Saturday April 30 2016; Monday May 2 2016; Saturday May 7 / Sunday May 8 2016; Thursday January 26 2017
The act of building the decks didn’t take that long – finishing them, and then writing about it, has taken ages. There are two decks at 60k House: the bathroom deck (nicknamed ‘the Jetty’) and the main deck (no nickname yet). Each deck serves a purpose: the bathroom jetty is the outside shower platform; the main deck (once connected with the paved patio) will form the main outside entertaining area. Each of the decks extends the usable floor area, making a small house feel larger, while offering a different level of enclosure. This is a deliberate ploy for both the budget (it’s cheaper to build just a deck and not the walls and a roof) and also provides opportunity for engagement with the outside: the surrounding environment and the weather.
More than I bargained for
On the day I was to collect the Celery Top and Huon Pine for the bathroom Edwin the sawmiller called me to ask if I could pick up a couple of saw blades on my way down – they had just broken their last blade cutting my final decking boards. I borrowed my mate’s ute for the long drive down past Geeveston: it’s less than 20km from Police Point to Flowerpot as the crow flies but over 70km as the Hilux drives. I left with the timber, a couple of slabs of Huon Pine for the bathroom vanity, a discount and a handful of organic garlic! I racked and stacked the timber and let it dry for nearly five months before I was ready to use it.
Edwin and his son James delivered the second, larger load of Celery Top for the main deck. Edwin was apologetic to charge me $5/LM (linear meter) but explained he had to make a living. I didn’t mind – it wasn’t that much more expensive than cheap crappy treated pine decking, and heaps nicer! Celery Top is also distinctly Tasmanian – something I wanted 60k House to be. Celery Top has been used for timber decks on wooden boats – it’s not quite as water resistant as Huon Pine but is the next best thing.
Before we dug the piers I called the engineer to see if we could push the framing a bit harder to achieve a decent cantilever (extend beyond the supporting structure) with the joists. This cantilever (and the proportion) is probably why the bathroom deck is referred to as the jetty; the main deck is a more subtle floating appearance.
Josh used the auger on the back of his tractor to dig each of the footings. Greg was good enough to come around on a Saturday morning to help get my mate James and I setup. We taper cut the joists with the circular saw to fine the edge of the deck; we also tapered the end of the joists to minimise how much of the structure you can see, contributing to the floating effect.
Like so many things about this project it was interesting to see how Greg the builder approached any given building task. I was under the assumption you set the piers to the exact height required, pour the footings, wait a day for the concrete to go off before proceeding with the deck. Instead Greg framed up the deck structure (bearers and joists), connected the posts, propped the deck level and got it square, THEN poured the concrete into the post holes! Experience counts.
Once the frame was all made and the concrete around the piers had set it was time to start laying the decking. No piece of timber was long enough to run the entire width of the main deck so I tried to space the joins evenly but randomly. I started using packers to set the distance between each board, but because the timber had twisted and warped as it dried out it made it difficult to bend the boards straight. Enter Greg with another trick – he cut me some timber wedges I could use to band between the boards to get them straight and evenly spaced.
I borrowed a stand-up drill from Joe (my brother’s partner’s dad) to use for screwing the decking over the weekend. The drill had an extended handle and automatic feed for the screws – I looked like Rambo! You could set the depth to countersink the heads, but because the Celery Top boards had seasoned they were dry and brittle, meaning I had to pre-drill to prevent them cracking. That made it hard to line up the screw with the hole so I only used the stand-up drill for the bathroom decking – after that it was drill and rattler for the main deck.
I cut each board of the bathroom decking to length, using my square to get the overhang the same. Here’s another tip that Greg taught me later: run the length of the board past where you want it to finish, then trim with along the entire length with a saw. That is what I did with the main deck: screw a piece of timber with a straight edge to the deck (so it doesn’t move) and then set up the circular saw with a guide to cut the ends of the boards.
Sitting comfortably on the edge of the main deck with my feet on the ground was the major consideration for determining the floor level of the house.
The deck boards are rough-sawn – cut on a band saw. The dimension of each board differs slightly – I tried to end match the boards by width. Some of the boards are also thicker – I used the planer to buzz the back of the boards to minimise the height difference. The deck, just like the timber, is rustic – not perfect. This is part of the charm.
I had the Triple J Hottest 100 blaring from the radio while I worked away laying the remainder of the decking. A face board on the end of the joists (remember we taper cut them?) and another along the face of the joists helps to finish the deck with a crisp edge. I could have placed the face board up higher, over the end grain, but preferred the boards running to the edge. After that I gave it a coat of oil to help protect the timber, paying particular attention to the end grain.
Costs: bathroom decking – $140; bathroom deck materials (framing , stirrups, cement) – $167; main decking – $1250; main deck materials – $492; oil – $50
Disclaimer: Any advice contained within this blog is of a general nature only and cannot be relied upon. Details provided are in good faith and relate specifically to this project. Any author will not be held responsible for advice or information presented.