Stacking the decks

Having just spent four years in a condo without a deck, the importance of nailing one’s deck strategy was clear to me from the start of this project. I wanted decks in as many places as it made sense, in order to take advantage of the property’s great views and outdoor entertaining potential.

There was already a large patio area outside where the old house used to be so that part was easy. Here’s what the patio looks like now:

Additionally, the plans called for a master bedroom facing southwest looking over Puget Sound so putting a little reading deck out there was an easy call as well. We ended up making this deck about two feet shallower so we could extend the interior space of the master bedroom out a bit, but it’s still plenty big enough for having a glass of wine or reading a book on. Here’s what it looks like:

The coup de gras grâce, however, is the rooftop deck. I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t build one of these. Flat roofs with rooftop decks are so much more useful and fun than sloped roofs with, uhhh, shingles. If you have any sort of view whatsoever, you should have a rooftop deck. Here’s how ours ended up:

Now on to some particulars…

For the material, we ended up using Trex Brasilia in espresso color. I did a ton of research into decking materials and concluded that there are no panaceas. The only wood that is as durable and trouble-free as I’d like is ipe, but it cannot easily be stained and tends to silver quickly — a look I was not interested in. Concrete pavers are the lowest maintenance option, but they feel tough on the feet and we already have enough concrete around the outside of the house. Composite decking reviews are all over the map with some installations performing well for people and others exhibiting mold and other problems fairly quickly. We ended up going with Trex because it is a brand that’s been around a long time and it looked the least fake to us. So far so good on the Trex.

For railings, we went with ipe for its low maintenance qualities. Since it’s just the railing, we don’t mind the silvering here.

For posts, we went with galvanized steel with steel cables running through them. I’m not a huge fan of how galvanized steel looks and went to great pains to minimize its use throughout the project (particularly on the awning), but considering the low profile of the posts, it was a good low maintenance material to use here.

As mentioned in the hot tub post, we went with a HotSpring Sovereign hot tub for the rooftop deck and couldn’t be happier with it so far. It might be the best feature of the house.

Costs accrued during this stage:

Decking materials (Plywood Supply)$6,211.00
Decking parts and labor (Deerly Construction)$5,441.00
Decking materials (Compton Lumber)$1,411.00
Decking materials (Plywood Supply)$2,206.00
Decking parts and labor (Brett Deerly)$4,601.00
Trex Brasilia decking material (Plywood Supply)$1,788.00
Deck railing (Feeney)$3,588.00
Deck flashing (Precision Fabricators, LLC)$592.00
Guardrail galvanizing (Scott Galvanizing)$135.00
Guardrail fabrication (Twisted Metalworks)$5,164.00

10 Responses to “Stacking the decks”

  1. Julien Says:

    You probably mean “coup de grâce” (blow of mercy) in the 4th paragraph… right now you’re saying “blow of fat”! Thanks for this inspiring series of posts by the way, the transparency in terms of costs is very useful and the end result is absolutely stunning!

  2. Mike D. Says:

    Ha! Yeeeeeeeah, definitely didn’t mean blow of fat. I think the girlfriend just corrected me on this last week but apparently it didn’t sink in. Changing…

  3. Diane Says:

    Mike, I’ve been keeping up with your blog and this house is so fabulous. The decks and hot tub are awesome. You made the most of the view. We have a flat rock roof and a great view so it’s giving me food for thought. Don’t know if we can manage it but it’s worth considering.

  4. A most enjoyable and informative blog. Thank you for dedicating the time to communicate the experience! If a client asks me to explain the process of constructing a home, I direct them to this site.

    Congratulations on your new home. I hope it brings a lifetime of joy.

  5. Jernej Says:

    The reason for few flat roofs is pretty simple… leaking. Let’s face it, water will get through somewhere. Sure they might look good but in general the least complicated the roof is the less problems you’re going to have. I’ll be curious to read about your experience with this house after a year or two.

  6. Mike D. Says:

    Diane: Your roof is made of rock? That sounds interesting. Or is that not what it sounds like?

    Jernej: Well, there are flat roofs and there are flat roofs. My neighbors have a “truly flat roof” which exhibits some of the problems you mention. Nowadays, I believe code requires that even flat roofs have enough angle to them (several degrees) such that moisture flows tidily into the gutters. So I guess to say we have a totally flat roof is a bit of a misnomer. We have a very slightly sloped metal roof.

  7. Nic Says:

    We have a very slightly sloped metal roof.

    In addition, modern roof construction methods, i.e. site-formed continuous metal sheeting, mean much less chance of leaking because there are no seams on the fall.

  8. Eric Says:

    “If you have any sort of view whatsoever, you should have a rooftop deck.”

    Or a rooftop garden designed with entertaining guests in mind. It can be costly to build all the foundation required for planting things (even trees) on a roof, but usually for far less than a deck like this, and definitely more wallet- and earth-friendly when it comes to keeping the house naturally insulated in both cold and heat.

    And then of course if you were so inclined, you could also grow edible stuff.

  9. Mike D. Says:

    Eric: Yep, rooftop gardens are definitely cool. Especially with vegetable gardens. Not sure how they aren’t even more expensive than rooftop decks though since you’re basically building the same thing, plus plants and irrigation.

  10. Eric Says:

    Hmm you could be right about the price comparison, Mike. I was thinking a lot of the cost of the deck is in the actual deck material, but you would know better than I how much the foundation costs.