All Hands on Deck

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Decks are places for sitting on warm summer evenings, contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Decks are places to gather with friends, to exercise your culinary imagination on the grill, to feel fresh breezes wafting over your skin. Decks connect you to nature, yet keep you out of the dirt. Like I said, I love them.

Decks can also transform useless, wasted spaces into inviting retreats. This:

Photo by Trey Freeze
Photo by Trey Freeze

is much more inviting and useful than this:corner deck beforeThe deck outside the back door to our mid-century ranch was small, shabby, and deteriorating.

back deck before-crop

Rather than being additional living space connecting the house to the back yard, adding variety to the living environment, this deck’s sagging beams, badly weathered wood and  narrow, rickety stairs seemed to warn of danger to anyone intrepid enough to venture out the back door.

We wanted to completely revamp this area. In the first place, there was no reason for the deck to stop six feet short of the wall on the left in the picture above. It made no sense visually or functionally. We also wanted to drastically widen the stairs leading to the yard and the pool, joining the two areas by ease of access.

The other problem with the configuration of the back part of the house was that the afternoon sun blazed into the windows of the east wing – the left side of the picture above. We didn’t want to fully cover the space between the wings and create a cave, but we wanted something to cast a little shade to help with summertime air conditioning bills. So we decided on a pergola.

unnamedNone of the wood from the existing structure was in good enough condition to be used in the new construction. The new deck was built with pressure-treated lumber. The pergola was built of cedar. Nothing touched bare dirt – concrete footings were poured for all posts. The original, 1954 concrete back porch served as support for the portion of the deck closest to the house and the remainder rested on a couple dozen 4×4 posts hoisting 4×6 beams supporting 4×6 joists. The 8×8 cedar posts for the pergola extended through the deck and into their own concrete footings.

The goal, again, was to expand the interior into the exterior – make an exterior living space that joined inside to outside, transitioning from shelter to nature.

Photo by Trey Freeze
Photo by Trey Freeze
Photo by Trey Freeze
Photo by Trey Freeze

The pergola solved the scorching sun situation, yet allowed ample light.

And by eliminating the railing and widening the stairs to extend the entire width of the space, the deck – and by extension, the house – became open to the back yard and pool areas. The hand rail on the left of the picture below provided security for those with a bit of mobility impairment without creating an obstacle, either visually or functionally.

back deck after
Photo by Trey Freeze

By wrapping the structure around the east wall and connecting to a grade-level deck in the previously useless corner area, the whole deck sort of morphed into an organic part of the house.

Photo by Trey Freeze
Photo by Trey Freeze

For the next few posts, we’ll move inside, where some of the most drastic transformations took place.

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