It’s amazing. We use it all the time. It is the best thing we’ve ever done during a renovation. It was worth all of the money to pay someone else to do it. The crew literally did everything. We didn’t do anything. They did excellent work.
Have I mentioned that we LOVE it? I mean, we LOVE it.
By the way, this post is LONG, supplemented with plenty of pictures. [Since I didn’t really do any updates throughout the process, which I said I was going to try to, but I knew (and so did you, don’t act surprised!) that I wasn’t going to do that.] But if you don’t feel like reading it all, here’s the recap: We built a sweet deck. We’re super excited about it. The whole build went off without a hitch; we had the best contractor and crew building it. And you can skip to the end to see the final pictures.
But, let’s start back at the beginning.
It was a longer process than anticipated (duh, constant theme for all things renovation).
Patrick & I went to Texas back in January, literally a few weeks after buying the house. We were sitting on the plane talking about the deck – because, obviously, that was the top priority, even back in the middle of winter. We both had ideas about how to build it and what it would look like. We have a lot of space over there and none of it was being used. Heck, none of it was even easily accessible. So, we grabbed a pen and a couple of napkins, and both drew our ideas. Guess what? They were VERY similar. It was super exciting! We were both on the same page and wanted basically the same things out of the deck. Patrick’s drawing was a little more ornate, mine a little more basic … but they both had similar shapes and sizes and areas.
The final design was more Patrick’s … because, well, if we’re going to DO THIS, then let’s DO THIS. And, as I said, his had a bit more WOW factor. His original design had an L-shape to it, where we would have an uncovered, curved section with a built-in fire-pit, which sounds nice and would have looked nice … but we’re not really city-dwelling, porch sitting, fire-pit people. We figured it was a big expense for something that we’d use a few times a year when we had parties and groups of people over … but not something we’d use regularly with just the 2 of us or a couple friends over. (Plus, it’s easy to add onto a deck, and we can always just buy one of those metal fire-pits to set in the yard.)
The main idea we pulled from my drawing was the wrap-around stairs. I wanted the deck open to the current backyard and the side yard. The whole point was to open this space up and make it all more usable. Plus, we have plans for the current backyard down the line, like replacing that patio with a matching deck and ripping out the flower beds, etc. So then it’ll all feel cohesive and flowy. (I can’t find a picture of the napkin … but I wish I had one.)
Over the next few months, although we were super busy trying to get the inside of the house in order so we could actually move … we went out to the side of our house often to look at it, make tweaks, and visualize the deck. Once spring hit, we went out there to walk it off a few times, mark the covered area vs the uncovered porch, look at how much yard we’d still have left, & finalize our plans before moving forward with a contractor. We figured, let’s start with exactly what we want and make cuts after that if needed.
Next came our meeting with Dan, the contractor.
We found him through a friend that also had him build a deck. His deck was sweet. We met with Dan one weekday morning, and well, he was amazing right from the start. He’s been doing this stuff for a long time. He built custom houses back in the 90s, moved into just framing after that, and now kind of just focuses on decks and basement remodels. He has a small crew, and they work the entire job. From the very first meeting, we knew we wanted him to build this deck for us … even if it meant waiting a bit longer than we hoped to. He understood everything that we were asking for and gave us some good ideas based on his building expertise. He drew up a rough sketch on paper right there in the yard so we could all agree before he got started actually drawing up the plans. It took about 2 ½ weeks to get the legit plans (Memorial Day fell in there and made it take a little longer). The plans were hand-drawn, to-scale, in pencil, on a full architectural template. Then, we signed off on them and paid the deposit. Dan said they’d get started hopefully around June 20th-ish. The city had to approve the plans and issue permits – we had no trouble there.
They came 1 day before the permits were approved to demo the area. Remember – we had a large, overgrown, “garden” growing in there. A couple of nights before they started, I spend an entire evening digging up the ones I wanted to keep and replanting or boxing the bulbs to dry. So, I dug up an obscene number of irises, of which I kept 1/3 to replant, about 1/3 are drying to replant in the fall, and gave 1/3 away to friends. I also dug up and replanted the lovely peony bush … spoiler, it did not make it. I also replanted this one purple flower that I have no idea what it is, but the flowers were pretty, so I put it in a pot … spoiler, it did not make it either.
They came the next morning and that entire side of the house was ripped up in no time. I mean, they had those plants dug up, the honeysuckle cut down, and the fence posts removed in less than a day. Then they started right in on digging holes for the foundation supports.
The permits did indeed come through the following day, and we were off and running. The holes were completed … then inspected. The support beams were dropped into the holes and concrete poured … then inspected. Then the deck itself started being built. It was glorious!
The deck itself went in pretty quickly. Then the rafters for the roof section went up. Next, they actually put the roof on and this part took a little while. They matched the pitch perfectly to our current roof-line, and got the height damn near perfect to match our garage roof on the other side of the house. We were going for symmetry, and they pulled it off beautifully. He connected the new gutter system up with our current gutter system and ran it all through the already installed irrigation system that runs the water out to the street. These guys didn’t miss a beat … and even though we kept asking, they were always 1 step (or more) ahead of us. This was obviously not the first deck they built … although, they did say they don’t typically get to build something this exciting.
After the deck itself was built, the inspector came back and inspected it.
Side Note #1 … The crew always seemed just as excited about their work as we did, which was SO extremely refreshing. We’ve found that it is SO hard to find contractors that take pride in the work they actually do anymore. And, most of the time, they are just subbing out the work, so who knows when and where the general will be and how often he’ll be on-site. Dan was on-site at least every-other day, checking in and putting in actual full days of work, cutting boards, building stairs, installing the electric. So nice.
We really only ran into 1 glitch while building this deck. What?!?!? Only one?? Yes, and it was so easily fixable. So, originally, the plans called for a single step wrapping around the edge of the deck all along the east side and about 12’ along the south side. Once they ripped all of the bush out and started building the deck, well, they had to keep it level and, that meant it was about 32” high by the time you walked out to the south end of the deck. We really still wanted the wrap-around steps and open feeling. So, we decided to have them build a cascading stair steps. So, on the south side, we continued the railing on all but the final 4’ of deck. In the southeast corner, there are a series of 4 stair treads that wrap-around the corner of the deck and continue on for about 6’ on the east side of the deck. Then, they drop to 3 stair treads, and down from there to 1 stair tread by the time you get up near the house. We also added a railing to the northeast corner, where the grill will sit. The inspector had to come back again to inspect the steps. (Turns out you aren’t required to have a railing or steps for any drop-off point less than 30”. Crazy, right? Yeah, we thought so too. But, since we were just over that at 32” in that back corner, the inspector made Dan build the stairs and then he came back out to sign off on them.)
Anyway, it was a minor complication, and we didn’t get the fully open, single step down into the yard … but the multiple steps make the deck more dramatic and it looks super cool. Plus, now all of the deck access is basically in the backyard, which we’re learning might be a good thing.
Side note #2 … We’ve once again been the talk of the neighborhood. It’s understandable. This thing is NOT small. It looks amazing. It sits in our side yard, so literally everyone who walks around or drives in & out of the neighborhood can see it. And, well, we’ve had several neighbors just popping in to see what’s happening, and it seems like they purposefully wait until we’re not home. I won’t go into all of the details of the “visits,” but it’s not okay. Not sure why people think it’s okay to be nosy and intrusive just because it’s in our side yard – would they also think it’s okay to go check out someone’s new backyard deck? But, the open steps to the side of the house might have inadvertently invited guests up to the house that, well, we don’t want up there. So, the railing around the entire front and south side of the deck turned out to be a blessing-in-disguise.
Also, we’re going to need privacy bushes, which is something I’ve always wanted to put in front of the covered section, but Patrick was a bit more hesitant towards. From the deck, adding a few tall shrubs will only block the view of the 2 driveways right across the street (don’t care to see those anyway), and it will add so much privacy and warmth since it’ll be natural and cozy. And, well, now he’s totally on board because the other night a neighbor said in passing to him that she knows we’ve already been able to spend a few nights out there enjoying the deck. And, then a second and third time neighbors insited that they would come over unannounced to check it out and have a drink or sip their morning coffee (with or without us … their words, seriously). So, having it finished and private will surely be nice. (And at least one of these neighbors lives down the street – she cannot see us or our deck from her house. Ummm, please stop spying on us and taking note of what we’re doing … or just be normal and just don’t TELL us you’re spying.)
With all of the inspections done, the deck, roof structure, stairs, and railings were all built … next came the door and electrical! Dan and his team lead, Chad, came back on a Saturday to cut a big hole in our house. It was an 11 ½ hour day for them (and us, I suppose). It is not a load bearing wall, so the job wasn’t overly complicated, but there were quite a few components – since they couldn’t leave until the door was in and secured. This, too, went really well and no issues – just a really long day.
Then, the crew came back and finished the whole shebang. Dan installed the electrical boxes and cans for all the lighting and ceiling fan. The guys hung the beadboard ceiling. They trimmed everything out. Dan hung the new decorative beams at the end of the ceiling. (We’ve learned a lot through this process, about what’s supportive and structural and what isn’t … it’s been super cool. Dan likes to teach and he’s really good at it … and we like to learn. J) They re-installed and then replaced the siding (first with the original, which looked hideous & old & dirty, so we had them replace it all with new). They hung the lights and ceiling fan and built the front gate. Literally every single finishing touch you can think of … they completed and did it immaculately. We are so happy with their work; we can’t express it enough.
So, a few final touches will need to be done at a later date …
- Since it ended up higher than anticipated, we’ll need a skirting around the perimeter. We’ll likely get to this sometime this fall or next spring – either us or Dan’s crew.
- Eventually, the deck will need to be sealed. The wood has to completely dry out – so we’re not sure if we’ll do this in the fall or next spring – but we’ll do this one ourselves.
- And, like I said earlier, we’re going to plant some tall shrubs out front. We’ll probably do this sooner than later. (Sooner, like in the fall.) And, I might add a small paver walkway out to the yard, with some pretty flowers. (Maybe some of those irises …)
- We need a window treatment for the patio door, because, well, you can see everything, especially at night! And, this has not been as easy as you would think because of soffits and door placement and what not; but, I’ll cover that all when we actually pick out a window covering … just know, it needs to be covered, pronto. 🙂
And, so here it is …. our new porch, complete with some furniture. (AHHHHHH!!! We can’t believe that we get to own this and sit out here every night if we want!!!)
The details …
The deck & new look of the house …
And click through (or just watch) the slideshow for the before and after pictures. 🙂