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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Franklin

Rebuilding a Deck

This year, we went to Scotland on an amazing 10 day trip for our two year anniversary! Wow, I cannot even believe it has been TWO years! When we returned, we found that our deck was pretty much at the end of its life. It has become overgrown with weeds, and when I went to pull the weeds off the lattice, some of the rails just fell right off. To make things worse, as I grabbed the rails, the steps also broke.

So you may be wondering what that paint is on the deck, and that was original to when we bought the house, and is the worst. It's called deck over and although the deck was painted only two years ago, it has already started chipping and causing a mess. So with chipped paint, broken stairs, and missing railings, we decided it was time to redo the deck. I think to date this project was the most fun we have had with a renovation project!

So Brian and I got to work immediately. We did some measurements and realized that our deck has perfectly size sections aka we had to do minimal cutting. We ordered pressure treated pine in 8 ft and 20 ft sections, and had it delivered!

We decided to start with 8 ft section of our deck. Fortunately, it was September and not terribly hot outside! We pried off the boards and realized we were missing some critical supports on the deck (of course!), so we just added a few end supports and replaced the top.

To space the boards, we used painter stirrers to ensure all of the boards were evenly distributed across the top. This was a really easy way to make sure things were consistent at no extra cost and with minimal effort!

From there, we had to figure out how to build stairs. The hardest part was building stair stringers and ensuring that the stairs were to code! Using a carpenter's square and some geometry (finally used that class in the real world) we were able to put them together. Over course, we also had to dig out the bottom of the deck and pour some concrete to ensure the stairs were level as well.

We built four stringers and then assembled the top. Before on our deck, the stairs were only a foot or so wide. We decided that we should make these the full width of the deck which meant adding additional supports. However, the result was great!

After this we took a break, and the next weekend, we got started on the upper deck. This was a lot harder as it is much higher off the ground and there is a lot more deck to demo!

Of course, this is where we found the bigger problems. Our deck has a slight overhang which wouldn't be a big deal except to add railings, this means we need to ensure they are anchored appropriately. Our original deck had some interesting construction, and we found that we were missing bolts into the house to provide structural supports, and some of the support brackets had rusted and were being held to the deck with a single nail. Needless to say, this put a wrench in our construction.

We fixed the supports and added extra 4x4s to provide structural integrity to the deck! From here, we were able to put the new boards in place and begin to work on the railing. We used 4x4s that are anchored not only to the outside of the deck but underneath the deck for additional support and to comply with the codes in our county. Brian used carriage bolts to attach these and simpson strong ties which are a lifesaver!

What you cannot see is that we pre-drilled all of these 4x4s both for the carriage bolts and for the cable railing we were going to use.

You may have noticed that our entire deck was painted before. Well so were the supports. This was by far the most tedious process as I had to strip all of the paint off the deck, sand it down, fill any holes, and stain over top. Here is what a learned from that. The best paint stripped in Citristrip mainly because it doesn't smell and you can see it working. Apply it liberally, and use a wire brush tipped in water to remove the paint. This took three weekends to complete. Below is a photo of this paint removal mid progress.

We put the top rail on and I stained the 4x4s with a white stain and part of the top supports. From here, we screwed in the deck boards and got to work on installing the cable railings. We used a cable from Home Depot that has a resin coating in order to prevent rusting and tensioners to ensure they were nice and tight.

After we finished all the cables, we were finally done, and the results are amazing!

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