Group 6 3 minutes Read

deck progress: week three

Lauren Zerbey

With the framing complete, we were finally able to start the deck boards last week. And you know what? It is taking forever. So we don’t have a completed deck to show you just yet, but we do have ample Bailey photos so we hope that will help fill the void. Metaphorically speaking of course, it’s not like Bailey actually helped fill any voids in our deck. As usual, his home improvement skills are seriously lacking.

For the decking material, we chose ipe (a Brazilian hardwood, pronounced “e-pay” ). Ipe is a good choice for a deck because it is durable, naturally resistant to rot and never has to be refinished (unless you want to). We used the same wood for our front stoop and have been really happy with it.  The downside of course is that because it is so tough, every single hole must be pre-drilled and having quality drill bits is key. 

So last weekend, Kyle and Anton started with the upper two platforms that lead from the back door down to the main deck. We knew these smaller, more fussy parts would take longer and we were not disappointed.

Fortunately, Bailey and his buddy Chase kept themselves entertained on the make-shift plank walk that was temporarily installed to access the upper deck levels.

Y’know, the ONE point of access to get from the yard to the back door.

See what I mean? Lazy and obtrusive golden…

We bought our ipe (via Craigslist) from East Teak in Sultan, WA. Like most quality decking, ipe is not cheap, so we were intrigued to find that East Teak was selling their stock of non-perfect boards for about half the price.  These boards were advertised as having imperfections in the wood (like splits, knots, etc.) as well as some bowing. Concerned about the appearance of the wood (and that it would be a total nightmare to install) Kyle drove over to Sultan a few weeks ago to check the goods out in person. The verdict? The flaws were minor and definitely worth the 50% savings.

Progress was slow over the weekend and Bailey finally got bored and retreated to the side of the house for a little afternoon snooze by the trash can.

On Tuesday night, the first of the main deck boards were installed! After laying out the first row of boards, we snapped a chalk line at each joist location to mark where to pre-drill the holes and told Bailey not to walk on the loose boards. Apparently, he likes to live on the edge.

Since some of the boards are bowed, Kyle is using this fancy BoWrench tool (that he picked up at a local hardware store) to straighten out the boards.  Basically, one end of the wrench has a saddle that sits over the joist and uses it as a brace to bend the deck board straight. Once the boards are screwed in (we used 316 grade stainless steel, 6-lobe screws for extra durability – we’ll show more detail photos in the next post), the wrench is removed and voila – straight boards! Also, instead of butting the boards together, Kyle is using a piece of 1/8″ steel as a spacer (providing a small gap between boards allows water to flow through but isn’t big enough to be a tripping hazard).

Here’s a look at the corner detail for one of the landings at the back door. The edge boards were installed to be flush with the top of the horizontal boards. This protects the end grain of the flat boards and also helps serve as a guide during installation.  I’m a little worried about pine needles and other stuff collecting in this slightly wider gap, but in general we think it looks good and will be worth the trade-offs.

The color of the ipe really varies with how the sun is hitting it (and of course, if it’s wet). After everything is installed, we plan on sanding the wood and putting a protective finish on it. It’s not a routine that would have to be maintained (like cedar, ipe grays out a bit over time), but the process usually brightens the wood and brings out the reddish-brown hues that ipe is known for.

The cut ends of the boards are coated with paraffin wax as extra protection (you can see the still-wet evidence in the photo above).

By dusk on Wednesday, about half of the deck boards were down and either screwed in or at least pre-drilled.  To create a smooth border at the deck edge (on the left in the photo above) Kyle just ran the boards a little long and then snapped  a chalk line and zipped the skillsaw across to create a clean edge. (We’ll eventually have a planter box on this end to hide the exposed framing.)

And here are a few shots of the current status:

(As a reminder, the deck was specifically designed this way to avoid guardrails and handrails that would otherwise be required by the building code.)

A cool art installation or a half-finished deck? You decide.

(Note: we put a lot of thought and research into the type of decking we chose and its environmental impact. I was going to talk about those decisions here, but thought it might worth an entire post. Stay tuned.)