Tagged: deck

deck reveal

Over 6 months ago, we posted our big plans for 2011 which included a large backyard deck. Since the original SketchUp renderings, we decided to make it a bit wider and showed you our progress in a series of posts (found here). Construction was more or less done by early August, but the last thing on our to-do list was to apply the oil finish.

Ipe does not necessarily need a finish (it grays out over time similar to cedar), but the aesthetic difference is totally worth it. We used Penofin for hardwoods, which is a Brazilian rosewood oil that penetrates deep into the wood and turns it into a wonderous reddish-brown color. One gallon covered the whole deck (just under 400 SF) and we applied it using a bristle brush for the horizontal surfaces and a hand brush for the vertical surfaces.

Here’s what she looked like before. The product suggests that you pressure wash or clean with a mild detergent to remove dirt, debris or any mill glaze. We opted to pressure wash since we had rented one for the foundation work several weeks ago.

The best thing about Penofin? Instant gratification.  (The exposed framing on the sides will eventually be covered by steel planter boxes.)

Although it’s still wet in this mid-progress shot, the finish actually dries to a very similar color.

The directions also suggest wiping any excess away with a nap-free cloth but we didn’t find it to be necessary since our wood soaked it all up. Working from the back door out, we were able to cover everything without walking on the wet surface.

(Of course we turned the lights on for the task – party lights make everything better.)

For the risers on the steps, I used a hand brush to apply an even coat. (As seen in the photo below, we dealt with the grass by placing boards under the final riser and then pulling them back out after we were done.)

Surprisingly, it only took an hour or so from beginning to end. Not bad for a weeknight.

Ipe can be pricey, but we saved about 50% by purchasing boards that had some type of imperfection. Was it worth it? Heck yeah. The Penofin really helped to blend everything together and mask any discoloration between boards.

I snapped the photos below this evening. It was cloudy and rainy (Fall is here!), but you get the idea.

We also experimented with applying the Penofin to our IKEA deck furniture. The wood is Acacia and it took the oil fairly well, turning it a bit more yellow than we would have liked, but better than what it was. We still have 3 more chairs to complete and then realistically, probably time to put them back in the carport for the season. Ooh…fire pit time?

The terrarced design provides informal seating and allows us to avoid handrails and guardrails. With eastern exposure, it’s a great place to sit and sip coffee on a Saturday morning.

Oh hey, what’s this…

Raw steel panels! In that post from March, we talked about building planter boxes to flank the deck out of corten steel. Well, corten steel is $$$ so Kyle’s been scoping out Craigslist for other options. A few weeks ago, he found a seller south of Olympia with a stock of 4×8 steel panels for a really reasonable price. So we bought them. Last week, Kyle took them to Ballard Sheet Metal (gotta love living in a historically blue-collar ‘hood) to have them cut to size and now they’re back and ready to be welded.

Although we planned on adding soil and grasses to the areas of the driveway that we jack-hammered out earlier this summer, we have since decided that plants are no longer on the 2011 agenda (next year!). But no plants = giant mud pit. So we put down filter fabric and a layer of pea gravel for the meantime. I’m not usually a fan of temporary solutions, but I am a fan of maintaining my sanity this winter by not constantly mopping up paw prints. And Bailey understood. He has already taken to sprawling out in this new zen garden of his.

Finally, in the spirit of progress, he’s a reminder of what the back of our house used to look like:

And here’s what she’s looking like today:

Yay for progress! We still plan on adding an awning over the back door and window to protect the door and allow for inclement weather grilling. Maybe 2012?

Five years in and still so much to do.

decked out

Ever since finishing the big 2010 project we’ve talked about hosting a celebratory post-reno house party. Now, we’ve had a few blow-outs at chezerbey before, but somehow they always seem to happen when the house is a complete mess. Case in point: three years ago we had a party for Kyle’s 30th, approximately one week after we demolished our bathroom. As if a sink-less bathroom and black plastic shower curtain wasn’t enough, we were still wrapping up the bedroom project and sleeping in the living room.

Then we had grand plans to ring in my 30th last year with the finished interior. And well, we all know that didn’t happen. (Although at the time it seemed like we were really close. Ha!) But by this spring we were ready for a real party. Oh wait, no. Let’s build a deck first! So a month or so ago we finally picked a date (coinciding with Kyle’s 33rd b-day) and in typical Zerbey fashion we worked right up to our self-imposed deadline, installing the final deck boards and hauling concrete just days before the event.

But the party happened. And it was good.

Pony kegs! I haven’t seen one of these contraptions since college, but it really did make the most sense for the 50+ people that we invited. (Besides, we classed it up with some local Maritime brews.) For the non-beer drinkers, we whipped up some sangria and a couple of pitchers of strawberry margaritas and noshed on mini sliders, an assortment of side dishes, and birthday cookies from Specialties.

Although the deck has greatly improved the backyard, we thought there was still something missing. No, not the planters, awning and fire pit that we still need to build. Party lights! Ok, so well-designed string lights were not the easiest thing to track down the day before the shindig, but we finally found some at a party supply store in North Seattle.

“Hi. Do you have string lights that aren’t flamingos or palm trees?”

“Yes, we have Midway lights.”


“Y’know, the kind you see at carnivals.”


We originally wanted to do all clear bulbs, but they didn’t have enough so we alternated with the amber color. It’s fun without being too carnival (if you know what I mean).

The weekend before the party our driveway was still a haphazard (and hazardous) pile of concrete rubble. We put an ad on Craigslist thinking everyone would rush to get our beautifully cut chunks of driveway, but by Sunday evening we didn’t have a single bite. I panicked a little and quickly considered my options: 1) e-mail my family that was coming into town and tell them to bring their work clothes or 2) pay to have a hauling company come and take it away. Fortunately, neither scenario happened because Craigslist saved us (like he always does). Early last week we were contacted by a local landscaping company who saw our ad and wanted it all. Best of all, they had the crew and trucks to move it. PHEW. There was still a truckload worth of small rubble that Kyle, my brother and I shoveled up and disposed of late last week.

Ok, so the remaining dirt pile wasn’t exactly awesome, but it did provide us with a nice venue for corn hole! (And the dirt was a big hit with the toddlers at the party.) Eventually this whole area will get planted, but we’ve got all sorts of grading and amending of soil that needs to happen first.

In a last-minute stroke of genius, Kyle bought and installed a magnetic door stop that allowed the back door to stay open throughout the party. It also helped pump the tunes from the living room to the backyard. (Don’t worry, we gave our neighbors a heads-up and many of them even joined us. In fact, one of my favorite memories was seeing our neighbor passing out a tray of birthday cake shots.)

We’ll do another post that shows more finished shots of the deck, but you get the idea. We pulled the bbq out for the event, but it will normally reside under the kitchen window where the kegs were.

Oh, and just so you don’t get any crazy ideas that our house is always perfectly clean and organized…

(Ok, yes – as soon as the last guest left I totally started cleaning up.)

The next morning, summarized in one photo:

(FYI – the floors were a hot mess the next day, but they cleaned up nicely with a wet microfiber mop.)

Big thanks to everyone who pitched in at the last-minute to make the party a success. With an actual space for people to gather, we’re thinking about doing this party thing on a more regular basis. (Dancing on the coffee table again? Maybe not.) At any rate, those string lights aren’t coming down until winter.

deck progress: 82 is too hot

Well, we started the day with every intention to finish the deck and clean up the concrete rubble in the backyard. But today was hot, like…82 degrees. Too hot for manual labor. So we scrapped our plans and did this instead:

Gasworks Park – so many people, so many watercraft! 

Bailey is one of the few brave enough to swim in Lake Union.

So the basil died. After a few months it developed these small brown pimples and then the stalks started to turn brown. After I raided the entire plant for pesto one night, it was never the same. So lemon verbena has taken its place. Fingers crossed. In other news, Bailey has still not figured out how to push the sliding doors open. Yesterday morning I heard him whimpering and found this sad sight.

Truthfully, it felt great to take a day off. We’ll finish the deck – next weekend.

deck progress: week three

With the framing complete, we were finally able to start the deck boards last week. And you know what? It is taking forever. So we don’t have a completed deck to show you just yet, but we do have ample Bailey photos so we hope that will help fill the void. Metaphorically speaking of course, it’s not like Bailey actually helped fill any voids in our deck. As usual, his home improvement skills are seriously lacking.

For the decking material, we chose ipe (a Brazilian hardwood, pronounced “e-pay” ). Ipe is a good choice for a deck because it is durable, naturally resistant to rot and never has to be refinished (unless you want to). We used the same wood for our front stoop and have been really happy with it.  The downside of course is that because it is so tough, every single hole must be pre-drilled and having quality drill bits is key. 

So last weekend, Kyle and Anton started with the upper two platforms that lead from the back door down to the main deck. We knew these smaller, more fussy parts would take longer and we were not disappointed.

Fortunately, Bailey and his buddy Chase kept themselves entertained on the make-shift plank walk that was temporarily installed to access the upper deck levels.

Y’know, the ONE point of access to get from the yard to the back door.

See what I mean? Lazy and obtrusive golden…

We bought our ipe (via Craigslist) from East Teak in Sultan, WA. Like most quality decking, ipe is not cheap, so we were intrigued to find that East Teak was selling their stock of non-perfect boards for about half the price.  These boards were advertised as having imperfections in the wood (like splits, knots, etc.) as well as some bowing. Concerned about the appearance of the wood (and that it would be a total nightmare to install) Kyle drove over to Sultan a few weeks ago to check the goods out in person. The verdict? The flaws were minor and definitely worth the 50% savings.

Progress was slow over the weekend and Bailey finally got bored and retreated to the side of the house for a little afternoon snooze by the trash can.

On Tuesday night, the first of the main deck boards were installed! After laying out the first row of boards, we snapped a chalk line at each joist location to mark where to pre-drill the holes and told Bailey not to walk on the loose boards. Apparently, he likes to live on the edge.

Since some of the boards are bowed, Kyle is using this fancy BoWrench tool (that he picked up at a local hardware store) to straighten out the boards.  Basically, one end of the wrench has a saddle that sits over the joist and uses it as a brace to bend the deck board straight. Once the boards are screwed in (we used 316 grade stainless steel, 6-lobe screws for extra durability – we’ll show more detail photos in the next post), the wrench is removed and voila – straight boards! Also, instead of butting the boards together, Kyle is using a piece of 1/8″ steel as a spacer (providing a small gap between boards allows water to flow through but isn’t big enough to be a tripping hazard).

Here’s a look at the corner detail for one of the landings at the back door. The edge boards were installed to be flush with the top of the horizontal boards. This protects the end grain of the flat boards and also helps serve as a guide during installation.  I’m a little worried about pine needles and other stuff collecting in this slightly wider gap, but in general we think it looks good and will be worth the trade-offs.

The color of the ipe really varies with how the sun is hitting it (and of course, if it’s wet). After everything is installed, we plan on sanding the wood and putting a protective finish on it. It’s not a routine that would have to be maintained (like cedar, ipe grays out a bit over time), but the process usually brightens the wood and brings out the reddish-brown hues that ipe is known for.

The cut ends of the boards are coated with paraffin wax as extra protection (you can see the still-wet evidence in the photo above).

By dusk on Wednesday, about half of the deck boards were down and either screwed in or at least pre-drilled.  To create a smooth border at the deck edge (on the left in the photo above) Kyle just ran the boards a little long and then snapped  a chalk line and zipped the skillsaw across to create a clean edge. (We’ll eventually have a planter box on this end to hide the exposed framing.)

And here are a few shots of the current status:

(As a reminder, the deck was specifically designed this way to avoid guardrails and handrails that would otherwise be required by the building code.)

A cool art installation or a half-finished deck? You decide.

(Note: we put a lot of thought and research into the type of decking we chose and its environmental impact. I was going to talk about those decisions here, but thought it might worth an entire post. Stay tuned.)

deck progress: week two

So let’s rewind to last Thursday – Kyle and I came home early to unload the decking that arrived on a truck from Eastern Washington (more on that later). With warm(ish) temperatures and hours of daylight left we decided to put on our grubby clothes and get to it. With the footings complete, the next step was to prep the area that would soon be covered by the deck.

First we leveled out the soil that was still in clumps and piles from the previous weekend of hole-digging. (It sucked.) Then we laid down filter fabric to keep weeds at bay. We’re actually not big fans of filter fabric and don’t plan on using it in other parts of the yard, but since this area will be more or less inaccessible, we thought it was worth the expense and effort. To keep the fabric in place, we covered it with a thin layer of pea gravel.

It rained on Saturday morning which delayed framing, but fortunately concrete doesn’t give a crap if it’s raining.

So – stair footing! (The above photo just shows the rebar and formwork, apparently I failed to photograph the actual concrete pour.)

We tried to minimize the amount of new concrete pours as much as possible, but the small stair leading to the basement needed a proper support (as seen in the sketch below).

By Sunday, the pressure-treated lumber had dried out enough so that Kyle could resume framing. First he covered the top of the beams with Grace Vycor sticky flashing, which adds extra protection against wood rot and will extend the life of the deck.

Next, he installed the joist hangers, which are deep enough to support both the main deck joists as well as the framing for the step along the east side. In order to avoid yet another large and annoying footing, we decided to cantilever that framing out, backspanning the members and bracing them against the joists above.

The joists hang off the outboard beam and ledger (at the wall of the house) and sit on the beam at the mid-span.

Kyle used his palm nailer to install the joists, which sped things up considerably.

Most of the PT (pressure-treated) members had to be cut, which meant we needed to treat the exposed edges with a wolmanizing agent (it’s basically a solution that gets brushed on to any freshly cut ends). We didn’t want Bailey to get too curious, so we kept him inside where he maintained a close eye on the progress.

And yes, he always lays like this.

On Monday night our friend Anton came over to help. He was probably expecting to do something manly like pour concrete or operate power tools, but instead Kyle gave him a roll of sticky flashing. But by the end of the evening, he was indeed a Master Taper.

After the joists were installed, blocking was added in the perpendicular direction to further brace the structure.

A rim joist was added to the front of the east step and all of a sudden it started to look a lot more like a deck. As an added bonus, we’re right at the solstice so it doesn’t get dark till about 10:00 p.m. More light = more work!

Kyle powered through and worked on Tuesday night as well, finishing the framing for the steps that lead up to the back door. Woohoo!

We still need to finish the framing for the north steps (on the right side of the photo above), as well as the stair to the basement, but then it will be decking time!

All in all, I think it’s going to be real swell.