How To Build A Deck: Conquering A Failed Inspection

If at first you don’t succeed… dig more holes. At least, that’s what was on my agenda after failing our first deck footing inspection (this post explains that debacle). This project definitely isn’t moving along at the speed of lightning, but we’re creeping slowly towards the goal of a finished deck to enjoy family meals on by the end of the summer – maybe even by this time next month if we’re lucky. But remember this speed bump?

Since our original plan got the big ix-nay because we were trying to attach ledger boards to unapproved surfaces (although it was initially approved by the county), our new plan required us to make it a free-standing deck… which required us to dig more holes. Seven new holes, to be exact, for a grand total of twelve footings (five of my previous holes were still good, while only one was pretty much useless).

Having already learned that digging holes was tough but not unbearable, I wasn’t too intimidated. Since digging six holes had left my dad and I drenched in sweat and pretty much limp-muscled, I did feel pretty bad making him suffer through seven – but I guess it’s better than having to do all twelve at once (even though it would’ve saved me $60 from renting the auger again from Home Depot). In other words: could have been way worse.

This time we borrowed both the 8″ and the 12″ auger bit, since our holes are supposed to be 12″ wide (and accidentally getting the 8″ bit last time required extra work of manually digging the holes wider). We hoped the 12″ bit wouldn’t be that much more difficult to maneuver and that it would make the work quicker. In fact, the task was shaping up to be pretty straight forward. Until this happened:

Upon digging my first “starter hole” by hand, my shovel hit something solid. I originally thought it was a root or a brick, but as I uncovered more dirt it turned out to be a giant, 6″ thick concrete slab (our guess is that it might have been the landing for a staircase that once existed here). It was too thick to bust up with the sledgehammer and nearly too heavy to even move, but after shimmying some boards underneath it my dad and I managed to shift it enough to the side so that we could dig our hole in the proper place.

The only downside was that the whole concrete-slab-moving process was exhausting. And we hadn’t even made a single hole yet. But we sucked it up, I donned my déjà vu hat, and we powered up the auger.

The 12″ auger bit definitely was heavier and a bit more challenging to maneuver, but not so much that we didn’t keep using it. Both us loved the fact that we automatically had our 12″ wide holes without any extra digging (or double-checking measurements). It certainly made for quicker work getting our 21″ deep holes (which are the requirement in our area).

Although I still used the hole digger to manually remove some of the loose dirt left by the auger. Oh yeah, and apparently I make faces like this to entertain the wife while she documents things. Always the charmer.

I lost track of time but it might have taken us 90 minutes to get all seven new holes dug (including moving the surprise concrete slab). So all in all, not bad at all. And we weren’t nearly as fatigued as last time. Sherry thinks it’s because it wasn’t as hot out. I think it’s because we’re just more muscle-y from the first round of digging.

With holes dug, we crossed our fingers, bit our lips, and probably peed our pants a little bit as we called to schedule the inspector to come back the next day. I hate not succeeding at stuff, so the thought of failing again made me lose a little bit of sleep. But I’ll spare you the suspense – this is what happened:

Woo to the hoo. The visit could not have gone better. It was a different inspector and he took a quick glance at my new plans, another glance at my holes, and said “looks good.” No measuring, no comment on my ledger boards, no nothing. Sherry was barely able to even sneak one picture the whole thing was so fast.

After he approved my holes, I did bother him with a few more questions. Most importantly, I confirmed with him that I could leave my ledger boards up to use as rim boards instead (they wouldn’t bear the weight of the deck- the posts would do that – but they’d be a nice place to attach things around the house for the perimeter stability that’s required on a freestanding deck). This was fantastic news because it meant not only was our work not in vain, but also that we wouldn’t have to waste time undoing it all (and re-siding the house where those ledger boards had been). I just have to be sure to counterflash them (i.e. put flashing over the top of the ledger) which is something I was planning to do anyways.

So with all of the excitement over having passed inspection, I did the natural thing and texted my mom.

So now I’ve gotta place my order for additional materials (more posts and girder boards) and then I can start actually building this darn thing. And let’s hope I get Inspector #2 when it’s time for my final inspection! In sharing-the-love news, we really appreciated you guys commiserating with us last week by spilling all of your failure stories. I promise, it helped more than you can imagine. So let’s try a more positive spin this week: what problems have you guys worked through lately (house-wise or otherwise)? Is there anything that seemed like a negative that did an 180 and turned out to work in your favor?

Psst- A huge thanks goes out to everyone who checked in on us after the crazy storm on Friday night! We were without power until Sunday afternoon (and we witnessed some pretty crazy tornado-like winds outside our window on Friday night), but thankfully our house was spared any damage and we’re so glad that our power has been restored. High fives to Dominion Power (and all the other power companies from out of state who drove up to lend a hand).



Outdoor Tour 2012

It’s yard tour time, baby! Every year we try to take a few video tours of the inside of our house, just to look back on how it has evolved (you can check those out here). And we even made a little outdoor tour post last year, complete with a full video of John bush-wacking his way around our yard. So we thought it would be fun to make that an annual tradition. Just so we can see how the exterior of our house is evolving as we tackle projects big (like the patio and the deck) and small (like all of the transplanting/seeding/weeding that we do – more on that here). The funny thing is that it’s actually a huge difference between this year’s yard tour and last year’s. Both thanks to work we’ve done on certain parts of the yard and the way that mother nature has completely crazy-fied our backyard (which we have yet to touch).

You think I’m kidding. Check out this photo of the backyard last year:

And a shot from the same spot now:

See how much bigger/denser the little planting bed between the two paths above got in the past 12 months? These photos don’t do it justice, but our video does. That butterfly bush is about 12 feet tall. Seriously. Somebody call the Guinness Book Of World Records.

Here’s another picture of the back yard from last year:

And the same POV from now. See how giant the butterfly bush got? Check out how you basically see the whole tree trunk behind it in the shot above and how it’s almost completely covered by bushery (that’s a word in my head) in the photo below.

Here’s how things looked staring back at our house from the back of our lot last year:

And here’s what that view looks like now. It’s really crazy how much those tiny purple bushes above filled in (they got at least three times bigger). The entire house’s foundation isn’t visible anymore from the same spot. Note: A few folks asked why the nook in the bedroom was there, and you can see from this shot of the back of the house, that it’s there so the back looks balanced like this. That large window in the bump-out is in the living room, so if we added a window to the nook in an effort to balance the other window on that wall in the bedroom it would be a big window right next to a small window on that bumped out section of the back of the house. Hope this photo makes more sense of that description!

This is a shot from a little over a year ago, so it’s even more dramatic. This is what things looked like last spring, before they got semi-big.

And here’s what they look like now, with everything in bloom. See how the knockout roses in the left side of the picture above are giant now? And once again that planting bed in the middle (with Sir Butterfly Bush, Sr.) got crazy big? This almost doesn’t even look like the same POV, but looking at the three big trees in the background can help you line things up between the before above and the after picture below.

And it’s also pretty crazy to see how much the side yard of ours has grown – which was actually the plan since we’d love to naturalize that area- so yay! We have enough to mow in the front and back, so we want the way back and the side to get all woodsy and charming like our first house’s back perimeter. Check out a few photos of the side yard from last year

And these pics of that area now. Definitely looks bushier, eh? And we’ve planted a few trees (river birches), so we’re just waiting for those to fill in for even more of a wooded look.

Oh and one spot we didn’t document last year, but have decided to start this year, is the side lot from the side. So here’s what it looks like now. The wild grasses are actually really pretty down there.

Here’s how the view has changed from the corner of the grass in the front yard. This is that area last year (see the little bush fence that surrounded the yard?):

And here’s that area now from the same POV:

And just to keep this post complete, we’ll also include the what the front yard looked like last year

… and what it looks like now:

That’s our favorite one so far. Well that and our big patio makeover, which went from this…

… to this.

Uh, yeah – lots has changed, huh? It’s a jungle back there! So we have yet to tackle things out back, but it’s really cool to see how the front has evolved since this old video tour from last year:

For example, in this year’s updated tour you can see how we landscaped the patio, tamed the front yard, got some upgraded patio furniture, seeded the lawn with some more grass, and removed lots and lots of bush fences that hid our house from the street (and how we hid a secret outdoor book project with bath towels). Warning: I should never ever be allowed to do these video tours again. You basically need anti-nausea medicine before viewing. Can someone just be born flail-y?

Video thrashiness aside, we’re so glad to have documented evidence of our yard for the summer of 2012. I wonder what next year’s footage will look like? Think we’ll tackle some of that jungle of ours in the back (we’d love to create a nice patch of grass for Burger and Clara to romp around in while naturalizing the area behind the grass into a nice privacy riddled woods of sorts). Think we’ll have a bit more patio furniture and a deck by then? Sure, hope so! Heck, maybe our carport will be converted into a garage by this time next year. It should be fun to – in the words of Andy Cohen – watch what happens.

Do you guys document outdoor upgrades as well? Does anyone else walk around the house with the video camera, just to capture how things were looking on a specific day? I hope this is something we keep up with because we wish we had thought to document all of the yearly outdoor changes from our first house on video. Oh, well – live and learn!