In 2004, when I transformed what was a garage and workshop into a house, I also included a second story deck. The view out over the Catskills was great. The deck was enclosed on three sides by the envelope of the house but open at the front. The deck had a self-supporting extension that jutted out 5 feet and was 10’ above the ground.
Deb and I loved to go up on this deck for our morning coffee, and it became a ritual. But, with no way to get out of the sun, on hot summer days we avoided it. Additionally, the porch opening was so big and high that the morning sun would stream into the interior of the house, at times blindingly so. In foul weather, rain and snow would blow in on the deck and pile up, causing issues.
As time went by, I realized I needed to put a roof over the extension. But it would be no easy task. The easterly facing opening had an irregular shape that was almost ten feet high. Furthermore, I didn’t think I should use the deck for the roof support. As I said, the deck extension was self-supported, but it was never meant to bear a lot of weight. For example, I would not want 10 adults to jump up and down on it. So if the roof could not be supported by the deck below, how would it be? To make the roof look like it fit in, what shape would it be?
This was a challenge, but the kind of challenge that makes building your own house so rewarding. I thought it over for a couple of years while I attended to other pressing projects. As usual, the final strategy did not reveal itself to me until a few weeks before I was about to tackle it.
The solution was the use of a steel finch plate to support the roof so that it could fly out on its own, self-supported, like the deck below does. The roof shape would be lopsided, but that would look fine because it followed the same pattern as the existing house roofline, with more of an opening to the south, where the sun poured in. Conversely, the bigger portion of the roof would protect the deck from Nor’easters. In the mountains, cold is more of an issue than heat, so taking advantage of solar energy was important. I needed to find the right mix of sun and shade, this design did that. The roof would fly like the deck below.
Structurally this was how I did it. The new roof was to be six feet in length and needed to support only itself and winter snow load. Running across the existing second floor ceiling of the house were 2”x12” joists, on 16” centers. Perpendicular and above these, there was just enough height to sneak in two, 2”x8”x14’ rafters, where—and here is the key– I would add a ½” x 7” steel finch plate, sandwiching it in between the rafters, making a new roof ridge rafter. Inside the house, 8’ of this plate would be tied into the structure and outside it would fly 6’. This roof ridge plate would essentially hold up the roof. The rakes were double 2”x6”x 14’, the rafters were 2×4, and Fabral metal roofing completed the job. The front, gable end, triangle was glued and screwed together, creating robust structural integrity going 8 feet into the house.
Knowing structurally how to accomplish this was important, but getting up there and working safely was another. This caused some apprehension as I have fallen off scaffolding more than once. I would be more than 20 feet up and at age 62, I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore. So I used 2x6x16′ studs that I screwed together with #8, 3” star drive deck screws and created quite a platform. The screws were very strong, and made the platform go together and come apart easily. (Later, I used these 2×6 studs on the lower porch roof).
The view from my working platform was fantastic and I would often pause to take it all in. We were having great weather, so this turned out to be the most fun project I did all year.
Once the roof was completed, I needed to replace the old temporary deck boards. But before I did that I needed to give the deck extension more support strength. In brief to do that, I added 2- 1/2”x5”x14’ steel finch plates: The picture explains it all.
A more interesting story revolves around the decking material I ended up choosing. I wanted something that was hassle free and was all but certain that I was going with Trex- the popular, composite, manufactured decking. But when I called my favorite building supplier, Katie told me they do not sell Trex and there are problems with it; however they sell a different product called Azek. It is much better but it costs 30% more. If I didn’t believe her about the Trex problems, I should go check out the local municipal building, where a Trex deck had been installed just eight years ago. So I did just that.
She was right. That deck not only looked like it had been around 8 years but, worse, it felt spongy to walk on in a weird way. No way did I want that crap. The Azek product was nice but now I’m wondering, “Who knows? Would it take eight years to realize it also had problems?”
My attention was captured by a stack of 5/4” white pine planks that had been drying on my property for 2 years–just waiting for the call.
Up to this point, I had planned to install the new deck boards quickly and forget about it — but now, the cost had gone up to $1,000 for the Azek product I was considering. Clearly, the 5/4 white pine needed a second look. This pine originally grew on my neighbor’s property, until the giant tree blew over in a storm. He told me I could have the logs if I cleaned up the mess. The butt log was 36” in diameter. I had to trim down the sides with a chain saw so it would fit through the portable sawmill.
So I bit the bullet and sorted through my pile of white pine, selecting what I needed. The work was just beginning because the boards had to be trued, ripped to width, planed, sanded, stained and sanded again, then finally stained a second time for good measure. This all took more than 3 days.
What a pleasure it was fastening these finished 5/4” boards into place–it was really nice stuff!
The beautiful dark blue stain I used is supposed to be good for 10 years on decks and I could not have gotten this color with any manufactured deck board product.
I’d like to say the story has a happy ending, but after all that work, the planks that were exposed to a lot of sun began to ooze out pine tar! This is the challenge that faces me now, because the deck is for people to walk on, and after they walk on the deck, they walk in the house and then there will be pine tar in the house.
I am not going to do anything about it now, but I will have to replace those boards in the future with ones that do not have all that pine tar in them. Live and learn: Now I know how to recognize what pine boards that have pine tar potential.