Sunday, September 18, 2011

Deck Renovations- With Curved Brow

Here are the near finished shots of that deck with the dangerous staircase. As you can see a safer staircase was built--away from the septic system. We also built in a storage area beneath the stairs with a landing mid way down to avoid guests tumbling too far if they were to mis-step.

We added a boardwalk out for easy travel to the water--this is a property near Wasaga Beach Ontario. Dan Maragno was the builder and you can see his smiling face on the boardwalk. 
 We paired joists and added a brow to allow more space on the deck. This is no kerf cut temporary brow like you see on TV--this is a solid red cedar lamination using epoxy which will last 30 years. 

 Adding the brow in this case made it possible for a full size dining table on the second level. Dan also took care of a large deficiency list stemming from the deck inspection that spawned this project.

Another masterful job by Dan Maragno--Our Oakville Design Builder!         L

Friday, September 16, 2011

Deck Inspection--Scary Stairs

Think Twice before walking up this Staircase!
Would you try it? What if I told you that these stairs were supported by 3-2 1/2" Nails? That the stairs were basically held up by the hand rails? 
This was for a client that lives in China and bought this place as a summer home in Canada. 

 When we removed these stairs we found 3 small nails carrying the deck, through the weakest point of the stringers. (the part that will snap off the straight grain under a load). We normally build out a base from the beam so that the stringers are capped and securely fastened to the deck structure. The cap needs to extend past the lowest extent of the stringer to be safe. 

And at the bottom of the staircase we find the same thing as the top. Supported by the tip of the stringer that is prone to break off. To make things worse it is supported by a platform without footings on sand--on top of the septic field. You are not allowed to build anything within 5' of the septic field. We ended up moving the staircase to the other end of the deck to maintain distance from the septic system.

 I don't know who the manufacturer of this frail rail system is, however I would expect it to be the lowest priced item available in a big box store. The rail is sagging under the weight of the glass and the posts are weak enough to give way if anyone fell towards it. No engineer would stamp this rail as suitable and I have no idea how it passed inspection in the first place. We changed the rail to a more robust system.

 Here's a common issue not addressed by building code. 

Code stipulates that second level decks need to be connected to the house with carriage bolts through the framing of the home... they stipulate every 24" but they don't say where to mount the bolts. All the bolts are mounted 1.5" down from the top of the beam...which means the entire structure is supported by a 2x2 piece of pressure treated lumber. We added bolts and had to remove drywall and patch inside the already finished basement.

The ledger adds another layer of safety--however the ledger was attached to the part of the rim which if tested, would fail. There were also no joist hangers... so we had to add those.

My other concern was that there was no flashing to prevent moisture from getting behind the siding to rot out the connected structure. We added flashings during the re-build.

We discovered a few other issues like non-acq rated nails here and there but we were able to salvage much of the structure. Stay tuned--the next post shows how it turned out!    L

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Composite Decking could Cost You as a Contractor

Composite Decking Liabilities

We published a poll where we asked;

Who should pay for the labour to remove and replace faulty composite decking?

The Home Owner (12%)

The Builder (34%)

Your Insurance Company (0%)

The Manufacturer (even if you have to sue) (54%)

People seem to be of the opinion that if you sell it to them--you are partially liable for replacing it when things go wrong.


The important consideration here is that since the manufacturer refuses to pay for the removal, disposal and installation of the replacement decking (under warranty), YOU as the BUILDER may well be shamed into, or worse still forced to through litigation with your own client.

In my mind any external factor that could put you at odds with a happy client is simply not something we as high end builders should ever risk. I don't like having to tell people "No Maam, even though I sold you composite decking--and it turned out to be defective, I couldn't possibly replace it for you for free". The majority of our builders have steered clear of it for this simple reason and the fact that we don't believe it to be the best material to use.

In the act of selling people composite decking you must make clear that in the event of a warranty claim you will not be supplying free labor to replace the deck should the materials turn out to be defective. You need to tell them verbally and include it as a term within your contract. If you don't make this perfectly clear up front, your act of selling the product could leave you vulnerable later.

The other trouble is that once you tell people you won't replace defective materials for free--they just may not buy from you.
The Company that was the largest deck builder in Canada staked their business on composites--and in the last couple of years they have watched 10 of their franchisees close their doors, (1 joined I am not sure if that is due to complications of composites or just management issues in general.

As deck builders we need to choose what we sell carefully. We need to look at the warranty and decide if the risk is worth the potential gains. It is your deck business and only you decide what you will or will not sell.