How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My spade can reach, when digging out of sight
Into the sandy soils at your base.
I love thee because I figured, best case,
Digging four holes — forty-two inches deep,
And fourteen inches diameter, each —
At the rate I work, would take me four days.
But using our combined strength, Chris and I
Had those holes dug in just over an hour.
Then, as often happens, Chris had to fly;
And it didn’t take long for my mood to sour.
He packed his bags, and after we said good-bye,
I poured those footings using only my own power.
My iambic pentameter may be weak, but my deck is strong.
With the sonnet, I had to take a little creative liberty, because Lindsay, who can always be counted on for help with the filthiest manual-labor jobs, helped me pour two of the four footings, so I didn’t do it all with “only my own power.” But sonnets only have 14 lines, and finding a third word to rhyme with “hour” and “sour” was hard, and it’s Friday night and I’m writing a poem about my front porch instead of out doing whatever it is the cool kids are doing these days, so my ability to pentam iambically is diminished, and Lindsay will only get recognition in meme form.
The fact that it seriously only took me and Chris an hour to dig those holes by hand, though? That was totally worth writing a poem for. Murphy’s law pretty much explicitly states that there should have been a huge slab of granite spanning the entire width of the porch, buried at about 36″ so we didn’t find it until we’d already done a bunch of digging. Or at the very least, a buried gas line. Had I written this post back in July when we finished this stage of the project, instead of waiting until now, I would have repeatedly pointed out how lucky we are. Because “easy” almost never happens.
But then, you know, we got shot at while doing the framing, so now I think “lucky” might just be a matter of perspective.
I didn’t take any creative liberty with the deck structure, that’s for sure. Compared to how the deck was built before, this new one feels seriously overbuilt. It’s not — I only aimed as high as minimum code requirements — but it is a marvel of concrete and galvanized steel and pressure-treated lumber.
Where once we had a single brick placed under each post with no method of attachment other than the force of gravity, we now have 14″-diameter concrete footings that reach over 42″ into the ground, embedded with galvanized post anchors and attached to the posts with 12 nails apiece.
Where once we had a 4″x 4″ beam connected to those posts with a single nail each, we now have a 4″x6″ beam stuck on tight with galvanized post caps and another 12 nails apiece.
Where once the ledger board was simply a 2″x6″, attached to the house with a nail or two every couple of feet, we now have galvanized lag screws dotting the entire new 2″x8″ in a zig-zag pattern, every 8 inches. We even took the opportunity to add rigid foam up against the foundation, because, you know, Minnesota winters suck, and every little bit helps.
Where once our joists ran north-south and were spaced every 26″, we now have joists that run east-west and are attached with galvanized joist hangers every 12″. The close spacing isn’t for structural strength, mind you. It’s because I decided that the very first deck I build should have the boards laid diagonally, which requires closer joists.
And where once we had rotted indoor-outdoor carpet on top of rotted plywood on top of rotted 112-year-old decking, we now have solid 5/4″ pressure-treated planks. Laid diagonally. Because why do things the easy way when you could do them the pretty way?
You guys, I can jump up and down on the porch now. It doesn’t bounce anymore. For 10 years, I’ve had a bouncy porch. I kinda forgot that they come in non-bouncy varieties.
Okay, one more thing. Some people — I don’t know who, but they’re out there — come to my blog for DIY advice. (Apparently I haven’t made my incompetence as clear as I thought.) Now, for those people: I can’t tell you exactly how to build a deck, because building codes vary so much from place to place. For instance, if you don’t live in a place that has 8-month long winters, you probably don’t need to pour 42″-deep frost footings. And if your deck is bigger or smaller than mine, than the size of your joists and beams and the placement of posts will differ. So check your local building codes or hire a professional to figure that shit out.
What I can tell you, however, is that this tool is pretty spiffy:
I bought it just for this project and it was totally worth it. I am not affiliated with CAMO in any way, shape, or form; I just did some googling on hidden deck fastening systems and the Marksman Pro-X1 seemed cheap and DIY-friendly. And it was. I would recommend it even if you’re doing a smaller project. I ordered mine online from Home Depot (with which I am also not affiliated), but I’ve seen it at Lowe’s and Menards as well. It was $90 for a kit that included the tool, the driver bits, and enough screws to do a 250-square-foot deck. Worth every penny. And not a screw in sight.
Okay, one more one more thing. For anyone wondering how I went about choosing a stain/ weatherproofer: Thompson’s WaterSeal sent me four gallons of their solid-color water-proofing stain in Acorn Brown for free, a couple of years ago, because I attended a blogger conference. I am also not affiliated with Thompson’s but they did give me free stuff; and if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that nothing beats the low low price of “free.” So having four gallons of this stuff sitting in my basement was pretty much the sole factor in my decision-making matrix. I feel like I should say something else about the product itself, so…I like the color, and it was pretty easy to apply (only one coat!), and it has rained A LOT since I applied it and the water just beads up on the deck. But also it’s kind of hard to give an objective review after only a week or two, on a product that says it will last 5 years on decks or 15 years on a fence.
So I guess we’ll wait on that.
And together, those two tips exceed my useful-tip quota for this blog post, so we’re done here. Next time you see this porch, it will have railings on it!