before construction. We brought the rest of the yard up to meet that level at the very end.

So how did we keep everything level? We used this laser and a tripod. By putting a white target on the ground we could get the dirt sloped away from the house and the deck fairly level.

We compacted all the clay areas with a jumping jack compactor. That included the sidewalk areas and the entire deck area. Then the next day we brought in gravel and packed it into place for the sidewalks. We used the remaining gravel to pack down onto these three strips where the main deck beams would be located.

So here is the final foundation for the deck. The soil is covered with construction fabric to keep the weeds down, then the patio stones are placed on top and the three beams set on top of that and leveled. These beams are 6x6 rough cut timbers, pressure treated, 24 ft long (the short one in the foreground is 16 ft). We use them where I work to wind up large plastic sheets. I was able to buy them for my project. We took a lot of time leveling these beams with the laser level.

The next weekend we started on the sidewalks. Here is the south sidewalk built up with gravel. I used construction fabric to wrap the gravel for better strength. Here is the gravel in the fabric...

Here is the fabric wrapped back over the gravel. Then the brick edging is placed and nailed into the gravel. This section of sidewalk is curved. I also used some liner materials along the edges of the sidewalks. These strips of liner will be used to help prevent grass and weeds from growing into the bricks.

Back to the north sidewalk. On top of the gravel and fabric you place a layer of sand. Then you place the bricks in the sand. The pipes are for leveling the sand. The pipes are placed on the gravel, then you scrape the sand along the pipe to get an even layer. Then place bricks.

Kind of funny - we had to figure out how to keep the bricks in random order. There are a couple of different colours and shapes and making it random was one of the toughest things to do.

Once the bricks are placed you sweep sand into the gaps and compact it with a plate tamper. Here is the completed north sidewalk.

Now that the sidewalks were done we could start on the deck. Here is the start of the first level. The three beams are covered with plastic to help them shed water and then the joists are placed perpendicular to the beams. Here we are getting the joists ready to place on the beams.

I used a type of deck clip to screw all the deck boards from below. Here is a closeup of the deck clip. First we stapled a strip of plastic to the top of the joist board and then nailed the clip to the side of the joist. The plastic is to shed water from the top of the wood. This deck should last forever! You can see that the screws will go in the bottom of the clip at a 45 degree angle and will pull the deck boards down onto the joists. We put all the plastic and clips onto the joists before we started construction of the deck.

We used 12 ft cedar posts to hold up the screen on the side of the deck. The screen is actually part of the deck and can float up and down with the deck if it moves. I doubled up the joists under each post and bolted it all together.

Here you can see the deck structure. The beams (bottom) run north and south. The main joists run east and west, then the second level runs north and south again. Note that all the joists and beams have plastic stapled to the top to shed water. At this location you can see level one and two of the deck and some of the under deck electrical. This box if for two electrical outlets that I added to the deck there is also a set of conduit that connects two speakers.

Here's the final structure of the main level. Instead of cutting each joist to size I overlapped them on the centre beam. That way I didn't have to cut the boards and leave an end that was not pressure treated. There is paint that I could have used but by not cutting the boards I end up with a much stronger structure through the middle of the deck where most of the foot traffic takes place. You can see that the deck clips don't go right through the middle. In the middle section I had to cut sections of deck clip to fit. The black post in the centre is a pier for mounting an umbrella.

Here we can see the different levels of the deck. The lower level is the main level. Then there is a second level that is a step up. This second level is about the same level as the previous deck. Then there will be one more small platform (not shown here yet) to step up into the house.

So here is the finished frame for the main deck. The main level and the second level are complete and ready for deck boards. The beams will not be cut off until the steps are complete. We had some left over sand so we placed it in the area below the deck. This entire level of soil will be built up when we are done the deck.

Here come the deck boards. I stayed with cedar. The last deck had lasted 30 years. If it hadn't been built so badly it would have lasted many more. I used 2 x 6 cedar deck boards again. I was able to get boards the length I needed so that there are no joints anywhere on the deck. These boards are 14 ft long each. The second level and the steps required boards 20 ft long. It took a bit of shopping around but I was able to find all the lengths I needed.

Once the four 20 ft long deck boards were installed on the second level I started on the third level platform. This is the step that we stand on to go into the house. It has to be very sturdy. It also is removable. I can lift this platform out to get under the deck for access to the electrical and speaker conduit and to jack up the deck if it settles in the future.

Here's the deck boards just about done. The second and third level were completed first, then the main level. This gave me access under the deck to attach the boards. Remember that all the screws that attach these boards are screwed in from underneath. On our previous deck the nails popping up on the deck made it very difficult to shovel snow. We've had no trouble shoveling snow off this deck with no exposed screws.

So how do you attach the final board? I hired my niece! I'd left the last board in the most accessible place I could. Problem was that when I tried to slither under the deck there wasn't enough room under the joists for me to fit. I couldn't get my chest under. My 13 year old niece was game to try. We got her fitted out with safety glasses, a flashlight and a power screwdriver and sent her under. As far as she is concerned we couldn't have built the deck without her!

The next task was to add steps to the perimeter of the deck. I used steel stringers. After looking at how much work it would be to build wood stringers I just went out and bought the steel ones. Since I only needed two steps they weren't that expensive. To get them level I dug out a small pit under each stringer. Then I bolted the stringer in place and then put concrete into the hole. This leveled the steps quite easily.

Here the side steps are complete with their 16 ft long cedar boards bolted into place. You can see the stringers are placed on the south side of the deck and the holes under each stringer has been dug out prior to placing concrete. Now that the stringers are placed I was able to cut off the main beams to fit. Note that the stringer for the top step is actually lined up with the main beams. This increases the strength of the steps on the south side.

On the south steps I added a concrete pad where the steps meet the sidewalk. This is where most of the traffic will be. I used concrete anchor bolts in the concrete that I can adjust if needed in the future.

Here are the steps complete. After this I added trim boards to close off the underside of the deck. It didn't take long for our dog to discover that this was a neat place to explore - and to get dirty. Note that both the sidewalk and the deck are built fairly high above the soil. There is some sand in place but this is not yet high enough to match the deck. This was the one thing we could never really explain to anyone. The intent was to raise the yard to the correct level after construction. That's next.

But first we need some dirt. We had a full truckload of soil delivered. We didn't want to have to move the dirt into the yard by wheelbarrow so we had it flung over the garage. That was fun! It also saved a ton of time. It only took two hours to level 12 yards of dirt in the back yard from this pile which was placed right in the center of where it was needed.

Here's Lucy looking on to the back yard. The pile of dirt is gone. It's been spread over the back yard. We just went right over the old grass. It was pretty much dead from all the construction traffic anyway. We put at least 3 inches new topsoil over the entire back yard in preparation for new sod. We also regraded the back yard. The new yard comes up to meet the new sidewalks and the steps from the deck. It also drains water away from the sidewalks to the centre garden(our old yard used to flood the back side walk in the spring).

From this angle you can see how the dirt comes up the the steps on the deck. That wrapped face fabric wall is now buried underneath. The fabric will help keep the supporting soil from sagging under the deck. From here we fertilized the soil and then placed the sod. All the extra soil we had left over went into various flower beds for next year.

Here's the sod in place a week later. The center flower bed (foreground) is visible again, the grass comes right up to the deck steps and matches the sidewalk perfectly. Then in a completely fortuitous circumstance it rained for the next couple of weeks. All summer long we had excellent hot dry weather for construction and once we put the sod in it rained and rained and rained. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Within a month the sod was completely established and healthy.

So here is the finished result. On the screen you can see the speakers. Karen thought we needed a new BBQ so that's over by the screen. The overall deck is not that much bigger in area but has more usable space. We also got our sidewalks fixed and new sod in the back yard. Next year we'll look at revitalizing the flower beds.

So what do you think? Pretty good update without changing the look that much. Compare the before and after., Costs, Electrical, Geothermal, Water Heat, Insulation, Landscaping, Roof, Windows