The Deck

Building the fence made me look at the fenced area in a new light. Pathways became more defined, outdoor rooms were created, and some areas became pockets. Over time I came to desire a deck in an open area on the south side. A deck would allow stargazing, sunbathing, and provide a space to hangout away from the pool and the house.

I wanted to build the deck before the April 2024 eclipse festival so we’d have a place to set up a telescope with a great view. I floated plans on Twitter. A carpenter friend reached out and suggested switching from 2x6s to 2x8s.

No one immediately volunteered to help build, so I reached out to a friend of Montanoso and he agreed to fly in and help build the deck over a weekend.

My mom was in town visiting so I enlisted her to help me find the appropriate layout. We placed some blocks in a 12’ square and then adjusted them to follow the contours of the hill. With the location, layout, and design finalized I placed a delivery order from Home Depot.

In order to derisk the project I used an auger to drill the four foundation support holes. I didn’t complete the holes, but dug them enough to know if we’d hit rock and need an alternative plan.

Caleb G arrived Saturday afternoon and I showed him around Austin. We started work on Sunday. First step was to get the holes to sufficient depth and width. We made sure to flatten out the bottom so we’d be able to move the posts and have them hold stable vertically.

Starting from the highest corner we measured the depth of the hole plus the clearance of the beam. We cut a post to that size and then used that as a benchmark to size and cut the other posts. We used beams resting on the poles to ensure that everything was level.

Once the four posts were cut we screwed on post caps, placed the beams between them, and then attached the two beams with temporary supports. We double checked that all posts were vertical, that beams were level, and that the deck was square. At that point we poured dry concrete in the holes, measured again, and added water.

After a lunch of steak and eggs we started building the frame. First we placed interior boards and used 90 degree angle fasteners to hold them in place. Then we placed exterior boards. We slathered them in wood glue, mounted them to the sides of the just placed boards, and screwed them in along their length.

With the frame complete it was time to start on joists. We installed one test joist before calling it a night to clean up and get dinner.

The next day we finished all the joists. Caleb screwed in the joist hangers while I carried and cut the lumber. We developed a good cadence and made quick work of it.

Then came the deck slats. We were in a race against time because Caleb had to leave for a flight. We switched roles and I drilled the slats in while he carried them around back. We almost completed the deck. We had a few slats left but we decided to call it early and take some photos before he had to leave.

The deck was a great experience. Compared to building the fence, it was much faster and more fun because it had a lot more woodwork and a lot less post hole digging.

Additional improvements

After the deck was completed I decided to build some swales. The first was intended to prevent people from walking in that area and to stop water from flowing under the deck and eroding the soil. The first one went so well that I built another in the hopes of increasing the vegetation in that area.

I also built a little approach from dry stacked limestone blocks. I used some of the broken blocks in this project as an experiment. The blocks were stacked three high and then backfilled with dirt and coffee grounds.