By John R. Greenwood
I’m on to my next home improvement project. It has slowly risen to the top of my original retirement to-do list. We have an exterior door on the east side of the house, leading to a small pressure-treated deck. That door is seldom used, so the deck does not get a lot of attention. I built it many years ago, years before YouTube, and long before acquiring the battery-operated-tool-arsenal, I have at my disposal today. Back then, I relied on Family Handyman Magazine, DIY books purchased at mall bookstores, and my years of experience as dad’s tool-gopher. Our two boys were as small as the budget, so I worked with what I had. Electrician taped lead cords, hammers with loose handles, and buckets of old bent nails were the norm. Despite the condition of my tools, the deck performed as designed, and in all honesty, was still rock solid. The reason for the overhaul is one of aesthetics and ease of maintenance. The look and easy care of the composite I used on the front porch in 2019 persuaded me to tackle his smaller and less complicated little brother.
The high price and scarcity of lumber nudged me to buy the materials in early spring when I saw it and a month before the summer deck surge kicked in. Big Orange’s rack of composite boards was full one day, so I did what any red-blooded American DIY’er would do—I emptied it. Now the time has come to use it. Before I do, I had to take off the old pressure-treated boards. When I built this deck, I had no idea what 5/4 decking boards were. All I knew about was 2x6’s, so that’s what I bought. That’s why the deck is still as solid as it is.
Another thing I didn’t know pre-YouTube was that painting wet pressure-treated wood doesn’t work well. To be more precise, it doesn’t work at all unless it’s dry as a scone and has more primer than a 1980 F-150. My knowledge and skill level have not always paired well with my ambition. This deck was a prime example.
With the material on-premises, the lawn mowed, and weeds whacked, I began the destruction of ‘my’ deck. I say, ‘my’ deck because most of my remodeling projects have been on someone else’s work. We’ve lived here so long now that I’m starting to revisit projects I did 15-20 years ago. I was vividly aware of that when I went to pull off the first 2x6. I’d nailed that puppy with enough galvanized 16d’s to build Fort Northern Pines. I really didn’t want to unleash the reciprocating saw right off the bat. I was hoping to remove the 2x6’s without doing any damage to the stringers underneath. As long as they were still in good shape, I would be putting the new composite decking on them. I would remove the nails from the 2x6’s in hopes they could be repurposed. One board in, and I realized it was time for Big Hammer and Big Pry. A few hours and a sore back later, I had the “deck cleared.” I had all the nails pulled and the boards stacked. The Daddy Longlegs would have to find temporary quarters until the new decking was installed, and the chipmunks from hell had one less place to hide.
There is no point to this story other than sharing that I am much better suited to destruct than I am to construct. I feel more confident in my ability to take things apart than I do in my skills to put them together. One saving grace has been the addition of YouTube to my repertoire. The other is having an iPhone and Google in my tool belt.
If I don’t see something shiny in the next week or so, I will do my best to share an update on this latest project.
Like the warranty on my work, there are no guarantees.
* Disclaimer - Yeah, yeah, I ran the stringers the wrong way in 1989. It's going to stay that way. I choose to be different...