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  • Neyir Urminsky

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the story of a deck

We are in week 6 of the ORC, a wonderful event in which anyone can participate. The challenge lies in completing a space within 8 weeks. Please be sure to check out the other guest participants. See my earlier posts on our DIY patio week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, and my other previous projects here; A boys room for 3, Family friendly beautiful vestibule.

The house I grew up in was a Victorian with a double parlour, a servants’ back stair and a nursery connecting the service quarters to the front of the house or family side. It had an original outdoor toilet, quite exceptional the realtor told me in 2019 when I listed it for my mother, haha! The kitchen was small proportional to the house, a galley sliced along the side of the second double parlour with a large double hung window overlooking one of the side yards. The outdoor space was not huge, it hugged the sides of the house like a skirt, tapered in on the sides but fuller in the back and front. I suppose the south side was in fact more generous initially but I have little memory of the space before my Father dug a large hole and installed a self designed, lovely 3 season sunroom. What I do remember is how well my parents did indoor/outdoor living. There was no easy way to access the outside from the kitchen so my Dad designed a wrap-around deck to flow off the sunroom and he left the original porch roof to cover the dining section. Growing up we spent hours upon hours on that deck! Sooo many meals were taken al fresco, long hours stretching into the night and those conversations around the magically expanding outdoor table (somehow it always fit more people than seemed possible) I cherish to this day.

I suppose given these formative experiences that it is no surprise that outdoor space was always in the back of my mind when we started looking for this house. I’ve shared before how much easier I find it is to have a relaxing meal out of doors with busy, energetic boys. Adding in the trampoline is just the icing on the cake or I suppose, the homemade chocolate sauce on the ice cream. Yet as I have also previously expressed the deck at this house was never going to be that!

The old deck

It is simply too exposed for the kind of long hours I envisioned outside but sadly not exposed to the sun! We have absolutely wonderful neighbours but I knew I would be happier giving all diners, ourselves included a little actual distance between their decks and our outdoor meals. Still we needed to get from the house to the patio somehow. Our initial plan was to take the deck down entirely and rebuild but we couldn’t justify the expense for such a small structure, unusable for anything beyond a landing leading to stairs. And so the plan to hack the deck was born and once I had it in my mind, like so many previous projects, I knew it would work and was the perfect solution. My husband not so much! In his defence it must be so hard being married to someone who envisions a project nearly 100% in their mind in the blink of an eye, like deciding to go for an afternoon stroll suddenly to find yourself in the midst of an upside loop on a fast moving roller coaster. Still he is really very good at letting me plough forward given my high success rate. During the whole deck process he kept asking ‘but wait, what about x?’, as I was generally working during the day when he was teaching, to which I gleefully answered ‘I have it all figured out!’. And I did!

Half the deck is down!

The plan on paper was simple. Cut the deck nearly in half, remove the old and terribly steep stairs. Re-using as much material as possible from the removed deck, install a new railing on the North/East side and new stairs centred on the sliding glass door leading down to the deck.

Other than solving the traffic and flow issues both from the kitchen & house into the yard and within the yard itself, was the fact that the deck gets nearly no sun. While the location of the new patio is in sun the entire day, or at least the gardens and sitting area are, the deck itself is in near perpetual shade. This leads to a deck that is very hard to get dry, meaning that other than restructuring the deck, protecting it was the next most important part.

I knew the deck was dirty but as we generally don’t use it very much, going through the front of the house and around, I didn’t realise how slippery it was when it was wet. Once I started power washing it I realised that it was growing mould - ick!!! Thankfully I was able to clean it off and get it stained with a decent waterproofer and sealer (link). In terms of what colour stain, we went for a dark charcoal per the colour scheme. This was also strategic as the dark colour will hopefully help the deck dry more quickly, attracting more heat in the short period of the day that the deck does get some sun. So far I am very pleased that the stain is doing a great job repelling water!

Putting in the stairs

Lastly we needed to solve the stair issue. I would have loved even wider stairs but then we would have needed a middle rail which I really did not want! We ended up widening the stairs by about 2 feet and the difference is fabulous. They are centred right on the sliding glass doors and from the inside it feels as though the playroom has doubled in size. Removing the visual barrier of the railing from in front of those doors as well as all the kitchen windows (the deck was removed in this section) encourages your eye to rest on the fence visually increasing the space by about 25 feet! Still I had to have a railing on the stairs, I considered reusing some of the old deck railing but it was a no go. One of the great surprises of removing half the deck was the sight line across the yard from the patio and old railings were too visually dense so instead I installed 3 simple wood rods, safe, but they do not visually stop your eye.

Sometimes simple is best!

The long term plan is to reinstate the playroom as a dining room and have an arched opening into the kitchen which will give a direct path to the patio making eating outside even easier. For now we are already using the new stairs to access the backyard, nearly exclusively, and we even carved all our pumpkins on the patio this year!

We are so close to the finish line now - I only have one more post to share with you before the final reveal!!!

Finally the BBQ has a home!

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