Monthly Archives: July 2011

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 15: Debris removal

Once the deck was complete, we had to clean the site, which meant removing all of the excess lumber and trash that had been generated over the course of the project. Even for a small deck like ours, there was quite a bit of waste: pressure-treated lumber, unused Ipe or ends of boards that had been cut, screws and nails, and just a bunch of random garbage.

Day 15: Debris removal

It was a great feeling to reach this final day of construction. The deck was precisely as I had imagined, and we all shook hands and felt the sense of satisfaction that comes with a job well done.

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 14: DG, sanding and finishing

Now that the planter box was done, we could start wrapping things up. The first big chore was removing a large amount of dirt and decomposed granite that had accumulated over the course of the project. This meant digging and hauling out about 25 buckets worth of crap that I wanted out of the yard.

Day 13: A big pile of cr*p to deal with

Day 14: DG and dirt removed from yard

Day 14: DG and dirt leftovers

The last step involved using orbital sanders to sand the entire deck. This was done to remove any scratches introduced during construction, and to get rid of all the pencil marks that had been created for the screws.

Day 14: Sanding

After sanding, the deck was blown clean with a compressor and swept multiple times to remove as much of the dust as possible prior to finishing.

Day 14: Sand cleanup before staining

The deck was finished with a penetrating oil designed for outdoor hardwoods (called Penofin). The Penofin was rubbed onto the entire deck, then after about 10-15 minutes, wiped with clean cloths to remove any excess oil. Ipe is tremendously hard, and resists almost every finish you could try to apply, so the oil wouldn’t go very deep. Regardless, once it was done, the result was pretty spectacular.

Day 14: Penofin stain

Day 14: Penofin stain detail

Day 14: Completed deck

Day 14: Completed deck detail

And here are the guys who made it all happen…I owe our new outdoor room to Anderson and Roberto. They did a fantastic job with a smile, and were an absolute pleasure to work with every step of the way.

Day 14: The guys who made it happen - Anderson and Roberto

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 13: Planter box

With all of the deck boards laid down, it was time to turn to another small project: a planter box on the West side of the deck. We wanted a spot where we could plant herbs and veggies, and there was a gap between the deck and the house that was the perfect spot.

Compared to the deck, the planter box was simple. It was to be constructed from raw redwood boards, bolted together, then dropped onto the surface beneath our living room windows. A few hours of work, and the box was ready to drop into place:

Day 13: Planter box slot

Day 13: Interior supports for planter

Day 13: Planter box construction I

Day 13: Planter box construction II

Day 13: Planter box construction III

Day 13: Planter box complete

Almost there…

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 12: Boards, North (Part II)

Anderson and Roberto came back the next day with a solution. All of the 14-foot boards on the North side of the deck need to be pulled up and realigned, with a different system for measuring than we had used the day before. They measured each end of the board to ensure proper distance, anchored those points, then measured the midpoint, anchored that, and then screwed down the rest of the board with uniform gaps. Due to some minor variation in board widths (1/8 inch or so), this meant that the gaps between boards was not uniform across the deck. Despite this minor issue, it would lead to boards that were straight across the seam.

Once the 14-foot boards had been re-installed, they set to work on cutting the last boards on each edge. These had to be slightly narrower to match the exterior framing dimensions.

Day 12: Ripping final edge boards

Day 12: Edge board I

Day 12: Edge board II

At the end of the day, it all worked out, and we could collectively celebrate the completion of laying down the boards for the deck.

Day 12: Anderson celebrates

Day 12: Roberto celebrates

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 11: Boards, North (Part I)

The time had come to finish off the North boards on the deck. Anderson needed to rip a few boards down to narrower width, which meant cutting then routing the edges to match (since the boards were all rounded):

Day 11: Ripping a long board

Day 11: Router for curved edge after rippping

Day 11: Router edge detail

The final section was going to be easy. All 14-foot boards. We just had to match everything at a uniform seam in the deck, and then it would essentially be done.

Day 11: Initial boards on final section

Day 11: Final boards

Day 11: Almost done...

Once we laid all the boards, measured, drilled holes, and locked everything down, we cleaned up the equipment on the deck and took a look. Despite our best efforts, we realized we had made a mistake: the boards on the deck were not straight across the seam. The end of the 14-foot boards was off by 1 inch, which meant things looked crooked.

Day 11: Crooked across seam...Not done

An inch might seem like a lot, but over the length of a 14-foot board, you only need an error of roughly 1/16 inch per foot of board to generate that kind of difference. Even though each section looked great, the whole deck was slightly out of kilter. Initially, I thought it was no big deal, but after looking at it for a bit, we realized it was a significant enough difference to merit some rework. We broke for the day, and I left it to Anderson and Roberto to think about the best solution.

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 10: Boards, South

Once the stairs and landing were complete, it was time to shift gears into laying down the primary deck itself. We decided to start with the boards on the South part of the deck, since these posed the greatest challenge (or so we thought). These boards would all run East-West and connect with the other North-South boards via a 45-degree miter joint.

In order to minimize waste, we tried to vary the length of the boards that were used across the miter (since we had to cut off whatever wasn’t used of each board). This meant using at least three different board lengths, then cutting down each board to the right length using Anderson’s miter saw:

Day 10: Mix of board lengths across miter

Day 10: Miter optimization

Once we had laid out all of the boards, we began the laborious (and entirely manual) process of marking every board for the locations of the screws. Rather than use one of the more modern attachment systems, we opted for old-fashioned screws (#10, 2 1/2 in). Because Ipe is so hard, you have to pre-drill holes with countersinks for every screw in the deck (over 1500 screws for our little platform). Screws needed to be aligned properly, and of course placed above the joists, which meant LOTS of measuring and marking (with pencils, naturally):

Day 10: Boards marked for screws

Day 10: Pre-drill holes with countersink bit

Once all of the holes were drilled, the boards went down relatively quickly. The trickiest part is making sure there is a uniform gap between boards, which we created using nails as spacing tools, coupled with a special clamp that allowed us to pull warped boards inwards to the desired tolerance when we needed to.

Once the top boards were down, we needed to install the facing board, which sounds a whole lot easier than it was. There were three things that made facing boards tricky to install:

  • They had to fit around the exterior framing without showing any bolts, which meant there needed to be inset holes drilled to cover the bolts on the framing posts
  • Ventilation holes had to be drilled in each facing board that matched those already created in the framing lumber…As it turns out, drilling circular holes through Ipe is so difficult that it literally burns the Ipe from the friction generated by the drill bit
  • Screws to ultimately hold the boards had to be placed at slightly different locations, either due to Simpson brackets or the height of the boards relative to the framing materials

Day 10: Facing board with room for support bolts

Day 11: Ventilation hole in exterior facing (matches interior hole)

The last task of the day was cutting the boards across the miter joint. Fortunately, Anderson had the perfect tool for the job: the Festool. It’s basically a circular saw that can be mounted to a precision track, thus allowing for long, straight cuts. Anderson laid the Festool guides down on the deck, aligned them with the 45-degree miter line, slapped down his circular saw, and let it rip. The result? A perfect miter joint (or rather, half of one).

Day 10: Festool to cut miter joint boards

Day 10: Festool detail I

Day 10: Festool detail II

Day 10: Festool detail III

Once the miter joint was cut, we hurried to measure, mark, cut and screw down the matching boards across the miter joint. Day 10 was a busy day, and we were incredibly happy with the progress made.

Day 10: First section of boards across miter

Day 10: Miter joint complete

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 8: Landing and stairs

Day 8 began with finalizing the necessary support structure for the landing and the stairs, which was a bit of an extension from what we had originally.

Day 8: Final stair supports

Once the support structure was done, Anderson and Roberto started laying all of the boards on the landing. This work included putting down facing boards that wrapped around each level of the landing/stairs, along with trying to conceal a small gap beneath each "floating" stair:

Day 8: Landing Ipe laid

Day 8: Paint added to floating stair gap

Unfortunately, our original design plans we slightly off in our calculations for the width of the deck (a theory vs. practice problem). As a result, in order to match the desired width, a reduced-width board had to be ripped in order to finish things off properly:

Day 8: Narrow board required on landing

Day 8: Landing miter in facing board

The other project that I undertook in parallel was to start drilling the ventilation holes in the exterior framing. These holes would be extended through the cladding Ipe, and then ventilation covers would be placed over each hole. The idea here was to try to provide as many opportunities to get air underneath the deck, thus offering (hopefully) the cross-ventilation we wanted to reduce cupping problems. As a side note, drilling circular holes through 2×6 pressure-treated lumber proved much harder than I had imagined…

Day 8: Ventilation holes in exterior pressure treated lumber

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 7: Ipe delivery

After we selected all of the Ipe, we needed a way to get it to the house. Fortunately, Ashby Lumber was able to deliver, despite the fact that we bought the wood at their Concord facility. They delivered it the next day on a big flatbed truck. The question then became, where do we put it and how do we unload it? The truck driver had an easy answer for the latter: just drop it off the truck. Skeptical, I wanted some assurance from him that this wouldn’t damage the wood on which I had spent a sizable chunk of money. He assured me that he was the pro and had done this many times, so we went ahead and let him drop the lumber into our shared car courtyard:

Day 7: Ipe delivery

Day 7: Ipe dropped from truck

Ipe download from Ryan McCormack on Vimeo.

Once the Ipe was off the truck, we carried it out of the courtyard and stacked it by size in the area outside our front door. All in all, we had seven different sizes of boards (8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20-foot lengths). Next up, boards for the deck start getting laid…

Day 7: Ipe delivered and stacked by length (7 sizes)

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 6: Ipe selection

With all of the basic framing and foundation set in place, the time had come to get the actual wood for the deck itself. Given that there is a lot of variability in the quality of Ipe (the Brazilian hardwood we had chosen for our deck), Anderson and I went out to the vendor (Ashby Lumber) to hand-select every piece of wood that would go into our deck. At $4 a linear foot (for 5 1/2″ x 3/4″ boards), and with a desire to minimize waste, we wanted to make sure we got boards that were straight, unmarred, and just generally beautiful.

Anderson and I drove out to the large Ashby Lumber yard in Concord and spent about an hour picking out all of the wood we’d ultimately use in the deck:

Day 6: Ipe selection

Day 6: Ashby Lumber Concord

We bought a bunch of 20-foot long 2x6s to act as support for our wood during transport (since the boards could have been damaged otherwise), and then hand-loaded everything onto a forklift in preparation for delivery:

Day 6: Ipe selection complete

One note here: I had done some calculations to determine how many boards of each length we would need. Boards came in two-foot increments, from 8 feet to 20 feet in length. Unfortunately, as it turned out, we needed more wood of certain lengths than Ashby Lumber had in stock, which meant swapping out some boards for longer lengths. The clash between theory and practice…