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

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