Observations on Deck Construction

Within the last few weeks, I worked on replacing about 5 boards in our back deck which had started to rot in a few spots. I debated hiring someone to do it, but opted to do it myself. In the end, I’m not sure how much money I actually saved (probably still several hundred dollars), though I did end up with several new tools in the process.

Observations #1: Oscillating saws. I purchased one of these with plans to use it to extract screws that were stripped, etc. However, I came to find out that these are probably much more useful in trimming / cutting things like drywall vs. actual wood. I did not really end up using it beyond 10 minutes, though I’m glad I have one available now… For removing such screws, a hammer and chisel followed by a vise grip to extract the screw was my method of choice.

Observations #2: Keep maintenance in mind when building the structure. When I went to remove the last screw from the board, it was under the railing, with about 3" of clearance. However, it was not screwed in at an angle. It became clear that when they constructed the deck, they laid out the platform first, screwed that in, and only then added railings. That’s fine, but now the only options I had for removing those final screws were 1) removing the railing first, or 2) using the hammer and chisel. It was annoying, and could have easily been avoided with some pre-planning on the deck-builders’ part…

Observation #3: Spacing. It seems like there are a lot of advantages in leaving a bit of spacing between deck-boards during construction. This would allow water to drain from the deck. It would also allow much easier replacement of defective boards later. However, if they are more tightly butted together, this becomes a problem. I spent a good 2 hours or more using a small wood plane to thin the new boards down so that they would actually fit in the spaces where the rotted boards had been. This might have been easier if I had a table saw (I don’t). But it would have been a complete non-issue had there been even minimal gaps left originally.

Observation #4: I did not actually measure the length of the individual boards at first. I got a couple of 8-foot and four 12-foot boards. However, it ended up that 3 of the 5 boards were longer than 12 feet, and a 5th one was a different dimension. I probably couldn’t have transported 16-foot boards anyway, but it might have been good to know…

It was, overall, a learning experience. I think it turned out reasonably well given my skill level, the resources I had or acquired, the length of lumber that I could personally transport, etc. At least it is now done (and I even re-stained the rest of the deck to match the repairs and extend its life).

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