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one day i set out to build a deck…

What would make our back yard more enjoyable? A deck–yes, that’s what we need a deck. So, last July I set out to build a deck (having never built as much as cigar box before). Late into a summer of landscaping projects, I was feeling pretty cocky. We can pull it off in a couple of weeks–just in time for my son Aidan’s birthday party, I thought to myself. So, I started digging holes–29 four-foot deep holes (to accommodate platform stairs wrapping the entire deck).

It started raining. Someone to hold the other end of the two-man auger was hard to come by–given my time line. So, I rented the gigantic hydraulic one-man auger, hooked it up to the back of my truck and towed it home to dig twenty-nine four-foot-deep holes, each with one or more boulders in them, some so large that they necessitated a late night run to the Home Depot to rent a digging bar. Racing against the rental clock, I managed to dig the auger hard into solid clay. It wouldn’t budge. Two hours of hand digging with a pickax and shovel freed the beast, but I wouldn’t soon be the same. The holes were dug. The once pristine back lawn was now a muddy mess of dirt hills and craters, and we were just beginning.

Into the holes went our forms, leveled and back filled. We bought a cement mixer and two skids of concrete–over 75 bags at 80 lbs each. Dirty, dusty, exhausted, we carried concrete, mixed it, scooped it, smoothed it. The learning curve meant that the first few pours finished kind or rough–certain to prove a challenge later when setting posts.

Aidan’s birthday came and went with no deck.

Eventually, we were ready to begin framing. Working from nothing more than a vision, a rough sketch on a piece of tattered graph paper, and my Black & Decker “The Complete Guide to Building Decks,” we pressed forward. Over a grand of treated lumber was dropped on the driveway, and it would sit there in the elements while we widdled away at it slowly–until the snow forced us to relocate the pile to the garage and the truck to the driveway. Summer was far behind us and the weather turned nasty–too nasty to build. And so the entire project sat for the winter months. I was dejected and wished I’d never started the damn thing.

Spring rolled around, and with renewed effort we continued the framing. Somehow it came together–with very little knowhow and even less skill. It wasn’t perfect–less-than-level in places and bolstered with an inordinate number of shims, but it was strong–strong enough to hold a few deck boards and the people above them anyway.

Another chunk of change in cedar was dropped on the driveway, and we started laying boards. Thoughts that we might actually finish this after all drifted through our minds. Things weren’t lining up as neatly as we’d like, but a few more shims and the strategic use of a high-powered belt sander and no one would be the wiser.

Finally, one summer day, we laid the last board. We were done. We were done. Or were we?

“Hey, honey, do you think a pergola would look nice over there?” To be continued…

The story in pictures:

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