Category Archives: Home Renovations

Some of the cool stuff I’ve done around the house.

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]



Okay, so the last update was that the rails had been finished on the deck. The next step is the skeleton, or the battons that the decking boards will actually be screwed to.

There is a bunch of steps involved with this and none of them simple and straight forward. The first thing I did was get out there and make sure I had a clean work area to start with. Sound weird? Not really, you see it IS in a garden and with that comes certain problems. Although most problems can be killed with insect spray…

This was one of about 8 little fellas who came out to visit when I sprayed. Each one was about the size of an iPod Nano. As you can see in this photo above, I went all Godfather on this one – killed him and killed his family. However, it must be said that I don’t like killing any living being without reason, but this was in preemptive self defence since it really was a safety hazard to be doing so much work that close to where they were lurking. And to clarify further, they aren’t actually bad spiders – they are venomous, but not dangerous as they hardly ever come out of their “house” let alone bite people ( – but I’m more worried about one crawling on me while I’m using a circular saw… resulting in much more damage than a spider bite.

But, on to decking things. The next step was to cut enough timber for the skeleton, which involved getting more wood from Bunnings. I ended up buying the decking boards as well since I was already there. I bought every last stick of decking boards that they had (56 boards) and brought them home and laid them in the backyard.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the boards are Ekodeck – –  and are fantastic. They also have a product fact sheet thing on their site (under downloads) that gives all the specs on how to construct the frame of the deck itself (as far as minimum distances and so on go). I read through and checked this document – I had already done so before even starting the frame, but recapped – and saw that the maximum space between battons was 450mm.

Therefore, I would need to position the battons as equally as possible and preferably closer than 450mm. I went through and cut a bunch of the timber to the right lengths (measured with a little extra to spare) and then laid them all out to see how they fit together.

You can see the decking boards in front of the frame in the picture above, but more importantly, you can see how I’ve laid the battons out. Now, obviously, I had existing ones in there to hold the posts up, so I had to work within those constraints. I also needed to avoid the trees and preferably frame them, while still trying to keep the battons as equidistant as possible.

This took some time. However, the easiest way, I found was to measure the distance from the front of the deck, guess, and then move the battons in place. Then measure them and  adjust slightly to make it more even. Once you’ve done the front, then measure the back as well (distance between battons) to ensure that it’s even across the length of the deck.

As you can see in this horribly blurry shot above, some of the battons that held the posts up were not exactly straight. I had to actually move those as well, which in some cases involved cutting them to fit. Once they were spaced that worked out okay, though. You can also see on the right hand side of the frame that I’m going to have problems in fitting that corner together.

As you can see, I ended up with putting a batton on the end of the side deck and then screwing the cross battons straight into it. I had to be really careful and fairly precise with this as I still needed to have strength there. Also I had a small problem when I looked at it because the boards for the side deck would finish butt up against the back deck boards. That meant I needed a second batton for that. It also needed to be exactly in the right spot, so I used a couple of left over bolts and nuts to space them apart. Worked a treat.

Next post will be getting the deck lighting ready and then the boards go on!!!


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


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Lessons Learned

Hi all,

I will be blogging the updates on my deck this week, but since I spent about 50 hours over the last 4 days working on it, there’s a lot of updates. Therefore I thought I would do a quick update to record the key lessons I have learned in the last couple of days that would have made things a lot easier, or that did make things easier.

Lesson #1 – Use a string line

I didn’t really think of this at the time, and I made sure everything was perfectly level, however, I forgot that the front of the deck would need to be straight. I mean, it looked straight, but when it came to putting the boards on, not so much.

A string line is a great way to make sure that everything lines up. In fact, if I was to do it again, I would be a lot more particular with concreting in the stirrups and bracing them to ensure that they were perfectly level horizontally and vertically, but also in line with each other. That would have saved a lot of grief.

Lesson #2 – You can fix it

Even when you do everything perfect, there will always be something that doesn’t quite work out right. However, instead of hoping for the best and just soldiering on, it’s best to take the time to fix it.

I thought that the supports would be strong enough with the gap they had. They may be, but to make sure, I put in some extra support posts just in case. Turns out that the deck is so much more solid for it, and if I hadn’t have spend half a day messing around with them, the deck may not be as solid.

Lesson #3 – Overkill is good

There are times when you can take small short cuts because is going to be hidden when the job is finished. There are times when it will probably do, but the best rule of thumb is over kill.

I wish I had been a lot more gungho in the beginning and just put a lot more posts in. There would have been more support, I wouldn’t have had to go back and put some extra ones in later, and where I thought there would have been enough, it wouldn’t have hurt to go for the overkill.

Lesson #4 – Don’t have a deadline

Setting a deadline or working towards one is great, but it can lead to shortcuts that will make things more difficult in the end. It also puts a lot of pressure on you to kill yourself trying to finish things.

Set a tentative deadline and work towards it as much as you can, but be aware that things happen (eg rain) that will slow things down. It’s better to have a quality finished product that will be ready once it’s done than having something delivered on time that is sub-par.

Lesson #5 – “Ekodeck” is awesome

The product I have used for the decking boards is called Ekodeck( ). It’s pretty much made from plantation bamboo and recycled bottles. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s awesome.

It is a little heavier than wood, and a lot more flexible (which can be good for working with, not so great for carrying). It looks like wood, but doesn’t have much of a grain – however, nor does it have imperfections like knot holes. You work with it just like wood (screw, drill, cut, etc) with one massive difference – no sawdust! Yes there are shavings, but they’re pretty soft and don’t tend to clog things up. The material itself is very easy to shape (chisel, sand, cut, etc) and is really solid.

I’m yet to find out first hand how it weathers, but it didn’t need to be oiled, treated or anything like that. You just screw it down and it’s ready. And it looks awesome!!

Anyway… more updates through the week with lots and lots of progress. In fact, the end is in sight! 🙂

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


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Rails Finished

Again, rain stopped play.

But the advantage is that I can catch up with previous photos. This post brings us up to date and then later this week I’ll be doing the majority of the work to finsh the deck off. Very exciting!

As per last post, I need to go through and redo all the posts to be recessed and strengthen the frame in general. I have taken each post out of the garden (now that I’ve put them all in place) individually and finished them off.

The first step is to do the recess where the bearer will lock into. To do this, I measured out the size of the recess and then used the circular drop saw to make a row of cuts to build the recess. Below is a picture of my half way through.

Once the recess is done, the next step is to measure exactly 180cm from the recess to the top of the post. This means that the post is the same height from the deck the whole way around the fence line. Once measured, it’s just a simple cut.

After the post is the right height, the second bolt to the stirrup is required. Remember I only put one bolt in to hold the post? Well, I need to put the second bolt through to hold the post solid.

You can see in the above shot that I have used a sharpie to mark the outside of the hole where the second bolt needs to go. Because the first bolt holds tightly, the second bolt just needs to go through and then it will tighten the stirrup to hols the post solid. Therefore the next step is to make the second hole bigger just so that the bolt will go through.

Once the holes are done, the recess is made and the post is the right height, the post needs to go back in the stirrup and be solidly bolted in. Obviously it needs to be level in both left/right and front/back.

You can see in the above picture that I haven’t fully tightened the bolts, and will do that once I’m sure it’s level. Once the bolts are tightened, I check again to makes sure we’re good. Using the support post that I originally put on to ensure the post was level, helps a lot with doing this.

Once the post is in place, I need to do the bearer. It needs to sit in the recess and be exactly the length between the two posts. I also want the to bearers to over lap, so that means cutting half of the bearer end off and then bolting them together. I came up with the most efficient way I had available to me, which isn’t the safest, but seemed to work really well.

I measured the half of the bearer I need to cut off so that it had a recess that sat inside the post recess. The next bearer would them have one on the opposite side and they would fit together perfectly and be bolted to the post. I marked the lines (note the shading of the waste side) and then I made the cuts. I used a combination of the drop saw and a hand saw to finish it off. The photos below are pretty self explanatory…

The final product…

Okay,k sure it’s not perfect. But it’s close enough and the bolts will pull them together nicely.

The best thing is that at the ends, the recess doesn’t need to be made and the bearer just bolts on. From there each bearer overlaps and fits together perfectly…

And then once it all fits together it looks like this…

The corner, of course, provided the biggest problem, but that just consisted of some accurate measuring and some more shallow recesses…. and a rubber mallet. 🙂

And then, once all of this has been done, I have ended up with an extremely solid framework that will support the last step of framing before the deck goes on.

And now the final step is to go through and put all the framework in place for the decking to sit on. That is the next step I need to do (when it stops raining) and then the deck boards go on!

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


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