The mouthbreathing imbeciles who put this deck in never used cement so some of the support beams are just fucking dangling.

I have made a command decision. I don’t have the money to do it right now, and probably never will because every time I think I have money someone gets sick or something breaks, but after this repair I am done with this fucking deck. In five years I am just tearing the god damned thing down, replacing it with a very modest porch about one tenth the size whose sole purpose is to have stairs to the yard, and then putting in a little stone patio.

Fuck this.

76 replies
  1. 1
    mrmoshpotato says:

    Mmmmm….. support beams attached to nothing. Held up by Jesus, naturally!

  2. 2
    sukabi says:

    1) be careful on your deck.

    2) you’ve got some young male friends, rent a jack and have them dig holes under the support beams and pour some concrete footers.

  3. 3
    Richard Guhl says:

    “Mouth-breathing imbeciles”
    For a moment, I thought you interjected a comment about the Trump administration.
    I was disappointed that you were only referring to the deck installers.

  4. 4
    dr. bloor says:

    They didn’t put concrete pilings in because they would only sink into the [swamp/quicksand/drainage from nearby battery factory] that your house is built on, duh.

  5. 5
    Leto says:

    John, basically everything from your last post plus this post is Avalune and I regarding our current house. And we don’t even live in the damn thing, nor do we want to go back.

    Regarding not being able to sit on your back deck for three months, can I recommend a retractable awning? We had them on our home in Italy and they were lifesavers. I would definitely consider them in the patio rebuild.

    Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: https://www.sunsetter.com/

  6. 6
    rikyrah says:

    Sorry Cole. Hope things turn out ok :(

  7. 7
    trollhattan says:

    Perhaps a year into owning our house the spouse came home one day to find me at the upper end of the livingroom only visible from the waist up, as my feet were planted on bare ground. As it turned out the powderpost beetles had been busier than we’d realized. Couldn’t technically pry her from the ceiling because, well, I was standing in a hole.

  8. 8
    geg6 says:

    We have some jacks you can borrow. We got them to raise our cabin in Titusville after a bunch of ice and a flood took out the stilts it sat on. We jacked that baby up, dug holes, poured concrete into them and set the new stilts in the holes. It’s survived at least seven years at this point and many flood and ice since. Would be much easier to do with a deck, I’m pretty sure.

  9. 9
    DCrefugee says:

    All this makes me wonder if there’s any correlation between red states and mouth-breathing imbeciles who dabble in deck construction…

  10. 10
    Chief Oshkosh says:

    @sukabi: Might not need the jack, even. Just dig a shallow hole under the vertical and fill with Quickrete.

    Also, I’m not clear on why the unfinished wood needs to all be replaced right now. Get a mop* and some sealer, slap the sealer on. Have a beer on the front porch. You now have a year or so to think about the problem, and maybe save funds for a deck replacement. I don’t mean to make light of the problems, but been there, done that. Not every fix needs to be the final fix. Execute on an interim fix so that you can plan and save for a final fix.

    *Ok, ok, get a friend to handle the mop.

  11. 11
    chris says:

    @Leto: He might be able to get a used one off an RV or trailer at the wreckers.

  12. 12
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    Oh, I’m so sorry, John. Been there, sorta — a previous owner of our house put in an attic fan without conduit, thus stapling through the wires and eventually causing a fire after we owned the house a year (the firemen said there had probably been sparking for at least five years). Fortunately, we were able to catch it before too much damage. Which is why we now pay enormous amounts of money for home construction from bonded firms.

  13. 13
    Chief Oshkosh says:

    @DCrefugee: Ab-so-lute-ly NOT. I’ve seen imbecilic work done in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, Kansas, and Colorado. And those are just the places where I’ve done the work. We imbeciles are everywhere!

  14. 14
    BretH says:

    Hopefully a slightly elevated little stone patio.

  15. 15
    Duane says:

    If we had pictures it would be easier for us to go on and on for weeks, even months about what you could, should, would do to fix, repair, replace the deck and your yard in general because this is a full-service blog and also, too the willow.

  16. 16
    CaseyL says:

    That deck has been trying to kill you since your first (?) visit there, when you fell through it altogether and scraped your leg up something fierce.

    Never mind the jacks and cement; I think you need to smudge it!

  17. 17
    Jager says:

    In 4 years in our old fucking house, a new septic system, a hot water heater, new dish washer, new clothes washer. Now a fucking new roof and bring the skylights up to code. We had to build a retaining wall around the up hill side of the house. The heater went out on the spa and we’ve got a eucalyptus tree that’s pushing one of garage walls in.
    Even in a red hot California real estate market I can’t keep up, this is total insanity.

  18. 18
    matt says:

    I lived in a house that had your sort of deck in the back and if I hadn’t sold it I would have followed your exact plan. Much smaller stone/brick stairs and small platform to get down to the yard.

  19. 19
    Leto says:

    @chris: Possibly, but there difference between a motor vehicle awning and a house awning. Big one being the support trusses/arms for the vehicle one will be in the way when extended. The trusses on a home one are integrated into the awning and you can walk freely underneath. Also I don’t know how much used stuff he’s willing to put up with atm considering his current woes :p

  20. 20
    Martin says:

    Give it some time, Cole. Replacing the deck, if you and some buddies do the work, isn’t that expensive – and a deck isn’t hard to build. Keep the deck the current size and in time pick up a sun shade. Patch it for now.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    piratedan says:

    considering how JC likes to entertain, there are multiple options….. replace deck with small porch, put tables/chair/umbrella out back on terra firma next to grill, granted, you still have stairs you can fall down but unsure how that danger is any less than a deck to fall off of…

    option the second, replace the deck with that awesome patio synthetic decking that doesn’t need stain and lasts for bleeping ever and stick a pergola over head to give you the needed shade…

    plant willows according to need….

  23. 23
    chris says:

    @Leto: Good point although some of those vehicle awnings are pretty wide. I was just thinking price and I like wrecking yards.

  24. 24
    Emma says:

    New roof, hurricane windows, updating electric (final inspection is tomorrow), convert an useless closet into a pantry… the never ending joys of home ownership!

  25. 25
    Another Scott says:

    Don’t make hasty decisions when you’re angry.

    Our neighbor had a stroke and had to sell his house quickly. The buyers negotiated to have the deck replaced as part of the purchase. The daughter who was selling the house had a new deck that was half the size installed. The sale almost fell through…

    Do what you need to do to make it safe, then think about what to do in the future in the future.

    Keep an eye on framing lumber prices, also too. They’ve been crashing recently because of Donnie’s tantrums, etc.. As expensive as it might be now, you may actually be saving money to fix it now compared to in a year or so…

    Hang in there.


  26. 26
    dnfree says:

    A screened-in porch is a great thing, especially if you live in a mosquito-prone area. (If I recall, you’re near water.) Don’t make it too small. You’ll love sitting out there and surveying your domain. We have electric baseboard heaters so it works for three seasons in ours, and fans, and skylights.

  27. 27
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    Cole, I feel for ya, but … didn’t you have an inspector go over the house before you bought it? Didn’t he take the time to inspect the deck? I doubt you have any recourse, as long as it’s been, but shouldn’t you have yelled at him for not inspecting (or doing a shitty job inspecting) the deck when your foot first went through the decking? Shouldn’t you at that point have had him come back out (on his nickel or yours depending on how his contract was written) & give the deck a thorough once-over – which would probably have found your current nasty surprises?

    I know, I know, hindsight, 20/20 & all that … but geez, we’re talking about the fuckhead whut tried to starve Walter to death – how in the name of Dog could you presume him to be even halfway responsible about anything having to do with that Oedifice Wreck?

  28. 28

    @Uncle Cosmo:

    didn’t you have an inspector go over the house before you bought it?

    IIRC, Cole bought the house as a foreclosure, so he got it as-is. In a lot of cases, you don’t get a chance for a pre-purchase inspection if you buy a foreclosure.

  29. 29
    sukabi says:

    @piratedan: re: the synthetic decking – it warps and swells, so not “indestructable” as advertised.

  30. 30
    Miss Bianca says:

    Oh, JC…*shaking head sadly*…

  31. 31
    cckids says:

    @Uncle Cosmo: I may be mis-remembering, but didn’t Cole pick it up at a tax sale?? IDK if in such a case you have the option of getting an inspector in; I thought his walk-around inside the house (the finding/saving of Walter), was the inspection.

    Most of that may be incorrect. YMMV.

  32. 32
    raven says:

    @dnfree: I posted shots of the one I built a couple of threads back.

  33. 33
    Another Scott says:

    @Uncle Cosmo: I just bought a house:

    I was the only one to show up at the auction, and the guy was actually surprised. I paid a dollar ($1.00) over the minimum bid.

    And it begins…:

    I got up and fed the dog a little and gave him some water, and was driving around the block and saw my dad. Pulled up next to him and the dogs and started to say “Hey- guess what just happened” and before I could get it out he told me “Some of your neighbors told me there are some bad boards on the deck.” He then said “Good thing it was you and not me,” which is true because I am resilient and he is not, but also YOU ASSHOLE THAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU SAY?

    It’s been a known issue for a while… ;-)


  34. 34
    scav says:

    Then again, less deck, more room for vegetables — well, that and flooding.
    An entire forest of willows!

  35. 35
    Jay says:

    When I build decks for customers, I use PVC piers. I use a post hole digger, go down 4 feet, “wobble” the tip to make a mushroom, slide in the pier, pour in cement, vibrate in a chunk of rebar.

    By code here, we have to use joist hangers and pier ties.

    I use pressure treated joists, then cover the top of the joists with window seal, ( a sticky rubber/tar membrane fashing) about 1/8th of an inch thick. It keeps trapped moisture under the deckboards or through fasteners from causing rot in the joists.

    Simco, ( I think), makes a 2 part foam in a bag, for setting fenceposts quickly. That might provide a quick fix for anchoring support posts for the joists.

  36. 36
    A Ghost To Most says:

    John, we are about to have a 54″ water main in a 14 foot deep trench placed diagonally across the front of our house, disrupting every utility, but hopefully not damaging our foundation.

    Perspective, dude.

    /Out again

  37. 37
    JaySinWA says:

    Are you sure it’s cheaper to try and patch the deck and wait 5 years to do the replacement porch? I’d probably demo the deck and do the porch and stairs now.
    I don’t remember you describing who you worked with to fix the deck the first time, but I imagine there was no warranty or professional inspection to fall back on.

  38. 38
    Kelly says:

    If you have to put up posts for the temporary repairs you may able to put new posts up tall enough to support your porch floor and roof.

  39. 39
    gvg says:

    I have thought for awhile you should add a canopy for shade. Of course I live in Florida, where the sun is trying to kill us, so I didn’t want to give advice for WV. Now it seems called for, even if you do make it smaller later on. Adding deck supports isn’t that hard in a deck as tall as yours. It’s the tiny ones you can’t fit under that are hard. Don’t walk on the deck till you get that fixed though.
    I hate to bring this up, but I think it’s kind of unlikely those deck supports originally didn’t support the deck and go to the ground. I would be looking for soil erosion. your yard has flooded a few times. I think the ground has washed out from below the posts. What that means is you need to figure out what was happening and change the water flow. This could be more important than the deck, which is just a nice add on. The house foundations are what I would be concerned with. If this is a valid concern. I would consider it a lucky warning.
    As for home ownership not being good, well my neighbor across the street is renting and the landlord won’t do big fixes as long as he can rent as is. That gets kind of old after awhile. and mortgages are usually lower than renting for similar houses around here. What really happens is poorer people rent, comfortable incomes buy and get a bit bigger place. Also the yard.

  40. 40
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Chief Oshkosh:

    Add in Connecticut.

  41. 41
    trollhattan says:

    @Another Scott:
    Interesting bit about lumber prices, because I recall one of Donny’s first tariffs was on Canadian lumber and I can attest that perhaps 80% of the wood that went into our (Calif) addition was sourced from there.

  42. 42
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @A Ghost To Most: Why’s a water main under your property? What am I missing here?

  43. 43
    Skepticat says:

    I’m empathetic, as I’m having the same problem with my deck, but I’m the (pathetic) imbecile who did it improperly, so I just have to suck it up until I can afford more lumber. Or a hurricane removes the whole thing for me yet again.

  44. 44
    trollhattan says:

    @A Ghost To Most:
    54 inches is a bigass water pipe!

  45. 45
    raven says:

    @mrmoshpotato: Why was the sewer in my backyard and under the house next door?

  46. 46
    chris says:

    @trollhattan: I remember when the tariff came on, it’s a big deal out here in the woods. Over half the new houses in the US are built with Canadian lumber.

  47. 47
    karen marie says:

    I’m sorry you’re having support issues, John Cole, but I’ve wondered why you have such a giant porch when you could have had a small porch with stairs and a patio. Also, has anyone else pointed out today that the willow* is too close to the house?

    *I see that it was mentioned but not explicitly.

  48. 48
    LongHairedWeirdo says:

    Um. I’m wondering if WVa has the same kinds of real estate law as Washington. I had an inspection that called out lots of stuff – I can’t believe they’d have missed that. I mean, they called out how the foundation was wrong, how the roof truss was insufficient, etc.. So maybe the standards aren’t as tight in WVa? (“But knowing you’re getting a sound home, with all problems known and reported is a job killing regulation!” – remember, there are no “regulations” as far as the GOP is concerned, just “job killing regulations”)

    (Of course, even after that inspection, while they were fixing the foundation, we found a rotted timber that needed to be replaced. And miscellaneous this-n-that still soaked away all of my margin! I knew the furnace was bad, and sure enough, it went at *just* the worst possible time, for example.)

  49. 49
    Martin says:

    @Jay: I endorse all of this advice. My clay soil meant an auger instead of a post hole digger. Cost about $40 to rent for half a day. Wrecked the fuck out of my back, but no more than the post digger would have. This was for a fence, so 3′ deep holes.

    PVC is great provided it’s not getting direct sun exposure, which the deck should prevent.

  50. 50
    trollhattan says:

    In CA the lender’s appraiser would have red-tagged that deck in a heartbeat because it was attached to the house. JC’s house here would have needed either a non-conforming loan or standard mortgage* plus a construction second for needed repairs.

    *NB we don’t have mortgages, we have deeds of trust that are a different critter.

  51. 51
    ribber says:

    @Leto: Second the retractable awning. We have one. Has a motor, and a battery operated sensor so that if the wind picks up and starts flopping it around, it sends a signal and retracts. I’ve had one for 9 years

  52. 52
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    OK, I forgot about the foreclosure/tax sale conditions … but when the neighbor makes some comment about rotten deck boards, wouldn’t it have made sense to have someone knowledgeable inspect the entire house to determine what needed doing – and in what order, in order to stay within Cole’s resources – with just a bit of extra attention to what he’d already been warned about?

    I guess the lesson here is to be aware of every problem you’ll need to fix from the outset so as not to get sandbagged by their discovery. If Cole had known about the deck support issues he might’ve put off some of the more cosmetic renovations for a few months while he remediated them.

  53. 53
    geg6 says:

    I do not understand the people who are saying he needs an awning for his deck. First, he has a front porch that is lovely and is covered. Second, he lives in the warmest part of the same weather region. No one here needs two covered outside spaces. We barely see the sun here even in the summer. And it’s never the heat (or sun) here; it’s the humidity. My deck is probably larger than his and it is not covered. It is almost never uncomfortable out there and when it is, we have a table with an umbrella to sit under. And our deck has a 10 foot privacy fence that blocks almost all breezes. If I don’t feel uncomfortable there, I can’t imagine Cole would on his.

  54. 54
    L85NJGT says:

    I’ve seen some nice looking raised brick patios done with the Unilock stuff.

  55. 55
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @raven: 🙄 So you have a 54″ water main under your lawn instead of under the street?

  56. 56
    Honus says:

    @mrmoshpotato: also, a 54” water main? What’s it serving?

  57. 57
    Another Scott says:

    @geg6: We had a couple of huge silver maples hanging over our deck in NoVA. When they were finally cut down (a family of trees squirrels living in one, it dropped about a 10″ diameter branch on the deck, etc., etc.), our deck became like a blast furnace. Direct sunlight for hours on end is HOT. (That’s why we got the umbrella, and why I let a volunteer Bradford pear grow by the deck (when I probably shouldn’t have).)

    I know where JC is coming from, there.



  58. 58
    Honus says:

    @LongHairedWeirdo: @trollhattan: as I recall, as of about 15 years ago only two counties in WV (McDowell and Kanawha) had a building code.

  59. 59
    trollhattan says:

    @Another Scott:
    It’s a lot about the exposure direction and yeah, relentless summer sun is a very bad not good thing.

  60. 60
    trollhattan says:

    Good lord. OTOH I can practically smell the Freedom from here.

  61. 61
    Dan B says:

    In 35 years of landscape design your idea is what I most often recommended and installed. Wood, except for expensive IPE, rots in warm humid environments. The old growth wood is long gone and things like white oak don’t last long if they are horizontal – like decking, surprise.

    Stone terraces are easier maintenance than wood as long as the crushed rock base is properly installed. In your seasonally flooded yard it would be critical to place a geotextile fabric mat under the crushed rock. They are inexoensive and easy to install. This will prevent uneven settling. We did this on a steep hillside long ago. The neighbors did a non permitted 8 foot excavation for a garage on the property line, in winter (wet season), had a pinhole leak inthe water main, and the hillside slid 6 inches. Our geotextile and some geoblock retaining held our clients terrace in place. Cheap, easy, and effective – what’s not to like.

    Note: If you use pressure treated wood take a few minutes extra to treat the cut ends with end cut treatment. The center of pressure treated wood is not treated and can rot out where you most need durability.

  62. 62

    The Ghost is correct. Perspective. You bought the place at auction, the proverbial pig in a poke, and the only problems you’ve had are easily accessed. Whenya get foundation or water/sewer main troubles, then you start screaming.

  63. 63
    Leto says:

    @ribber: The ones we had in Italy were manually operated. The wind sensor feature sounds pretty neat, though I’m not sure Cole would want the extra hassle of another powered device to mess with. Just trying to preserve the poor man’s sanity ;)

  64. 64
    LongHairedWeirdo says:

    @Honus: Thanks! That makes… a scary, horrifying bit of sense.

  65. 65
    worn says:

    John – not there to look at it, obviously, but are you sure the beams aren’t cantilevered, i.e., they extend past their point(s) of support, but still function as beams? I’ve seen some pretty wild things over the years as regards lumber’s ability to handle incorrect, missing or rotten framing but beams obviously need to have at least two supports to counteract gravity. So it would be interesting to see photos of the condition in question.

    In the past I have jacked off the ground an entire 1890 era single car garage using 6 car jacks. This was to allow replacement of the main beams supporting the entire structure, which had mostly rotted away due to the grade changing over the interceding 100 years. Given that your porch weighs significantly less you (or someone else) really shouldn’t have a problem supporting your deck temporarily with jacks, allowing for the introduction of the missing concrete where it should be.

    A pain in the ass, certainly, but it shouldn’t take more than a weekend.

  66. 66
    Jay says:

    By the way, there is a specialty plywood deck material made for semi trailer decks. It’s 1” thick, void free, uses marine glues, and comes with a textured non skid coating.

    It’s not cheap.

    Laid with a proper slope, with proper flashing up against the house, and edge flashing, then covered with a vynel deck covering, or a rubberized product like Ducan, it will last in the open for decades.

  67. 67
    geg6 says:

    @Another Scott:

    You’re in NoVa. John is just down the road from me, probably not even an hour in heavy traffic and a blizzard. My cabin in Titusville is much, much, much further away from my home than Cole’s home is. I think I am more familiar with his weather than you may be. We yearn for the little sunlight we get.

  68. 68
    worn says:

    @LongHairedWeirdo: Washington State is seismically active. Actually, CA, OR & WA all are and as a result the building codes are much more stringent than anything you will find on the east coast. Because they are not used to having to install this stuff, I have seen non-WC contractors completely leave out all the steel hardware required in modern buildings out here. This is a mistake that can be quite costly.

    From other commenters it sounds as if WV is fairly lax as comes to permitting & construction in rural areas. It’s a form of freedom I suppose, but one that often manifests itself in the freedom to bequeath a nasty problem to subsequent owners.

    * typically floor to floor steel straps & hold downs to the foundation

  69. 69
    Jay says:


    And joist hangers, hurricaine clips, wiring and plumbing protectors, rigid sheathing fastening schedules, etc.

  70. 70
    StringOnAStick says:

    I’m going to go with the idea of tearing it off, making a landing and set of stairs, and then a nice stone patio. After having a homeless guy set some trees/shrubs on fire behind our house a few years ago, I’ve taken to thinking of decks as large collections of bone dry wood/wicks with the potential for setting your house on fire.

    Add me to the votes that are pro-sun awning too.

  71. 71
    J R in WV says:


    . I’m wondering if WVa has the same kinds of real estate law as Washington. I had an inspection that called out lots of stuff – I can’t believe they’d have missed that.

    In my rural county in SW WV we have to buy a building permit now. No one looks at the plans, or even asks if you have plans. Then when you’re done, no one inspects to see if it was built to the potential plans. No code enforcement either.

    We had an architect apprentice draw the house plans, they were incredibly detailed, since he was an apprentice showing he knew all the details. Now he is the managing partner of one of the big firms in town.

    Have I mentioned the giant beech tree by our back deck? It has to come down, tree service guy said $7,500 because there is no way to get any kind of vehicle back there. Whee, are we having fun now?

    I like the steps down to the patio idea, with awning or big sunshade umbrella thingys …

    We’re also going to replace the leaky pond by the front door… it’s needed to throw the spring that erupted from the mountain side away from the foundations of the house. It erupted not long after we moved in. New pond will be nicer than the one I built, designed and built rather than thrown together to save the house from the new spring.

  72. 72
    Jay says:

    @J R in WV:

    Bottled Water dude, just saying,…….

  73. 73
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @Honus: The 54″ main is a silt line, to pump silt back up to the reservoir from the Coors water treatment plant. There are already a 30″ and a 48″ water mains running through the right of way (my driveway and my neighbors back yard. The only space left is closest to my house (15 feet).

    I can hear the equipment now, two yards away. Perspective.

  74. 74
    J R in WV says:


    We have a drilled well, and a tap onto the local PSD water system. I trust our well more than the public service district’s water, but we’re in an O&G patch, so deep upderground there could be a gob of oil or drilling fluids creeping closer, closer to our 80 foot deep well.

    So far, the water is pH 8.2, a tiny bit of sulfur depending on rainfall. We think there are two acquifers, and one is sweeter, the other last longer into dry spells.

  75. 75
    Tams says:

    Don’t forget to make/save room for your hot tub! So sorry you’re having a bad day!

  76. 76
    mere mortal says:

    Keep the deck. A patio will flood, we’ve seen your back yard.

Comments are closed.