For the past 10 years, Shannon Wade has lived in her home with her two children, Daniel and Lindsey. Using our 4 Seasons of Home Ownership spring checklist, we helped the Wade family reclaim and revive their favorite spot, the backyard deck.
The 4 Seasons checklists help homeowners plan and prioritize maintenance chores. In addition to repairing the deck, we made repairs to the skylights and gutters, added a downspout, demolished an old pizza oven, and created a fire pit.
Repairing, Cleaning and Staining the Wood Deck
The rails on Shannon’s deck were in bad shape. Since U.S. building codes don’t require railings for decks lower than 30 inches, we decided to get rid of them altogether. The deck also had two sets of steps, so we relocated one set to the center. This allowed for a better arrangement of the backyard, including planting beds on either side of the steps and a center walkway to the new fire pit.
The deck was sagging in a few areas, so we used a jack to bring it back up to level. Once the joists were supported and secured at the proper height, we replaced the deck boards. Check out Three Key Steps for Wood Deck Maintenance and Repair for more info.
Finally, we pressure washed the deck and applied the stain. Any time you’re using several gallons of the exact same color, it’s always better to mix them together in a 5-gallon bucket. That ensures
consistency in color from gallon to gallon. Watch How to Clean and Finish a Wood Deck for details.
Creating a Fire Pit
The Wades had a dilapidated brick pizza oven that they hadn’t used in many years. So, we reused some of the bricks from the oven to create a long and narrow recessed fire pit, along with two benches for seating.
The hole we dug was two-tiered: the lower area to contain the burning logs, and the shallow area around the perimeter to contain the brick border. To support that, we mixed some fast-setting concrete to trowel out along the ledge to serve as a foundation for the bricks.
We didn’t use one for this fire pit, but you can buy a kit to build one for your backyard. Watch How to Build a Backyard Fire Pit from a Kit for more info.
Replacing the Skylights
The two homemade skylights on the roof above the deck were leaking, and we quickly figured out why. The large pieces of plexiglass were not supported in the middle, causing the skylights to have a concave appearance. To prevent this from happening again, we attached a piece of cedar across the center of each opening. We installed it slightly higher than the frame to create an arch in the middle, which will help the water shed rather than pool in the skylight.
We had measured and ordered new pieces of acrylic ahead of time. So, we carefully set the acrylic in place and sealed it around the edges. Finally, we added a generous coating of roofing cement to all the screw heads and seams to finish sealing the unit.
Check out How to Repair a Leaking Skylight for details on this project.
Cleaning and Repairing Gutters and Downspouts
The gutters were overloaded with leaves and mud, so we removed the debris and flushed them clean with a hose. The old gutter spikes had pulled loose from the fascia board, allowing the gutter to sag and leak. We replaced them with gutter screws, which will hold them more tightly and support the weight of the gutter. Watch How to Repair Sagging Gutters for more info.
We also added another downspout on the corner of the house to deal with the high volume of water the area gets. Watch How to Unclog and Clean Downspouts for maintenance tips.
Other Tips from This Episode
Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
How to Make a Composting Bin
Composting bins can be expensive. Here’s how to make one from an old plastic trash can. Watch video.
Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Ames Collector Series Leaf Rake
The Ames Collector Series 26-inch leaf rake is designed so leaves are collected quickly and efficiently. It is available at The Home Depot. Watch video.