Author Topic: Small deck, spiral stair, large roof deck repair - most Mustachian approach?  (Read 4053 times)

casadlo

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Here's the deal - I live in a three story townhouse in the middle of a city with my wife and 15 month old daughter.  Off the 3rd floor, there is a small deck on top of a two story addition that's about 9' x 7', then there's a metal ladder from there up to a roof deck that's roughly 15' x 26' (the footprint of the original house).  We have no back yard (just a narrow paved area big enough for a garbage can and bike) so really want the decks to be functional space, but right now they aren't for a few reasons:
-The railings on both decks need to be replaced.  They are metal but very spindly and unstable, and only 36" high (I'd prefer 42").  Our daughter could easily fit through the gaps in the one on the roof and the one on the small deck is so minimal that the vertical members are black bungee cords. I kid you not.
-The decking on both decks is shot. Lots of boards are rotted out, splintered, moldy, etc.
-The metal ladder between the two means it's basically impossible to get our daughter up and down without strapping her into a carrier, and you need both hands so carrying a tasty beverage up (with or without a baby) is difficult.
-The framing on the main roof deck looks good, but not so much on the small deck. A couple of roofers have told us this for a variety of reasons.

So, I'd like to get new wooden railings, new decking, new framing on the small deck, and with our configuration, it looks like a spiral staircase is our only option to connect the two.  Pressure treated lumber is fine with me - I just want it functional, not fancy or built to last 50 years.

So far I got one quote:~ $19k for all this ($7.5k re-deck main roof, $2.6k small deck total replacement, $4.8k spiral stairs, $4.3k railing). I'm pretty handy and so is my wife but most of this work is beyond us and hard to do with a toddler around. We also don't own a car (yeah for biking and walking and saving money!), so it would be an expense for us to rent one to haul off materials, bring in new stuff, etc.

Obviously $19k is a huge amount of money and I'm not going to spend that. I'm getting other quotes and trying to see if there is anything I can safely DIY.  Thoughts? Suggestions? I see Home Depot and Lowes carry prefab sections of fence and have decking services. Does anyone have experience with this?

Jack

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It seems to me that, of the tasks listed, the $7.5k re-deck main roof is both the most expensive and least dangerous, making it the best candidate to DIY. After all, if you fall through missing decking you just stand on the roof, right? Much better than falling past a missing railing, three stories to the ground...

bacchi

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Won't HD/Lowe's deliver decking and lumber? Of course, you'll need somewhere to store it and haul it up. You're going to need friends, pullies, and a few ropes. :)

Go with composite or plastic decking, whatever you do. Not having to stain decking each year is a blessing.


casadlo

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I bet HD/Lowes will deliver decking and lumber.  The first hurdle is taking down the existing railing on the main roof deck - it's bolted to the top of the deck boards and is solid metal all around.  Maybe I can get a salvage yard to come grab it? Hmmm.  I could probably then unscrew all the deck boards myself and pile them on the side for a decking person to haul away.  Is there any value in free old wood like that?

Longwaytogo

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Is there any value in free old wood like that?
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The decking on both decks is shot. Lots of boards are rotted out, splintered, moldy, etc.

"free" old deck wood = trash. I would run with the assumption that you will have to pay to have this hauled to a dump. Decking/outdoor wood degrades to splinters rapidly.

Honestly 19K sounds like a good/fair price. I certainly would not do it for that. (as a contractor) We typically average around $30 per sq ft on pressure treated decking and $50 for trex (not counting stairs). And that is for a traditional residential deck on a single family. 3rd floor roof deck would be wayyy more. Actually I would only do a roof deck for a friend or repeat/long term customer. They are a Pain in the Ass. Your deck = 15 X 26 + 9 X 7 = 453 sq ft so at $30 would equal 13,590 + $4,800 spiral stairs = $18,390. The existing framing is only minimally helpful as demo/tear off of existing deck and rails take about the same labor as just building new framing.

Did you 19K quote include a permit? If you decide to pay a pro I would defintley want a permit (also depending on municipality in many places spiral stairs are illegal as primary egress so may want to check this out). Also be sure they have good liability/workers comp insurance. Working on roofs is dangerous. Also check their warranty/guarantee on not only the deck but leaks. Their work could easily trigger a leak and they could claim it was pre-existing.

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Go with composite or plastic decking, whatever you do. Not having to stain decking each year is a blessing.

I agree with above 100% especially for a tall roof deck/stairs like that. It will get annihilated by sun/weather. I would recommend at least trex decking, and then maybe get wood rails to save some dough. What were the spiral stairs going to be made of?

Sorry, not trying to be a Debbie downer. But IMHO this may not be a good DIY project given your experience and time limitations with baby. But if you do decide to tackle it, be careful and take your time.  Also if you are re-framing the small deck do you know how to do this with the roof penetrations or are you re-using that portion.The stairs are for sure the trickiest part. In my 15-20 years of construction I have only installed 3 sets of spiral stairs and they were all interior. Trying to install an exterior set between a 2nd and 3rd floor sounds a bit daunting for the average homeowner. Though maybe your more Badass than I'm giving you credit for!

casadlo

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Thank you very much for the advice. I'm an engineer by training and been quite badass in my DIY home improvement attempts so far, but nothing on the scale of the roof deck. I also have experience with shingles on two large homes as a teenager so I figured if I could walk around on a sloped roof of a 3 story bed and breakfast when I was 14 I can probably handle a flat roof deck. We didn't wear harnesses or anything - probably not good practice. My mail concern now is not the carpentry or even the spiral stair (I'll have everything planned in CAD before starting) but the order of things... if I have someone help me disassemble the existing railings and fixed metal ladder between the two decks and haul that stuff away, I'm left with only ladder access to the roof deck for all the hauling down of old boards and hauling up of new boards. I might need to figure out a rope system to lower stuff down over the front of the house. Hmmm.

Glad to know the quotes I'm getting are ball park accurate. I was told I don't need a permit for redecking and new railings, only if I were to redo the whole structure.  I'll be double checking that too.

Longwaytogo

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Thank you very much for the advice. I'm an engineer by training and been quite badass in my DIY home improvement attempts so far, but nothing on the scale of the roof deck. I also have experience with shingles on two large homes as a teenager so I figured if I could walk around on a sloped roof of a 3 story bed and breakfast when I was 14 I can probably handle a flat roof deck. We didn't wear harnesses or anything - probably not good practice. My mail concern now is not the carpentry or even the spiral stair (I'll have everything planned in CAD before starting) but the order of things... if I have someone help me disassemble the existing railings and fixed metal ladder between the two decks and haul that stuff away, I'm left with only ladder access to the roof deck for all the hauling down of old boards and hauling up of new boards. I might need to figure out a rope system to lower stuff down over the front of the house. Hmmm.

Glad to know the quotes I'm getting are ball park accurate. I was told I don't need a permit for redecking and new railings, only if I were to redo the whole structure.  I'll be double checking that too.

Gotcha, well if your ready to tackle it go for it!

When I said be careful and take your time I was not referring as much to your safety (though that's obviously important too) but to be careful with the house not getting f***ed up. Specifically however the roof penetrations are made. I've reworked/replaced a few roof decks where I felt like the "Holmes on homes guy" the list of what was done improperly by far exceeded the list of what was done right. In theory if the decking is attached to the framing really well when you go prying/cutting, etc. on that it could loosen/damage some of the framing or attachments. So just be careful with that. And if you see something bad; don't ignore it. Either fix it yourself or get a commercial roofer if need be. Fixing while exposed is a whole lot better than fixing rot/leaks later and having to remove decking to access.

I agree you don't typically need permits for decking/railing replacement though you might for the stairs? Also-

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-The framing on the main roof deck looks good, but not so much on the small deck. A couple of roofers have told us this for a variety of reasons.

The way you worded that made me assume there was some re-framing there? Will that include reattaching to the house somehow or is that part OK and just some joists need to be re-worked or something? Either way just check your permit implications. If you go DIY and can skip the permit that's one thing. But if you hire out and they are trying to cut corners it's a little different.

On the spiral stairs are you buying a kit if you DIY? I assume they are metal of some sort, what about the railing? No real advise; just curious about this part I guess.

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I see Home Depot and Lowes carry prefab sections of fence and have decking services. Does anyone have experience with this?

Not sure what pre-fab fences have to do with your project; unless you were thinking of using them for railings? They are usually not designed for that so may not be strong enough.

As for their "deck services" the few stories I've heard of them are horrible. And my guess is they would be well over the 19K if they could even do it. They are more of the 12' X 16" cookie cutter type deck builders. Also they do not have any of their own crews; they just use local sub-contractors. So your essentially paying an extra markup for the Peace of mind of going with a big name. Not worth it IMO. Also they usually take forever and then act as a middleman causing any snafu's to get blown out of proportion and slow things down. Ex. if there's a change or onsite issue you can't take it up with crew; it's "call Home Depot". Pain in the ass really.

As for you logistics question I guess if the existing ladder seems more secure for you to work with then a normal one just demo part of the top deck and pile all the new stuff up there before removing ladder maybe? Not sure how hard it is to post pictures on here but maybe that would help.

Greg

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If your decks get a lot of sun, beware that Trex and other composite deck materials can get very hot due to their density, especially as compared to cedar.  With a child, this can be dangerous.  Obtain some scrap/sample material to see how it feels in the location you are considering.  By hot I mean too hot to walk on barefoot, and potentially scalding on a crawling kid's hands/feet.  I would use cedar myself, installed in a way as to facilitate changing the decking in 10 or so years.

MrSal

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if you go the HD or Lowes approach use gift cards to make the purchases.

Just buy them on the secondary market for 85% face value and then use their coupons as well. You might even be able to buy the stuff online and have them ship to your house.

If you dont buy online you're looking at a savings of = 10-15% discount from buying gift cards at less than face value + 10% coupons from those stores + 2-3% if you use cashback on your credit card.

So you're looking at least a savings of 20-25% on items that are not on sale ... if on sale even better just a bigger discount!

Online you can use the shopping portals in order to grab an additional 6% cashback that's the only pro of doing it online.

If you do this approach you can save on a 7.5k project about 1800 dollars!

casadlo

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Just buy them on the secondary market...

This is great! I found a website called www.giftcardgranny.com that seems to survey other gift card sites for the highest % discount. Best discount was around 8.5% for Home Depot. No other coupons there, but Lowes has a standing 10% if you grab a USPS moving coupon.

Also I've scaled waaaay back for now and am just going to start with the small deck, no stairs. I've got it all planned out. I want to check some things against the building code, but I'm having a helluva time actually finding the code for decks and railings:
http://www.phila.gov/li/codesandregulations/Pages/codes.aspx
ICC? UCC? PBC? wtf? I hear contractors talk about how you can't notch 4x4s anymore to put on the deck or rest the 2x4 railings in, what size screws you need, etc. and don't see that level of detail anywhere. Anyone have experience with this?

Also, any recommendations on deck stain? I want something as low maintenance as possible that just lets the pressure treated wood look like wood.  My local hardware store carries Zar and Arborcoat that both have transparent versions. Not sure about price/quality of those vs. Behr at Home Depot.