Tuesday, July 28

Pay Attention and You Might Learn Something (More Deck Stuff)

Steps - the beginning.

If I had realized how much work goes into putting in stairs I might not have agreed to having Family Member do it. He and the various family member assistants are doing a great job, but it's a big task and I'd be feeling pretty guilty if he hadn't volunteered to do this of his own free will.

Why is it such a big job? Well, stairs down from the deck have to go somewhere and my yard is small; having them come straight out meant they'd end up somewhere outside the back fence unless they were built really, really steep. Clearly some creative thinking was required here. Thus it was decided that I should have a landing so that the stairs could, so to speak, turn back upon themselves. I lose a little yard, but it was just space that needed mowing anyway, so I'm good with that.

Then there have to be support posts to hold the stairs and landing in place. Since you can't just stick a post up there (there are apparently rules about this kind of thing), holes had to be dug into which the posts went, along with cement to hold them in place. This, I learned, is what they call a "footer." And let me tell you, when it comes to equality between the sexes, men win, hands down, in the "ability to dig deep holes" category.

Those jagged boards you see are called "stringers." They are the forms upon which the actual treads are layed. How do you know how many treads are involved? Math *shudder* The length you need is called the "rise." The average height for "risers" - that is, individual steps - is 7". You can go to a 7 1/4" or higher; but if you need more than a few steps, it's gonna get hard on the legs making the climb. So you divide the length by 7 and you get the number of stairs.

I ended up with 11 steps down to the landing, and another 6 to the ground. So how high up is my deck? You do the math.

Tuesday, July 21

Did You Know? A Deck Update

RAILINGS! I've got railings!

You may not know this but there are building codes and industry standards that dictate what you can and can't do with railings. For instance, depending on your locale, specifications for railing height range from 32" to 48". This was of particular interest to me because, being short, I found my old deck railing much too high for my satisfaction. So when I started looking into getting the new deck, my personal requirement was that the railing be no higher than absolute minimum required. In my area that minimum is 36".

Behold the 36" railing:

Another thing I discovered is that the railing must not be "climbable." This one strikes me as being good example of regulatory silliness. I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a fence that really can't be climbed if someone puts their mind to it and tries hard enough, especially since there's no corresponding regulation against having tables, chairs, stools, ladders - or anything else with a climbable surface - in the vicinity of the railing. Further research says what this really means is not giving idiots really obvious footholds, should they get it into their heads to do something stupid. Basically, we're protecting people from themselves.

Another rule says that the maximum space between balusters (those are pickets, btw) is 3.5" maximum. And apparently they test this by trying to roll a 3 1/2" ball between them. Because if the space is too big, the same idiot who tried to climb the railing will stick his head through there and get stuck. And just think of the damage he could do to the balusters in the meantime.

Yes, there's a gap where the stairs will be. So Family Member says "Don't forget you don't have stairs yet." And I say "How can I forget what I never had?" Yes, some idiot could jump off and hurt themselves. Then again, the idiot could decide to jump off the stairs, once I have some, and hurt themselves. There's only so much you can do if people are really determined.

In the meantime, I'll avoid inviting idiots over to my house. And if you come to visit, please don't climb the railing or stick your head through or jump off the stairs. Which I'm hoping I'll have by then.

Thursday, July 16

Deck Update

Old deck goes "bye-bye." Everybody wave.

For some reason I find it very amusing that these chairs were left hanging there while they ripped up the floor. That splotch on the first one is the vacant dove's nest. That amused me, too, which is why it's still there.

But now I've got new deck flooring! Isn't it pretty??!!! FYI, that's my neighbor's Rose of Sharon shrub in the background.

Monday, July 13

What I've Been Up To

Okay, I've been lax about posting and I apologize. The thing is, there isn't much point in posting highlights when you don't have any. Life has been mostly humming along in a predictably boring fashion, and I'm OKAY WITH THAT. I like boring. But now I finally have a highlight to share with you ...

I'M GETTING A NEW DECK! Why yes, I am a little excited about it. It's not actually a luxury item, though, since my deck is so old and worn that safety will become an issue in another year or so. The cost is making me a little queasy, but it's a necessity. So I did what you're supposed to do and set out to get estimates. I liked the first guy that came out and a lot of what he said sounded reasonable and made sense. Also, his estimate was within the range that I'd figured on. Then the second person came out and that was a trip. These people take decks very seriously. I really loved this one:

And then I realized that I have no water view unless the neighbor's yard floods so, really, what would be the point?

This one is good, too. I'm not sure, though, that my homeowners association would agree. Especially when the neighbors on both sides and behind complained that my deck was taking up rather a lot of their yard. Sometimes people have no vision.

Really, all the designs were amazing and they left me with this nifty folder filled with brochures and testimonials. And then they wanted to come back so that we can discuss the estimate. The thing is, my home is not a McMansion. It's a itty bitty townhouse with a postage stamp back yard. My current deck is 12 x 16, and if it was much bigger it would cover my entire yard. Plus, there's that homeowners association again. So ... what is there to discuss?

I want a deck pretty much like what I have except without the warped and splintered boards. And with stairs. Did I mention that my second story deck has no stairs? The original owners had small children at the time it was built, and I understand that safety was an issue, but it rather severely limits access to the backyard. Or maybe they thought throwing stuff over the deck railing and optimistically hoping it wouldn't break on impact was a fine thing. So stairs down to the yard are like the bright and shiny light at the end of my tunnel.

Fate seems to be smiling on my stair-struck ambition because it turns out that a family member with lots and lots of construction experience and whose work I have actually seen first hand just happens to have nothing better to do with his time this coming week and has offered to build my deck! In fact, I strongly suspect that he would have voluteered to do it for the cost of materials alone. Not that I would have agreed. Pride aside, it's going to be a lot of work and I don't care if he likes to do this stuff, that just wouldn't be right. Would it? *sigh* No, no it wouldn't. We found some middle ground that saves me a lot of money and earns him a good chunk of extra cash. And as it's considerably less than the other estimates, everybody wins.

Why yes, there probably will be photos. Stair-gazing ahead. Stay tuned.