All Hands On The Deck!

I’ve been remiss in crafting a full account of the deck replacement project I undertook this past spring. At long last, here’s the blow-by-blow of the 100 days from crane lift to crane lift!

The first day of the project, (March 14th), was all about getting the 1,300 lb. corten steel railing lifted off the deck and carefully lowered to the desert just to the south of the deck. We contacted Tempe Crane & Rigging, got it scheduled and I invited Bill Byrne to join me the morning of the lift, since he’d done this before. The entire effort took 45 minutes from the moment the crane backed down the driveway until they were done with the lift – incredible!

Here’s what the roof over the Laundry looked like after I’d removed the redwood planks and swept up the crud. Notice the three scalloped 2″ X 4″ nailers spaced out at roughly 36″ intervals, as well as the 2″ X 4″ nailer pushed tight to the copper cladding along the wall beneath the window/door.

The nailers were held in place with four screws each, and were easily removed. The next step was to peel the old asphalt sheathing up, exposing the 5/8″ OSB underlayment below. I also removed two short pieces of copper which were hidden behind the 2″ X 4″ nailer that ran along the wall beneath the window/door, and pulled up the old cant strips, all of which would be replaced when the new Laundry roof was installed. There were two short 2″ X 4″ blocks in the corner to the right of the door and those were removed as well, exposing the vent pipe for the plumbing in the laundry and four lengths of Romex®. The blocking would be replaced with thinner pieces of OSB instead, with the intent of reducing the complexity of the intersecting elements in that corner, (the blocking, cant strips and asphalt membrane seams).

Yikes – this is what twenty years of exposure to the elements does to wood in the desert! The image below is of the joint where a 6″ X 10″ beam above the door leading from the Laundry to the lower-level patio space beneath the deck intersected a 4″ X 10″ ledger beam extending from the CMU wall at the east end of the deck to the copper cladding on the east exterior wall of the Master Bedroom. In the second image below you can see where that 4″ X 10″ ledger slips neatly into a void in the copper cladding, (study the upper left-hand corner of the photograph to see it), resting in the channel of an enormous structural I beam tracing the perimeter of the upper floor of the house.

By the time Martha captured this next image, several weeks had gone by and numerous roof-related questions had been answered. I chose to plane the 4″ X 10″ ledger running along the north perimeter of the deck, (above the Laundry), down so it was level with the original OSB underlayment, then re-sheath the entire laundry roof with 1/2″ OSB underlayment over everything.

You can also see the new cant strips running along the west perimeter, the corner and the north perimeter of the Laundry roof, tapering at either end.

The 10″ X 11′ strip of cold-rolled steel reinforcing the south edge of the Laundry roof and providing support for the copper cladding that’s wrapped up and around the edge has been carefully cleaned, (removing all traces of silicone caulking), and a brand new 7′ long ‘Z’-shaped piece of custom-fabricated cold-rolled steel has been installed along the east edge of the Laundry roof.

This new steel “shelf” was conceived to address what had been two historic points of water intrusion in the Laundry. Benjamin Hall, (who worked for Will Bruder’s office when we purchased the Byrne residence back in 2010), came up with a clever design, completely isolating the Laundry roof from the large beams/ledgers supporting the deck above. We decided to position the lag bolts securing the steel to the Laundry roof/wall behind/beneath the contact points for the beams/ledgers supporting the deck, both protecting them from future rains and preserving the crispness of the original design.

In the foreground, you’ll see two steel “knives” projecting from the “shelf”. These knives slide into narrow cuts on the end of both 6″ X 10″ Douglas Fir beams spanning the distance between the Laundry and the steel I beams supported by CMU piers at the other end of the deck. Both of these knives have two holes drilled in them and bolts are threaded through the beams and these knives, firmly tying the deck to the rest of the surrounding structure. In the lower right-hand corner of the image you’ll see two lengths of Romex® encased in a 90° PVC sleeve poking up through the roof. The Romex® will be pulled through outdoor-rated conduit to a 12V transformer powering the low voltage fixtures on the patio, (the transformer itself is at the opposite end of the deck).

This next image was taken about 24 hours later – right in the middle of the installation process – after the first layer of a two-layer, cold-applied membrane was in place. The roofing company installed extra reinforcement in the corner, (upper right-hand corner), and around the 90° PVC sleeve protecting the Romex®, (lower right-hand corner), to reduce the risk of water intrusion.

…and a photograph of the roof membrane in finished form.

We were thrilled to be able to once again engage Tin Works, Inc., (the company responsible for all of the original copper cladding at the Byrne residence), after it became readily apparent additional copper flashing was needed to address the final historic point of water intrusion in the Laundry. The very clever folks at Tin Works came up with a complex folded form, (meaning no seams), so the copper flashing would fit snugly into the ‘U’-shaped recess formed by the corten steel box beam supporting the perforated steel panels and the top of the CMU wall surrounding the deck.

Additionally, a final fold in the copper, bent at 45°, extended the copper flashing down at the same angle of the cant strip beneath the two-part cold-applied roofing membrane, making it impossible for water to seep into any of the seams between the original copper cladding on the wall beneath the window/door, the corten steel box beam or the CMU wall in the Laundry. All of the joints in the copper flashing were soldered and rust-colored putty was applied to obscure the solder from view – isn’t it spectacular!

With the water intrusion-related concerns now dealt with, my attention turned to demolishing the remaining portion of the deck. This next image was taken on the day I pulled off the remaining planks and began systematically chopping up the beams and ledgers, all of which ended up in a 30-cubic yard dumpster delivered the week prior. To catch everyone up, we’re almost 60 days into what would ultimately turn out to be a 100 day project, start to finish. …and I still had demolition-related work to get done!

Twenty-four hours later all of the old planks, beams and ledgers were gone!

This next image was taken roughly one week after I’d wrapped up almost all of the demolition-related work, except for the non-trivial task of having to temporarily remove the two steel I-beams resting on top of the CMU piers, (visible in the image below), so the new 4″ X 10″ Douglas Fir ledgers could be installed behind them.

Yup, you guessed it – I soon discovered these two steel I-beams were, in fact, welded to steel plates which, in turn, had 1″ diameter steel rods welded to them and were encased in the concrete filling the piers. Yikes! In short, cutting the eight welds holding the two steel I-beams to the four steel plates was – by far – the most straightforward approach to take, since I had to make it possible to replace the ledgers sandwiched between those steel I-beams and the surrounding CMU walls. I’d end up scheduling Cave Creek Welding, Inc. shortly after the new ledgers were installed to re-weld the steel I-beams back into place. Problem solved!

I enlisted the help of three – yes, three – young architects, (who also happen to be dear friends of ours), to assist me one Saturday in late May while we installed the six 4″ X 10″ Douglas Fir ledgers around the perimeter of the deck. Even with the collective muscle-power of four people, the Genie Lift™ proved to be an invaluable tool that day! We strategically placed the joints between ledgers behind the first steel I-beam, then proceeded to get the other three hoisted into place. I cannot overstate how much I appreciated the tireless efforts of Jonathan Ammon, Benjamin Hall and Fred Prozzillo that day!

Here’s an image Martha captured while standing at the edge of the Laundry roof, (looking east).

Within a week, Cave Creek Welding was able to re-weld the I-beams back into place. We opted to tack zinc-plated bolts onto the vertical portion of the channels of each steel I-beam, making it possible to install blocking behind the joist hangers supporting the two 6″ X 10″ Douglas Fir beams and two 6″ X 12″ glue-laminated beams installed between the two steel I-beams. I’ll explain why we chose to install this blocking later on in the post…

…another shameless plug for the Genie Lift™ 🙂 There were a number of details I could now address including: waterproofing the 4″ X 10″ ledgers, building prototypes – yes, prototypes – of the blocking and nailers used on the steel I-beams, cleaning up the surfaces of the corten box beam/top course of the CMU wall surrounding the deck, installing the six joist hangers and test-fitting the two 6″ X 12″ glue-laminated beams.

Several weeks prior, I’d visited Spellman Hardwoods to hand-select the incense cedar blanks which would be custom-milled to the exact dimensions matching the original western red cedar planks used when the Byrne residence was built. Bill Byrne graciously replaced all of the original deck planks in 2010, (the year we agreed to purchase the house), with redwood, (vs. western red cedar), thinking the harder wood would, in fact, resist deterioration longer than the original cedar had. We were both surprised to see the replacement redwood planks didn’t hold up as well as the original cedar planks had!

With the cedar planks delivered, it was time to fabricate the re-designed nailers for the Laundry roof and begin waterproofing. Rather than re-create the narrower, scalloped 2″ X 4″ nailers which had to be attached to the Laundry roof, we came up with a mild revision – a 6″ X 6″ plate, lifted 1 7/8″ above the roof surface, spaced 22″ on center. These nailers would merely rest on the Laundry roof and support the cedar planks attached to them from above, eliminating the need to puncture the roofing membrane. I milled Douglas Fir down so the top of each nailer was level with the 4″ X 10″ ledger attached to the CMU wall and the 4″ X 10″ ledger supported by the steel column/saddle shown in an earlier picture, (above).

The 45° bevel at one end of each nailer matched the angle of the copper flashing installed by Tin Works Inc., allowing each nailer to be placed within 1/2″ of the copper clad wall beneath the window/door, thus eliminating the need for the 2″ X 4″ nailer pushed tight to the copper cladding along the wall beneath the window/door found in the second photograph at the very top of this post.

Said differently, with this subtle refinement I eliminated one particular nailer altogether, as well as the silicone caulk seam running the length of the first cedar deck plank and the copper clad wall. Instead, water would simply flow down the copper cladding, onto the copper flashing and then onto the roof membrane via a 3/16″ gap left between the copper cladding and the first cedar plank. The intent behind this small, yet important, refinement was to eliminate the potential for water to collect on any surface other than the horizontal surface of the cedar planks themselves. Once water found its way onto the Laundry roof, the combination of the 45° bevel in the copper flashing and the 4° pitch of the Laundry roof itself would cause it to flow east, (away from the copper clad wall), and south, (away from the CMU wall); basically off the Laundry roof entirely.

Once I had all the ledgers, glue-laminated beams and nailers in place, it was time to tackle the two largest, longest and most cumbersome Douglas Fir beams. Each of these beams were 6″ X 10″ X 20′ and weighed hundreds of pounds! I enlisted Todd Laurent, a master craftsman who has been involved with quite a few of the refinements at the Byrne residence, to help me with what I regard as the two most crucial beams I had to contend with on this project. The end of the beam you can see in the foreground of the following photograph had to be carefully sliced to receive the “knife” I described earlier, as well as two ‘U’-shaped recesses had to be routed into the end of each beam to accommodate the heads of the lag bolts attaching the “shelf” to the Laundry roof/wall. The clearance at either end of these two massive beams was right around 1/16″ – the beams would slide into place only if they were lowered evenly – that’s how precise those cuts were!

Here’s what the first of those two beams looked like once it was dropped into place:

…and two other images Martha captured with both beams in place, (and the blue tape I used to get everything aligned is visible too):

Two days later both 6″ X 10″ Douglas Fir beams were waterproofed, and I was ready to start dry-fitting incense cedar deck planks!

…this is probably a good spot to pause and point out a number of details in the image below – there’s a lot going on!!!

In the foreground, (toward the bottom of the photograph), you’ll see the word “TOP” stenciled on both glue-laminated beams. Each were custom-cut to fit in the spaces between the two steel I-beams and both oriented so the load – or force exerted on them – would be applied to the correct surface of the beam, (the top). The astute reader might have also noticed these are relatively short spans, measuring only 5 to 6 feet between the steel I-beams… Why do we need such strong pieces of lumber at this end of the deck? In fact, why are there two steel I-beams sitting on four CMU piers at this end of the deck? It’s all due to an interesting – and unrealized – feature factored into the original design of the Byrne residence – a custom-cast, two-person, acrylic hot tub! Can you believe it?! Yes, the original plans called for a specially-designed acrylic oval to be placed at the eastern end of the deck and illuminated from below. This is why both the steel I-beams and glue-laminated beams were specified – they’re there to support several thousand of pounds water!

In the center of the image you can see the six joist hangers – two Simpson HW610 and four Simpson HU5.25/12TF – used to secure the two Douglas Fir and two glue-laminated beams. The reason for the blocking carefully slipped into the channel of the steel I-beams becomes apparent too – it provides a surface for the joist hanger to rest against, allowing me to make full use of all six screw/nail holes on either side of the hanger itself! The original joist hangers were secured with four nails on the top flange, (two on either side), and four nails on the vertical flange, (two on either side), leaving the bottom four holes empty. While this configuration met – and does meet – building code, (believe me, I researched this extensively), I really wanted to secure the new hangers to the fullest extent possible, (hence the blocking).

You might also have noticed the three 2″ diameter holes along the horizontal surface of the Douglas Fir nailer resting on top of each steel I-beam. Inside each is a shallow cut 2″ in diameter, and a 1″ diameter hole penetrating the nailer. These holes slip over threaded bolts which were tacked to the top flange of the steel I-beams, making it possible to couple the nailer to the beam securely. It’s also probably worth noting I attempted to reuse original nuts and washers wherever possible. Corrosion weakened two of the bolts on the top surface of one steel I-beam, but Cave Creek Welding, Inc. came to the rescue – we replaced those two with new zinc-plated equivalents and re-used the original nuts and washers!

Lastly, the flexible conduit in the foreground was installed in 2012 when we completely refreshed the landscaping – this routes power from the main circuit breaker panel near the garage to a 12V transformer driving the low voltage lighting along the path looping down across the southern slope of the property. The transformer driving the low voltage lights on the patio is located opposite this one, (back toward the eastern end of the deck – both attached to the CMU wall behind the second pair of CMU piers, so they’re almost completely out of sight).

…the very next day [somewhere around day 85] I would begin dry-fitting incense cedar planks!

I’ve posted separately about our wonderful encounters with wildlife this year, especially the visits from Gila Monsters! There were five separate visits by two different Gila Monsters between March 14th and June 23rd, three of which happened in a five day stretch! 🙂 Martha spent over an hour capturing various images of this beautiful specimen!

Here’s an image I captured highlighting one final piece of copper flashing placed above the Laundry room door, where the flashing transitions from the Laundry roof to the 4″ X 10″ Douglas Fir ledger bolted to the CMU wall. If you look carefully, you’ll see how the flashing extends to cover the full width of the ledger and the CMU wall, then bends 90° to cover the side of the box beam, then another 90° bend at the top of the box beam so the flashing extends to the edge of the steel plate welded to the top of the box beam, where it folds 180° back onto itself for strength. There’s no place for water to go other than out to the edge of the flashing and drip off the vertical drip ledge, even if water runs down between the cedar planks.

At the top and bottom edges of the photograph you’ll catch a glimpse of the rubber-backed aluminum flashing applied to the horizontal surfaces as well, (more on this in a moment).

A closer look at what I was describing earlier, (the joist hangers), and a peek at the level of detailing required to achieve a perfect fit with each incense cedar plank, especially those resting on top of the nailers with joist hangers! The gap between deck planks is 3/16″ from one end of the deck to the other end. I achieved this by drilling 3/16″ holes in a scrap piece of cedar and inserting 3/16″ dowels in the holes, then dropping the dowels down in between each successive cedar plank as I dry fit them. By doing so, I knew precisely where a given cedar plank would either bump up against – or ride over the top of – a joist hanger, and thus I knew how long the traces needed to be for the router to follow. While all of the cedar planks had received an initial coat of Thompson’s WaterSeal® on all six sides, each plank received another coat wherever material was removed with the router, and then, once the deck planks were all permanently attached, two more coats on the exposed horizontal surface.

In addition to the Olympic Waterproofing Sealant used on the Douglas Fir ledgers, beams and glue-laminated beams, I applied a flexible rubber-backed aluminum flashing to just the horizontal surfaces covered by the cedar planks. During demolition, I discovered Bill Byrne had applied this very same material, albeit only selectively, whereas I applied it to every horizontal surface. You catch a glimpse of it in the photograph below – in this case, it’s on the horizontal surface of the 6″ X 10″ Douglas Fir beam. The ceramic-coated 3″ fasteners I used are also visible in this image, as are the oh-so-crucial blue chalk lines I relied on to line up the plastic template I fabricated to ensure the holes I pre-drilled for the fasteners were at the exact same place on every cedar plank. You can also see the clever jig I fabricated to gap the cedar planks precisely 3/16″ apart, (described above).

…and this is the magical effect we get to enjoy right around noon most days as the sun passes directly overhead, beaming down in the gap between the cedar planks – it was definitely worth the effort!

With the cedar planks permanently screwed into place, it was time to snap the final blue chalk line and carefully remove the uneven ends. Again, freshly-exposed cedar surfaces received a coat of waterproofing before moving onto the next step.

In this image you can barely make out the light sanding to remove the blue chalk lines.

I’m applying the first of two additional coats of Thompson’s Water Seal to the top/exposed surface of each cedar plank.

…and a couple of fantastic photographs Martha captured the morning after I’d applied that first additional coat.

All that was left at this point was to schedule Tempe Crane & Rigging to lift the 1,300 lb. corten steel railing back onto the deck and secure it into place. Just as before, this entire effort took 45 minutes from start to finish. These guys are magicians, no doubt about it! The deck landed exactly where it had been some 100 days before – the single lag screw attaching it to the side of the house slipped back into place at precisely 90° relative to the wall, and the corten steel base extended precisely 1″ beyond the edge of the cedar planks, just as it had before.

Later on that day, (Tuesday, June 27th – day number 100), I pre-drilled the holes for the lag screws and ratcheted all 16 of them in place – finished!

I’ll wrap up this post with three images we’ve already shared on the “Recent News” page – my three favorite perspectives of the deck!

It took several weeks to schedule Mickey Laurent, owner of Highlight Electrical, (and yes, brother of Todd Laurent), to pull the Romex® out to the 12V transformer and reconnect the paddle switch in the Laundry, but well worth the wait – he did an excellent job routing the flexible outdoor-rated conduit and getting everything wired back up/working perfectly!

The monsoon season produced several really powerful storms in the northeast quadrant of the valley, so we were able to fully test the new Laundry roof membrane and I’m happy to report there is absolutely no evidence of water intrusion anywhere! The waterproofing is producing the expected results too – huge beads of water sitting on the horizontal surfaces of the deck planks after a hard rain, and little-to-no water sitting on any of the vertical surfaces within minutes of the rains halting – a complete success!

I did power wash the deck in early September and re-applied the Thompson’s Water Seal one more time in anticipation of the inevitable winter storms. The incense cedar planks are starting to darken, and the corten steel elements surrounding portions of the deck are leaving their traces on some of the deck planks, as expected. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome either – structural integrity of the deck has been restored, historic sources of water intrusion completely remedied and a beautiful sequence of perfectly-aligned cedar planks stretch eastward from the Master Bedroom – bliss!