Thursday, November 5, 2015

Another Day, Another Deck

For the past couple of years, Becky has been really pushing to get a hot tub, but we really have so many other projects, we just kept putting it off. Until we realized that you're never done fixing or renovating or improving - there will always be something. So I set out to get a hot tub in the cheapest way we could without a major headache.

My father-in-law has been fighting with his hot tube for the better part of a year (or more, maybe), with it just not able to regulate the heat. It overheats and then shuts down. He's replaced the board, the heating element, all that stuff and to no long-lasting outcome. Fed up with it, my mother-in-law wanted to gift it to us, which was nice, but honestly if my father-in-law can't fix it, there's no way I'd be up for the challenge. So we politely declined, and set out to find our own.

The first step was to inquire about a concrete pad and electrical. We don't currently have a 220 outlet outside the house, and the deck isn't built to withstand that amount of weight. The electrical came in at $600 and the concrete (8'x8') at $1,400. So that's already $2,000 without the actual hot tub. Staggering.

Looking for alternatives, I read about how to do your own pad, but I don't really want my intro to concrete pouring to be something so substantial, and about click together pads, not really much cheaper, and then I came across this video from a hot tube dealer in Canada, who built an ultra-sturdy wooden standalone deck that sits right on the ground. Pricing it out, it was about $150 in materials - that's where I was sold.

The design was simple enough, and could feasibly be slapped together in an evening. With the encroaching winter, daylight is scarce in Michigan, so I had to work mostly by artificial outdoor light, not the best environment, but I made it work.

The first step was making all my cuts and laying it all out. This is built with all pressure treated 8' 2x4's. Knowing that my outside frame would have to be 8' (since the top deck boards would be 8'), I had to subtract for all the inner pieces. It is also built on a double 2x4 design, so it had to be assembled from the inside out.

For assembly, I used 2-1/2" outdoor screws. Starting with the four inside pieces (two long joists and two short spacers), then the two other joist sections (two long joists and three spacers each), then I screwed those three pieces together, added the end caps and then wrapped the whole thing in another border of 8' 2x4's.

With the frame completed, I had to make sure that my ground was level. The biggest enemy in doing this instead of concrete is twisting - if your deck twists, and the hot tub doesn't sit level, it can create stress cracks in the fiberglass. Between the double construction of this frame and the deck boards that will tie it all together, with fairly level ground this thing should be solid.

I took a scrap 2x4 and ran it along the ground, using the existing deck as a guide. I dug out all the high spots, moving that dirt to the lower areas and tamping it all down. Eventually, I had it so that it was flat, and I threw my frame in place. (Apologies for the Adirondack shadow)

Since the construction of this required the 2x4 border to lap over one another, I added a third 2x4 to the end to cap it so that when you walk out the back door you don't see the end of a 2x4. Just an aesthetic decision and totally not necessary.

From here, I just started throwing the deck boards on, using those same outdoor screws, and two heavy coated sinker nails as spacers for each row. With these being only 8' long, I didn't have as big an issue with the boards not being straight, and got them on in about an hour. I was, however, one board short, just as the last time I built a deck.

I love deck building. Such an immediately gratifying experience. Now to get the hot tub down and the power hooked up!

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