Renovation & Design

You aren’t stuck with stucco

Rocky railing removal ends with satisfying results

As part of a design feature implemented at the time the house was built, the continuous stucco railings presented a few non-desired results over time. Not only were these unsightly railings obtrusive and awkward, but they also prevented the homeowners a clean line of sight into their spacious backyard rendering the upper deck seemingly smaller than it actually is. A recent deck expansion and revitalization would rectify these cumbersome issues.

The original upper deck structure, essentially a back porch with the same footprint as the cantilevered roofline above was originally decked using old-school composite. It wasn’t in terrible shape, but the homeowners wanted a change. A lower level to the existing deck structure would be added along the far end, with semi-wrap stairs to the near ground level tier and a single wrap stair to the yard. Once the old composite would be removed, framing the lower structure was semantic.

The bigger issue was the stucco railings — partly built-in to the support post that holds the corner end of the cantilevered roof, any removal of the existing railing would reveal a break in the continuous stucco, rendering the area in need of stucco patchwork, which in the best of cases can still be seen resulting in another type of eyesore. As such, a new strategy was devised on site. Rather than fixing any open areas of stucco, the entire problem would be sheathed in treated lumber, to match the top-decking and railings. The stucco railings were removed bit by bit, cut into manageable sections and tossed aside for junk removal. Without them there, the upper tier already seemed lighter, more spacious.

With the upper and lower tiers fully framed and supported, the stair stringers and supports were also set into place, firmly affixed to the framed structure. The tandem 2×6 tops of the stairs were then mounted, mitered at all 90-degree corners. The 2×6 top decking was then installed along the upper tier, and subsequently throughout the lower tier until the entire joisting system was fully covered. The new railing posts were set into position, fastened to the structure with five-inch lag screws. Once the posts were set, 2×8 fascia was mounted between every post, and along every perimeter and stairs edge, again mitered where required. The deck was really beginning to take shape.

The railings were completed using upper and lower horizontal 2×4 supports upon which the 2×2 balusters are mounted, topped by a 2×6 cap on the flat. All that remained was the devised approach to conceal any missing stucco along the larger roofline support post, that is coated in decorative stucco to match the house. As mentioned, in lieu of an abysmal attempt at patching the stucco where the old stucco railing tied-in, all four sides of the girthy post would receive a brown treated sheathing to match the new decking and railings. To achieve this, the cap along the main railing at the side edge of the upper tier was positioned from the house to the railing post at the corner of the tier, as a continuous entity lending rigidity to the railing throughout. And due to that railing element, a similar “faux cap” (that acts somewhat like an outdoor chair rail) was affixed to the remaining three sides of the larger roof post.

With that upper treated element in place, two more posts were notched-out lengthwise and mounted to the inner corners of the large post. All four sections within the treated posts were then filled with vertical 2×6 boards, that completely cover the unsightly stucco blemishes. And, because the treated sheathing matches the height of the adjacent railings, it appears completely consistent with the design. Furthermore, the vertical aspect of the 2×6 filler board tie in the 1×6 vertical fence boards used to skirt the space below the upper tier. Once the entire project was completed, it truly feels as though this new deck design has always been there, esthetically pleasing and fully functional.

Shortly after the deck project was completed, the homeowner gazed out from the back patio door and for the very first time, saw the backyard without having to walk up to the edge of the deck. And their yard is huge! The visual freedom the new design offers will surely offer enjoyment for many years to come.

And for the rest of the summer, avoiding the back deck will no longer be a daily ritual — this new outdoor space is just too inviting to pass up.


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