Kerri Ough - a work in progress...

Deck Project 2017

We moved in four years ago, almost exactly, and have made significant progress on making the inside of our home liveable, loveable and homey. The Newfoundland climate is wet year round and our summer season short. Brian and I are lovers of travel, camping and hiking, so we’ve been busying ourselves with anything other than outdoor home projects. But with an unseasonably warm June this year, and a desire to spend as much time as possible in our outdoor space we embarked on a project that would span 5 weekends and many, many, many trips to our local hardware store. Here’s what our backyard looked like in May 2013 & July 2013. The first photos we have of our outdoor space.

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Two years ago we contracted a new fence to be built around the house which was HUGE improvement over the less than shabby chic white picket fence we inherited from the previous owners (refer to above photo.) A lot of work went into removing the junk from the back yard. Brian removed all the bricks from the above photo, and there was just so much garbage to pick up – broken glass and crap that probably blew into the yard after a hurricane – it was a mess. It took us years to remove, and we’re still finding pieces of glass buried in the dirt.

The new fence gave a measurable improvement to our backyard privacy, but we still weren’t using our yard to its fullest partly because we have a deck right off the kitchen (that stands above the height of our privacy fence) where we barbecue, partly because our backyard is uneven and lumpy so even the sturdiest picnic table would wobble all day long unless you found JUST THE RIGHT PLACE to set it. Still, I was eager to get outside more, in our private space and try to make our backyard more appealing.

It was my idea to build a corner deck in the back yard – something big enough to house two deck chairs, a table, and a bench. Mostly, what I was looking for was a dry and level place where I could lay flat out on my back and look at the sky without getting my clothes muddy (it’s so wet here, you’re always muddy after laying on the ground.) Also, from the house, though we love our little yard, it’s just been sort of a boring, unexplored space and looking at it made me a little sad. I wanted a focal point to enjoy from inside the house and I wanted to take advantage of our beautiful privacy fence.

Let the deck-building-instruction-googling begin. Brian was on board immediately and we started collecting images of decks we liked. We flirted briefly with a deck with curvy edges (he was excited about a new tool he could try, and I liked the look of it) but we abandoned the idea in the same sitting. What the hell were we thinking, we’ve never built a deck before, why add an insane variable that could/would potentially drag this project out/ make us rue the day we ever started building? Instead, we decided on a corner angled deck  and researched deck building videos. From our brains to starting the project I think was just one day.  We bought our concrete foundation blocks at Kent and came home to stake the outline of the deck. I was so ill that day, I feel asleep while Brian dug holes and dropped concrete blocks in the right spots. He literally did all the heavy lifting on setting up the foundation. I was thankful then, and still am now, with the project 90% done, because I could jump rope on that deck for 10 years and not disturb the foundation he built.brianconcreteblocks

Once staked, holes were dug and concrete foundation blocks dropped in them.concreteblocks-deckproject

We were sort of slow to start, a couple of rainy days put us back, we worked in the evenings during the first week, and on the weekends in the sun. We still wanted to have a life outside work and this project so it took a little time to get the frame started. Plus, we were working with ideas, not plans which meant a lot of on the spot discussion about deck height, frame strength, and man did we ever have to use that level on a second by second basis to get this done… it’s seriously lumpy in our backyard.

You will notice that there are no pictures of me working on the deck, as it is not in Brian’s life description to photograph our lives and projects. I take this on proudly and happily, but am often missing in action. I assure you, I was home for 65% of this project and hammered joist hangers like a GD pro for the majority of the frame, and supported all efforts of laying and strategize deck board placement and screwing in of said deck boards. I was on probably 6 of the 10 stops to the hardware store to acquire wood, posts, joist hangers, screws, concrete blocks etc. Brian got a few loads of lumber on this own, but (and this is for my sister Michelene) I WAS VERY MUCH PART OF THIS PROJECT.

Ahem. Dignity restored, of course Brian bought the saw, cut the boards, executed the frame, and finished laying the back deck boards alone yesterday while I was in Nova Scotia earning my keep.

The frame was hard, and it took a lot of time and at that point in the process we questioned our desire for this deck a lot. I think that’s why there aren’t a lot of photos. It was so hot in Newfoundland (unheard of!) and in the noon to 4pm hours Brian was sneezing and I was burning up, so we had to stop until the cloud cover could protect our white white white freckling skin. Once the frame started to come together (and Brian would say often “ok, this is coming together now” no matter what step of the project we were on) we got excited about having a new deck again, and started picturing ourselves sitting on it, so the photos started up again.

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Later on, our mantra became: “that’s good enough” even when things couldn’t have been going better. We’re both amazing at lowering expectations so we’re always pleased with the end result. Of course, the weird thing about doing something like this for the first time, is how much you learn while in process, so by the time you get to the end, you want to go back five weeks in time and educate your naive self about a few things to help speed up the process. (Read: I want to build another deck now that we’re so good.) But I won’t. For now, I’m going to enjoy that Brian finished the deck boards and the frame went I flew to Nova Scotia last week (where I still am) and just dream about getting home Tuesday and decorating with a few plants, some lights and some new patio furniture.

Feeling proud of Brian for his brains (and brawn) and delighted that we have a new outdoor space to enjoy St. John’s during a remarkably summery- summer. Deck project: check mark!

 

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