Last weekend I went down to San Diego with Chloe for four days to help my brother replace their ancient, termite-destroyed deck. During the demolition, which he took care of before we arrived, he found that some of the framing could be removed with a broom! Given that their deck sits at the top of a slope and that they have a 1 1/2 year old, the time had come to take care of it.
We ended up putting in a solid 80 hours of labor between the two of us in just 4 days. It was pretty aggressive, but we needed to make sure that if it wasn’t complete when I left (why do I always delude myself that things will be finished in an arbitrary, unrealistic timeframe?) that the framing and posts had to at least be finished. That would leave smaller projects that could be done piecemeal, as he has time later. And for the record, this deck is quite large…10′ deep by 34′ wide…a little larger than a weekend project has the right to be.
Without going into all the gory details, most of our problems stemmed from one issue…the concrete footing that held the upper end of the deck wasn’t level. For about half a day I assumed that it was, since the seriously settled corner of the adjacent patio made the less-seriously settled footing look relatively level. Once I checked it, though, we found that sloped down just over 2″ in about half the width of the deck (about 16′). I convinced my brother that we had to make the deck level, regardless of how it looked with the patio, because it would be a nightmare to build a deck that sloped only on one half. And, of course, it would look like hell and cause lots of other problems down the line when attaching posts, decking, etc.
Given our tight timeframe, we had to deal with the problem in an unorthodox way. Instead of building a custom form, pouring concrete to level the footing and then having to wait for it to dry, we shimmed that end of our sill plate into position, essentially suspending it in place. That allowed us to start connecting joists and get going on the rest of the structure. We went in later and used long anchor bolts to attach the board to the original footing and then packed in new concrete under the board. While it’s not a technique I’d want to use for building a house, it worked out great for this. Fortunately, we were able to rotohammer new holes into the existing post footings and attach new post anchors to them. That saved a lot of time and let us start building much more quickly.
As you can see, we did not end up finishing. While that was a little disappointing, there’s only so much you can get done in just 4 days. And we met the goal of getting all the “big stuff” done. It was also really fun to get to spend a long weekend with my brother and his family. Most people do not think of this as fun, but it was actually a great time. Then again, most people don’t have houseblogs, either. Hmmm…maybe they’re the sane ones?