Building a Deck by Myself (1)

(This series of blogs were posted on my in Chinese early 2009. Now, translate to English and re-post here.)

1. Prelude

In June 2008, a windstorm knocked down a 60-foot-tall locust tree in our backyard.


We were very lucky that our house was not hit. But the tree smashed the 20-year-old deck attached to the back of the house.
damedged_deck  damedged_deck2

The deck was not in good condition. Boards were split, and there was a lot of splinters. We had moved into the house in May 2004, we had not use the deck at all. We had been planning to rebuild it, but had not put that plan into action. Now that the deck was destroyed we decided it was time to build a new one.

I contacted a construction company. They sent a representative to give us an estimate. He took some measurement then sat down with us and asked if we wanted a composite or a wood deck. The boss (my lifetime boss) likes wood deck. But a wood deck needs to be painted and sealed every other year, to prevent splitting and to keep it looking good. To save that hassle, I convinced the Boss to opt for composite. The representative took out paper, a pen, a calculator, and started to work. When he was done, he said that  a new 18 x 14 foot wood deck would cost $18,000; a composite (Veranda) one would cost $21,000.

One estimate is never enough, so we asked Mike, our neighbor, for a recommendation of other companies. He recommended another one and that company also sent a representative who and quoted the price for a composite (Trex) deck at about $18-19,000.

I asked a few friends about deck costs. They said wooden decks are generally $15-$20 per square foot, and composite about $4 more per square foot. The prices we had been quoted were too high.


A few days later when I chatted with a friend over the Internet I mentioned about my deck. He said the construction is not that complicated, and suggested I try to do it myself. He also said don’t be afraid of making a few mistakes, Fairfax County would have to inspect for safety and they would catch any error. Besides, he said, “you have two boys (then ages 10 and 8), and the ‘do-it-yourself’ experience would be good for them.” I said I had never thought about building it myself and now let me think about it.

That night I sat in bed with my laptop, I went online to Fairfax County government website and found a document about Deck Construction Procedures and Requirements. After reading it, I decided it was feasible to do it myself. The next morning, I said to Boss that I would like to build the deck myself. Boss asked, “could you?” I said I should be able to and Boss approved.

I told neighbor Mike that I intended to build the deck myself. Mike is a retired Amy Colonel and very outgoing and cheerful. Our two families have become good friends. He said, “Are you nuts? If I were you, I’d get someone to build it, but if you really want to do it, I’ll be happy to come over often and watch you work, but don’t expect me to help.” I said no problem.

( next blog )