The Deck

The deck was one of the first things we added to the house because without it the only access to the backyard was through the garage or the basement. We love it. We just didn’t enjoy doing it twice.

mourning doves

We wanted space for a grill and dining as well as lounging space. And access to the nice view out the back. We landed on a 16×18 section off the main living area connected to a 10×20 section behind the main suite. The section off the main living area holds the grill and a picnic table for dining. The other section has a small table and chairs and a chaise lounge for, well, lounging. We didn’t want a lot of stairs from the deck to the ground and were able to design it so that we only had a couple of steps from the deck to the ground.

While we’re happy with the design of the deck, the construction has been problematic. We used a composite decking and railing when we built the deck. Unfortunately the product we chose was defective and decomposed in place. So our lifetime deck only lasted about five years. Thanks to a class-action lawsuit we were able to recoup some of the expense, but we still had to replace the decking and railing.

We chose cedar for round two, since our bad experience made us wary of composite decking. We like the look of natural wood so we chose a semi transparent latex stain highly recommended by Consumer Reports to finish the deck. Worse than useless product. Despite following the directions carefully the finish doesn’t even last a year. And it doesn’t fade, it peels, so in order to recoat it you have to completely strip the deck again. After doing that a couple of times — to make sure it wasn’t user error — we decided to get rid of the latex and go back to an oil-based stain. Maybe the stain isn’t as environmentally friendly but it can’t be very good for the environment to strip the deck annually! We waited to see how our first section survived the winter before committing to the rest.

We also changed the railing in round two. We like the look of chunky, Craftsman-style posts but wanted to minimize the spindles to maximize the view. So we used conduit for the spindles. They turned out very well. They’re inexpensive, minimalist, have held up well, and we really like the look. We also wanted to dress up the posts a bit so we inset tile in the post caps. The post caps are also removable. Sometimes in the winter we swap out a regular cap for one that incorporates a bird feeder. The birds make a mess of the deck but it’s fun to watch them

bird on Christmas tree

Our other challenge is with the joists. We used feature strips in the decking design which meant doubling up the joists under those strips. That has led to water getting into and rotting the tops of those joists so we’ll have to repair them. Steve wishes he’d put ice-and-water shield on top of those joists to prevent that problem.

Now that the deck is refinished we’re happy with it again and I’m looking forward to getting the picnic table out of storage next summer.

deck when new