When we built this house, I planned ahead.
Other than an extra-deep bathtub in which to soak off the aches and pains of age, we chose nothing fancy or expensive. Four kids and not a lot of spare cash compelled us to keep things simple – a fact that, to be honest, I somewhat regret now. In the interest of saving money, we chose just about the simplest design possible: a straight-ahead rectangle with not an odd corner or flourish to be found. and the most basic of floor plans.
One other thing we did, however, was plan for a nice, wrap-around deck, to extend along most of the east side of the house and around half of the south side. And so, to that end, a solid, 2×10 ledger board, 24 feet on one side and 17 on the other, was carefully bolted into place at the level of the interior floors, before the siding was installed.
That was 17 years ago. Seventeen years of forward-looking, of the 2×10 ledger board aging, of reaching upward from two steps down to open the back door from the nondescript stairway screwed to the ledger, of the sliding glass patio-door-to-nowhere.
I have to admit, building a deck was a fairly terrifying thought to me, for lots of reasons. There was the cost, of course. But also the thought of the skills required, which I knew I did not possess, and the time commitment involved, all left me hesitant even to begin.
But this year, thanks to a healthy tax refund, the money question effectively disappeared, and it was time to do it. Even so, it took Casey’s trip to Uganda, and my son Tim’s push to get it started and surprise her on her return, to actually get it moving.
I can’t now honestly say that my reticence was unfounded. It has been nearly two months since the project began, and I would be lying to say that it was simple and easy. For a variety of reasons, I have ended up spending way more money than I ought to have. The process has been challenging, and the near-finished product is not exactly what I had in mind for these 17 years.
Nonetheless, the project is nearly complete. Two small sections of railing still need spindles installed, and the stairs as yet have no railing at all. There is already repair work to be done, where the treated deck boards have shrunk far more and far more quickly than I had anticipated and the seems between boards have opened up more than desirable. There is some reinforcement needed down below, some modifications to shore up some structural issues that make me a little uneasy.
But now…well, we have a deck. A pretty big deck – necessary in an otherwise small house for our sizeable and ever-increasing family gatherings. It gives maneuvering room out the back door, which is now opened from floor level without reaching up, a fact which has taken me some time to adjust to, and altogether more than 500 square feet of outdoor living space for those months out of the year that outdoor living is feasible in northern Minnesota. And the sliding patio door is now a door to somewhere.
Of course, it’s nearly October, those outdoor living months have all but disappeared for us for the near future, and the deck will soon be mostly dormant for a time. But, when the coming snow (well, we hope it is coming) finally melts away and the days get longer and warmer again we will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity to have a cup of morning tea in the open air and watch the sun come up over the garden.
Really kind of looking forward to that, to be honest!