43-Foot Elevated Observation & Entertaining Trex Deck
In another POST we had constructed a smaller, Master Bedroom Trex Deck. On this same home we are building a higher, longer Observation & Entertaining Deck. Since it is directly outside of the new Great Room, this amazing
NEW OUTSIDE SPACEwill be perfect for entertaining.
It will extend the inside of the home to the out-of-doors. Moreover, it will allow the owners to to take advantage of some fantastic views: an amazing, cost-effective home improvement - time to plan some summer dinner parties!
The new 43-foot deck will be attached to the second story of the home and protrude six feet into the tree tops supported by five new steel columns. Three of the steel columns are what are called “Deep Pole Columns.” That means that the 6-inch diameter steel columns will be embedded “deeply” into almost 5-feet of steel-reinforced, concrete in undisturbed soil. The remaining two columns are more traditional columns that will have welded “Base Plates” and be attached by bolts to a standard 16-inch deep “Pad Footing.”
We are hand-digging the five footings. Three holes will be 5-feet deep and 30-inches square, the other two holes will be 16-inches deep and 30-inches square.
A 4-inch ABS sewer pipe is going through one of the footings. We will have to wrap it with protective wrap so that the concrete does not interact with the plastic, nor crack it.
A hole 2′-6″ x 2′-6″ square and 5′-0″ deep will require more concrete than one might think. 31 cubic feet. A cubic foot of concrete weights 150 pounds. That means that EACH of the three “Deep Pole Footings” will weigh in at a hefty 4,650 pounds! That’s almost 2.5 tons of ballast. The deck will not be tipping over - even in a 7.2 earthquake…
Like many hillside homes, the actual distance between the ground and a second story is more than the typical 8-10 feet. Our deck will be 15-feet in the air. The deck will reach into the tree tops of three California Avocado Trees. Want to make some Guacamole? Just reach over the deck rail!
The soil is clay on top of bedrock. Hard digging and a terrific foundation medium.
Concrete footings should extend 6 to 8 inches above the surrounding soil. We are constructing lumber and plywood forms to make for good-looking, finished concrete footings. We have set brightly-colored mason strings parallel to the home’s foundation so that our forms will be super-accurate relative to the home.
Though the ground is sloped, our wooden concrete forms are perfectly level - one with another. When completed, the five concrete footings will be exactly the same height. We will then grade the surrounding soil to match…
Our last Deep Pole Footing will rise above the ground higher than all the other four because the soil slopes down the lowest here.
City inspection is next Tuesday. We will pour concrete in 2 of the 5 forms on the same day.
To make certain that the FOUR 3/4″ x 12″ long “J-Bolts” that we cast into the concrete footings will align-perfectly with the Base Plate of the new, welded Deck Columns, we want to make up a Base Plate Template to hold the bolts securely in place as the concrete is poured. Here we made up a 1/8″-Steel 12×12 Base Plate Template to hold-securely the anchor bolts.
If you don’t want to make your own Base Plate Template using a lighter-gauge steel - or even plywood - there are some companies that sell pre-made, adjustable templates for about $15 each + shipping. Here is one. It only goes to 9″ x 9″ - so it wouldn’t be useful for our project.
We have purposefully left all of the available-thread on the anchor bolts protruding above the concrete so that we can use nuts and washers UNDER
of the Base Plate. This way, we can precisely “dial-in” the column. As you drive around your city - look closely at the base plates of any traffic signal standards - you will see this exact same procedure - all across the U.S.
The”Deep Footing” is just that… The 6-Inch Steel Column will be embedded directly into the 4,650 pounds of concrete. The more traditional Steel Column will have a Base Plate welded to the bottom of its 6-Inch Steel Column and will be bolted to the standard concrete Pad Footing in the foreground of the photo.
Well, its time to pour 2 of the 5 footings.
The driveway here is very steep and ready-mix concrete is out of the question. So we mix on-site.
We are pouring the smallish Pad Footings today. We will set those “Base Plate” columns first. Then we will set the main deck beams that they will support. With just two of the five columns holding up the main deck beams, we will then bolt the Deep Pole Columns to the main deck beam to hold them - dangling
- hanging from the partially-supported beams - loosely inside of their wooden forms. Then we will pour 2.5 tons of concrete around each
one of them…
Tomorrow we will remove the wooden forms and the 12″ x 12″ steel templates that secured the anchor bolts in perfect alignment.
We’ve removed the 2×4’s so that we can finish and edge the curing concrete. Be careful to wait until the concrete stiffens - or your bolts and template may sink or sag out of alignment. Sticking a nail or a finger into the concrete is a simple test…
Since we had some extra concrete today we poured 3-4 inches into the Deep Pole Footings so that we could secure our rebar and eliminate the need to suspend it. See the plastic pipe tape holding the “rebar-baskets”in suspension in the photo below? We can remove those two straps which will make it much easier next week when we pour those humongous footings and want to finish the surface and put a beveled edge on the concrete’s perimeter.
Off to the steel fabricator. Here we have cut 21-foot lengths of 6-Inch diameter steel pipe to length. Then we fabricate a Beam Saddle of 1/4-Inch Steel and a Base Plate of 3/4-Inch Plate. We will return Saturday morning to pick up some or all of our remaining columns.
We removed the plywood concrete forms on the two pad footings. We will place the two Base-Plate Steel Columns Saturday as well. Then we will place our 8″ x 8″ Deck Beams in the saddles of these steel columns. You can see how the Deep Pole Footing is in-between the two completed footings… We will bolt the Deep Pole Column to the suspended beam and allow it to “dangle” in that 5-foot deep hole. We will align it with a level and secure it from shifting then pour the 4,650-pounds of concrete around and below it.
We will remove the 1/8-inch steel template before we gingerly place the heavy columns onto the four bolts.
Our deck will be approximately 42-feet in length. The center-most column is not exactly centered at 21-feet. We have purchased two 8″ x 8″ Rough Sawn Douglas Fir Beams - one of the beams is 20 feet long, and the other is 26 feet long. We will trim them precisely to length as we place them. Here is the “tiny 20-footer.” Tomorrow the 26-footer and more 6×6 Deck Rafters.
Today we arrived at Ganahl Lumber in the seven o’clock hour to pick up our 26-foot Deck Beam and more deck rafters. You wonder: “Why wouldn’t handsome, obvious professionals like these guys have the lumber delivered?” Thanks for that! Two reasons. If you purchase your client’s lumber for them, you are able to “hand-pick” the best, straightest lumber. Have it delivered - they might bring you stuff you’d never want to see. B.T.W. - Ganahl Lumber is usually an exception to this - what customer service! The second reason is the long, narrow, curvy, steep driveways that most La Habra Heights homes have - a big lumber truck would not have an easy delivery.
Reason #2! See this driveway? This is the straight, not-so-steep section…
The Ford “Tonka Truck” did not roll over - though it worried us for a while. The little truck that could…
After the lumber delivery, we rushed to the steel fabricator about 9 a.m. on this Saturday morning as they only work a half day. We load up some more heavy Steel Columns and take them back to the job site.
Everything is heavy today! We just can’t get a break.
While I’m lifting the heavy Canon Digital SLR, the remaining boys are moving the 500# column up to the pad footings we completed a few days ago.
This deck better see a lot of use!
I couldn’t help but picture the famous Iwo Jima Picture.
It is in place and now must be lifted up and delicately lowered on the precisely-placed 3/4-inch anchor bolts - delicately so we do not mangle the threads.
Almost there. DIY folks - you will likely have the base plate centered over 3 of the 4 bolts. Rather than hitting the bolts with a hammer, get a big sledge hammer and “gently” tap the edge of the thick 3/4-inch base plate. It will be easier than you fear.
Both columns required a couple of sledge hammer “taps” and settled down on the bolts. We are hand-tightening the nuts - but we need to check for height and level and adjust some of the 12 nuts. Remember, use two (2) nuts on the top and cinch them against each other to lock them in place.
These beams are no fun to move about.
Six men were able to hoist the heavy beam up using ropes while standing on scaffolding. The beam is approximately 12-15 feet from the ground (depending where you measure).
Note the “DEEP POLE FOOTING” between the “PAD FOOTINGS?” Now we can bolt the Deep Pole Column to the beam which will suspend it inside of that deep hole. Then all we have to do is check for level - and secure it “level” as we fill the footing with 4,650 pounds of concrete.
Here is another of the three (3) Deep Pole Footings.
Today we began to set the first 26-feet of 6×6 Deck Rafters. These could be spaced 24-inches on center, but we always want to be ultra-conservative so we placed them at 16-Inches on center.
The Simpson Hangers are fastened to the 2×12 Ledger using 16D galvanized nails. The 6×6 Deck Rafters are secured in these hangers on the house side. On the beam side, the Deck Rafters are sitting atop of the 8×8 Deck Beam. The Deck Rafters are then securely blocked using 4×6 blocking set flush with the outside edge of the 8×8 Deck Beam.
The Inverted Simpson Hangers are much “cleaner” looking than the traditional flange style. Anytime you are build “Open-Framed” structures it is better to be cognizant of the cosmetics…
We don’t need the scaffolding any longer -so we will disassemble it tomorrow and set it up where we can use it to assist us in stuccoing the house.
A closer look.
Here is a view from the top. We are shooting 16D Galvanized nails at a 45-degree angle into the 4×6 Blocking and securing it to the 6×6 Deck Rafters.
We will better-secure the blocking using some Simpson A-34’s or A-35’s. Why do we want the blocking so overly-secure? Because we will likely bolt a Deck Safety Rail System to or through these blocks.
We treated the 4×6 blocking on the bottom and the just-cut ends with Jasco Preservative - but we left some uncoated so the blocks can be handled. We will paint it all tomorrow.
Today, while the Deck Rafters and Blocking was being installed at the job-site, I inspected and paid for a 10″ x 12″ x 28′ Rough Sawn Beam for the last deck we will build (next week) and visited the Steel Fabrication Shop where I inspected and paid for the final 3 steel columns (below).
We will pick up these wood beams and steel columns early tomorrow morning and take them to the job site.
Each of the 3 Deep Pole Columns will need 4,650 pounds of concrete. We have to use bagged products - and that’s 4 pallets so we had it delivered to save wear and tear on our vehicles.
So we have the concrete and we are ready to pour two of the three footings tomorrow morning.
The columns were literally man-handled into place.
It takes 4 men -minimum- to safely get the heavy columns up and into the footing forms without damaging them or knocking them out of square and level.
To keep the columns perfectly level - since they are “dangling” in the forms - we secure them in place with scraps of wood.
Hardened concrete will bond with any form surface, whether it is made of lumber, plywood, iron, steel, etc. Release agents, applied to the forms, are materials that permit the clean release of the partially hardened concrete from the form.
You can buy upwards of 400 different concrete form releases - if you are in the concrete business, or for the rest of us you can make your own with simple soap. Soaps are surfactants and work really well on small projects.
We were limited to some liquid dish soap - but the better choice would be a dry soap powder (Dishwasher or Laundry Soap) - make a strong, pasty solution and work it into the wood.
We started at 7 a.m. in case we need time to allow the concrete to set sufficiently that we can edge the footings and hand trowel the top surface with a steel trowel finish.
Most DIY folks will not have a concrete vibrator. You can rent one for about $40 or you can tap the sides of the plywood forms with a hammer. You want the wet concrete to vibrate into all of the nooks and crannies of the forms. You are also eliminating most of the air bubbles that will otherwise linger against the plywood causing a poor finished “look.”
It is the next day and as 3 of us add 20-feet to the deck and another deep pole column, we have a forth man remove the forms.
Even with a homemade soap release agent, forms are always a bit difficult to break apart.
Here is a view of our new “Deep Pole Footings” and the previously-poured “Standard Pad Footings” that have the anchor bolts.
You can see the rest of us about 25 feet down extending this nifty Observation Deck to its planned 42-foot length.
Here’s a good view of the stout 6-Inch steel columns; the 6×6 “treated” deck rafters; the Simpson Inverted Hangers and the overall view of the deck “coming together.”
It’s Saturday and we are working a half day. We have one last “Deep Pole Column” to bolt to the 8×8 Deck Beam. We will pour the last 2.5 tons of concrete around it Monday morning.
We use all manner of hydraulic tools, ropes, ratcheting straps - whatever is useful and convenient - to pull the 500-pound columns up tight and snug as we drill the bolt holes in the beam. Then we insert four 5/8-inch x 10-inch bolts to hold the column in place.
Using an aluminum Speed Square is very useful when you want to be certain that a long drill bit will penetrate the beam squarely and accurately in each and every direction.
Here’s another illustrative view of the underside of this long and high deck.
Once the deck is completed, we will have a terrific work surface to complete our new stucco.
We have about 20 feet of remaining deck to assemble. Our 12-Inch Saw will not cut through the 6×6 lumber without flipping the lumber over and making two passes.
As a recap, we are securing the 6×6 deck rafters to the house with Simpson Hangers. On the other side, the deck rafters are perched on top of the deck’s 8×8 main beam. The rafters are securely-blocked using short, precisely-cut 4×6 blocks. After the blocks are nailed in place with 16-D galvanized nails, we nail a Simpson A-35 Angle to each side of the 6×6 Deck Rafter to secure it to the 8×8 beam they sit upon.
Here is a closer view.
Below is the final section of our 42-Foot Long Trex Deck. We will turn the corner of the house and change deck systems to a water-tight, solid-surface, polyurethane-coated deck. That deck
will be covered in its own posting.
Today we are installing a 2″ x 4″ Factory-Painted, Charcoal Drip Edge Metal - a metal used on roofs - to protect the top, flat surface of our deck rafters. ALL WOOD will rot - and the process begins on the top.
When deck boards are on top of unprotected wood - here in California a wood fungus will often take hold. You cannot sell a home with active fungus - so its best to prevent it in the first place…
Where these metal pieces overlap we seal them, one-to-another, with a bead of polyurethane roof flashing caulk.
All of the overlaps are sealed - if you are wondering about that “fish-mouth” on the one deck beam, we came back within minutes and added more galvanized nails to close such openings.
The caulking will be dry to the touch tomorrow - and that is when we are going to install the TREX Deck boards.
This morning we are installing the TREX. We have decided to “frame” the deck with a picture frame of Trex mitered 45-degrees at the corners and fill in the resulting rectangle. Our gaps on this deck will be about a 1/4-inch. High Heels should be discouraged on Trex-type decks as gaps between the planks are mandatory.
These boards are called 5/4 and are approximately 1-inch thick - as compared to the thicker 2x materials. We are securing the deck boards using factory-coated, 8 x 2-1/2″ square-drive, deck screws.
The deck measures 6′ x 43′ long.
Its a beautiful Saturday in May and the deck is making walking in the treetops a real hoot… Birds are just feet away singing and watching us - curious perhaps.
Next week we start fabricating our own cable-rail system.
NOTE: I will post more pictures as this CURRENT PROJECT progresses - almost daily