New and Improved: DIY Deck Reveal and Budget Breakdown

New and Improved: DIY Deck Reveal and Budget Breakdown

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Mission accomplished! Our DIY deck project is finished. It began as a sticky, mosquito-infested adventure beneath the September sun and gradually came to a close in the deep chill of winter. Honestly, this experience became one of our favorite memories together. Working outdoors alongside one another as the seasons change is soulfully grounding; it is truly a special kind of happiness.

Our relaxed timeline stirred up some anxious feelings when I realized that Brian and I hadn’t even finalized the type of decking we wanted. We were heading into the fall season and hadn’t done much research. Fortunately, we stumbled across Brazilian hardwood, which helped us kick-start our project. Four months and a whole lot of effort later, we have a new and improved deck.

Revisiting Memories

While it’s true that Brian and I rarely used our deck, we took advantage of the space for grill-outs and a few fire pit gatherings.

As we hung out fireside, roasting marshmallows and reveling in the cozy warmth of flickering flames, we appreciated the space to just…be. Our original deck wasn’t perfect, but it worked well enough for a while.

Most of the time, though, our deck remained bare and lonely, much like this:

Faded paint and segments of decay caught the eye more often than not. The deck looked tired. Its lattice accents could no longer provide the decorative appeal they once offered.

Original deck and lattice - side view
Building a Better Deck: Deck Skirting

I was nervous about taking on our deck, but I knew that the experience would be well worth it. We waited until the weather cooled down a bit before we got started. It was time to take this old gal down and replace her with something stronger!

Our DIY Deck Transformation

DIY Deck: Cumaru decking
Cumaru Decking: View from above
DIY Deck: Cumaru decking
Cumaru Decking: View from above
DIY Deck: New deck skirting
Boardwalk Panel Deck Skirting
DIY Deck: New deck skirting
Boardwalk Panel Deck Skirting

Isn’t she just beautiful? Our project took about five months to complete, from the moment we started dismantling the original deck to installing the final piece of deck skirting.

Granted, we are still planning to paint the fascia and framing, but we’ll do that in a few months after the pressure-treated lumber dries out!

Go Big or Go Home: New Deck Goals

Five hundred square feet is a lot of space to go unused—at least it is to me. By updating the deck to our liking, Brian and I would be much more inclined to use it, thus maximizing our living space. We bought a home to live in and enjoy.

Although we understood that our DIY deck project was going to be costly, we also knew that it would be far less expensive than outsourcing the work. So we decided to go big! We built it the way we wanted, with our goals in mind:

  • Select low-maintenance and long-lasting decking with beautiful wood grains
  • Reduce the chances of wood rot
  • Install practical and nice-looking fascia-mount railings
  • Replace the deck skirting with a more modern and durable material

DIY Deck Cost

The total cost of the entire project, including tools, was $12,172.47.

Now, with a price tag like that, I can assure you that Brian and I will definitely be spending time on our deck. I can’t say that I am terribly shocked at the cost, though it is more than our loose estimate of $10,000. Honestly, Brian and I are grateful that the prices of construction materials aren’t as high as they were three years ago!

We consider our DIY deck project an investment in both ourselves and our home. While costly upfront, it is expected that the deck will hardly require any maintenance for the next several decades!

Budget Process

We staggered our purchases over the last four months to ensure we could pay for our items in full. All purchases were made with rewards credit cards to earn cash back and points with every purchase.

Materials

Our largest expense by far was for the cumaru deck boards. Brazilian hardwood sure is pricey, but boy, oh boy, is it worth it!

Here’s a breakdown of some of the materials we purchased for our project:

Cumaru Decking$4,973.52
Camo Hidden Fastening System and Misc. Decking Materials $343.00
Pressure-Treated Lumber for Joists & Deck Skirt Framing$1,073.96
Barrette Outdoor Living VersaRail® Aluminum Railing$2,447.25
Barrette Outdoor Living Boardwalk Panels for Deck Skirt$1,514.37

Creative Solutions

During most DIY projects we’ve completed, we’ve run into challenges that have required some creative problem-solving. The deck was no exception.

I shared one of our tricky fixes in our Q4 2023 update. As a refresher, we discovered that our final row of decking had a three-inch difference from one end to the other. Eek! Luckily, Brian had the bright idea to rip the final board near the end to create two smaller pieces for a more seamless look. It worked out well!

Other creative solutions we implemented include:

Adding extra height to our decking

Our original deck boards were 2×6, and our cumaru deck boards are 1×6. To make up the difference, Brian and I rested our joists on top of pieces of cumaru that we slipped into our joist hangers. We also added an extra 3/4″ to the center beam, as well as all along the perimeter.

Filling the void left by the original wood railing posts

The original railings were custom-built with pressure-treated wood. There were two areas in which the “fascia mount” posts were not actually mounted onto the fascia. This left us with a couple of empty spaces on our fascia that needed to be filled.

Enhancing the stability and strength of end posts

Our new aluminum railing end posts seemed a touch more wobbly than we liked. We decided to fasten a lag screw right through the center of the fascia mount for additional security. It did the job!

DIY Deck -  Added a center lag screw

Joist blocking to provide extra support and stability

After installing our deck boards, we noticed an ever-slight sway as we walked across them. Our previous deck didn’t have any blocking, so we didn’t realize that it would be a good idea to add some. We learned that joist blocking minimizes movement and creates additional support for a more stable structure. Our deck no longer swayed once we installed blocking.

DIY Deck - Installed joist blocking for stronger support

Deck Project Takeaways

Our DIY deck project was a fun learning process. Brian and I didn’t have any experience with decking or Brazilian hardwood, so it was exciting to figure it all out together.

Here are the main takeaways we discovered during our project:

  • Cover joists with a protective layer to extend the life of the decking system. We used joist tape.
  • Cumaru is very dense, requiring carbide-tipped blades, high-quality drill bits, and pre-drilling.
  • Stainless steel screws are the preferred fastener for hardwood. Other options would cause black oxidation stains around the screw head.
  • Cross-cut cumaru boards must be sealed at the ends with a wax emulsion sealer to prevent checking and drying.
  • Buying a BoWrench is money well spent.
  • Fascia-mounted railings maximize usable deck space.
  • Aluminum railings are way more difficult to put together than you’d think.

Above all, we were reminded to remain flexible. It’s important to not become fixated on original plans, especially in DIY circumstances that involve creative problem-solving. From trying to adhere to specific layouts and gradual color blends to extended timelines and user error (I’m telling you, those aluminum railings are a royal pain!), we’ve had to pivot more than once during our rebuild. At least it kept us learning and on our toes 🙂

It’s been a great adventure. As always, we’re looking forward to the next… Until then, we’ll be hanging out on our new deck!

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2 Responses

  1. You really should congratulate yourselves on a job well done. I really like the look of the Brazilian hardwood and I think the black aluminum railing and skirting are great accents to the deep wood grain. It’s obvious that you’re both gaining confidence with each successful project. I like the fact that you don’t beat yourselves up if the projects run longer than you estimate. After all, these are things you’ve never done before. It’s all a learning experience and sometimes you have to stop and regroup. That’s something that you’ve come to know and the results speak for themselves. Great job!

    1. Thank you so much 🤩 It’s been a nice, long project (longer than we intended), but well worth the timeline. I’m glad Brian and I didn’t beat ourselves up, either. Though, by the time we screwed in the last deck skirt, we were more ready to be done than excited. At least we are excited to be finished now! We love how the deck turned out overall, from the boards to the skirting…and even those tricky railings!

      As always, thank you for the encouraging words. Brian and I genuinely appreciate them. Each project has its own quirks and challenges, though, like you mentioned, we are finding our own confidence as we work through them. We’re having a blast!

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