Update on the Outdoors (Summer 2014)

I’ve got a few projects going on for the nursery but I haven’t quite got them finished and ready to share. So, while I’m still working away I thought I would finally get around to sharing some of the updates that Chris has been doing around our yard.

Just like last year he got some more bark and laid a thicker layer and filled in some of the spots that hadn’t yet gotten bark.

Outdoor Updates 1

Oh look there he is all proud of his work.

Outdoor Updates 2

We had some issue with some of the plants we got last year and they needed to be replaced. A few ended up in the front of the house under the window.

Outdoor Updates 3

Chris also picked out a few more trees and shrubs and made a little bed in the corner of the yard. It looks like a few of them didn’t quite make the move well so we may have to replace them next year.

Outdoor Updates 4

Update: It’s probably not suprising that I’m the one that updates the blog and Chris usually stays out of it. Finishing the skirting on the deck was a project that he did by himself and I wasn’t around to photograph. As such he only took a couple of photos on his phone and it took him months to give them to me. 

For posterity’s sake here’s a few shots of the deck skirting in action. 

He used pressure treated 2×6’s to build a frame off of the posts to secure the cedar fence boards he used as the skirting. 

deck skirt 1

It’s hard to see here but Chris actually built an access door under the tallest part of the deck. 

deck skirt 2

Here it is finished and ready for paint. 

deck skirt 3

He also planted some trees next to the deck that he just finished up the skirting on.

 

 

Outdoor Updates Deck 5

Here’s a better shot of the deck. Chris did all the work to install and paint the skirting around the bottom to finally finish out the deck. It’s amazing how finished it makes the deck look.  He also laid some stones at the bottom of the stairs since it gets really muddy and trampled there during the winter.

Outdoor Updates Deck 6

While Chris was doing his yard work this year he also put in a horseshoe pit.

Outdoor Updates Horseshoe Pit 7

He’s been wanting one for a while so it was nice that he got the chance to put one in up on the back hill.

Outdoor Updates Horseshoe Pit 8

Other than general maintenance I think he’s pretty much done for this year. Has anyone else been working out in their yard? Do you have a lot of projects left you want to finish this summer?

The End of the Deck

I would like to take just a moment to revel in the fact that our deck is done!

Ok. Now that we have that out of the way lets go back and look at the final process of the deck building.

A few weeks back I shared that we had finally been able to finish installing the decking. Just before that when I talked about the material we chose I also mentioned that we had started to stain cedar boards to build our railing with.

Since it’s been cold and wet recently we had to do all of the staining inside our garage.

Railing 1 Railing 2

Before we started the staining we actually cut board for the top and bottom of the railing to length. That way we didn’t end up painting a lot more than we needed to. Then once all the paint had dried Chris took test fit the top and bottom boards out on the deck. After he trimmed the boards as needed he pre drilled the top and bottom 2×4 rails where they would attach to the 4×4 posts. To make the installation a little easier he even started the screw in the pre drilled hole.

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Next he measured and marked the center of both boards.

Railing 4

He had already cut the balusters to the height we needed so all he had to do was center the first one over the markings.

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Then using the nail gun he nailed it in place.

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With the first baluster in place he used a scrap 4×4 post to space out the balusters since it was easy to use.

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After he had a section of railing together he carried it out to the deck and set it in between the posts. To make sure the bottom gap wasn’t to large he used more 4×4 scraps to space up the railing.

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To keep the railing flush with the back of the 4×4 post he used a spare baluster to space the railing.

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Once he was happy with where everything was Chris screwed it in place.

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To finish it off the railing we topped each section it with another 2×4 board which was just nailed in place.

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Chris continued the same process around the deck until he got to the stair railing. This took a little more trial and error and involved holding the top and bottom boards in place and marking the needed angles needed. Other than figuring out the angles it was the same process as the previous sections.

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Once the stair and final railing sections were in place that was pretty much it. We were ready for our final inspection.

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To finish our posts off we did top them with solar post caps that we bought at Home Depot. I know it’s not the best photo but here they are all lite up.

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We may come back and add some fascia and skirting nest summer but until then it’s finished! We have officially passed our final inspection.

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I’m sure I’m very biased but I think it turned out pretty good.

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Even though it’s the first deck we’ve ever built it looks pretty professional to us.

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Whew. That is by far the biggest project I think we have tackled. Have you done any big projects recently? How did it feel when you were all done?

Want to catch up with the rest of the deck process? Up until now we have explained how we designed the deck. We also talked about how we got our permitprepped the grounddug our footing holes and passed our first inspection. After the holes were dug we poured concrete and put down landscape fabric and gravel. With the base completed we installed our posts and beams. Then we came back and installed the joists, blocking and railing posts and passed our second inspection. While we were waiting out the heavy rains I talked about choosing our decking materials, how it was all delivered and finally installing it

The Deck: Decking It

We had our decking materials delivered to our house about two weeks ago. Since then it’s been terrible weather around our neck of the woods. This past weekend we finally got some really great fall weather and we were able to get out and work on our deck some more.

Decking 1

Since the decking we chose (Timbertech Earthwood Evolutions in Brown Oak) has a unique profile and because the cut edge of a composite board isn’t exactly attractive we decided to install picture frame boards around the perimeter of the deck.

We did some research and a lot of thinking ahead to figure out how we wanted to go about installing our decking. We decided to install the picture frame on the two front edges, across the top of the stairs and down the left side first.

To  do this we cut the boards to length and notched them to fit around our posts. We ended up going with a 1 1/2″ overhang which turned out to be perfect for our materials and how we installed the railing posts.

Decking 2

Chris marked the locations of the posts and used a jig saw to cut out the notches.

Decking 3

After we had dry fit all four pieces Chris pre-drilled holes for face screws.

Decking 4

Then he screwed the boards in place.

Decking 5

For the picture frame and any other face screwing we did on the deck we used TopLoc deck screws. These are the screws made by Timbertech and then come in colors designed to match their decking.

Decking 6

After the first set of picture frame boards were secured we set the first full board in place behind it. You can see it extending to the other end of the deck here. Since the first board is square edged to look nicer it didn’t have the groove for hidden fasteners. So we had to screw down the front edge of the second board. On the other side we installed our chosen hidden fastener.

It’s hard to tell in this picture but we decided to keep all the full length deck boards uncut so that we could trim them all at once just before installing the last picture frame board. That way we hoped to achieve a better looking finished edge.

Decking 7

After doing more research and talking to our local lumber store we ended up deciding to go with the Trex Hideway Universal Hidden Fastener, even though Timbertech does make their own hidden fastener. These fasteners ended up being the less expensive option even over face screwing. One of the reasons we chose these fasteners was because they gave a full 1/4″ gaping between boards. We also like that since the screws didn’t install at an angle theoretically if a board is damaged later we can pull it out without having to take out all the boards that were installed after it. Unfortunately we have to say that since the heads on these screws are less than fantastic they seemed to strip quite a bit which may make them impossible to remove later.

Decking 8

Back to installing the decking; after the next board was screwed down on one side he installed the hidden fasteners along the other side. Then Chris slid the next board into place behind it. He used a rubber mallet to snug the board up with the previous.

Decking 9

Then he went back and tightened the fastener behind the board and loosely installed the next set of fasteners in place. Chris found that if he installed the next fastener too tightly is made it a lot harder to snug the the following board up to it. Thus the reason you see him here tightening the fastener in between the two boards after the next was installed.

Decking 10

We kept moving backwards installing board after board until we came to a railing post. We did some marking and measuring and Chris used the jig saw again to cut a notch in the end of a board.

Decking 11

After that we were off again moving towards the house working around posts and corners in the deck as we came to them. For the shorter boards towards the back of the deck we cut them to length before we installed them. Since they sit flush with the next level and because we planned on installing a riser board over the top of the cut ends.

Decking 12

Once we had all the boards secured going back toward the house we moved back to the front of the deck and worked forward from the first board we installed.

Decking 13

This made for a pretty long day but we got a lot of the main level done. All that was left was to trim the boards on the left hand side and install the picture frame. Since it was getting dark we also left the final picture frame board on the back of the main level for the next day.

Decking 14

The next morning we came out and got right to work. In fact I got so distracted by the process of working that I forgot to take some photos of what we did first.

To recap we cut and installed the last two picture frame boards on the main level. To install the board on the right side we first had to trim all the uneven ends of the boards that we left full length. Chris did this be first marking a line and then he used a circular saw to trim the boards to length.

Since the next two levels are much smaller we decided to install all the picture frame boards first. Then we cut to length and installed all the interior boards. This was done in pretty much the same way as the day before. We started at the edge farthest away from the house and worked back toward the house so that any ripped boards would be closer to the house.

Decking 15

After all the work the day before it seems interesting that it took almost as long to deck the two smaller levels as it took to deck the main level.

Decking 16

I guess that’s because the small decks required more notching and small cuts and a more careful measuring.

Decking 17

I am so happy to finally have a surface on our deck. I really did not like walking out the back door onto open joists.

Decking 18

Before the sun set too far we were also able to cut the boards for the first step. Of course we ran out of screws but at least it was ready to go.

Decking 19

The next morning we came out intending to start installing railing. Instead we spent a couple hours doing some finishing touches before we had to leave in the early afternoon.

Decking 20

The last things we did was cut the final stair tread boards and the boards to cover the joists in between the multiple levels.

Decking 21

We still didn’t have screws to finish it off but it’s all ready to go so I’m calling it decked.

Decking 23

I still just can’t get over how it looks with all the decking installed. I think all the extra effort to install the picture frame boards was worth it.

Decking 24

Decking 25

Decking 26

Decking 27

I’m excited that we are so much closer to finishing and getting our final inspection.

Decking 22

Hopefully later this week we will get some more clear skies so that we can install the railing. (Update: we finished the railing)

Want to catch up with the rest of the deck process? Up until now we have explained how we designed the deck. We also talked about how we got our permitprepped the grounddug our footing holes and passed our first inspection. After the holes were dug we poured concrete and put down landscape fabric and gravel. With the base completed we installed our posts and beams. Then we came back and installed the joists, blocking and railing posts and passed our second inspection. While we were waiting out the heavy rains I talked about choosing our decking materials and how it was all delivered.

The Deck: Choosing Decking Material

Last week we had our decking material delivered! Which means we are finally ready to start the finishing phases of the deck! Of course, since we’ve got our decking the weather has been windy and really rainy. So, while we are waiting for some clearer skies we have been inside our garage painting the boards for the railing.

Decking & Railing 1

I won’t lie; the painting process has been pretty tedious. We have to wait a minimum of 8 hours in between coats and we can really only paint half of each board at a time. Since the white stain needs at least 3 coats it’s been a lot of painting and waiting around to paint again.

Decking & Railing 2

Since we are stuck inside and all we’ve been doing is painting I thought I would share a little about what decking material we chose and why before we actually get around to installing it.

To start with we chose to go with composite decking over the usual cedar deck boards. We chose the composite for may reasons. One major reason is that we don’t want to be frequently sanding and staining our deck just to keep it looking nice. We thought it would be well worth the investment to go with the higher initial cost to have lower maintenance in the long run.

There are a number of choices when it comes to composite and PVC decking. We visited a couple local lumber stores and picked up several samples and got some price quotes. Below is a couple of the choices we liked and picked up samples of.

Choosing Decking Materials 1

To try and get a better indication of how the decking colors would look with the house we set them on a ledge against the house and stood back. The first board on the left is the Azek Arbor Collection in Acacia which is a PVC product and as such it was one of the more expensive choices. Next up is TimberTech XLM in Walnut Grove which is another PVC and is about the same price as the Azek decking.  The third is another TimberTech product. It’s an Earthwood Evolutions in Pacific Walnut. We both really liked this one and the price was about in the middle. The next sample was the only Trex product we considered. It’s Trex transcends in Spiced Rum. We both liked the texture and color of this one but it did come off a little red next to our house which we didn’t like as much. The final sample is TimberTech Earthwood Evolutions in Brown Oak.

Choosing Decking Materials 2

The brown oak decking was the least expensive option and it also has the most unique profile.

Choosing Decking Materials 12

After weighing the costs and doing a lot of research on decking brands, materials, and processes we chose to go with the TimberTech Earthwood Evolutions in Brown Oak. Below is the sample of it next to some paint chips that are close to our house colors.

We both liked the price of course since it was the cheapest. We also liked the wood grain pattern, the variation in colors and the fact that it’s a fully capped composite board. Another plus for us is the rougher texture which we heard makes the decking less slick and we just liked the feel of.

Choosing Decking Materials 3

After we chose the decking we also picked out two stain colors to use on the railing. The first is Country Club White from Storm stain. You can also see the color in the photos at the beginning of the post as well as in our last post about installing railing.

Choosing Decking Materials 4

The other stain color we chose is a chocolate brown called Bear in Mind.

Choosing Decking Materials 5

Since the decking boards come in twenty foot lengths we had them delivered to our house. Last week while we were home waiting for the inspector the delivery truck showed up and backed into our driveway.

Choosing Decking Materials 6

It was kinda fun to see how they unloaded the truck. The driver just unstrapped our decking and tilted the bed of the truck up. I’m pretty sure the driver thought I was a little crazy for taking photos of the truck. I guess that’s the life of a blogger you sometimes do crazy things for the purpose of documentation and sharing with others.

Choosing Decking Materials 7

Then the driver just slowly pulled forward and everything just slipped to the ground.

Choosing Decking Materials 8

Choosing Decking Materials 9

Choosing Decking Materials 10

After he was done we were left with a big ole pile of pretty decking that hopefully will be installed on our deck one day.

Choosing Decking Materials 11

Has anyone else chosen to go with composite decking? How did you chose what you wanted to use?

Update: If you want to see the decking installed check out this post.

Want to catch up with the rest of the deck process? Up until now we have explained how we designed the deck. We also talked about how we got our permitprepped the ground, and dug our footing holes. After the holes were dug we poured concrete and put down landscape fabric and gravel. With the base completed we installed our posts and beams. Then we came back and installed the joists, blocking and railing posts and passed our second inspection.

The Deck: Joists, Blocking & Railing Posts

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Whenever we are working on a bunch of projects and I have a lot to blog about it’s hard to find the time to blog. That being said we are still working on the deck and I’ve been slipping in a bunch of little decor projects around the house I just haven’t found the time to blog them. They will come; it just may not be until the deck is done. Hopefully that’s soon.

Now back to the never ending deck saga! When we left off we finished installing the posts and beams for the deck.

Posts & Beams 13

The next step was to install the joists. For the first level or “step” we precut all the pieces and nailed them together using the nail gun. It was definitely nice to be able to use the nail gun and quickly put things together after all the hammering on the beams and posts.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 1

It may look a like the spacing is a little odd for the joists but we actually placed our them such that it would make installing the railing posts and the decking easier.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 2

Once we put together the first level of joists we started on the second. Due to the shape of the main level of the deck we were able to sort of build it in two sections. To ensure that all our joists would be the same length we actually didn’t cut them first. We left them long and just attached them to the rim joist that is nearest to the house.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 3

We set the rim joist on top of the beam since it was much easier to balance and nail all the joists that way. After all the joists were nailed on we slide everything back into place.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 4

Then we measured, snapped a line, and trimmed off the extra length on the boards and attached the front rim joists. It was pretty exciting to get our first real view of what the finished deck is going to look like. You can mark it out but seeing the real size and shape is always different.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 5

With all the joists placed Chris them came back and toe nailed all the joists into the beams.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 6

Since it was raining on and off I sort of wimped out at this point. From here Chris cut down chunks of blocking to nail in between the joists over each of the beams.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 7

With the nearly consent rain has also forced us to do all our painting inside the garage. The first painting projects was all the railing posts.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 8

At the recommendation of our local Miller Paint store we decided to go with an opaque stain from Storm Stain. The solid stain was not only a design decision but it also has 15 year warrant. Since we don’t want to repaint or re-stain every year the solid stain was the best choice for us.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 9

With the blocking done and the railing being painted we started working on the stair risers. To start with we purchased a precut riser from Home Depot. When we brought it home Chris found out that it didn’t really work for our decking and deck height. Instead Chris figured out what the dimensions we needed were and drew a little sketch.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 10

We bought some 1×12 pressure treated boards and marked the first riser based on Chris’ drawing.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 11

After the first one was cut Chris then just traced around that to mark the next board and cut it as well.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 12

To hold the railing posts and stairs up Chris dug two holes for concrete piers and used stringer hanging brackets to attach the stringers to the deck frame.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 13

It’s a little hard to see in the photo below but Chris actually cut all but the two outside stringers 1 1/2″ shorter than we needed so that we could nail all the stringers onto one 2×4 board.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 14

It was amazing how much attaching all the stringers at the bottom really strengthen the stairs. With the stringers attached we attached the bottom stair railing posts to the concrete piers as well as to the outside stringer.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 15

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 16

Once we had those first two posts installed we moved onto the posts around the rest of the deck. On pretty much every post we chose to do extra blocking to add even more strength to the railing posts.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 17

After we installed a few more posts we were able to figure out a method that worked for us and it moved relativity quickly. We did however have a number of issues with breaking bit extenders to make the spade drill bit long enough to make it through all the wood.

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Another issue we had was that even though we thought we calculated right the 7 inch long carriage bolts didn’t work especially well through the railing posts and two 2×4 blocks. It made it pretty hard to tighten the carriage bolts down but we were able to do with with some coercing.

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When we finished installing the posts on the main post of the deck Chris pulled all the deck boards off our current deck and added more blocking for the posts and to install our decking on.

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It was a lot more time consuming than we both were hoping but we were lucky enough to have clear enough skies to finish installing our posts last weekend so that we were ready for our second inspection scheduled for Tuesday.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 22

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 23

We decided to take off Tuesday to wait for the inspector and the lumber store to deliver our next load of materials. Unfortunately, it was somewhat of a wasted day since our inspector wasn’t even able to make it out to our house. He did come by Wednesday while we were at work and we passed!

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 24

It’s nice to have this much progress behind us but we know that installing the decking and railing will be pretty challenging and time consuming for us.

Joists & Blocking & Railing Posts 25

Want to catch up with the rest of the deck process? Up until now we have explained how we designed the deck. How we got our permitprepped the ground, and dug our footing holes. After the holes were dug we poured concrete and put down landscape fabric and gravel. With the base completed we installed our posts and beams

Update: Next up I talk about what decking material we chose. 

The Deck: Posts & Beams

Are you tired of hearing about the deck yet? If I’m being honest I’m getting a little tired of working on, talking about and thinking about this deck during most of my free time. Since both Chris and I work full time we spend most of our evenings as well as most of the weekends working on the deck. Yes, I know that we are lucky to be able to do this and when it’s done we will appreciate it. It’s just that the process is beginning to wear on me a little.

Previously with the deck progress we finished laying down landscape fabric and gravel. With that done we were finally ready to move onto installing the posts in our post bases.

Since our design is based around the existing deck that is where we started. We used a series of levels, boards and posts to determine the height of the beams on our first level.

Posts & Beams 1

After we got our first post set we worked around to cut the rest of the six posts that make up the base of the first level.

Posts & Beams 2

With the upper level done we moved onto the lower or main level. Using the same process as the upper level we moved around the deck and determined the height and leveled all of our posts.

Posts & Beams 4

To double check we laid a 4×4 across mulitple posts to check that they were all still level.

Posts & Beams 5

Before we nailed the posts into the bases we decieded to nail on the top bracket that connects the post to the beam.  From our experience with the shed we knew that nailing on a flat surface would be much easier. Let me tell you even this way these nails are no where near easy to put in. Per the manufactures instructions we used 16D 3 1/2″ galvanized nails. We found them really frustrating to nail in since the moment a nail bent a little it was near impossible to remove or nail in straight after that.

Posts & Beams 6

After the caps were all on Chris nailed the post into the base which proved even more difficult due to tight spaces and weird angles.

Posts & Beams 3

As he worked Chris set a beam across all the connecting posts to make sure everything fit before nailing the posts into the bases.

Posts & Beams 7

After we got the posts up our first load of wood was delivered and with it came our 4×6 beams. Chris went outside after work on Monday to set up to start working. He cut a couple of the beams to the size we planned and set them on the posts to see how it would go. This is about when I came out and stood on the main deck and looked down and realized we had an issue. Well it seems that our thought process was off on our post heights. We made the lower level way too low. We ended up with on normal step from the current deck to the first level and one crazy big step down to the last level.

Posts & Beams 8

At this point we were really frustrated and discouraged. After realizing this we just decided to give up for the night and think about what our next step would be. Since we already nailed in everything we basically did the work for nothing and had to figure out a way to remove and replace all the posts for the lower level.

Posts & Beams 9

After a lot of trying to work out a solution we finally decided that we would just replace all too short posts. Chris went out the next night and ended up using a saw to first cut the post off from the base.

Posts & Beams 11

Then he came back and sawed down next to the bases to cut the post out of the base.

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We ended up with a disappointing pile of posts and brackets that we knew wouldn’t be long enough to be able to use over.

Posts & Beams 10a

After buying more 4×4 boards and brackets we started the process of cutting the posts all over again. We were able to reuse a couple of the posts but we still ended up with 11 that had to be made knew. It was pretty exhausting to have to go through nailing in the ridiculous nails all over again but we didn’t really have a choice.

Once the posts were up we started working on the beams again. This is where we had our second issue. It seems that our orginal design wasn’t quite what we ended up with. After Chris cut a couple beams to length we noticed that one wasn’t long enough for the first level. I guess we should have learned by now not to trust our plan but we hadn’t.

Unlike with the posts we were lucky to not have already nailed the beams into the brackets. All we had to do was purchase a couple of replacement boards. From here on out we decided to measure and make due with what we have and not try and go solely off the plans.

Posts & Beams 12

It actually didn’t take us very long to figure out the beam lengths we needed. In the end we really were only off a couple of inches on one side of the upper level.

Posts & Beams 13

We were both really happy to be done with this part of the process so we can move onto the joists.

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Next up we install the joists, blocking, stairs and all the railing posts.

Want to catch up with the rest of the deck process? Up until now we have explained how we designed the deck. How we got our permitprepped the ground, and dug our footing holes. After the holes were dug we then filled them up with concretethen we put down landscaping fabric and gravel.

The Deck: Landscaping Fabric & Gravel

Once the post bases were set we wanted to take the opportunity to put down weed barrier while it was easy to do and we didn’t have to crawl around under a deck. We honestly don’t know if we really need to but it seemed worth the little bit of extra cost now to do it rather than have a problem later when it’s much harder to fix.

We purchased a roll of weed barrier that was 4′ x 220′ which was just enough to cover the area under the future deck twice over.

Starting perpendicular to the house we rolled out the barrier in strips, overlapping slightly and then cutting it off with a utility knife.

Landscape Fabric & Gravel 1

Then we went back and cut a slit over the post bases so that the barrier could be slipped over and under them.

Landscape Fabric & Gravel 2

Landscape Fabric & Gravel 3

After we covered the ground once we came back now going parallel to the house and laid out strips of fabric.

Landscape Fabric & Gravel 4

We did really know if two layers was any more helpful but we had enough so we figured why not do it while we can.

Landscape Fabric & Gravel 5

We’re actually pretty lucky to have a gravel yard only about ten minutes away from our house. So once the fabric was down Chris drove to get several loads of gravel to cover the fabric and create even better drainage.

Landscape Fabric & Gravel 6

This is what it looked like with one load which was about 3/4 of a ton.

Landscape Fabric & Gravel 7

Chris drove back and got three more loads of gravel and continued to spreed it out. In all it was a little over three tons. It didn’t end up being a really thick layer but it did pretty much cover everywhere we had laid the fabric. (Update: Chris informed me it was actually 4 more loads of gravel so it ended up being over 3 1/2 tons of gravel)

Landscape Fabric & Gravel 8

With all that prep work done we can finally move on to the actual deck building. Spoiler: we had a little bit of a set back and some serious disappointment. More on that next time. (Update: Read about the ups and downs of installing the posts and beams.)

Up until now we have explained how we designed the deck. How we got our permitprepped the ground, and dug our footing holes. After the holes were dug we then filled them up with concrete and set post bases.

The Deck: Pouring Concrete and Setting Post Bases

When we left off with the deck we had dug our footing holes and passed our first inspection. After digging 21 holes we were left with a lot of rocks and a ton of dirt piled all in between the holes.

Digging Footing Holes 17

We knew that trying to pour concrete around the mounds of dirt wouldn’t work very well so we cleared all the dirt and rocks from around the deck area.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 1

In the beginning we were counting the number of wheelbarrow loads we moved and then we lost count and gave up. Lets just say it was a whole lot of dirt.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 2

In fact since we started the deck project we have made quite a mound of dirt and rocks down the side of our property. It’s hard to tell from the picture but this is actually quite a little drop off we’ve been filling in with dirt.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 21

Back to the deck building; since we knew the size of our holes as well as there locations were a little off after the digging we wanted to mark our post base locations more accurately.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 3

We used a series of rebar and hot pink string to mark out where out beams should be based on our plans.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 4

They are a little hard to see here but here they are all set up and ready for the next step.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 5

We ended up having to do even more digging down when we figured out just how low the tops of the posts in this corner of the deck would be. Originally the posts would have been so small we wouldn’t have even been able to put a post cap on the top.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 20

We spent most of the day Saturday of the Labor Day weekend cleaning up the ground as well as marking the post locations. On Sunday we were ready to move on so we picked up a concrete mixer from a local rental shop.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 6

Oh and don’t you worry, we also had just about every digging implement needed, cause you can never have too many.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 7

Armed with the mixer we started to attack our 100 bag pile of concrete. We went with a basic 60 pound bag of Sakrete since they were lighter, not much lighter, but with this many bags you do whatever you can to make it a little easier.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 8

We worked on filling the footing holes one beam at a time. At first we started out by filling one hole entirely and then moving on to the next one. We found that by doing this the first hole was almost too dry to put the post base into it while the last was almost too wet. With this first beam we also tried setting a 4×4 to connect all the post bases and make sure all the brackets were aligned.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 9

When we started the next set of footings we poured one batch of mix (2 bags) in the bottom of each footing and then came back and did another in each until we had each footing filled. Since we could only mix two bags of concrete at a time it did move a little slow but it did work much better than before.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 10

After doing quite a few bags we figured out the method for mixing the concrete that worked best for us. On the inside of a bucket we marked a line that was the suggested water for two bags of concrete. First we dumped that in the mixer and added the first bag of concrete. We let it mix for just a little bit and then added the second bag. Chris found that using a trowel to break up the center of the concrete while it mixed helped it mix faster and better. Then just after everything seemed to be combined we squirted a little water in the mixer, just enough to clean off the sides a little. This seemed to give us a mix that was not too wet and not too dry.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 12

To set the post bases Chris cut some 1″ thick boards we had and added a nail for a handle. That gave us the recommended 1″ gap. On our second set of holes we also found that setting in a 4×4 beam didn’t really seam to be necessary in lining up all the post brackets. We just measured from post to post to check locations and then made sure the brackets were square with the lines we strung.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 13

We just continued to work from hole to hole filling with concrete and setting the post bases. By the time we got to these huge footings filled it was becoming apparent that our original 100 bags of concrete was not going to be enough.

After we got these filled we had to go into town and buy another 25 bags of concrete.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 14

We ended up having to go back to Home Depot another time get another 10 bags of concrete. Since we were determined to finish in one day we brought out the shop lights so we could finish the last three holes. Hard core deck DIY going on here people.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 16

While we were at it I couldn’t resist marking one of our extra large footings. I think they were pretty hard earned markings.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 15

Since we had the routine down it didn’t take us too long and we were actually able to finish up and clean everything up that night.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 17

When we came out the next morning everything was looking pretty good.

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Both Chris and I were pretty sore after the long days work but we were able to fill all the footings and set all 21 of our post bases all in one day.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 19

Up next we did a little more ground prep before we started actually building. (Update: check that out here.)

Up until now we have explained how we designed the deck. We have also gotten our permitprepped the ground, and dug our footing holes

The Deck: Digging Lots of Holes

I originally started this post out complaining about all the issues that we had when we were trying to rent a machine to dig our footing holes. Honestly it was long winded and sounded a little whinny. Suffice to say we had a few set backs (like most people do with any large project) but we were finally able to rent an auger to dig our deck footings.

We rented a hydraulic towable auger from Home Depot and it cost us about $110 for a day. For us this was the best option. It’s mobile enough to move around our property and it also had the option for a 16 inch wide auger bit. Since our local codes and our design dictated that we needed 16″ x 16″ x 12″ deep footing holes the 16 inch bit was much needed.

Digging Footing Holes 1

We picked it up the auger on a Thursday evening and we immediately came home to get to work. With a little bit of work we were able to drill the first hole. Then when we went to try another hole the auger wasn’t working so well.

Digging Footing Holes 2

We thought that the issue was our hard, rocky ground so we moved to another hole location that was on flatter ground to try again. That’s when the bit dropped right out of the machine.

Digging Footing Holes 4

With the bit this bolt which was sheared into many pieces also came out of the machine.

Digging Footing Holes 3

Luckily Chris had a replacement bolt and with a little work we were able to get the auger running again.

Digging Footing Holes 5

After it was fixed we headed back out to the yard and Chris started drilling holes again.

Digging Footing Holes 6

Since we wanted to finish all our drilling in 24 hours we worked as late as we could without losing all the light.

Digging Footing Holes 8

The next morning we came out and worked on the rest of the holes.

Digging Footing Holes 9

A few holes in Chris thought it might be helpful digging bar since the shovel wasn’t working so well. So I drove into town and bought one while Chris tried to keep working. It ended up being a great purchase since we found a ton of rocks in our soil. In pretty much every hole we dug Chris had to dig out some rocks so that the auger would continue digging down.

Digging Footing Holes 10

After we finished the 21 holes we needed for the deck footings we moved on to the hill in our back yard to dig a ton more holes for shrubs. Digging on this steep of a hill was a little sketchy but we were able to do it by working across the hill back and forth without too much trouble.

Digging Footing Holes 11

We also dug a few holes near the back of the house, as well as near where the edge of the deck eventually will be.

Digging Footing Holes 12

All in all we were able to move a lot of dirt in less than 24 hours.

Digging Footing Holes 13

Digging Footing Holes 14

Since the auger obviously digs round holes we then had to come back and square up the holes as well as make sure that they were deep enough.

Digging Footing Holes 15

To make it easier to check the hole size Chris built a box that was 16″ x 16″ x 12″ deep.

Digging Footing Holes 16

Once the holes were dug out there was a ton of dirt piled up. Oh, and rocks a lot of rocks.

Digging Footing Holes 17

Once the holes were dug we called for our first inspection. Our inspector showed up, looked over the holes, read all our plans and signed of our permit. It was pretty nerve wrecking to watch him silently look over everything but we passed!

Digging Footing Holes 18

Next up we pour our concrete footings and set our past bases. (Update: We finished pouring concrete and it was a lot of bags. Check that out here.)

For the rest of the story see how we got our permit, how we designed the deck, and how we prepped the ground to start building.

The Deck: Cutting Sod and Marking Holes

Once we got our permit our first objective was to prep the ground before we could start any building. Chris’ first thought was that he could use a rototiller to till up the ground and then remove all the sod that way. Unfortunately the really old tiller he borrowed from his brother just wasn’t working as expected. I think all it did was tear up the ground a little but not really make removing the sod any easier.

Preping for Deck Footings 1

After he gave up on the tiller Chris tried digging up the sod up using a shovel. Somewhere in the middle of this is where I came out to help. Let me just tell you; removing sod with a shovel is really hard. I had to take numerous breaks and I wasn’t even working that long. We probably got less than 1/3 of the way done when we started to rethink the shovel approach.

Preping for Deck Footings 2

To keep from killing ourselves Chris did a little calling around and we decided to head into Home Depot to rent a sod cutter. We sort of felt like it would be a waste since we already had done some of the work but in the end it was so worth it. It was amazing how much easier and cleaner it was to use the sod cutter.

Preping for Deck Footings 3

We worked for less than and hour and half and Chris had all the sod cut and we had rolled most of it up as well. Then all we had to do was clean up the last piles of sod and dirt.

Preping for Deck Footings 4

We filled up the wheelbarrow quite a few times. Chris made a big pill of sod and dirt on the side off our property where once the blackberries grow over it we won’t even be able to see it.

Preping for Deck Footings 5

In the picture below you can see all those nice rolls of sod all pilled up. It was definitely worth the rental cost (about $80 for a 4 hour rental) to save a lot of time and energy.

Preping for Deck Footings 6

The sod cutter also made a nice clean edge that we know looks much better than if we had removed all the sod with shovels.

Preping for Deck Footings 7

Since we finished removing the sod in one day we were able to come back the next day and start to mark locations for the deck footings.

Preping for Deck Footings 8

After a lot of measuring, calculation and remeasuring we marked almost every hole for our footings. All we have left is stair footings and two footings that will be located right where the stairs are.

Preping for Deck Footings 9

Next up is digging all the holes. That is if we can we can actually find an auger to rent. Hopefully I’ll have more to share on this soon. (Update: Check our how we dug our holes here.)

Until then follow along with the rest of the deck saga. First we got our permit and then I talked about our deck design

Has anyone else tried to dig up sod by hand or rented a sod cutter instead?