Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Deck For My Boss

So my boss has been wanting to add to his 10' by 12' deck for a few years. About a month ago (June 2011) he approached me to see if I'd want to build it. After some consultation, a visit to his place and a few back and forth discussions we came up with a design that looked like this:

However, after some more thinking and planning, he made the decision not to cut the outer corners at a diagonal but have them at a full 90 instead to allow for more room. Back to the drawing board and thanks to AutoCad, after only another hour or two the following plan was drawn up and finalized:

After all the paperwork was done, I finished the final drawings for the city permit. They included the drawing above as well as the one below:

About a week later I got an email from the City of Moncton that the permit has been approved. The next step was to call NB Power as well as Enbridge Gas NB for an underground locate. They provide this free service where they come to a property and stake out any buried electrical and/or gas lines to make sure nothing gets damaged during the digging. It's actually the law to have those underground locates done. Even if it wasn't, I wouldn't want to take a chance of either electrocuting myself or blowing myself up with a natural gas explosion. A couple of days later I got the go-ahead from both companies saying there were no buried lines.

From the first time my boss approached me up to this point in time, the whole process took about a month as Melanie and I actually got to go away for a few weeks to visit my parents in Ontario.

Once we came back, I finished planning out all the materials that I would need, went to the Home Depot (man, I should get paid for doing all this advertising for them!) to record all the sku's and prices and to place the following order:

125 12' PT Deck boards
85 1x6-8' PT Fence boards
15 2x4-10' PT (enclosure along bottom)
6 2x8-12' PT
13 2x8-10' PT
50 2x8-8' PT
10 2x6-8' PT
12 2x4-8' PT
18 2x4-12' PT
3 4x4-12' PT
5 4x4-8' PT
10 4x8 PT Privacy lattice
5 3/8" OSB for concrete forms
6 8" x 8' Sonotubes
57 Concrete (bags of 1/2 cu. Ft.)
6 joist hangers

Another AutoCad drawing that has been invaluable is the post locations with the proper dimensions. I printed out the following and went to my bosses place to mark the post locations on the ground with construction spray.

After my boss went to pay for the materials I arranged for a delivery date and got ready to start the "real" work.

Here's what his back yard looked like before I started:

Then, on Friday, August 5th I started drilling the holes for the post. The city stipulates that they have to go down below the frost line which meant drilling holes over 4 feet deep. Gratefully, it has been raining off and on for a couple of weeks so I was hoping that it would help softening the soil a bit.

First thing in the morning I went to pick up the truck I was allowed to borrow from a co-worker, picked up the hydraulic auger and started setting up. This is what the auger (and my bosses back yard) looked like before the start:

After the first 4 holes (and two hours later) it looked like this:

4 feet doesn't seem like very deep, but when looking down from my eyes' vantage point, the bottom of the holes was almost 10 feet below! It's hard to see from the picture, but that's one deep hole!

After a grueling 7 hours of back-breaking labor, about 6 liters of water and a whole lot of sweat and pain the twelve over 4-foot holes were finally finished and the 8" sonotubes were set and taped off with plastic to prevent soil from falling back into the holes. This is what it looked like:

Note the mud-like looking dirt on the following picture:

There's a story to that hole: About 6" from the bottom of where I needed to drill I ran into a rock about 8" by 5" by 4". The only problem was that I had to get through those last 6" but the soil was so rock hard that even with my 5 foot (weighing a million tons it seemed) pry bar I could not get it loose. I tried for about 15 minutes to loosen it up but it just would not budge. Then I remembered a trick I learned from my dad (I think): I filled the hole up with about a foot of water and let it soak for an hour while I continued drilling the next hole. After some time had went by I tried it again and after about 15 minutes of hitting and prying and digging with the metal bar I FINALLY got it loose. The only problem was that I still had to get it out, but how can you lift a 20lbs rock from the bottom of a 4 foot deep hole that was only 8" diameter. I tried sticking my arm and head right down into the dirt and all I got was a muddy arm and lots of dirt on my face. After another 5 minutes of coaxing it, I got it to stand up enough that I could get a shovel under it. Holding the pry bar at the opposite end and sticking my arm down the hole again I finally managed to grab it. However, it was so heavy that it took me about 3 minutes of gently lifting it up and resting for a while and lifting it up some more until i finally got it up. So that hole alone took me almost an hour and a quarter! I call it the hole from H.E. double hockey stick!

So by now it was about 4:30pm and I still had to fill the sonotubes up with concrete. I returned the auger to the rental place, picked up a cement mixer and went home to take a shower. I was exhausted at that time and had burned about 8000 calories so I allowed myself to lay down for 15 minutes, then dropped off the truck and went to McDonald's for a full meal and I didn't even care!

Back at my bosses place, I hauled 38 bags of concrete mix to the back (each weighing 67lbs). It's not like I hadn't done enough physical work, but I had to get that foundation in that night because the second step would have to be done the next day so it could cure over the weekend. It's all in the timing!

Anyways, I'm really glad I rented the mixer. I poured in about 7 liters of water, two bags of cement and let the mixer do the work while I placed the previous batch with the wheel barrow and shovel into the sonotubes. I got to use my home-made concrete vibrator (see After another 4.5 hours of hard labor (and another 1500 calories burned) it looked like this (the picture was actually taken the next day):

Before going home, I set up the laser level and measured how high off the sonotubes each post would have to extend to make it level and sit right under the supporting beam of the deck. The following picture shows a cross-section of the supporting post design I decided to use:

It was around 11pm by the time I finally got home, but after the most exhausting, physically strenous 15 hour day that I have (literally) ever worked, I was glad to have gotten this far.

The next day, Saturday, August 6th, 2011, I went to the Home Depot and picked up 5 sheets of 3/8" OSB which I cut up into 6-1/2" strips with which I built 12 square forms, exactly to the lengths I had measured out the previous night. I also made a custom chute which would help to pour the concrete into the top of the forms. This is what the chute and the forms looked like:

Placing the forms took a good 4 hours because they had to be lined up and rotated straight and perfectly vertical. This is what it looked like after the forms were placed:

And another view:

Here's a close-up of the forms, note the concrete vibrator laying beside the post:

After the forms were placed, I hauled another 19 bags of concrete to the mixer and started mixing, filling and vibrating them. Unfortunately, I learned on the first post that the forms weren't stapled together enough and as soon as I started vibrating the concrete, the form split open. After digging out the concrete, re-stapling all forms and re-filling the form it worked great. Filling the square post forms took another 3 or so hours. After cleaning up and putting everything away, it was already 9:30pm. That was enough for me and I went home, showered and went to bed.

The next day in the evening I came by to inspect the posts, remove the forms and do some more clean-up. That took about an hour or so. Now the concrete will have to sit for a few days to cure enough until I can start building the actual deck. Here's what the finished concrete posts looked like:

After a few days, I could finally start the part that was actually fun. I went over on a Thursday after work planning on taking down the old railing, the old support beam and place the new support beams. I had to make a temporary support beam, jack it up with two car jacks and then I was able to try removing the old beam.

The old 3-ply 2x8 support beam holding up the old deck was nailed down so hard that there was no way I was able to pry it off with my 2 foot crow bar. I actually ended up having to go to Princess Auto to buy a large, 5 foot breaker bar (luckily it was only $40 bucks) and with a lot of heaving and hanging off the bar I finally got the old support beam off but not without actually bending the 1" diameter steel breaker bar...

Here are a few more pictures after the old beam has been removed:

After the beam was finally removed and the new beams were placed

To tie the deck into the house I had to add a 2x8, lag bolt it into the house frame and hang joist hangers
 The beams were all attached (with two lag bolts) to the metal brackets that were anchored into the concrete posts as per the auto cad diagram further up

Here's a picture from the top of the deck once the beams were set and firmly attached
The panoramic view of when the beams were installed

Panoramic view after the floor joists were installed
Melanie and Nathaniel joined me for the main portion of the deck building. It was beautiful for both full days that we all slaved away. Here are the pictures to prove it:
Melanie was cutting the old deck boards so we can join them with the new deck boards, but after an hour's worth of work we realized that it just wouldn't look right to have a small patch of old boards with the rest of the deck being new boards. So after talking to my boss and his agreement we ended up ripping them all out and doing the entire deck surface with new wood. In retrospect that was the best decision ever and it looks a LOT better with a brand new surface.

Here's a clip of Nathaniel helping us stack the old railing pieces in a neat pile:

 We built the privacy wall and started on the railing
Taking a quick break. This was on the second day after we had finished the top surface. 
While Nathaniel built his "city" as he called it
He also surprised us with countless "treasures" that he found lying around
Me working on the railing boards. The angles made it quite a bit more tricky but it looks a lot nicer than simple square so it was worth the extra work

The corners had to be custom cut with the table saw which I'm really glad I decided to lug it with me

Almost done with the railing
Panoramic view before the skirting was put on
I ended up going back a couple more evenings to finish the railing on the stairs (which, by the way I installed and after finishing the railing I realized it wasn't parallel to the stairs so I had to rip it all off again and start from scratch)

My boss also negotiated a hinged door so they could keep the dog contained to the deck and any potential future kidlets.

We finished the deck a few days before planned but our muscles sure let us know they weren't happy with the abuse they had to take.

I just recently went back to take some final pictures and a video since I forgot to do that when I had finished. I must say that I am very pleased (and so is my boss) and would probably call this my favorite project so far (except for the foundation and concrete work of course). Here are some more final pictures:

Back side of the deck
Nathaniel called this the prison
Under the deck posing for the camera
Another shot from underneath the deck
Another angle
All done