Renovation & Design

Tiers of joy

Building in phases takes planning, but worth the wait

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press After the completion of the second tier, the hot tub can be accessed from the low tier completed several months prior.

From this perspective, the low tier appears finished, including wrap stairs for access along all areas of the proposed patio area.

Just as the outside edge of the low tier was left unfinished for phase two, the outer edge of the middle tier awaits phase three, which will partially surround an above-ground pool.

When planning a deck project in phases, time management and coordination becomes as crucial as the design itself.

For a homeowner near Lockport, the rear deck project would be broken into three separate stages: the initial and lowest tier adjacent the back of the house, the intermediate tier for the hot tub, and the final and highest tier that would partially surround the pool. Two of the three have been completed.

Framing for the lowest tier and main deck began just before the snow flew in October 2020. This past spring, the composite top decking and fascia were installed to complete all exposed surfaces in areas that would not be affected by subsequent framing for the intermediate tier. As such, the outer edge of the deck was left seemingly unfinished to the average person, "not in the know". The deck build process was proposed to occur in this manner simply because while the new front porch plus engineered roofline were being tackled that same fall, it seemed most convenient to have the framing materials for lowest tier of the rear deck delivered at the same time. Consequently, the same was true for when the front porch was being sheathed in decorative composite late spring 2021, the rear deck received its composite skin as well.

As the front porch was nearing its final steps this past summer, conversations began as to when the next phase of the rear deck would commence — placement of the hot tub was imperative, as it’d be much easier to build around the permanent placement of the hot tub rather than set the hot tub into a pre-built cavity if the deck were framed first. It was determined, that due to on-going delays due to supply chain issues, the hot tub would not be delivered until sometime this past October. As such, phase two of the rear deck build would remain on hold until the hot tub arrived. Prior to the delivery however, the client and I did exact the placement and elevation for the concrete pad that would support the hot tub. Soon thereafter, the pad was poured, and my calendar awaited news of the hot tub delivery.

With the hot tub now on site, the homeowner and I positioned it equidistant and parallel from the unfinished edge of the low tier of the rear deck. Once in place, framing for the intermediate tier could begin. The elevation of the concrete pad ensured that the height of the hot tub would be sufficiently elevated past the single stair-rise height of the middle tier. The ledger for the higher tier was affixed to the unfinished end of the lower tier, and the required beams were positioned where required. To ensure feasible aesthetics, a decision to alter the direction of the top decking boards to a perpendicular would eliminate any offset discrepancies of board placement from low to middle tier. As such, the beams and joists are also shifted by 90-degrees to accommodate the top board orientation decision.

Once the middle tier was fully framed, the fascia was added along the visible side adjacent the wrap stairs of the lower tier. Along the backside of the middle tier, only the joist cap was sheathed, on either side on the u-cutout for the hot tub. This will allow greater access to service the hot tub in future, should the need arise. At the far side beyond the edge of the house, the joist cap was left bare in preparation for phase three, which is set to occur sometime during the spring/summer months of 2022, a partial surround of an above-ground pool once it is completely installed. In the meantime, the completion of the intermediate tier will allow the homeowners access to, and use of the hot tub throughout the winter months, which was the goal of completing phase two before the snow flew this fall. Until the planned privacy wall is in place however, I’m certain wind velocity will play a role in their winter use viability.

Building in phases in a big picture concept — it is sometimes difficult for a homeowner to visualize a project in its entirety, when the project isn’t entirely finished, a minor drawback. However, a project built in stages can defer the total costs of the project over a longer timeframe. Moreover, it can also allow the overall design of the project to evolve freely. Originally, the hot tub would have been centered along the exposed edge of the low tier, within the middle tier. By the time the intermediate tier was being framed, the hot tub placement shifted back slightly, allowing for more top decking area when accessing the middle tier from the low tier — a change for the better, simply because time had allowed the design to morph naturally. This is why building in phases, never seems to phase me. It always works out for the best.


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