Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Stacking the Deck

So, where have I been?

It's been an exhausting week. Mom and dad came in, and we built the deck. This was the last major step in the renovation; our house is complete now. All we have left to do is replace the grass, do general landscaping, make some built-in furniture, redo the dining room, the kids' bathroom, the front porch, the guest room, the office, finish the mud room, get a new oven, new washer and dryer....you know, just the little stuff.

The deck project was fun. Decks are really the ultimate guy projects. It of course involves lots of wood and power tools, there's lots of lifting of heavy stuff, and there's math and beer. Math, you say? When you can impress your friends by telling them how you calculated the rise and run of the stair risers and used lasers to determine if the deck would be level, well, that's a good guy project.

Building it took good portion of a week. I'd already dug the footers a couple of weeks ago, so Tuesday was spent doing most of the structure. On Wednesday I had to work (at my real job) for much of the day, so Dad busied himself with planning out the flooring and the stairs. All day Thursday was flooring, Friday more flooring, Saturday...flooring and stairs. On Sunday we finished the railing just in time for happy hour, which was my goal. The crowning moment was rolling the gas grill off the front porch (through the kitchen and family room), bringing a much overdue end to a year of neighbors yelling, "hey, what's for dinner??" every time I grilled in the front yard.

Finding the materials was an adventure. We went with "Trex-like" stuff for the floor, choosing Home Depot's cheapest offering. Luckily I was itching to get this project going for a long time and ordered the stuff over a month ago, because it took close to four weeks to arrive. The pressure treated lumber was ordered from an 84 Lumber store that closed down the day before delivery. The railing is made of aluminum tube balusters from Deckorators, bought at Lowes. The adventure there was being able to get all the tubes we needed at the Lowes in Cranberry, but finding out that the little plastic doohickeys that attach the tubes to the railing were only available at the OTHER Lowes, 20 miles away. And lastly, the top of the railing is made of (ridiculously expensive) cedar, bought at an 84 Lumber that DIDN'T close down, and strapped to the roof of the minivan in the pouring rain.

And then there were the screws.

Since the deck floor is made of composite, we needed to buy special screws. The lumber comes in gray, brown, tan, or red (we got red), and Home Depot sells special color-matched screws designed just for this purpose. Well, that is, they are color matched as long as you bought the gray or brown composite. Even though the rack at HD clearly states "red screws", there were none to be had. At any HD in Pittsburgh. Or in Connecticut, for that matter. Or Elizabeth, New Jersey. Yet when we asked a guy about special ordering them, he told us he couldn't because they are a regularly stocked item. This stupidity lasted about three weeks until I broke down and bought the brown screws. And, as it turns out, the brown screws match the red composite perfectly. Sigh. Why they couldn't have just told me to buy the brown to begin with....

By the way, some of you folks of the handy ilk might be wondering why we didn't choose one of those fancy "hidden fastener" systems that screw in from the bottom. Well, two reasons. First, it would have cost us about $800 extra. Second, every dealer we talked to said they suck. There ya have it.

So after an exhausting, muddy, wet week of non-stop work, we have a place to have a relaxing dinner or a drink.

Well, we did, until the bees found us.

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