Hit the Deck

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been wondering why it’s so much easier for me to write lately and wondering whether I could have managed to maintain this blog and more traditional employment. I’m fairly sure the answer to the second of those mysteries is “no.”

I took a little break from writing for most of last week because I was helping my parents replace their deck, and even though I took my laptop with me, I simply had no energy (physical or mental) to write after working all day. Granted, tearing off and replacing a deck in 100 degree weather is considerably more grueling than my work at the library was, but I still think writing and maintaining another job is beyond my ability. I know there are some out there who do it, and I am in awe of them.

Even though the work at my parents’ house was hard, I still had a pretty enjoyable week. When it comes to construction projects, I am particularly fond of decking. That makes it sound like I have a ton of experience in home renovation and construction or something like that, and even though I do have more experience than a lot of people my age, I’m far from “very experienced” and definitely not an expert. But I’ve done a fair share of decking in my 34 years and even though it’s always hot sweaty work, it’s almost a comforting process in its familiarity.

I owe this experience (and the accompanying positive associations) to my dad. Dad has always been a Build It Yourself kind of guy. When I was about three, he built me the best jungle gym I’ve encountered in any backyard. It had two swings, a slide, two different platform levels, and monkey bars. None of it was prefabricated, including the slide and swings. It was all sturdy, treated lumber, steel bars and chains, and sheet metal. It was awesome. When we moved, we dismantled it and reused a lot of the lumber on various other projects through the years. We hung the swings from the existing deck at the new house for a while, but eventually removed them. Probably when we built the bottom deck.

Apparently the swings have been chillin under the deck for 20 years, illustrating the importance of using treated lumber.

This philosophy around the house when I was growing up always seemed to be do the job yourself if you can, enlist the help of knowledgeable friends if you need to, and only resort to hiring professionals if you really must. I think a lot of it came to money (two teachers’ salaries weren’t going to pay for fancy contractors), but I have also come to appreciate the satisfaction of completing a project with your own two hands. I didn’t help build the swing set, but I’ve been a helper on lots of other projects since. Shortly after moving to the house my parents still live in, we added stairs to the existing deck, and several years later, after my parents decided the stairs gave the opossums and raccoons too much access to the house, we tore the stairs back off.

We built an awning on the shed to cover the tractor, and years later Kalen and I helped with the concrete work to build a larger garage instead of the shed/lean-to combo. I went on a couple mission trips with my church youth group where we built porches for some families and built a bathroom onto a small rural church. Dad served as a chaperone and taught us goofy teenagers what needed to be done.

At some point in there, we built the bottom deck on my parents’ house coming off the walkout basement. I think I was in early high school when we built it, and it remained very sturdy, but my parents, now in their 60’s were tired of having to scrub and stain it every couple of years and decided to replace it with composite decking.

I remember when Dad and I originally built the deck and specifically having a conversation about how we were using screws rather than nails so that they would be easier to remove if we needed to at some point in the distant future. I remember thinking that was such great planning, a real moment of foresight. As we sawed, hammered, twisted, and wrestled the old boards off the joists before breaking out the rusty, un-screwable screws, I mentioned this to Dad and we both laughed and laughed at our naïvete.

I didn’t take as many pictures to recount the whole process here for a couple of reasons. The first is that it feels different recording someone else’s home renovations, especially when my writing style often pokes a little fun at mistakes. The second is that there weren’t that many laughable mistakes to record. The third, and probably biggest, is that there was just too much to do, and I was keeping my phone out of the way.

After a week of weather in the upper 90’s, we did finally have nicer weather on Saturday, and we got a lot done. Actually laying the composite decking is the really fun part, and we made good progress. The cooler weather also meant that our job site supervisor could keep a closer eye on us.

We’re back home now, Kalen, Pippin, and I. We didn’t get the work finished this week, but Mom and Dad assured us that they appreciated our help and they could finish it up. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.

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