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Category Archives: Decking [COMPLETE]

Building a deck out the back of the house

Finished Deck

Finished Deck

Remember that time I built a massive deck in the back yard?

Well, I just realised that even though I had the pictures, I didn’t actually upload the final photos!

So here they are….

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I think it turned out alright. 🙂

It’s been a few years since we sold the place with this deck and we still kind of miss it. I wonder what the current owners have done with the back yard? Hopefully it still looks the same.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in Decking [COMPLETE], Home Renovations

 

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Planting Clivias

Planting Clivias

Now that all the boards are finished it’s time to pretty up the backyard a bit, starting with adding a little bit of greenery.

When I first cleared out the gardens (way before construction of the frame for the deck) I kept all the plants I removed and put them in pots. This turned out to be a great idea as I had a lot of plants available to green up the place without having to buy any! Besides, the ones that survived in pots for a long time turned out to be the most hardy.

One of the plants that I had a lot of was clivias. They are a fairly small plant with large green leaves and pretty orange flowers. They also have berry looking seeds that add to the colour and appearance. You can find out more about them at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clivia

Before planting them I had to get the garden bed ready. As you may have noticed from my previous post, I had a half buried coppers log (treated pine log) to form the border of the pavers. I wanted to freshen this up a little so I removed the log and cast it aside here’s a picture of what it looks like (and where it ended up is a secret…)

Anyway, with that gone I decided to put a spare length of decking board as the border to hold the pavers and to hold the dirt back. You’ll see it in future photos, but here’s a close up of how it worked out. I also had a lot of containers holding dirt and used the dirt to fill in the area a bit.

A word about keeping dirt. Worms are awesome natural ways to add fertilizer and to aerate the soil, making it a fantastic start for replanted plants. To encourage worms going through the soil, I filled old pots with dirt that had various bits of natural detritus (like leaves and roots and sticks). The worms enter through the drainage holes of the pot and move through the soil eating the debris and adding fertilizer. It’s a good idea to put a layer of leaves and sticks on top of the pots to keep the moisture in and to provide extra food for the worms.

Once the bed was bordered and topped up with soil, it was time to plant the clivias. I didn’t have much room (width-wise) and wanted to make it look as full as possible. I therefore opted for a trench-style planting. Basically I dug a trench through the middle of the garden bed and then placed the clivias in the middle of the trench.

To explain the best way to plant clivias, I’ll go through step by step how to remove them from the pots. The best thing about clivias is that if you put one in a pot, it will grow other shoots which then grow into mature plants in the same pot. I ended up having sometimes 5 or 6 clivias in the one pot! So because I had left these in pots for some time, they looked pretty haggard due to leaves and sticks falling from them out of a nearby tree as well as weeds taking root in the pot.

The first step was to remove all of the unwanted stuff in the pot to clean it up a bit. The leaves and weeds can be kept aside and either used in compost or use it to make a nice leaf litter for a mulch.

Much better! Now the next step is to remove it from the pot. For this step you can’t be gentle, you’ve just got to shake the pot until the whole thing falls out. Ideally, shake it in a horizontal way so the plant comes out without damaging the leaves too much. If it’s hard to come out, tap the bottom of the pot to loosen it away from the pot.

You can see that the plants were becoming quite root bound – that is filling the pot with roots instead of dirt. The best thing you can do to prepare for replanting it to remove a lot of the roots. They will grow back quickly, though so don’t worry too much. My theory is that plants distribute energy in growth equally to their leaves and roots. If the roots are damaged or if there isn’t enough water, the plant concentrates on the roots more than the leaves. When you replant, you want the clivia to concentrate on building new roots to become more solid in the ground. Therefore, if you get rid of some of the roots, the plant will put all it’s energy into making itself more solid in it’s new environment. To do this, just grab a shovel and chop at it. Keep the excess roots and dirt and put them in a pot to let the worms do their magic. They love clivia roots, by the way.

Although this looks butchered, the root ball size here is more than enough to start the planting. I guess the root ball itself is about the size of your fist. If there are multiple plants in the one pot, just get the blade of the shovel in there and separate them at the roots. Then cut each one back to a similar sized root ball and plant them as individual plants. You can then put them straight into the trench we dug earlier and then cover them with dirt.

Just continue doing this until the trench if filled. As I said earlier, I planted them quite close together to give it a bushy look. If you plant them further apart, they will grow over time to fill up the bed. Don’t forget that once you have put them all in to give them a really good water and then stand back and admire your handy work. You can sprinkle some slow release fertilizer through the bed if you wish (like Osmocote) but in my case, the worms helped me with that for free!

 

All that’s left now is to clean up and move onto the next section of the garden (to the left in this picture), but that’s another blog post. 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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Balcony Boards

Balcony Boards

Now that the side boards are done near the steps and the capping and frame are in place for the boards under the balcony, the only thing left to do is to put the boards up.

I had a big advantage with most of the deck in that my brother-in-law, Jake, gave me quite a lot of help. Two sets of hands are so much better than one and I do suggest if you’re doing any sort of decking that you get an extra pair.

To compensate for being able to get someone to hold the other end, I had to use clamps to hold the board instead. I found the easiest way to do this was to clamp things under the board on the frame holding them up, but not necessarily in place. This way I could put one screw in and then do the rest fairly easily. Here’s a picture of how I set up the clamps.

As you can see from the next picture, I also made sure the boards butted up against the side part to hold that whole frame in. Once in place, it is impossible for the side frame to move and everything fits together nicely. The lines of the boards don’t match up perfectly, but I found that to be more of a feature than a problem.

I just kept adding boards in exactly the same way each time until I reached the ground. The last board, in fact resting on the ground in a few places. I wasn’t too concerned about being exactly on the ground the whole way because I wanted to make sure that if some small creature got in, it could also get out.

This left a large gap in one area, but the gap was covered near the fence. This meant that I needed to do a shorter board to finish it off. Here’s the gap.

Once I put the last board on, all that is left is to put some extra dirt in the ground and plant some cliveas in front of the boards to make it look nice. Below is the finished pic before I started on the garden bit.

And with that, I packed up. Next post, the garden!

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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Further progress on the back deck

Further progress on the back deck

Now that the frame is set up to attach the boards to, the next step is to complete the side part on the stairs. This is difficult because I need to essentially build a triangle. But it needs to be done before the boards as the boards will hold the whole stair side framework in place.

The first step is to measure how long the next board needs to be. The bottom part of the end needs to be the right length so that when it’s cut, it reaches the right point. It’s important to ensure that the gap between each board is the same and that the board you’re measuring is the right spacing. As you can see in the photo below, I have used a couple of off cuts to enforce the gap – the width of a board.

 

The board then needs to be cut to the correct length (it can go over a little at the back) and then cut to have the right angle on the end. You can see in the above photo that I have laid a capping board on top of the frame and I got behind this and sketched a line for the cut under the capping board, directly onto the board about to be cut. This gives me the correct angle.

The next part should come with a disclaimer. I will be using the drop saw in a way that it wasn’t supposed to be used. It can be dangerous so you probably shouldn’t try this at home.

 

Because of the steepness of the angle, it’s impossible to cut it as normal. Therefore I have put the board in at right angles to the drop saw and lined up the blade with the pencil line.

 

This cut doesn’t have to be perfect, but as close as you can get it. The capping board in the end will cover any sins, but the closer the better. Each board should be cut in this fashion and then attached to the frame. The boards are attached to the frame with two screws the same as everywhere else on the deck. Once all the boards are completed, it should look like this.

 

Once all the boards are on, the capping board then needs to go on to top. I clamped it in place and then went through and drilled and counter sunk each of the holes. It is EXTREMELY important to note that I had to drill all the way through the other boards or the board will crack when the screw goes in.

 

Once the capping board is on top, the whole frame then needs to be moved into place. This mostly takes patience and effort. Once in, it’s not a bad idea to wedge something in between the frame and the wood of the support to ensure it’s in the right position before starting the boards.

 

Now that the side is done, the next step is to do the boards under the balcony.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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Under the balcony frame

Under the balcony frame

So the next step to finishing off the deck is to offset the wall by boarding up the section under the back balcony. I have already started doing this as you can see in my previous post on the deck.

To be able to put the boards up, I need something to attach them to, so I have put a length of timber on either side of the metal supports for the awning. I put one on either side of the middle support and then one in the inside of each of the two other supports. I measured them to be exactly from the ground to the width of one decking board below the level of the balcony floor. This meant I could cap the whole thing with a decking board.

To attach the timber to the metal supports, I decided the best way was to use ‘tech screws’ which are specifically for metal. The ones I had left over from the roof of the awning were perfect, but a little short. Therefore I drilled the hole and then drilled a much larger hole (the size of the head of the screw) about halfway into the timber. This meant it would happily go into the metal, but would still hold the timber.

I also made sure the timber was a little bit wider than the metal to make sure that there was some air around it to breathe a bit. I also used timber the same width as the decking boards, this way it would nicely even up.

The next step was to cut a decking board the exact length to fit between the supports. This would be the capping to make the whole thing look neat and to avoid anything falling down behind the boards. I sat them in place to ensure they fit properly and then screwed them down once they were in place.

So, as you can see in the above picture, the part under the stairs needed to have a gap there to hold it in place. I figured that once the cross boards were there they would hold the side part in place so no further attaching would be required.

With the rest of that part set up, it’s time to finish off the side part under the stairs…

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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Deck update

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve posted about the deck – you thought it was finished didn’t you? Well it almost is. But, you know, the deck finished without the back yard done is like an exceptional meal without a garnish.

So, I’ve started boxing in the area under the balcony/verandah and thought I’d show the progress. Once this section is done, the plants will be put in the ground and the whole back yard cleaned up. THEN it will be finished.

The area in the photo above is where there were a bunch of plants that I have removed (and potted). My plan is to enclose this area by putting up boards that are arranged the same way as the back wall of the deck.

When I removed all the plants from the garden I kept ALL of them. The mondo grass I took out went into styrofoam boxes, but not all survived. I have had to empty the boxes, throw the dead stuff in the green waste bin, the foam into the bin and the excess dirt to back fill the areas in front of where the boards will go. Not a HARD job, but a bit time consuming.

I also arranged the left over wood behind where the boards will go so they look a bit tidier if you happen to look in there. I also left a coil of agflow pipe there as well. Now, it might sound like I’m just boarding up rubbish, but in fact it’s home to Elizabeth. Elizabeth and her husband Phillip are our resident blue tongue lizards. Elizabeth may have laid her eggs in the agflow pipe, so I’ve decided it wouldn’t be fair to displace her and risk hurting the kids. So I decided just to leave the pipe where it was and leave the boards in there for a playground. Besides, it’s their home too, right?

In this photo (above) you can see the area that I’m building up, which is under the sole remaining mondo grass box. This area is the end of the deck – and I will cut off the extra bits soon, don’t worry. The area under the trees and to the right of this photo will be where I’m planting the clivias to create a nice ground cover and a splash of green. You can also see in the background the agflow pipe, aka Elizabeth’s home.

This shot gives you a better idea of the area I’ll be covering with the boards. The part under the stairs will be a challenge, but the other parts should be as easy as just building a frame to attach the boards to. Then once complete the clivias will occupy that dirt space in front between the boards and the paving.

This is the area that I’m focusing on first – the stairs. This will be the trickiest since it’s a triangle shape. Therefore, I thought the best way to go about it was to draw up some plans….

From the above plans (if you can work them out) I have taken all the measurements and worked out roughly (diagram not to scale) where all the boards will go and how the frame will work.

Since this part of the “wall” will be mostly held up by the ends of the other frames, I’m not to concerned about how solid the frame is. It just needs to be enough to be able to support the weight of the boards. I’ve cut a few corners here, but I think it will be fine. Bascially I have put an upright on the left, one on the right and one in the middle. The uprights are bolted to a ground horizontal beam and the boards attached to the uprights. It all seems good in theory. Once the boards are in place, I’ll cut a board in half length ways and it will be the cap running down the “hypotenuse” of the wall.

Once I put the frame together, I got a little gung ho, so didn’t take pics, but when I had finished I put the birds nest plants near the wall to hold it if there’s a problem. Here are the pics of where I’m up to right now. I still have a few more boards to go on and the hypotenuse to affix as well.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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Finished Deck

The deck is finished (pretty much) with just a couple of little cosmetic things that need to be done. However, the bulk of it is done and apart from those small things, I only have the backyard landscaping to do. I hope to get a good start on it this weekend.

Anyway, thought I’d post up the final pics before I show the whole back yard.

So that’s the bulk of the work done. More pics when I finish the back yard!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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Finishing the deck!

Finishing the deck!

Okay, last we saw the deck was shaping up nicely with most of the top boards on and a couple of boards down for the facia side of the deck. The final part was to take the boards all the way to the ground and to finish the wall behind the deck to frame up the backyard.

Firstly, we had to put on the boards beneath the lights and that was pretty straight forward. We did that on both front facings. Then the real problem came with going to the ground.

I wanted to have a pretty solid looking front face, but also wanted to keep a small gap between the bottom of the board and the ground so that a) air is let in for ventilation and b) if there is an water run off, it flows into the drain. However, the ground isn’t even and the top of the deck is level, so this means cutting a board length ways that will fit.

The funny this was trying to work out how to cut it. As you’ll see a bit further down, it’s fairly easy in that you measure the gap and then mark it on the board. The problem was the tool to cut it with.

We decided on the jig saw since it was the easiest to control, but after snapping the blade we decided to just go with the circular saw. It made a nice long clean cut, and it turned out that any imperfections were hidden since it was so close to the ground.

Here’s the first board we did with the 20mm gap the whole way along.

Because the ground dropped off significantly, we had to use two boards to slope it, so the second one needed to also be measured and cut. We measured it at the support beams since that would be where we would attach them. Then we marked out the points on the board and basically joined the dots.

In this photo below you can see how we used the circular saw to cut along the board. The pencil mark was the guide and it turned out surprisingly well. My brother in-law is pretty handy with the saw, though. Also notice that he’s wearing safety goggles… that’s even more important in home DIY because you aren’t a builder working for some big company with lots of insurance. If you take an eye out, you’re paying for it! Besides, hard to finish the deck with one eye….

Once it was cut, we then chocked it into place and attached it to the bottom of the deck. It ended up looking great. You can also see at the top of the picture that the boards running along from the left hand side of the photo don’t have anything to attach to. You can also see my brother in-law wasn’t that excited about having his photo taken.

To make sure the boards joined in the corner, we ran the boards for the right side first and then attached an off cut of timber over the boards, up under the deck vertically. We then ran the other boards from the left and attached them to the off cut. This creates a seamless join that is out of the way, tidy and still very strong.

Once the boards underneath had been finished, we decided to start on the back wall. This wasn’t too difficult as the uprights have been there from the start. The first thing I did, though was to trim back the ficus trees to make it a little easier to get around.

We continued to use the three drill style – one for drilling, one for countersinking and one for screwing. We also used the two man approach – one holding the board and passing the drills, the other using the drills. We tangled the cords a lot and swore heaps, but it got done. You can see here, the photo is taken about half way up. Also, it’s worthwhile noting the three off cuts of board that we used to space the boards we were putting up.

I wanted to have a larger gap between the boards on the wall than on the deck. This gives an impression that the wall is different to the deck and stops the whole back yard looking boxed in. I was very happy with the spacing and how it turned out.

At about this point we realised that we didn’t have enough boards and that getting new ones would be a major issue. Each board is 5.4m long and you need a special vehicle to carry them. We decided to cross that bridge when we could and just use up what we had.

It’s also important to know that the four main parts of the wall – far left, corner left, corner right and far right – happened to fit together nicely if each board was cut in half. This meant that the far right and corner left could be cut out of one board, the far left and corner right out of another.

The only problem with this logic was that the boards needed to be put in with a specific order. That order was Far right, far left, corner right, corner left. This is because the boards need to overlap to be able to put in the hidden support beam for the other boards to rest on (in the same way we did the front boards in the corner.

However, this also meant that we needed to have cut the correct boards in the first place to be able to do that and with the lack of boards, we realised we didn’t have enough. So we did what we could and then found other things to do…

The first other thing was putting the bottom board on the left hand side. It was a little easier, because the final full board was the right height at one end and that meant we only need to cut one board. We did this and it also fit in really well.

Another other thing that needed to be done concerned the massive tree on the left hand side of the deck. I wanted to keep it there as a feature and shade provider, but it also meant having to build the deck around it. The floor of the deck was fine, I just needed a bigger hole, but the wall presented some challenges.

We decided – after much deliberation of my brother in-law and I both arguing how the best way to do it was, and realising that the meant the same thing, but communicated it differently – that we would need to build a frame that would support the boards that would have to fit around the tree. The frame itself is made from the same size timbers as the rest of the deck frame and are bolted in place the same way.

I wanted to have a “window” of sorts around the tree branches to allow for branch growth and to look nice, but the trunk of the tree to look like it was almost behind the boards. I still needed to leave room for the growth of the tree as well. We built this frame to have the height that the tree would allow, but to a point where the board would cover the top support when it was up. The other thing we did there was to put upright supports so that the boards had somewhere to be attached to.

We had worked out that we had enough of the boards to put up 3 boards in place to ensure that everything fit together okay size wise, so we put those in place first. We were happy with how the frame seemed to support the back wall a lot more than without the frame.

We also put up the first 3 boards on the corner right side to ensure that we had the right lengths there as well.

Below you can see where the boards go behind. From here, once those boards are all done, we’ll put a off cut over the top of them and then attach the corner left boards to the off cut. All going well it should also have a seamless join, but there is a little less pressure since the tree in the corner hides any problems.

With all of the boards used up, we had to them call it a day and work out how to get the rest of the boards to finish off the project.

The only thing left to do, was to give the deck a safety test to see how much weight it could take and for that we enlisted the help of my niece, Scarlett, Jake’s daughter. She seemed happy with the deck, but a little dubious of having her photo taken.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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Adding the boards

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally time to put the boards on. The skeleton (or frame) is done, the lighting is ready to be installed – with the pun fully intended, the stage is set.

So far, most of the work has been pretty easy to achieve with just one person. Since the decking boards are 5.4m long and you need to drill, countersink and screw hundreds of times, it’s so much easier with two people. Therefore I called in my awesome brother-in-law who not only has built a couple of decks before, but – and more importantly – is someone who I work really well with.

I think the key thing here is to be able to find someone who is on the same page when it comes to helping. There is nothing worse than spending more time arguing than building. The key to this, I’ve found, is to assign tasks. If each person has a specific task that they need to do and discussions happen prior to organising that, everything runs much more smoothly.

Anyway, to the pics…

This photo above shows some really cool things. Firstly, the boards themselves which I have already discussed and given props to. Secondly, the screws. They are stainless steel (as recommended by the product sheet) and also dipped in a brown colour to look less obtrusive once in the deck.

Notice that the boards are evenly spaced. For this we used tile adhesive applicators which are about 4 mm wide and sit nicely in between the boards while you screw them down. You can see them in on the left hand side. This was Jake’s idea (my bro-in-law) and an exceptional one.

Next it’s important to note that there are three drills on deck. The first is for drilling the holes for the screws, the second for countersinking and the third for driving the screws in. The way we did it was that Jake would drill and countersink and then I would put the screws in. Three drills makes everything easier because you don’t need to keep changing the bits. It is also easier with 3 people, (a drill each) but since we had very limited space, two worked just as well. The only problem with the corded drills is that they tangle, but you can see from the pic that Jake threw the cord over a branch and it seemed to help.

You can also see clearly how we’ve managed the trees coming through the deck. No fancy circular holes, just stopping the boards with a gap for the tree with the battons around the space. This not only looks good, but it’s easy.

The reason for this photo was to highlight a mistake I made and more importantly how we fixed it. We decided that with the weight of the boards and eventually people as well, there wasn’t enough support – or more importantly, too much distance between the support posts. Therefore we added in extra support posts from off cuts of 90×90 that I had kept. We dug a hole, inserted a brick, belted it with a rubber mallet and then sat the support post on top. To get the post in, we lifted the deck a bit and then put it in place to ensure it was tight and solid. We also put a couple of huge decking screws in there to stop it from moving in future. This added heaps more support and although time consuming gave a much better result in the end. Ideally, it should be concreted in, but the boards will hold it in place.

The above photo is a close up of the area around the tree. There will be boards forming a wall behind the tree, so the battons will be hidden, but you can see how much space I left for tree growth and how we attached the boards there.

Due to the string line issue that I have mentioned in previous posts, we found that the deck did bow out a bit and that created some problems. Also, we found that looking down the line, the battons and the support post in the middle stuck out a fair bit which would result in a visible bow to the deck. We decided that we should chisel back the battons and then give it a big hit with the belt sander to take it back to a less noticeable bend. In the blurry photo above, you can see Jake going hammer and chisel on the batton.

Jake then went through with the belt sander and evened things out somewhat. Of course this still resulted in a slight bow, but what we found was that once the boards were on, it wasn’t as noticeable as it would have been had we not gone that extra step. In fact, you can see in the photo below that it actually turned out quite well.

You can clearly see the area that was sanded back and also how straight the board looks. We were really pleased with the result. Also notice that the facia board is level with the top of the deck and holds it all nicely together. I’m really pleased with the finish we got there.

However, the gap on the other side was more problematic. The over hang was substantial and where we thought we would originally just be able to pack it out, it was just too large a gap. After considerable discussion, we decided that it was best to actually thin down the front board and then do a little packing out to make as even as possible. Since the overhang was pretty big, we ruled a pencil line to where we wanted to take it back to and then used a jigsaw to remove the majority of the waste. Then we went through with the belt sander and evened it out and took it back a little more. We put washers around the decking screws to pack it out and the end result was really impressive. The board didn’t look noticeably thinner, but the front fascia board fit like a glove! The extra time, again, taken to even this out, really gave an excellent finish.

Overall, we were really happy with the way it all turned out and after two days of hard slog trying to avoid rainy periods, we finished. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it will have to wait for another weekend.

The finished product so far… – a little blurry, but you can also see where the actually lights were installed but using a hole saw to cut into the decking board. I think it looks fantastic!!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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Deck lights

I wanted to have some lighting on the deck and in the area, but I didn’t want to have some sort of spotlight in your eyes while you’re trying to relax.

I decided that I would make my own LED lights to build into the deck and bring an ambiance rather than harsh lighting. If you look elsewhere in this blog you will find a thread about how I dismally failed at that so I went to the hardware shop and bought a do-it-yourself kit.

It seemed relatively easy to do the kit and it was. I took maybe an hour or so to string it all up according to the instructions and then had to fix a few that I did wrong. All in all a pretty easy experience.

Anyway, I decided that I would set it all up prior to putting the boards on because it would be so much easier. Then I also needed to check how it would look at night and how bright the actual lights were. For this I used the most reliable and widely acclaimed fastening system available – gaff tape. 🙂

I went through and placed the lights where I thought they would be finally and gaff taped them in place to get an idea of how bright they would be and how the light would be distributed. Then I loosely strung the wire up under the deck skeleton while it was easy.

Once the boards are on it will be easier to then mount the lights in the deck and pull the cable tight. Here are the pictures of the lights in place prior to the boards going on.

Once all set up, I had to wait for nightfall to test. I was pretty happy with the highlighting of the trees and the light it put out on to the paving. The following picture is pretty grainy, but obviously…. it’s dark. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 
 
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