All in a weekend.. (aka THE DECK)

SO. This past weekend when I should have been walking in Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5K, I was engaged in another form of exercise instead. Significantly less scenic, exceedingly expensive and 100% NOT FUN.

Saturday afternoon my husband fell through a hole on our back deck. I did not photograph my husband in the hole, opting instead to help him out. But here’s the aftermath. (He’s okay by the way.)

We bought our house in August 2009. Within a week we already had two sizable holes in the deck and it’s only gotten worse. The paint started flaking after our first mild winter, bits of wood began breaking off and it was only a matter of time before one of us fell through. Our solution until now had been covering the largest holes with (ugly) plywood and doormats. A little strange seeing a back porch littered with doormats, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

We’d put off a porch replacement hoping to afford composite decking and elaborate plans, but Saturday arrived and the deck had to go. This forced aspect of the project (i.e., psychological and financial unpreparedness) meant we were going to have to do this as quickly and cheaply as possible. So in typical DIY fashion, my husband and I spent Saturday tearing the old porch down ourselves.

Here’s what it looked like when we started:

You can see a few of the larger holes. The benches at the rear and side had to be dismantled before we could pry up the rotten floor boards. But when we took the benches off, we discovered the situation was far worse than expected.

The left corner abutting the house had been pooling water, and without any place to go the water had simply been soaking, molding and rotting the wood.

How long had this been going on?!! No idea, but the shed attached to the side of the porch also suffered a similar fate. Between water saturation and insect infestation, it had the look of a Butterfinger candy bar, but none of the appeal..

The one gleaming ray of light? The deck extended away from the house in the worst section, so the damage – although extensive and irreparable – did NOT touch the house itself!! HALLELUJAH!!

If you’re wondering what all that other crap is (buckets, etc.) my daughters favorite game is “mouse house adventures.” Code language for dragging every piece of recycling from the bins, filling them with swamp water, sand and mud, and then leaving them throughout the yard where they have a tendency (in our Maine climate) to freeze solid to the ground. Adding just the right *touch*

Up next? Removing the floor boards, most of which flaked like toothpicks or oozed water. YAY!

Once all the boards were up, it was onto nail removal!! B/c of the water leakage, the nails were universally rusty and quite difficult to extract, especially when their rusty heads crumbled or snapped off completely..

Once the nails were up, we cleaned off the wood frame. The rotten boards on the one side had to be removed completed, and the remaining end piece rebraced. We sprayed the new cuts with waterproofer. Here’s what it looked like afterward.

We lined the top of the frame with Protecto Wrap rather than paper or felt. Such a great product! It’s sticky waterproof tape, really, with a removable backing. Easy to cut and install. Love it.

Finally it was onto board installation. We wanted composite, we could afford pressure treated, and so it goes..

Apart from running out of deck screws and having to make a second Home Depot run (of course) it was smooth sailing. We wanted to cut the end of the deck and install the privacy wall right away. But being springtime in Maine, our ground is still frozen solid and the rest of the project is on hold until thaw. Stay tuned for the finished deck post. Hopefully some time soon.

0 thoughts on “All in a weekend.. (aka THE DECK)

  1. The deck was rebuilt OR sanded & repainted every few years. Once, when Mom’s guys rebuilt the deck, the carpenter looked down to find a chipmunk sitting on the toe of his boot, looking up at him & chattering his complaints. The carpenter had just finished taking off the planks & tearing apart the frame that had been, perhaps, the little fellow’s home. Kate

    1. LOVE IT, Kate! Those spunky chipmunks! We’ve enjoyed them since moving in, and after ripping up the rotted decking we found the trails and holes (yes HOLES) leading down through the concrete into the crawl space in the basement. Which explains how that red squirrel got in last year to give birth downstairs. We plugged up the holes (our beloved friends will have to live outside from now on) and will reinforce the base of the deck too. John finished the front panel this evening. Next up? Building a step. and once the ground thaws, the privacy paneling. SO glad the framework is still so solid. This new deck should last for a while. 🙂

  2. is there anything you people CAN’T do?!?!? seriously. should i tell you now that my foyer floor is still in a state of disrepair? ant hasn’t quite gotten around to finishing it and i just close my eyes when i walk in the front door. i need to call someone but i’m dreading the dust and grit…

    1. Hah! I’ve been wondering about that slate floor!! Poor Ant has his hands full w/ the new job. Just call “the people” babe! Suck up the grit for a week and it’ll be done. Tis the beauty of having 2 incomes, when necessary you can splurge and (as Homer Simpson so eloquently says) “just get someone else to do it!!”



  3. I read this with great trepidation, I followed up with the photos, and by then I was cheering you both on. Y’all sure opened a can of worms, but you did a great job dispatching the “worms” in fabulous fashion. So very glad the project ended well…

  4. That kind of wood rot seems quite typical in our northern climate. It’s often hard to prevent water damage, but that new wrap product certainly should help. Uncovered wood structures really take a beating from Mother Nature. At least you guys are handy enough to do the project on your own.

    1. Untreated wood has no chance in this climate. AT ALL. We really wanted to use the new composite decking which lasts forever, but it costs a bloody fortune. Thankfully we were able to get the pressure treated wood which should fare fine for the time being. Interesting – my husband had to go back to Home Depot yesterday for some additional material and returned to say ALL of the decking was GONE!! Guess we’re not the only ones dealing w/ these issues..

  5. “had to go to Home Depot twice”…is that all???!!! I often have to go twice to get the correct battery or light bulb! Well done and it looks fantastic! Big hug to having an industrious hubby too.

    1. Thanks so much Tammy!! Yes, I shouldn’t complain. Two trips really isn’t much in two days. He went again yesterday (#3) and again after work today (#4).. and on it goes.. LOL

    1. Thanks GG! Homeownership in all its forms is a labor of love. But especially having such an old house, it’s a constant uphill battle to maintain. But oooh so necessary!

  6. Oh Christy, you have such a great way of turning a torturous project into a great and humorous story! You have a real gift for writing–I thoroughly enjoyed that post, although felt badly for you guys having to do it. An old house (any house really) is a labor of love (and sometimes hate) isn’t it? You guys are doing this old old house great justice though I think! 🙂

    1. Cindy, thank you so much!! And I couldn’t agree more; any home is a labor of love, but the older the home, the more labor involved in its maintenance. I think of this house in some ways as an infantile elderly relative. You can’t just leave it to fend for itself – it must be coddled and cradled and swaddled and fed and its diaper changed and… ON AND ON AND ON….

      Good thing we’re so darn patient! HAHHAHAHHAHAH

      PS: john is returning to our 2nd home tonight (The Home Depot) to fetch posts and a hole digger and cement/concrete for the privacy fence. It’ll be fun to share the finished project – hopefully sooner than later. The dumpster gets delivered Friday and this weekend and next week promise stories of their own. UUuuuughhhh.


  7. “I did not photograph my husband in the hole, opting instead to help him out.”

    You are so funny! We are actually planning on getting our deck did this spring, too, but not because it is eating my husband. We ave been in the Love Bungalow three years (three!!) and I want to enjoy my backyard even more than I do now. The patio is just not working for me.

    1. Oooh Good Luck Hayden!!! These projects are so promising & exciting when they’re PLANNED instead of undertaken out of sheer necessity!! The hungry deck thankfully has been slain and its sturdy, well fed replacement promises to last for a while. SO glad — I am looking forward to spending time enjoying the garden (whenever it gets warm here?) this year too. Can’t wait to start planting!! (whenever it gets warm here?) LOL


    1. three years already and Dishy I can’t believe it was August 2009 that you moved…dang time flies! BTW you guys wear me out with all your projects!

  8. Dang, you guys. I mean, a deck is a beautiful thing and all, but I know that after doing all the work of dismantling it, I would’ve sat back, stared at my empty yard, threw up my hands, and just built a couple of stairs instead.

    So, pretty impressive work! You should probably reward yourselves with a hot tub back there.

    1. OOooh HOT TUB!! Tons of people have them here b/c of the climate. There’s nothing better than soaking those aching muscles after a job well done.. At least I’d imagine so.. Alas, we’ve spent the hot tub fund (and then some). Guess I’ll just have to fill our old bathtub and pretend. 😉

  9. Wow – that’s a heck of a job, but it looks like you and your husband Norm Abramed that project into shape! Amazing results, Dishy!
    Had Annabelle and I tried this it’s a given someone would have lost a digit. At least. If not multiple limbs. 🙂

  10. From the photos looks like the project was done by a pro! I’m sure it would have not turned out as well if not for the “little” helper in some of the photos.

    1. Will, you KNOW it!! That little helper was the best – carrying planks all by herself, yanking nails.. My younger daughter is fearless and, I must say, turning into quite the DIY pro!

  11. Boy that rotting sure made a mess. It was a good thing all the joists underneath weren’t rotted too, I can’t imagine it being so cold the ground is frozen. Well done, a good job all round.

    1. I know, Tony. We were so fortunate the frame was mostly untouched. The one side had to be sacrificed but the rest completely solid. And yes, while you’re enjoying lovely warmth on the other side of the globe in the southern hemisphere, here in the great white north i sit wearing 2 fleeces and a long sleeved shirt. UGH! Maine is beautiful, but today it is cold and rainy and I am wondering when SPRING is finally going to make its appearance!

      1. It’s cooling off here now though. We have had our fire going for the past week. Even been using the elect blanket on a few of the colder nights. Today was gloomy, overcast & yucky. I was home from work sick with a bad headache so I stayed inside in the warm getting ahead on a few comic episodes. Winter is fast approaching but even in the middle of winter our ground doesn’t freeze. The lowest we get is usually around -1 or -2 Celcius.

        1. And here in Maine it’s finally beginning to warm! The ground has thawed and mud season is now in full swing. My husband sunk the posts and installed the privacy wall. Next up? Building the step. Can’t wait till it’s done!

  12. Wow! I’m impressed! All in one weekend? Very productive! I found your blog through Simple Life of a Country Man’s wife and was hoping to find some kind of delicious and easy recipe that would turn me into an all-star chef, but instead your post about DIY home improvement projects on which I can unfortunately totally relate. So maybe you’re an all-star chef, but you also have dirty messy home improvement projects like me! Haha 🙂 Anyway, looks like you do have a lot of great recipes to share so I will definitely be back to get them, and of course stay updated on your deck project! Great blog! Glad I found ya 🙂 Oh, and here’s what I wrote about a month ago about our own back deck (which I lovingly called “the shack in the back”) project this spring.
    Good luck on the completion of your deck!

    1. Heyya Butterfingers!! I can tell you’re my kind of gal. Nothing beats candy bars first thing in the morning. I am off to read all about your deck fun — Thanks so much for stopping by!!!

  13. Ah, the infamous weekend DIY project. And rotten wood to boot! I know that was a dreaded discovery. I hope your ground thaws soon so you can finish…
    and move onto another project. YAY!

    One blessing we have is not having enough funds to do some repairs our house needs. We know if we had the money, we jump on the project(s) and then discover more problems. A blessing in disguise, I guess.

    1. That’s right; Always looking on the bright side!! John’s off to Home Depot again tonight to fetch remaining supplies. He’s hoping to sink the posts later today for the privacy fence. We’d like to be able to use the deck this weekend as we’re having company. Keep you posted!!

  14. Very impressive! I really like the slatted frame of your deck; glad it was not rotten. And I do admire your patience at putting it off until now. When I bought my first old house, after having grown up in a series of them (also in Maine), my father said to me: being an adult is looking at a problem in your house and IGNORING it!

    1. LOL!! Your dad is SO SMART! Especially when funds are tight, much better to look past a problem – at least for the time being! I’ll post pix when the work’s all done. Happy day! 😀

  15. Wow, that’s seriously impressive manliness there, being able to even consider doing such a thing is startling enough, never mind actually pulling it off in a single weekend. Wow.

    1. Thanks Zhisou. The deck is coming along fine – privacy wall is now up. We just have to build the front step, but this week’s big “spring break” clean out is taking precedence. Dumpster #2 is 3/4 full and I AM BEAT. I’ll be posting about that soon..

    1. Yep – there was NO putting this deck off another day. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, or in this case, rip up the rotten boards.. Sigh..

      Thankfully it’s 99.999% done. Just have to hang a piece of lattice at the base of one side, otherwise finished! WOOT!

  16. In Scotland the humidity and cold winters rot untreated wood very quickly, so we have the perfect answer…..CONCRETE SLABS MAKE A GREAT PATIO!!

  17. I love your optimism and attitude. I feel for you on the deck project girl. My hubby and I completely renovated an old home while living in it for two years. I never got to live in it when it was complete because we sold it, but I left my sanity between those walls. Luckily I got it back now…whew. Anyway, great to have found you! I look forward to catching some of your recipes too. Happy Easter weekend…

    1. Happy Easter to you too!! So nice to find another DIY enthusiast (or not!) LOL

      These old houses are a taxing labor of love. Having spent part of the weekend visiting a newly renovated, modern hotel (where my folks were staying while visiting) – there is something to be said for MODERN AND NEWLY RENOVATED. But it’s okay – home is where the heart is, and this place sure has mine. 🙂

  18. I admire the huge efforts you guys are investing in rebuilding the house. I have no doubt that it will be beautiful as well as sturdy than ever before because there is a lot of heart being put into it. great post and pics.

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