Ever consider what your contribution to the village will be once it all hits the fan? I do, and I don’t think a simulation of a car driving around a track will earn my keep. I suspect mine is providing beer to everyone, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to know how to build a thing or two as well.
I grew up with a dad that would build everything he could handle. To name a few, when I was about 5 years old, that would have put him at age 24, he built bed frames for everyone in the family (complicated ones with shelves on the headboards and drawers underneath). I remember him building a fancy entertainment unit for his stereo equipment (still in use, in fact), including glass panels on the front to see stuff through. When I was 8 he bought me an old POS dirt bike because he knew he could rebuild the engine on it and get it working for me to be able to learn how to ride. When I was in Grade 12, he moved to the island and did what he always talked about: built his own house, from the ground up. Along with most people these days, I do not possess these skills (perhaps I have a greater inkling than most however), and it has never sat very well with me.
In case you are interested in doing what we did, here is roughly how to build your own deck. NobleAnarchist (and dad) style.
- Piers – Concrete things on the ground that the posts sit on
- Posts – Vertical 4x4s that holds things up
- Beams – Horizontal 4x6s (ie. 2 2x6s nailed together) that sit on the posts and hold the joists up
- Joists – Other horizontal 2x6s that are 16″ apart and hold the deck boards up. Attached to the beams with joist hangers
- Deck boards – The things you actually walk on, attached to the joists underneath
- Stringers – Zigzaggy pieces that the stair steps are attached to
- Carriage Bolts – Big long bolts with nuts on them that hold it all together. You need to pre-drill big holes in the wood to put them through
- Lag Bolts – Like carriage bolts but no nuts. More like gigantic screws. But don’t even think about using one without pre-drilling a hole for it… unless you want to split the deck in half
Well, maybe not how its actually supposed to be done, but proven to work…
- Demolish old deck
- Pickup borrowed van, bring old deck to dump, buy lumber and bring home, return van
- Plan a lot, dig piers for posts to sit on
- Install attachment joist to leaning house, replace rotten roof post with a temporary one
- Build main beams and joists, part I
- Build main beams and joists, part II, replace temporary roof post with new one
- Put up main rail posts
- Install deck boards, part I, install first of four rail panels, think about how the hell to build stairs
- Install deck boards, part II, build a pad for the stairs to sit on
- Finish rail panels, rebuild waterspout since it won’t stop raining, buy wood for stairs
- Build stairs
- Put up stair rail posts, start first of four stair rail panels
- Finish remaining three stair rail panels, do first of six rail cap
- Complete rail caps. Drink a beer in the backyard and look at your work. Note that today is the first day that it has stopped raining because you are now finished the deck
AND after 14 days of work, the thing will still need to be stained, and in our case we still need to build a sidewalk down the side of the house.
Things That Won’t Go As Planned
- It will take way longer than you think. I promise. I thought this deck would take about a week to finish. It took 14 working days, or nearly 3 weeks (review steps above, if curious)
- It will probably cost you more than you think, unless you already know how much lumber costs these days. Which annoys me to no end given that we live in a goddamn rain forest
- If you are attaching your deck to something that already exists (especially a hundred year old house), you have to make everything super out of whack to match
- Building stairs is way more complicated than you think
So Why Subject Yourself to This?
Well the first obvious reason is to make yourself more awesome. I can’t say enough how much fulfillment building this thing gave me. Routers, chainsaws, miter saws, skill saws, drills, rotary saws! For real! Secondly as stated earlier, so you now know how to do something actually useful, in case there’s ever a reason to choose between you and someone else who can do something useful. And thirdly, money. Yes the wood was expensive, but the project was a fraction of what the previous owner paid for the similarly-sized front deck of the house. Specifically, I paid $1200 for the wood, plus I gave my dad $1500 for his time and labour (far less than he deserved, but more than he wanted from me). So $2700. The last guy paid over $12,000 for our front porch. Bam.
I cannot stop inspecting every deck or porch I see, and I am now starved for my next DIY project.