Building Decks

Building Decks

About 5 years ago my wife and decide to put a deck on our house.  After a long dissertation about how we were at a point in our lives where we needed to put a price on our time and that we work too hard not to hire someone for the job, we got 2 bids for the deck.  I don’t remember exactly, but I think the lowest bid was 15K and that I then promptly told my wife I would build it.  One problem solved, two more to figure out, (1) it would just be me and (2) I didn’t know how to build a deck.

The first problem was easy to fix, it would just take more time and a lot of trips to Lowe’s.  The second took some time and research to solve, but I found out that decking building is no different than every other aspect of life, Principles are few, Methods are many.  There are several ways in which a deck can be constructed, but make sure it is well supported, securely attached to the home, and square, the rest is just details.

My work crew of 1 is motivated, thank you Kelly, and I have game plan.  Now all I have to do is execute.  With a project like this, all I need to do is get started.  Once I do, the size of project falls away, and I begin to focus on the immediate task(s) at hand.

Everything is going well and I’m about 2/3 of the way done.  I’m feeling pretty good about where I’m at, the foundation and supports are solid, the ledger board is securely in place (I didn’t know what a ledger board was either), and my frame is square enough for the girls I date (that’s and old construction saying).  Time for the decking!

I head to Lowe’s, trip 83 at this point, to buy roughly 75×16’ decking boards.  That shouldn’t be that big of a deal, check each one to make sure its square and not full of knots, load it on cart, 3 hours later, done!  Then the fun part, realizing that my truck bed is nowhere near long enough to hold boards of that length.   Nowhere to go, but up top.  This isn’t a big deal for an experienced deck builder like myself.  The boards sit atop the roof of my car, bending down in front of my line of sight out the front window and do the same in back.  This might have been a good time divide and conquer, 75 boards at once is too many, but again, I’ve been building decks going on three weeks now, I got this.

Last board gets loaded up, now time to strap’em down.  Well shit, my ratchet straps are sitting on my garage floor at home.  What am I going to do now?  Where could I possibly get ratchet straps.  That is me being sarcastic.  A set of ratchet straps cost about $7 at Lowe’s, the place I’m currently at.  So, I did what any experienced deck builder does.  I grab some of the free twine they have by the front door and get to tying those board to the roof my car.

Does anyone see where this is going?  I proceed to start on my 1.7-mile journey home, average speed about 12mph and things are going great!  My knuckles are white, and people must have heard about my decking building, because several people have driven by honking and signing that I’m #1.  I wouldn’t have guessed that I was the #1 deck builder so soon, but they seemed adamant.  Driving by, yelling and holding up one finger!  Word travels fast in Lexington.

So, there I am, sitting at a red light on the Nicholasville road bridge over the top of New Circle road.  The light turns green, foot comes off the break, and then about 70 of the 75 boards slide off the top of my truck.  I immediately flash back to several years prior.  I’m standing knee deep in water of my flooded basement in Chicago with my smiling dad who has come over to help.  When I ask him why he’s smiling, he says, “if you’re standing in shit, you can either be pissed or smile, it’s always your choice.”  I take a deep breath, crack a little smile, and proceed to reload the 70×16’ board back onto the roof of my truck in the middle of New Circle road.  The praise of being #1 continues, which at this point I appreciate, but still stand confused at how many people know that I am the best decker builder in Lexington.  I get the last board loaded and eventually make home.

I am happy to report, the deck was finished, and we continue to enjoy it to this day.  But the major point of the story is how many lessons building a deck taught me about life.

  • Make sure your foundations are strong.
  • Take time, do your research and make a plan.
  • Principles are few, methods are many.
  • Be patient, Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither are decks.
  • Ledger Boards are what attach the deck to the house and help make the rest of the deck square.
  • Don’t be cheap, but more importantly, don’t skip the small stuff(straps), it can have a large impact.
  • You always have the choice to frown or smile, choose the smile, everything will be OK.
  • The index finger is the sign for #1, not the middle finger.
  • A tremendous amount of pride can come from taking on a large task, learning how to do it, and following through.

What is the deck in your life that needs to be built?  I might not know what it is, but I do know that the person you will become in the process is worth ever hardship you will face and overcome while doing so.  Go build your deck!!!

In Strength,

Eric Karls M.Ed.
Chief Awesomeness Facilitator
Certified Level 3 CrossFit Coach
Facilitator Fitness

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