How To Build A Deck: Balcony Demo

Deck plans completed? Check. Permit acquired? Check. Materials scheduled to arrive this week? Check. But one thing still stands in the way of this project moving forward: the old rotting balcony.

We attacked this assignment very methodically. I laid out a bunch of tools (crowbar, sledgehammer, power drill). I lugged over my ladder (for easy climbing up and over the side). I had music playing (see the ceramic pig on the windowsill?). I had Sherry on standby (she was inside watching Clara but ready to lend a hand/take pics at a moments notice). You know, the works. I figured it’d be a very careful process of prying off boards and observing how this previous structure was created, so that I might learn something for my new deck.

Well, methodical quickly went out the window and my demo “technique” rapidly turned into this:

The “this” is better explained by watching this video. Basically I discovered that with some simple tugs the whole thing flapped apart.

So I pretty much just pulled and pushed back and forth on the railing until the whole outside edge of the balcony started to twist off from the two ledger boards affixed to either side of the house (so it wasn’t scratching the house, just grinding against those ledger boards flanking each side that I’d also be removing).

Before long, the entire thing had flipped over and completely pulled off the house. What you see below is the underside of the balcony floor (the top of the railing has twisted over to be on the ground).

Once the bulk of the structure was out of the way (which took all of 15 minutes – no tools required), my task turned to removing the various boards that had attached it to the house.

There was this ledger board that was bolted into the brick on one side…

…and this other one that seemed to be just nailed into the siding. From what I’ve been reading, this isn’t recommended. For one, you’re apparently supposed to remove any siding that’s in the way so you can attach the ledger boards directly to the home’s rim board. If I’m losing you on any of these terms, this is a helpful chart that has helped me keep things straight.

The other thing that I’ll do differently is install some metal flashing to help keep water from rotting away at the house. This previous installation didn’t have that, so the board and the piece of wood siding were both pretty rotted. But I was able to clear both away…

… to expose the rim board of the house.

Thankfully the new deck will run where that entire bottom strip of wood siding lives (the part that’s good and not rotted to the left of the part above), so it will be coming out. Which means I can reuse it for some of the rotten part above the missing siding strip that you see here. In other words, we’ll be reusing good wood siding that needs to come out anyway. And we’ll be adding metal flashing this time- so none of that nasty rot will plague us again.

Oh, and here’s the progress shot that we shared on Thursday.

This is me tapping the joist loose that sat closest to the house (the other joist came down with the railing). It just sat in the metal hangar, so all it took was a light nudge with the rubber mallet to get it out. No giant sledgehammer required (darn).

In order to remove the ledger board from the house, I broke out my wrench to loosen the hex nuts that kept it screwed tightly into the brick. You can see here that flashing wasn’t used and that this board too has seen better days.

Once I got it removed, you can see the bolts that are still set in the brick. I’m leaving those in for now. If I can’t reuse them, at least maybe I can get some tips for my new bolts by removing them once all of my materials have arrived.

But anyways, by this point the whole balcony was officially gone. Well, actually it’s officially sitting in a trash pile behind where I stood to take this picture. But we’re not thinking about that yet. Let’s just focus on the progress for now. That and our sliding door to nowhere.

I’m a bit anxious / excited to actually start construction. Materials should all be here within the next few days and I’ve got my dad scheduled to come help us get started later in the week. He built the deck on the house that I grew up in, so we thought it’d be helpful to have him around. Hope he doesn’t mind that we demoed without him! So by this time next week we should at least have enough going on back there to report back to you guys. We wish we could say we’ll be back with finished deck pics in three days – but HGTV, we’re not. Haha. We’ll definitely be tackling this project in stages – probably over the next few weeks. But you know we’ll keep you posted! And hopefully by sharing each stage of the process with pics and details it might help other folks out there who are planning to dive into deck-building someday.

Has anyone else demolished something lately? Or do you have a great demolition story? Were you ever surprised by how something was constructed – like a deck floor that flips up when you tug on the railing or rotten wood due to missing flashing?


  1. says

    I’m getting the mega heebie-jeebies at the sight of that rotted wood, but the demo looks like it went smoothly! Here’s hoping the new deck goes up as easily as this one came down!

  2. Azar says

    Oh my god, I was rolling with laughter at that second pic of John hanging from the railing. The look on his face! And holy crap at how unsafe that deck must have been to be able to demo it that easily!

  3. says

    You got the Staples easy button in the decking world. That was easy. Ha. I bet you’ll have fun building a deck with your dad. I watched my dad build one when I was younger and I was in awe. My hubby has been working on our roof, tearing off cedar shakes, which were rotting because the 70’s solar panels leaked. He’s still got a long way to go.

  4. says

    Way to go!
    Did it make you a little nervous that it was so easy to remove?! If I’ve been trusting something to support my weight, I would hope it would put up a fight when getting removed. Yikes.

    • says

      Oh yes, we haven’t trusted that deck from the start. Haha. If we inched out there to grab herbs from a planter we kept in the corner we were always half expecting to fall a few feet to the ground- surprisingly it didn’t collapse til demo day!


  5. Trela says

    Umm, yikes, so not only was the balcony overlooking nothing, it wasn’t even that well put together! Not only is your project a much more logical idea, it sounds like it will be waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay safer (and more useful) than the old!

    And because you mentioned it — HGTV? What DO you guys watch? My husband quickly exits the room whenever I get near HGTV or DIY or TLC, so the fact that you might actually sit and watch some of those shows amuses me. (And will be fodder for our later, near daily “Sherry and John” conversation which tries to convince him to do something with our place. We won’t mention how long it took him to realize that Sherry and John are out there in the blogosphere, not new neighbors up the street… though that would be WAY cool.)

    • says

      Right now we’re watching Design Star (we’re so into it already, one episode in) and we like Genevive’s show, loved Secrets With A Stylist, and really like anything with Sarah Richardson or Candice Olsen. Sometimes we watch pretty-boy shows (you know, like the one with the two brothers) which is pretty fun too since they virtually makeover a house and then actually make it over (it’s like Hidden Potential but there’s an actual makeover at the end).


  6. Emiles says

    great to have easy work but scary to think of how poorly it was constructed!

    any plans to put river rock or pea gravel under the deck?

  7. says

    Wow! That is scary how unsafe that was! I bet you can’t wait for the new one to be finished so you can start enjoying it. Speaking of which, that’s what I’m doing now is enjoying (doing my job) all of our hard work for the last full week on our patio. If you want, come on over and take a peek!

  8. Meghan says

    Did you use that balcony much before? Hopefully not…I’d likely forget it was gone now and go crashing to the ground – haha.

    SO excited for another brand spankin’ new project!

  9. Laura M says

    We actually started demo-ing our deck yesterday. But the previous owners used every material possible to attempt to waterproof the area below so about 10 hours with 6 people working we only have the pressure treated wood off, tar paper, sleeper boards and about 1,000 3 inch decking screws that we manually pulled up. Now we have 200 square feet of plywood to get up! Hopefully we get this deck up by labor day

  10. Teri says

    That is going to be the coolest space when you are done with it. Kinda like a secret garden, it reminds me of a ‘secret deck’, a nice private space. Can’t wait to see it all built and decorated.

  11. says

    Oh man. I bet you were thrilled with how easily it came out – but that’s so scary! Glad you didn’t use it!

    This is such a great project, I can’t wait to follow along.

  12. says

    i am really looking forward to the play-by-play. We need to replace our deck boards desperately, and I am sure we will find more problems once we get started. Luckily I will have you guys to help me along! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *