When we started out kitchen renovation project, we knew that we’d have to replace our deck at some point but planned to push it off until next summer. Unfortunately the City didn’t agree when we submitted our permit, so we then had to add the deck to our scope.
In the end it made sense because we ended up changing our canopy design (from cantilevered to supported by posts), so we would have had to do some footings anyways.
Like the inside of the house, we agreed to split the work with our contractor. He would take care of the demo and building the structure, and we would do the finicky work like installing the boards and building the fence.
The demo took a couple of days and created quite the mess.
Next, the footings were poured and they installed new pavers on the ground that slightly sloped away from the house for water runoff.
It took a couple of days to build the deck structure, but they managed to have it finished by Friday night so we could start our work on the weekend. It was a solid deck, square (or as square as it could be given the un-squareness of our house) and level. They really did a great job.
Deciding on the deck materials was difficult. I wanted something that looked like pine but with the durability and quality of cedar. The internet pointed me towards white cedar, but the challenge was finding cedar boards that would go the full length of the deck (18′). Apparently white cedar trees are smaller, so finding long boards is almost impossible – especially at the end of the season. I managed to find 20′ red cedar boards at a lumber place in Etobicoke and they even delivered to the house.
The first day of deck-building was spent preparing the deck. We started by installing large plastic sheets and shims on the underside of the deck structure so the water would run downhill. We made the shims out of pine, so I made sure to seal them with some Cut-N-Seal so they wouldn’t rot.
Luckily we had a friend come help since my ability to do physical labour was slowly deteriorating.
We didn’t quite finish all of the plastic on the first day (it was a pain to work with!) so we installed the final pieces in the morning of the second day.
We then installed a joist membrane to protect them from water and a plastic roofing material so that we could keep our future storage area dry.
Then came the hard part. We had to find a straight line for our first deck board. We found a helpful Youtube video on the 3:4:5 rule and applied it to our deck measurements. We then installed a string line against the house to show the straight line.
We didn’t install the first board first, but rather the 3rd (which required us measuring out from the string line). We will need to scribe the first board, and because of the door sill, we need the space of the second board so we can jam in the first board.
Once the first board was in place, the rest of the boards were relatively easy, taking about 10-15 minutes per board to install.
Our contractor also recommended the Camo tool, which allowed us to install screws on the side of the boards (rather than the top) to hide the screws. Given how much I spent on the long boards, it was money worth spent on the tool ($60) and premium screws ($70 for 700).
By the end of the weekend, we had installed all of the boards across the main portion of the deck. It was a natural stopping point because we couldn’t install any more until the stringer was in place. It was a very productive long weekend!
After our first weekend at building the deck, our contractor came back to do some additional work, including building the stair stringer, building the canopy and finishing the framing under the deck.
We took a break from deck building to finish our hardwood floors inside and then were back at it the following weekend.
The following weekend we were back at it. Since only some of the cedar was available for delivery, it helped us focus our efforts for the weekend. First, we installed the boards on the walkway side of the deck.
Meanwhile, I sanded the top of the deck with a palm sander using 220 grit to create a nice, smooth finish. There were also several watermarks from the rain, so I worked hard to get those out. At 26 weeks pregnant, it was a good task for me.
Our afternoon then focused on building the vertical screen on the deck so that I could apply finish to the wood before the end of the day. Rain was coming early on Monday morning, so I needed to get the deck sealed on Saturday so it had at least 24 hours to dry.
Finishing the deck was labour-intensive and required a lot of bending – something proving difficult in my 6th month of pregnancy. But I managed to get the entire surface finished in about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, Alex and Levi worked on the partywall side of the deck.
The next day we were one man down, but Alex and I used the morning to finish the vertical screen on the walkway side. Thank goodness for friends and playdates!
By the end of the weekend, we had made considerable progress. There was still a lot to do – mainly the front of the deck – but it was starting to come together.
The following weekend was another forced break because Alex was in New York with his dad, but the following weekend we were back at it, frantically trying to finish the top and front of the deck.
Finishing the top of the deck was extremely satisfying, and it looks great!
Installing the stair boards and the skirting around the deck was the most challenging and time consuming. Because I wanted the boards to match exactly with the height of the stairs, it meant that each board had to be ripped to the right width (to match the stair height) and then routered to create a rounded corner like the rest of the boards. To make things even more challenging, we also had some 90 degree turns for our garbage bin storage and gates for under-deck storage. The gates were also complicated and took a bit of figuring out. It took 3 weekends to finish the underside of the deck. It was now mid-October and my due date was fast approaching.
Next, we finished the pine privacy fence. I first painted the posts black a beautiful matte black from Benjamin Moore, since they’d be seen through the boards.
It took us a single day, please an extra afternoon during the week to put a clear varathane on to seal it, but it was a relatively easy task. Getting the first board was the hardest of course, but once it was in place, the rest was just about making sure the spacing was consistent.
Before the final final bits of the deck could be finished, our contractor had to come back and finish the canopy. He used cement board to give it a smooth finish look.
Because our contractor was so delayed and the weather was quickly turning (and would therefore be too cold for painting), we had to spend a relatively cold afternoon and evening painting in the dark. And that’s a 33 week belly!
With the canopy painted and the final deck pieces installed, it looked really great.
Our contractor still has to finish the canopy, but I wanted the underside done so we could install the outdoor pot lights. In a very mad dash to the finish line, I stained a few sheets of plywood and screwed them into the canopy structure – exactly 2 days before I gave birth.
I don’t particularly love it – the colour isn’t quite right and the way we screwed it to the canopy is clunky – but it does the trick for now.
We still have quite a bit to do: the canopy needs to be finished by our contractor, I’d ike to replace the soffit with something more professional looking, and we still need a railing. I’d also like to fix the shared fence with something that isn’t falling over. But these are all great projects for the future!
The deck was a lot more work than I had imagined and cost more than I thought it would. In total, it took us about 6 weekends and cost us almost $10,000 in materials (not including the structure of the deck, which has yet to be invoiced to us by our contractor). As much work and money as it was, it really feels like an extension of our house and I can see us making good use of it for many years to come!
I’ll write another post once we actually finish all the remaining bits!