Deck Build | Part Four - Building Up

After the concrete foundations were cured, (about 24 hours later), the next step was to add the posts.  Since I was a major part in this construction I apologize for the lack of progress photos ahead of time.  The design of a deck is pretty basic, and pretty much all decks are built the same.  The foundations are poured, then the posts are screwed to the foundations, then the beams are attached to the posts, then the framing, then stairs, then the decking, and finally the handrails and all the pretty stuff.

Over the weekend we plowed through a couple of those steps and barely had time to take a break.  Plus, it was in the nineties so if we had taken a break, we probably would have just drowned in our sweat and died with 2 x 8's in our hands.

We actually started on the top level of the deck which is the level you walk out onto from the kitchen door.

Since we raced through a bunch of the steps and the pictures aren't that clear unless you're down in the dirt with us, I found this cutaway diagram to show all the steps to building the deck.  To date, we've done all of the foundations, posts, all of the beams, some joists, and some of the decking. 

(Via eHow)

So, here are the pictures of our weekend's progress.  Most are taken from the kitchen door, since that's how we're going to get to the deck and it's the prospective that's changing the most, not to mention being in the kitchen = air conditioning.

Here's looking directly out the back door and you can see the posts are up and the top layer of decking is already in.  We did the top layer first since it was so close to the house it was easier to get the tools in the tight spots without having to work around framing below, (excuse the lunch mess).

To the left you can see the continuation of the top level, with the extension starting to take place that will eventually house the grill full-time.  We made it a little wider on the end so our grill can sit against the railing and have enough room on either side.  This will be the grilling corner. 

Below the grill corner, you can see Mike measuring for the beams that we've started.  Just like the top level, the beams will continue across and connect all of the posts.  Here's a view from the garage looking at the house.

Finally, all of the beams were attached and the outline of the deck was starting to take shape.  To complete the beam construction, all of the tops of the posts had to be cut down level with the beams so that the framing could sit on them.  Since our sawzall's blade was dull, Mike wasted no time and grabbed the chainsaw to cut them off.

Since the start of writing this post and now, we've already finished most of the framing for the bottom level, so look out for an update soon, because we're cruising right along!

Deck Build | Part Three - Digging to China

Like our garage build, the first part of building the deck was to layout the foundations.  We used some spray paint to layout all the future foundations for all the posts, and after we were done, it looked like out backyard had a bad case of chickenpox.

The red dots actually point out a very precise nail head, (because Mike's a perfectionist), and while almost all of the points were pretty easy to mark, there were two that gave us trouble.  As we were determining the points for the foundations that would support the overhang supports, I had some trouble nailing the nails into the ground.  After a little digging, we realized why.

There was some sort of foundation left over from the porch.  So, we dug, and dug some more, and realized it was a piece of block that was used to build our basement foundation.      

At least they used some sort of foundation for the porch, and I guess since the porch didn't collapse it worked, but Mike definitely doesn't half-ass, (unlike the previous owners, which obviously goes all the way back to the original builder), so they had to come out.  And, after a lot of digging, and wedging, and even a moment of craziness when Mike listened to my suggestion and tried to "just pull it out", Mike finally got them completely uncovered and was able to get them out.

From the giant holes we just dug, you'd think that we wouldn't need to dig any more, but we had to make sure we had the correct points for the foundations for the posts, so Mike filled the holes back up and we laid out the correct points.

The next day, Mike rented an auger to dig all the foundations and thankfully Kyle came over to help.  Like I've mentioned before, these are big boy toys and I wouldn't want to deprive them of the playtime.

Sometimes, I wasn't sure if they were really working or in fact just playing.

When they were done digging all the holes our yard looked less chickenpox-y and more like Swiss cheese. 

And to give you some reference point at how deep these holes are, Mike (in the name of documentation), said he would jump inside one of the holes to show you:

And, amazingly, besides the surprise blocks we found earlier, the day was pretty uneventful expect for a small meeting between the auger and our downspout drainage pipe that runs out to the backyard.  Since it was dry and there wasn't any water running through it, it was pretty easy for Mike to fix after a trip to Home Depot to get a new section of corrugated piping.

After all the holes were dug, Kyle and Mike spent the next couple days filling them all with concrete.  While our original estimate, (and delivery), called for only 25 bags of concrete, the holes were a little bigger and deeper than technically needed, so we had to have more delivered and ended up using 77 bags total.  At 80 pounds per bag, that's 6,160 pounds the guys shlepped across the yard, mixed and poured!

Since it started raining and got muddy, I didn't take any pictures, but the next step is more fun anyways.  Come back to see the posts and framing go up!

You Are My Sunshine

I know I'm a little late on this trend, but I've wanted a starburst mirror in my house since day one.  After unsuccessfully trying to incorporate it into various rooms, I've finally found a home.  The master bedroom.  Much to Mike's dismay, since he's not a big fan of decorating with mirrors.  I know he's weird, but he loves me enough to let me get my mirror on in almost every room.

So, with my decision to DIY a sunburst mirror made up, I turned to Google for some inspiration.  And let me tell you, there are tons of DIY goodness out there.  Here's a few examples, each using different materials to get a unique look:

Paint Stick Sunburst Mirror (via Centsational Girl)

Poster Board Sunburst Mirror (via The Nester)
Wood Shims Sunburst Mirror (via Crazy Wonderful)

Bamboo Sticks Sunburst Mirror (via Isabella & Max Rooms)

And while these are all great tutorials, I wanted something a little different.  So, I found this mirror from Global Views (sold for over $400 at and used it as inspiration:

(via Global Views)

I got all of my materials at Hobby Lobby including: a 10" round beveled mirror (which was $4.99 and 50% off!), three 10" wooden rounds, (I ended up only using 2), 5 packs of 12" wooden sticks, (20 sticks per pack), white spray paint, and a pack of Ultrafast Epoxy Cement.  All for less than $20.  I used wood glue to glue all the dowels together, but we already had that on hand.

I used the wooden round as my base and began by placing the dowels in a pattern I liked around the circle.

Then I realized it wouldn't fit on the table to I moved everything to the floor and laid out about half of it, then I got tired of placing everything so, I started gluing.  Yes, this could have turned out bad, but I got lazy. 

Then Mike came upstairs and told me that wood glue doesn't come out of carpet, or anything non-wood in general, so I got scared and moved it back up to the desk.  I was getting tired of moving this thing back and forth at this point.
I kept the basic design overall, but I didn't want it perfectly spaced, so I squeezed some here, and spaced some there.  I did draw a halfway line before gluing anything to give me some sort of checkpoint into the gluing.  Luckily I ended up matching up.  When I got to the end I did have to cut a few of the dowels to keep them relatively lined up, but since I covered the back later on, no one will ever know.
After waiting overnight for the glue to dry, I took it outside and spray painted everything white.  This is where I would post the spray paint action shot, but when it's 90 degrees plus, like it was last weekend, the last thing I want to do is run around trying to find camera and take pictures.  Sorry, Charlie.

As the paint was drying, I used a brush to paint the second wooden piece white.  (I like a good spray painting as much as the next crafter, but I like a good ol' paint and brush better.)  After both of these dried I used the wood glue to glue to the back of the dowels, (sandwiching the dowels between the two round pieces).  Since no one will see the back of your mirror, this step isn't that necessary, but I was making it up as I went and I felt like having a flat back would be better to add hardware later.

After all of this was dry, (more time was spent drying than actually assembling this mirror if anyone is keeping track), I added a little sawtooth hanging hardware that we had in the garage.  I used the little nails in the package and although they were a hair too long, they didn't fully break through the front and it was being covered by the mirror anyways so it wouldn't matter.  This is where I was glad I added that second round piece to give it a little bit more thickness.

I used the epoxy to add the mirror the front.  I used epoxy because in my neurotic mind I wanted to make sure the mirror didn't fall off and somehow jump off the wall and hit either of us in the head while we were sleeping.  Fat chance I know, but for less than $4 I wanted to be safe.  Then I put as much random stuff I had lying close by as weights and let that sit for 24 hours as directed on the package.  Here's the package from the epoxy I bought.  The stuff didn't stay in my house for too long after I was done because it smelled horrible.   

 Here's the mirror after 24 hours:

Then I had to wait even longer while Mike finished up some projects out back like tearing down the porch before he could help me hang it.  I could have hung it myself, but I definitely needed someone to hold it while I stood back and checked it.  Usually this involves moving it up and down 27 times, an inch at a time, before I find the perfect spot for it, but amazingly, Mike held it up to the wall while I was grabbing the supplies and I walked it and it was perfect.  To make sure I was in the center of the headboard, I used the laser level from the center board and drew a very faint vertical line.  Then I just had to eyeball the height I wanted and then drill the screw along my pencil line.  I also used the tape trick to save on clean-up: fold a piece of tape in half and tape under the spot where you're going to drill.  It catches all the dust and then you remove the tape and don't have to vacuum:

So, we used a screw, (which we always use to hang thing around the house - due to mostly plaster walls, most of the time pre-drilling just to be safe), to hang the mirror and after a couple round of 'Find the hook with the screw', we were done!

Since I don't have a nice DSLR camera, (yet), I have to settle for our crappy point and shoot, but the entire reason for this project was because of my little photo shoot with our friend's Canon Rebel XSi a couple weeks ago, which made me aware that the space above the bed was a little lacking:

And now:

Man, I hope I see my own Canon Rebel under the Christmas tree this year.  It's even worse when you see the pictures from each camera right next to each other.

Deck Build | Part Two - Pantry No More

You may be wondering why a pantry is part of our deck build, but let me explain.  For those with a very detailed eye, you may have noticed an unnecessary patch of siding along the back of our house:

The reason for the extra bit is because behind it is a pantry.

Still not following?  Well, the pantry is actually just a cover-up for an old exterior door.  As our realtor described to us, our house was probably built by a rubber company worker, and this door would have been used to go straight downstairs to the basement bathroom to shower and clean-up.  Makes sense.  Except sometime they added another exterior door 4 feet to the right (probably in the 70's when the updated the kitchen), so they covered the door in the middle of the stairs with a built in cupboard, that we've been using as a pantry since our kitchen is the size of large sardine can.

While the extra storage was nice, it wasn't ideal.  Mainly the location.  The stairway is pretty narrow to begin with, but having cupboard doors open makes it impossible to maneuver.  Let me show you what I mean:

Not to mention, adding a cupboard the depth of the wall in the old doorway leaves no room to add something very important - insulation!  It's nice for only one thing, in the winter I put all my drinks in the pantry and when I get them out, they're already chilled for me.  Not so nice for keeping our stairwell warm.

So now that I've got you up to speed on our stairwell doorway/pantry/chillbox, we can get down to the nitty gritty, tearing it out!

We knew moving in, that we would have to get rid of it, if for nothing else but to add the necessary insulation.  But, since we're adding the deck on, it was a good time to do it and do it right.  The first step was taking off the cabinets and removing the trim.

Then Mike went outside and removed the bottom pieces of the siding to see what we were working with:

It turns out, not much.

So then he removed the shelving, which came out in one piece then folded on itself like an accordion, and the backing.

After throwing everything in the back of the truck, (which was later taken to a dumpster specifically for recyclable construction materials), Mike got to work filling in the CMU wall.  He worked from outside mostly, but also came inside and was able to work on both sides.  I was too busy painting in the garage to take any pictures but here's the finished wall from the inside:

Then, Mike framed everything out and added some "GREAT STUFF Foam Insulation" (that you can pick up from Home Depot for less than $5), to fill all the cracks.  (Fun fact, foam insulation sticks to cat fur and whiskers if they decide to check it out when you're not at home, and cats don't like when you try to pull it off - something I found out today at lunch after noticing white globs all over Benelli).

On the exterior, he added the framing and filled in the siding, so now we have a uniform wall to add the deck to.

Now, we just have to add the insulation and a piece of drywall and no one will ever know that a doorway/pantry ever existed.  Except Benelli, who sits on the stair landing and stares at the new wall all day long.  I'd like to think it's because he's admiring his dad's handy work, but I think it has more to do with the fact that his treats were stored in the pantry.  I don't think he gets the fact that they've just been moved and not gone forever.  Or maybe he's just planning another face plant into the foam again.

Delivery or Pick-Up? (Deck Build | Part One)

While I'm waiting for my latest DIY project to dry so that I can hang it up, (hint, hint), I thought I'd share a little of what we did last night.

When I came home from work, I found someone had delivered us some goodies in the form of treated lumber and cement:

We had to laugh, because I don't think the truck driver could have placed it anywhere else that would have effectively made the most amount of our driveway useless.

You'll remember in my last post I talked about the changes we made to the deck design.  We ended up going with the second design and ordered all the materials needed.  Before we started laying out the deck though, something had to go.

Here's a photo of the back of our house for reference:

Yep, our much-used back porch had to go.  And it was time.  That thing saw more action than...(insert joke here, PG or R, I'll let you choose).  It's hard to capture the true state of the porch in photos but I'll try.

First up we have the detached handrail.  You know when you go up a set of stairs too fast and trip a little, but thankfully you can quickly grab onto the handrail and right yourself before hurting something or making a fool of yourself?  Yeah, with this handrail you'd probably continue falling, but also bring the handrail with you.  Not the safest "safety railing" around.  The arrow shows where the steps have rotted out and are no longer attached to the screws of the handrail and kinda wobble back and forth if anyone breaths too hard:

Then we have the Leaning Back Porch of Pisa.  Notice the right side's mean swagger:

Finally, Mike wanted to make sure the overhang was well supported with some 2x6's before he removed the porch so it didn't fall on top of anyone.  But, it turns out the overhang was Superman and has been supporting itself for awhile and could have crushed us at any given moment.  I'll let this highly cinematic video show you what Mike found after removing the handrails and downspout, (sorry I didn't realize I shouldn't rotate the camera when filming, but you get the idea):

Yeah, that's the support not connected to the porch, at all.  The wood underneath had completely rotted out.  Little did we know we were putting our own lives at stake every time we walked on the porch.  Yesterday I forgot my keys, then my wallet.  I could have died 5 times yesterday alone!

So after knowing about the death trap we had behind us, it was time to say buh-bye.  At this point I was lucky I got pictures before Mike destroyed it all.  He wouldn't stop so I just clicked away:

Here's the first glimpse of the pretty green color of the original siding.  And by pretty, I mean how awesome would that color look on a ruffled pillow in a shabby chic room?  As the color of my house though?  Hells no!

And when tools don't do the job, just start jumping on it:

Nice.  More outdoor carpeting.

From the kitchen door, watching the porch fly-by:

Mike wearing his lady headband to prevent the sweat from getting in his eyes.  He lost his more manly one and this is what I stuck him with, then took pictures, then posted them on the internet for everyone to see.  Poor guy.

I was kinda disappointed we didn't find anything cool under there, like a dead body or an old treasure.  We did find some weird old glass jars with dried yellow stuff.  Womp womp.

After the clean-up we were left with just a shadow of what was once there.  Literally a shadow, since they painted around it:

And don't worry, I've only opened the back door to walk out just once or twice.  I've since kept the door locked to prevent myself from falling out.