Wednesday, May 29, 2024

It's Just Something To Do

Meteorological Summer begins this week in my part of the world, and the weather has had its share of humidity and thunderstorms the past few weeks.

It also means that its time for building projects to kick into high gear.

That doesn't mean I don't repair or work on stuff during the Winter months, it's just that I tend to use power tools outside due to lack of space in the garage*, and if the weather sucks for some reason or another I tend to pass on doing outside work. Sawing outside when it's 32F/0C or colder tends to suck, and I'd rather not repeat that performance if I can help it.

I have decided that this year is the year I am finally going to do something about our deck.

Obligatory photo of deck boards that need replacement.

The old deck has been around since 1989** with a few boards replaced here and there by me about a decade or so ago, and while the bones of the thing are still in good shape I really need to go replace the deck boards themselves. I'd thought for years about replacing the wooden deck boards with composite decking, but while the price has come down it has remained high enough that I simply can't afford it. 

I have also discovered that the stairs for the deck, while probably up to code 35 years ago, are no longer good enough should I rehab this thing. 

So, barring any surprise financial issues, such as all the car repairs from last year, I'm going to fix the deck to make it usable once more.


I do have a plan here, it's just a matter of figuring out how to put it into motion. 

There are three big jobs:

  • Replace the deck boards
  • Replace the two sets of stairs
  • Replace the skirting
That last one was the one I was most concerned about, ironically enough. While I'd replaced deck boards before, I'd never really touched the skirting. The skirting that was originally used was wooden paneling, making the bottom of the deck look like it was a finished basement straight out of the 1970s, and that paneling has begun falling off as it deteriorated. I really don't want to replace it with more paneling, but I'm also concerned that by altering the skirting I might also be creating a problem with erosion under the deck.

I put some of the skirting back up just to take this pic.
About the best thing about the deck is that the main
beams and supports are in good shape.

Here, let me show you what the basic design looks like:

Yeah, I used MS Paint for this. Nothing too fancy.

The two sets of stairs aren't very large, only about 2-3 steps each, but they need to be brought up to code with better slope and adding rails + lighting. (I suspect the lack of the proper number of stairs and their steep slope were done to avoid having to add lights to the deck.) The deck faces West and north, while the south has a covered porch and the east is walled off by the back of the garage.

Our weather comes west to east, which means the skirting facing west gets the brunt of the weather. Replacing that (now dilapidated) solid skirting with anything more permeable, such as lattice, might allow erosion of the ground under the deck. That being said, I've also discovered plastic sheeting that was placed under the deck when I began removing the skirting. 

Boy, was I surprised when I discovered the sheeting.

I suspect that sheeting is to prevent erosion --or it could be a lazy developer leaving it behind-- but I'll talk to a friend who is the son of a builder, and he's built his share of decks and porches over the years. He might have an idea as to what's going on, and what I ought to do going forward.

Still, it's a project for me to work on, and I've been putting it off for about 5-6 years too long. 


Why now?

Well, I've already tackled one stair issue around the house this Spring, such as the so-called stairs from the garage to the house. I say 'so-called' because when I went to pull the old stairs away from the boards I discovered they came right off as they weren't secured in place. They weren't a singular stair at all, but rather a builder-made step-stool. Basically the builder did it rather than putting in the two step stairs that ought to have been there so he wouldn't have to put in a railing. Before you ask whether I'm being a bit asinine putting down the builder like that, the more I've worked on the house the more I've found really stupid things that were put in by the builder as cheap "corrections" to errors made while constructing the house. If it were me, I'd be embarrassed about some of this shit, but I'm obviously not the builder, either. 

Yeah, there ought to be --at minimum-- one
extra stair there, and probably two given the slope
of the yard. I have no idea how the contractor
got away with not even supporting the steps right
and merely sticking a brick under the stairs, which
sagged as the bricks sunk into the dirt over time.

But the biggest reason is that it has to be done. Full stop. The wood is rotting, and it's past the point of anything resembling safety. So, hopefully, I can get this taken care of correctly without needing to hire someone. 

There's also another motive: it gives me something to do.

When I had my six month checkup with my regular doctor, in addition to him telling me things are progressing well he prodded at me to go take some time off. Go on vacation. Relax. 

This was the same doctor who told me to not worry about work so much when I'm off work, in spite of the fact that I am on call 24 x 7 and that I have been woken up at 2 AM plenty of times in the past. I understand his point, which is to reduce my overall amount of stress, but I also couldn't explain some of the hobbies I do enjoy. 

Video games? Board games? Dungeons and Dragons?

If I told him that I was a gamer, he'd likely think I meant playing blackjack and slot machines at one of the local casinos.*** And trying to describe Gen Con was completely out of the question. 

But working on the deck, just building something from start to finish... Yeah, that's something both he could understand and something that I enjoy. 

And, lucky me, I actually need to get that done anyway. 

*One of my long term goals is to clear out the garage enough to use the damn thing to work in. There was a period of about a year in 2004-2005 when I'd cleared out enough space to do just that, but then my great aunt gave me her old Conn organ, and... well, that was that.

**How do I know the deck dates from 1989? Well, that's because I was told the porch and deck were put in place after tornadoes came through the area in the 80s. I knew that when that tornado hit it was 15 years after the Day of the Tornadoes (April 3/4 1974), because I was working during the Summer up at UD, and up there people know it as The Xenia Tornado

So, the realtor had told us that the cheap deck that came with the house was damaged by the hail that accompanied the tornado, and the owner at the time decided to put in a covered porch where the old deck was and added a new deck to one side of the porch.

***Judging by the commentary by my neighbors and others I encounter while out and about, it seems that I'm more the exception than the rule for eschewing any interest in casinos. 

EtA: Discovered the ** was missing almost all of its entry, so I fixed that (and corrected the grammar along the way)..


  1. Good luck with the new deck! I am always amazed at people who are handy enough to do things like this. Just make sure you watch that lower back of yours, I'm still waiting for my herniated disk to improve. There's so much in the garden I should be doing right now but absolutely am forbidden to do, it's frustrating :((

    1. Thankfully the main beams and supports are in good shape, or it would take a complete rebuild. And that would require permits and... Yeah, I wouldn't be looking forward to that, and I would have to hire somebody to replace the deck. (And probably tthe porch, too, at that point.)

      I'm not that handy, mind you; if I were that handy I think I would have gone in for another line of work. Right now, I'd rather be gardening as well, but that also means that I'd be working on putting in raised beds in the backyard to make it easier on my back!

      Oof! I just realized that the why the deck dates from 1989 got cut off! I have to fix that.