Renovation & Design

A few hurdles can't hinder this backyard reno

There's no denying the beauty in the simplicity of an entirely wooden deck

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

This new brown, pressure-treated, 25-foot-by-14-foot, L-shaped deck mimics the footprint of the old one it replaced, so that existing yard features remain undisturbed.

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

By rebuilding the deck using the footprint of the old deck design, the existing chain-link fenced-in area for the clients’ dog is readapted.

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The stair stringers are hand-cut on site, to cater to the exact rise and run as prescribed by the design, and the decorative stringers along either side provide a surface on which the wooden balusters are affixed.

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The perimeter of the deck features a wooden railing adorned with 42-inch wooden balusters set at three-inch intervals.

Nothing beats the smell of freshly cut wood — this brings me so much joy.

So, it should be no surprise that when a client requests a new deck be built solely using lumber, my excitement and anticipation are hard to contain. And although this new deck would virtually mimic the footprint of the old deck, a few yard constraints presented several challenges from the onset.

The old deck had seen better days — several of the top boards had completely rotted through and could no longer support the weight of a person. After 20 years of use, it was time for a new deck. The plan seemed simple enough — mimic the footprint of the old deck by building a nearly exact replacement using brown, pressure-treated lumber. There were, however, a few special requests: the build must work around and encompass the existing chain-link fenced area created for the family dog; a "landing pad" at the base of the stairs and a gate at the top were also needed for the same reason; and the entire process of erecting the new deck following the demolition of the old one would occur while negotiating the existing foliage in tight proximity of the work area.

With chainsaw in hand, the old deck was cut into sections and thrown off to the side, waiting to be picked up and hauled off to the nearest repository by the good folks at Got Junk. Once the area was cleared of the old deck’s support structure and main beam, the new build could begin. During delivery of the materials the next morning, two lads from McMunn and Yates carefully placed the denominations of lumber in separate piles to facilitate the build. With all building materials now on hand, a two-by-eight ledger board was affixed to the backside of the house, following all the nooks and crannies along the profile of the rear face near the back-door access. A 25-foot-long, triple-laminated two-by-10 beam was positioned atop the existing concrete pilings. Once the joist hangers were secured to the ledger board(s) on 16-inch centres using structural screws, the two-by-eight joists were set into position one at a time. A front cap was secured to the end of each joist, and every joist was then permanently fastened to the main beam.

A total of four stair stringers were custom-cut on-site for a four-foot-wide staircase, allowing for a 7½-inch rise and 12-inch run for each of the five stairs required. The stringers were levelled and secured to the deck’s framework. The double two-by-six stair tops were then cut and fastened to the stringers to provide access to the top surface for ease of top-decking installation. Two-by-six boards at 16-foot lengths were then systematically affixed to the joists in a random pattern along the 25-foot deck. Once the entire top surface was completed, the esthetic aspects of the built could begin.

The four-by-four railing posts were cut to 48 inches and notched at the bottom so they could be side-mounted onto the framework. With the posts positioned equidistant from each other, the two-by-eight fascia was installed between every post along the perimeter of the entire deck and staircase. The two-by-six railing cap was secured to the tops of the railing posts and the two-by-six upper and two-by-eight lower horizontal supports were fastened respectively between every post at every section of railing to provide a surface on which the wooden balusters can be affixed. To increase the potential for privacy during deck use, the clients requested that the two-by-two balusters be installed with three-inch gaps. The gate at the top of the stairs was constructed using pre-fab gate kit hardware to ensure long-term square and rigidity, and assembled in such a way as to best mimic and flow with the new deck’s railing design. The four-by-four-foot "landing pad" was created at the base of the stairs within the chain-link fence area, subsequently secured to the base of the stair stringers before the stair fascia was installed. The smell of freshly cut wood still lingered in the air as I left the job site for the last time.

Despite having to work around the foliage in tight proximity of the deck’s perimeter (as well as the multiple cuts and abrasions gained along the way) and incorporate the existing chain-link fence for the family dog, the deck’s progress was never hindered by these hurdles — the deck was built and completed in four days, start to finish, on schedule. There’s no denying the beauty in the simplicity of an entirely wooden deck. The clients (and their fur baby) will enjoy many, many years of use from this updated version of their deck. And I’ll always have the scars on my knuckles as a small reminder.


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