Expanding the back deck (part one)

After being inspired by the warm weather lately, we decided to go ahead on the project to sizably expand our back deck. After getting the wood delivered last Thursday and hiring a trusty contractor (same guy that did our kitchen in 2010 and the bathroom last year) to sink the 6×6 posts and attach the ledger board for me, I was ready to start on Friday after work.

I never though we’d be getting started so quickly. Rachel and I have been talking about expanding the deck for months and finding someone to sink the posts and do the ledger board so I could do the rest.

I just hadn’t had time to ask around, get a few references, and bid the small job out. Turns out I never had to. I emailed an old contractor on Monday randomly, on Tuesday he came by and looked at the site and put in a bid, and on Wednesday we talked further and I made a huge lumber order for the few things he’d need and the rest of the material for me to build a deck. And Thursday he came and sunk the posts and attached the ledger to the house.

back deck posts and ledger before

And just like that, I was booked to build a deck this weekend.

Let me start with credit where credit is due. None of this would have been possible without Rachel basically single-parenting for the weekend. She fed the kids, she put them both to bed two nights in a row, she took them to a birthday party and then to Baltimore by herself on Saturday, etc. etc. etc. She did everything for three days straight. So though I worked hard on the deck, yes, I got the rare pleasure of focusing on a single thing all weekend, spending hours by myself, while she did all the other 99 things every day to keep our house functional. And took care of me at the end of each day when I could barely move…

They peeped out the upstairs windows every now and then to check on the progress:

Jackson Lily Rachel upstairs deck building

First, a quick reminder of the plan. We had a little 4×8′ landing with stairs that we had built in 2010 before we moved in. It was just enough space to have a small grill and not much else. So we planned to add a roughly 10×8′ deck onto the existing landing, giving us about 14′ wide by 8′ deep, and then the stairs off to the side.

In the picture of the old landing below, we’d be doubling the depth of the landing out from the house, and then extending that all the way toward that metal porch next door, up to the edge of our house.

back deck old landing plus posts

So after the wood was delivered on Thursday and the posts were sunk and ledger board attached, I was chomping at the bit to get started. And Friday afternoon, I started straight away on running lines for the joists from the ledgers and cutting out Ls in the beams to hold two 2×12’s stacked together for the crossbeam. I used the circular saw to cut the top of the beam off, and then the sawzall to cut the notch out. (You can see the notch in the timber behind me.)

back deck cutting timbers crossbeam back deck cutting timbers crossbeam

We didn’t space out the 6x6s perfectly because we wanted to keep good access to the space under the deck to the basement windows. So the first two are a bit closer together and the 6×6 furthest north ended up in the middle of the garden. Rachel harvested the herbs from that spot and after the timber was in, we realized we actually lost very little usable garden space.

With the weekend now behind me, I can say that lifting the 2x12s up onto the posts by myself was probably the heaviest, hardest thing I did all weekend. I doubt I would have been able to do it on Sunday after two hard days of work. I leaned one end into the railing behind the post (see picture above) and then got on a ladder and lifted the other end up onto the timber. Once I got the first one up there and in place, I fastened it in place with a screw. After getting the second one up, both were screwed together and then bolted into place with 5/8″ carriage bolts.

When I finally stopped on Friday night, I had the crossbeam in place and level, most of the joists cut and ready, and their proper slots that would be square marked on the beam.

back deck first day crossbeam joists

My plan was to get up bright and early on Saturday, start hanging the joists and by the end of the day have the decking in place. I would build the bulk of the new portion of the deck understructure first, and then tear up and remove the decking and the other unneeded railings off of the old deck before running the short joists from the old deck to the beam. And hopefully get this whole thing done before going back to work on Monday morning.

Coming up in part two:

As I was reminded on Saturday with what ultimately derailed things for a few hours, there are always little surprises around the corner on these projects, and one took up more time than I would have liked on Saturday.

The back deck expansion

The entire Flickr photoset of this project is here.

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