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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…

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 5: Framing completion and ventilation

Lots of joists, lots of Simpson brackets, lots of nails…Day 5 started with the completion of joist connections, which meant a whole lot of hammering. In addition, we had to add special 45-degree support brackets across the miter joint:

Day 5: Joist support bracket (detail)

Day 5: 45 degree joist supports

Originally, we had imagined that all of the joists would just rest on the decomposed granite underneath. After doing a bit of research, I learned that ventilation was one of the keys to prevent “cupping” in decks so low to the ground. In an attempt to provide for more air flow under the deck, I decided that we should dig trenches underneath all of the joists, in addition to adding ventilation ducts on the sides of the finished deck. This meant extracting a boatload of DG from under the joists; the whole process wound up taking me more than a day of digging in tightly compacted DG:

Day 5: Joist trenches for ventilation

While I was digging trenches, Anderson and Roberto focused on enhancing the support structure of the landing. We were extending the stairs so that they wrapped around both sides of the landing, which meant we needed more joists as foundation:

Day 5: Support structure for stairs

At the end of the day, all of the joists were complete and we were ready to start laying the actual deck itself:

Day 5: Joists and trenches

Day 5: Miter joists complete

Day 5: Blocking between joists

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 4: Framing and more framing

Day 3 saw the completion of all exterior framing (i.e., support posts and the 2×6 boards on which the joists would hang). Next up was finalizing some of the additional elements used as internal supports. Anderson had initially planned to run a standard support down the centerline of the deck (i.e., board mounted to 4x4s, then joists hung from board). Unfortunately, this would have meant a lot of Simpson brackets to hold all of the joists. After a little additional thought, he decided to create a 4×4 horizontal backbone onto which the joists could be connected more easily. This meant chopping off the original 4×4 support brackets in preparation for the new backbone:

Day 4: Adjust central support brackets

Not only did the central support posts need to be cut down to size, but we needed to dig a trench to allow for the new 4×4 backbone. Once that was done, the 4×4 support backbone could be inserted:

Day 4: Trench for 4x4 support beam

Day 4: Decisions, decisions

With those basic support elements completed on the North side of the deck, it was time to turn our attention to the South side where the miter joint would live. The 45-degree miter in the deck boards basically meant that a support structure with a mirror image needed to be built. First things first – the 45-degree support:

Day 4: Miter support beam

With the basic bones in place, it was time to lay down all of the joists. Every joist was connected to the exterior framing using a Simpson bracket. Each bracket had four bolts attached to the exterior framing, followed by four nails that went through joist, bracket, and exterior frame. The North joists were added first, followed by all joists across the miter joint:

Day 4: Joists (North)

Day 4: Joist support brackets

Day 4: Miter joists

Day 4: North joists complete

The joist connection process continued into Day 5…

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 3: Framing continues

With the groundwork laid, it was time to continue with framing efforts. The first step was to haul in all of the pressure-treated lumber that would be used as foundation. Even for our moderate deck, it was a fair bit of lumber:

Day 3: Pressure-treated lumber for structure

All of the foundation would ultimately be tied to the footings that had been laid. Each footing would have a 4×4 support post inserted into the bracket that had been laid into the concrete. Sounds easy, right? Well, for a level deck, Anderson had to make sure the support posts were each cut to the proper height, given that we were working with a slight grade (roughly 1-2%). This meant measurement and laser-guided precision:

Day 3: Mounted footing support

Day 3: Laser-guided footing

At the end of it all, everything had to be level so that the deck boards we laid down on the support posts were flat. Fortunately, it all worked out:

Day 3: Is it level?

Day 3: Houston, We have level footings

Once the basic support posts were level, it was possible start attaching the outer support structure, from which all of the other support elements would hang:

Day 3: Initial framing

With all of the outer framing complete, and everything level, we were ready to move on to the internal framing and joists.

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 2: Framing begins

With everything square and laid out after Day 1, it was time to get to more serious work: pouring concrete for the footings, and setting down all the support posts.

The day started with an unpleasant discovery: excess lumber had been laid across one of the drip irrigation lines in the yard, which caused a pressure build-up and an emitter blowout. The resulting blowout created a geyser that soaked one side of the yard, along with a lot of the old lumber.

Day 2: Emitter blowout

Day 2: Soaked wood

Despite this minor blowout, we set to work early. A big first step was trying to remove a large amount of DG on the South side of the deck. This was to be the only portion of the main area not covered by the deck, but I wanted the infernal pebbles removed. So, time to start digging. The question then became, where do we put it all without going to the trouble and expense of hauling it away? Thus began my personal version of Stalag 17: where to hide the dirt.

Day 2: DG Removal I

The answer came in multiple forms (or places, as it were). I wanted to maintain adequate ventilation under the deck, so moving the DG under it was not a real option. The landing offered one nice spot, given that it was elevated, and could support DG without running into air flow issues. Unfortunately, that meant shoveling a lot of dirt from under the landing, moving it around the yard, then filling the remaining space with DG. There was also a small section of edging covered in mulch that would be underneath the deck; this offered another easy spot to dump a bunch of granite. After that, things got a bit more difficult…

Day 2: DG placement under landing

Day 2: DG removal IV

One of the great challenges I had not anticipated with the project, which became apparent on Day 2, was that our dog Charlie was not interested in behaving calmly while I was outside working. He whined, he scratched at the doors, he chewed whatever was within sight, he jumped up on the counters and sofas. You name it, he did it. As a result, I tried to take some measures to minimize the damage, while still allowing him to oversee construction (which ultimately proved useless).

Day 2: Charlie, Dog Foreman

Bit I digress. On Day 1, locations were marked for all footings, based on the guide lines and measurements. Day 2 saw the excavation of all of the holes for the piers: 14 inches deep, and probably 16 inches wide. At the end of the day, 16 holes were dug for the 16 piers that would support the deck. Not only was it a lot of work, but it just generated another problem: more dirt and DG looking for a home. The need to dispose of all this stuff became an ongoing theme…14-inch holes generate a lot of dirt, believe it or not.

Day 2: Footing hole detail

Once all of the holes were excavated, Anderson set about cutting the forms for the concrete, all from a single tube cut into equal lengths:

Day 2: Concrete form tube (uncut)

Once the forms were cut, it was time to mix the concrete, pour into the molds, and then flatten to the desired height. Each form was poured and then measured to make sure the height was correct, relative to the grade of the yard (which was small, but made a difference). The cement in the forms was then leveled. It was all a very precise operation; a failure in laying the concrete could result in serious downstream problems.

Day 2: Backyard concrete mixer

Day 2: Footing concrete poured

Day 2: Footing leveling

Day 2: Footing concrete filled in

Day 2: Footing concrete level

Day 2: Footing detail (no bracket)

At this point, things needed to be more precise. The brackets for the footings all had to be laid square, and in such a way that the 4×4 posts mounted in them would be as close to level across the entire deck as possible. Anderson used a plumb line to ensure proper placement.

Day 2: Plumb footing brackets (finesse)

Day 2: Plumb and square footing

All of the footings were laid in similar fashion. It was hours of detailed work for Anderson, and he kept laser focus throughout. All of his diligence set the stage for the next phase: framing.

Deckocalypse 2011 – Day 1: Prep

The first day of my first big household construction project…I had no idea what to expect. Where do we start? How much happens the first day? Is it fireworks from the start, or a slow build to completion? Thankfully, I had experts to lead the way. Anderson and Roberto came with a plan and the means to make it a reality.

Day one of construction was what you might expect: preparation. Unloading, staging, prepping tools, and bringing in materials. We hauled in a bunch of stuff: pressure-treated lumber for framing, lots of tools, and a whole load of concrete.

Here’s what we started with:

Day 1: Before (South)

Day 1: Before (North)

Day 1: Before (Landing)

Day 1: Before (Facing North)

Day 1: Before (Planter bed area)

Lots of decomposed granite. Some paving stones. And a garden wrapped around it all…The plan was to cover most of the DG, and leave most of the surrounding plants, except for the area to the north of the existing landing.

One of the first things to be done was to frame the entire structure, and to build supporting piers beneath it. In order to do that, we had to haul in a LOT of concrete (in our case, 27 bags of it, at 60 lbs per bag, which is roughly 1600 lbs):

Day 1: Concrete for footings

Once we had all the supplies and tools pulled into the yard, the next task was to pull up the existing landing: redwood boards screwed down into an existing set of supports. The space underneath the existing structure was going to be a place where we could put some of the DG we had to get rid of:

Day 1: Landing teardown I

Day 1: Landing teardown III

Day 1: A spot for excess DG

Once the supplies were brought in, and the landing was ripped back near its origjnal state, initial measurements began. Anderson laid down guide lines across the property to establish square boundaries and the locations for the piers.

Day 1: Footing guidelines I

Day 1: Footing guidelines II

The next mundane stage of the project involved removing dirt to make room for the DG we needed to get rid of. The most obvious place to dump some of the DG was underneath the landing, but there was dirt there we had to remove first…So, time to bring out the shovels.

Day 1: Dirt removal

At the end of the first day, we were left with a whole lot of dirt (which I hid in various spots in the yard), and a bunch of screws from the previous landing and stairs. Sometimes, you have to tear things down to create something new…

Day 1: Screw bonanza