All Decked Out

Brace yourself, this is going to be a long one!  This past weekend we celebrated our ONE Year Anniversary! We celebrated with some cake topper smashing, and our gift to each other? A new deck!  If you remember back to our post about our tax refund, we saved $1,000.00 from our return and dedicated it to building a deck.  Well, this weekend was the big project weekend – two days, a couple blisters and sunburns later, we have a brand new deck to enjoy for the summer and years to come!

Our Backyard (before)

When we bought our house, the backyard had a run-down flowerbed with poison ivy, there was a concrete stoop to the back door (the door we always use), and a 10×10 slate patio in the middle of the lawn.  This wouldn’t cut it for us – we wanted a big enough outdoor space to BBQ, enjoy watching Avery in the yard, and have friends & family over.

Our work on the deck started a month ago.  We had to research the property line setbacks (how far you need to be away from the property line to build something), draw plans, build a materials list, order it to be delivered (some pieces are 16 feet long!), and get a building permit.  We thought we were all set, until we hit a couple kinks at the permit office.  #1. Our property lines on our drawing were a little off. So, with the help of the building inspector, who mapped out the property lines on the lawn…

and adjusted our plans, we got the permit for a 12 x 16 deck, plus a little angled side – which actually made the deck bigger than planned (which meant many trips to Home Depot to get more materials).

Deck Plans

Problem #2 was that we wanted it to sit on the ground (I didn’t want it up high and be restricted with a railing.  If we had it 6″ off the ground, we didn’t need a railing) and we had planned to use blocks to support the deck.  That didn’t fly with the building inspector.  He said we had to dig holes and pour concrete footings.  Not a big deal, except they needed to be 4 feet deep and there were 4 of them!  Have you ever dug a hole?  They take time!  According to my Dad, it would take 6 hours per hole…so this was a little upsetting because it would take a day just to dig the holes!  Oh well, we decided we’d still try.

Problem #3 was that we needed the holes inspected before we poured the concrete.  Luckily, we have a great rapour with the building inspector (he was around during our Kitchen Remodel) and he said he could stop by Saturday.

So, with the kinks behind us, we were excited for a busy long weekend of manual labor!  Luckily, my family was in from VT and we had friends that offered to come help out.  And yes, we did all this ourselves.  No contractors.  Just my Dad (carpenter) and us.

Saturday morning, the project began with a wake up call at 7AM – our delivery from Home Depot.

So, how exactly do you build a deck?  Well, let’s break it down in 2 phases: Footings & Framing. Each phase took a days work.

Phase 1: Footings (Saturday)

First, demo!  We cleared out the old patio. (we filled over the late with the sod taken from under the deck)

And then it was time to dig holes…

And this wasn’t like digging a hole for a sand castle at the beach.  There were rocks everywhere!  We used shovels and pick-axes, and when the holes got too deep, we jumped in!

Oh, and did I mention that it was the hottest day so far this year?  88 degrees and sunny.  Luckily there was a nice breeze at times, but we had to make sure to hydrate and everyone took breaks so nobody would pass out!

When we were almost done the holes, the building inspector popped by and OK’d them.  So then in was time to put in the sonotubes (tubes that held the concrete for the footings) and back-fill with the dirt we just dug out.

My sister said that packing the sand around the tubes was like squishing grapes!

Here’s all four holes, dug, sonotubes in, and ready for some concrete! We broke for lunch here, which is why it’s so deserted.  You can see Avery’s setup in the shade.  He was overseeing all the work, like a project manager 🙂

We used a laser-level to make sure all the tubes were even, and those that weren’t, were cut down…

After a trip to Home Depot, we had a bunch of 80-pound bags of concrete to mix.  With a hose, wheel barrel, and strong men with shovels, they mixed the concrete and poured into the sonotubes.

Avery was watching:

After the sonotubes were filled, we evened out the tops.

And with that, day 1 was complete.  We had to wait for the concrete to dry overnight.

Phase 2: Framing (Sunday)

Day two of our deck project was to frame the deck.  Before you can lay the decking (the boards on top of a deck that you walk on), you have to frame it with beams for support, which lay on the footings from yesterday.  This meant securing some beams to the house and the rest of the beams go on the edges of the deck over the footings.

Then, once the outside beams are constructed, beams are screwed between the middle beam (that big 16 footer) and outer beams as supports.


Oh, and remember that since the design changed, we had to go back and get more supplies… well we needed two 16 foot beams.  How did we manage that?  We have a friend with a truck… and creativity!

And once the framing was done, we just had to put down the decking (pressure treated wood) and screw them down….and everyone got in on the action!

Even Avery brought out his tool set and worked with the guys…

And with that… the deck was finished!

So… what was next?  Enjoy the deck, of coarse! We got a new grill, a moveable canopy, Dad made us a picnic table for our anniversary gift, so we lounged around for the rest of the evening. Ate some BBQ.  There was even some dancing!

Our Backyard (after)

And THAT is how you build a deck! Not too shabby for a first anniversary gift to each other – and for never having built a deck before! Oh and if you’re curious, the deck supplies plus the new grill came to a grand total of $1,081.00.  So, we were a little over budget, but it would have been so much more if we didn’t do it ourselves.  And we had so much help from our amazing family and friends, thanks everyone!!!  We couldn’t have done it without you!

Do you have any big summer projects planned?  Do you do the work yourself, or hire someone to do it?  Although it took hours of hard labor and many of us have sunburns and blisters, we feel great about our finished product and are going to enjoy it all summer long!


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