I thought I would take a break from the interior work being done at my house and take a look at the exterior … mostly it’s because I needed some air that A) isn’t loaded with gypsum dust and b) doesn’t smell like paint thinner. But unlike the interior of my house, I decided to weekend warrior this particular project because it’s not that difficult and still like to get my hands dirty from time to time.
Take a look at this pinky/beige mess …
Who paints both their fence AND the deck this peach color? Is it peach? Maybe it’s mauve …? Antelope Fire Mist? Whatever it is, I think we can all agree that it’s nasty. To be fair to the optically challenged person who chose this color in the first place, this entire backyard needs some attention – but we are only going to be looking at the deck and the fence for today’s post.
Looking down at the weathered deck boards, you can see that they’re pretty worn out in addition to being an unappealing color. I still remember that the guy we bought this house from (“Steve”) was walking around telling me how great everything was – I didn’t bother to tell him I was an architect – and he went on and on about this deck, that the quality of the wood was the best (imagine him bringing all fingertips on one hand together and kissing them as he said “the best” and you will get an accurate representation of that moment).
This wood was not the best, it was plain old pressure-treated lumber, which is not the worst but it’s certainly not kissing your fingertips worthy.
Other than being another photo of the icky paint color (I’m now thinking the color might have been named “Raw Hot Dog”) I just thought I would include it to show you that the original installation was a little dodgy. I would also like to point out that if you look towards the right, you can see in between the boards and you’ll notice that the sides aren’t painted. While this isn’t mandatory, protecting all sides of the board will result in a much longer-lasting board.
So demolition begins!!
The demolition phase is always rewarding because not only is the process cathartic, you can see real progress right away (an important consideration for project momentum and enthusiasm). For the most part, getting these deck boards up was really easy – mostly because they were already getting loose (and not in a 70’s groovy sort of way).
I should also point out that this deck was not built over dirt but over the original pool deck. In the picture above, what looks like “yard” is actually years and years of sand and silt just falling between the slats on the deck. Sweeping it all up was not as much fun as you might imagine …
This rusty nail is just one of the reasons I decided to rebuild this deck. The boards were loose, there was all sorts of warping and cupping taking place, and of course, there was the raw hot dog color. Originally we were just going to power wash the deck, strip the paint and go back over the top with a new color. However, at the time, you could get brand new 2x6x8′ pressure-treated lumber for around $5 a board (since I bought these boards the price has almost doubled) so I counted the number I would need and did the math and for $303.18 I could put down new boards.
Done. Math is easy.
So demolition is not complete and the last 90 minutes was spent sweeping up all the dirt and silt from the pool deck surface.
Let me tell you right now, the “structural” framing underneath is not done properly. With very little effort (i.e. done while wearing flip-flops), I could kick out the supports. While I didn’t photo-document it, I did take this framing apart and properly framed it.
The next step we had to deal with was painting the fence. We had to do it between the deck demolition and the deck rebuild so that I could have access to the bottom of the fence – the part below the top of the deck. I am a big believer in that surface prep is extremely important when painting so the first step was to power wash the fence
- If you have green on your fence – it’s algae, which needs some sunlight and can feed itself because it has chlorophyll.
- If it’s black, you have Mold /Mildew which is a fungus and can grow without light and can not feed itself, meaning it is eating the carbs in your wood.
My fence didn’t really have any mold/mildew or algae since it was painted so I did a quick pass with 30-second cleaner out of a hand-sprayer and did NOT use a power washer. The cleaner I’ve listed here is one that I see on job-sites all the time and I know that it works well.
Once everything was cleaned and dried, it was time to paint. I bought the power-sprayer I have been lusting after for a few years because painting this fence was the only excuse I needed to finally buy it. Highly recommend picking one up by the way … it almost made painting this fence fun.
So the amount of fence I painted was approximately 120′ of 8′ tall board-on-board so there were lots of in-and-outs and the sprayer made quick work of it. For estimating purposes, a gallon of paint will cover around 200 square feet while 1 gallon of stain will cover around 160 square feet. I needed 5 gallons to cover one side of this fence and it took me approximately 2.5 hours to paint this entire fence.
So here you go – about 5 hours of total went into getting this fence prepped and painted.
We did go with a darker color – something that I was concerned that my wife would have reservations over but it turns out she was all-in going with this charcoal color.
Should I talk about paint? I probably should.
Since my fence had already been painted, I did not need to do a special prime coat first – a crucial step if you are painting natural wood. But why do you prime before you paint? The two generally accepted reasons are …
- To prepare a porous surface to receive your final paint color, and
- Primer is a lot cheaper than paint
By putting down a coat of primer first, the material you are painting (in this case a fence but it could have been a wall in your house) will absorb a less expensive product while coating the surface in preparation to receive your more expensive paint.
There are also many paint brands that offer a primer-and-paint in one which I generally think is okay if you are doing it yourself and you don’t feel like spending all your free time painting.
So I went with an exterior flat stain-blocking paint and primer in one from Behr. I actually really like this paint and frequently use it in exterior applications. The color we went with was “Black Locust” which is a slightly green-tinted charcoal color and is dark, but not so crazy dark so that dust shows up on it.
I want to interrupt this post with a margarita – which is how I interrupted day one from day two of working on this deck. It’s really hard to beat a good margarita, and I think I have superior margarita making skills. Not trying to say you don’t – it’s not a competition because really, almost all margaritas are good margaritas (that’s not true at all).
The next step in this process was laying out my 2×6’s so that I could avoid knot holes and warped, bowing, or cupped boards. I will say that using pressure-treated 2x’s does not give you the most beautiful deck, but it does give you a good serviceable deck for a fraction of the price. I spent a decent amount of time laying out these boards because there was a lot of warping taking place and I wanted to maintain as consistent a joint between the boards as possible.
If this were one of my residential projects, one of two things would have happened … either the contractor would buy extra boards so that they could sort out the warped and bowing boards, or they would have run them all through a planer to get clean edges. Actually, they probably would have done both of those things. Since I am not as expensive as my typical contractor, I didn’t do either of those things, I just moved boards around and flipped them over to get things as close to acceptable as possible.
The next big step was painting the edges of all the boards before I screwed them into place. We had already let the boards dry out a bit before this point – which turned out to not be long enough – but I’ll save that bit of information for a bit later.
Since I was aiming for a 1/4″ gap between boards – and knowing that some of these boards were warped which means that gap would open up in a few places, I decided to paint all the faces except the topmost one prior to installation. It was a bit of a drag but it’ll help my boards last a bit longer (not to mention it’ll look better).
At this point, I had only painted the sides. This step is important and only took about an hour or so – especially since my wife Michelle came out and painted alongside me for this bit.
While the next step is actually screwing the boards into place, I didn’t actually take any pictures of it (sorry). It was during this phase that I realized that these kiln-dried 2×6’s still had a lot of water in them. First off, it’s pretty easy to tell just by the weight – the boards with more water were easily twice as heavy as the ones that were dried out. The other way you know if there is too much water in your boards is when you drive a screw in the face, water actually bubbles up a bit (not a geyser, more of a slight collection of mist within the screw hole).
The 2x6x8’s are slightly longer than I needed so I aligned everything against the fence and cantilevered everything towards the pool. Once everything was screwed down, I simply snapped a line and used my circular saw to cut everything off flush to the fascia board.
So now the boards had to sit here and dry out which meant painting would have to wait a while. How long you ask? No way of knowing so I would occasionally go out there and drive a screw into the wood to check the water content. Turns out it took about 6 weeks.
… and those 6 weeks were up this weekend! Painting the top of an installed deck falls into one of the easier things to do. Saturday was hot and still here in Dallas and so the timing was perfect. I swept the deck thoroughly, took a spackle blade and scraped at a few things that had settled in on the surface, and started painting.
One of the considerations we had when choosing this color was the SRI – or Solar Reflectance Index – which is basically a measurement of a material’s ability to reflect solar energy back into the atmosphere. Black would have a very low SRI because it absorbs solar energy whereas white would have a very high SRI.
Why does this matter?
It matters for a lot of reasons but for our conversation, it matters because when dark deck boards absorb solar energy, it makes them hot, and a hot deck is an unpleasant deck.
For the record, SRI is not the same thing as LRV – or Light Reflectance Value. SRI measures the absorption of energy including non-visible wavelengths and LRV is used for measuring visible light, but you can draw some comparisons when the SRI is not given but the LRV is.
So after 1.5 gallons of paint and two coats, here is the 95% finished product. I started painting pretty early in the morning and you can see that by noon, a lot of this deck is already in shade – which means the SRI was not a large contributor to our decision process.
You might also notice that the edge facing the pool is not completed … mostly because of the next photo.
As I was wrapping up the paint job, I was walking in and out through the gate in my fence. I got buzzed a few times by something – didn’t think anything of it until all of a sudden I felt this rather intense hot stabbing pain in my shoulder.
Can I just say that yellow jackets (some people simply call them wasps) are incredible jerks. I wasn’t bothering them – heck, I didn’t even see them but they felt that I was encroaching on their nest which was behind some of the pruned palm fronds on my palm tree.
Did you know wasps can sting you repeatedly? Did you also know that they will chase you if you run away? And did you know that they will hover above the water looking for you? They are sadists. They are seriously the worst.
After they settled down from me “casually walking by their nest minding my own business” I paid them another visit … with a long stick. Spraying chemicals wouldn’t have done me any good since their nest was tucked way back in there. No, I had to knock some of those pruned palm fronds away to get at the nest.
Whack … and then run away.
2nd whack … but they were ready and I had to run away in a zig-zagging pattern.
The third whack required me to jump in the pool and splash water up like a Tsunami when I needed to come up for air. But here’s the really interesting part. I saw the nest lying on the ground – I SAW IT. The wasps were still flying around angrily and I told myself that I would have to give it some time and I would go over to the nest and stomp on it … so 3 hours go by and I walk over to stomp on the nest AND THE NEST IS GONE!!!!
Where did the nest go? Did the wasps all land on it and carry it off to some other location?!? What is happening here? So needless to say, that’s why the front edge of the deck hasn’t been finished and my shoulder almost three days later still aches from where I was stung.
So there you go, a typical Life of an Architect post on rebuilding a deck, painting your fence a dark color, the difference between SRI and LRV, and a wasp story thrown in for good measure.
It’s a good day (other than the wasp stings).