We Got Decked

House update! Our house’s roof-deck (terrace) is bigger than my first apartment, a 625 square foot Terrace of Terror we knew would need to be rebuilt someday. In its original state it was poorly designed for the region, high maintenance, prone to flooding and pouring water into our house, and unsafe. The initial temptation was to turn it into an indoor space, but the layout would make no sense. The terrace wasn’t even listed on the parcel finder, so after a terrible winter of tarps, duct tape, emergency sealant, bids, red half-frozen hands and swapping out buckets, we found a GC we could trust, pulled permits and scheduled what is probably the priciest renovation we’ll ever do. (Please don’t ask for numbers– you don’t want to know and I don’t want to think about it.)

Many GCs refused to work with us if we didn’t hire an architect, but that didn’t sit well with me since the darn thing’s a perfect square. I’m glad I followed my gut, because any design we came up with would not have worked out due to a long list of surprises.

The plan was to flatten out the mushroom-shaped wall of our house on the side we were re-siding and repeat on the others, later, but there was mysterious plumbing in the beveled soffit. Then the ancient plastic sheet siding shattered around a corner, necessitating a second wall of new siding (I can’t complain– huge cosmetic improvement). A structurally necessary beam in the EXACT place I use as my carpentry workshop (!) had been removed at some point, leaving a telltale imprint in the concrete. At that point I wasn’t shocked to learn the entire house was wired through the parapet walls we destroyed on the first day.

The most surprising discovery of all: work you hire out can be as stressful and tiring as the work you do yourself.

Work began six weeks ago. I’ve been under soft house arrest since then, cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming daily. Work hours were 8a-4:30p, although the roofing and paint guys worked odd hours, sometimes showing up unexpectedly and staying late into the night. There were a lot of workers (all super nice guys) and a lot of questions.

The construction was loud, and the music was louder (mostly Christian rap in Spanish). Demolition was quick– the old walls and deck disappeared completely on the first day. The roofing team then created an impenetrable surface. The sliding glass doors were hauled off, leaving us with a large boarded-up hole for two weeks. Rain stopped work a few times, and there seems to be a shortage of electricians in Washington.

The team courteously covered the paths to the bathrooms with Ram Board (this is ordinarily a shoes-off house), but they didn’t like using the locks on the bathroom doors or respond when someone knocked, which led to some awkward moments. (Why do some people close the doors of unoccupied bathrooms?!) Someone put a bootprint on a hand towel. My vegetable plot got covered in Hardie dust and I got soaked by a water tap left completely open on my timer. There was also the sheer weirdness of watching people do things I sort of half-know how to do and not being able to help.

Honestly, I don’t understand why outdoor living spaces are a Thing in the Pacific Northwest. The trees are lovely, but it’ll just sit empty for more than half the year.

The Milgard French doors are pretty and make a HUGE difference in the temperature control upstairs. I never suspected that the ancient sliding glass doors were the source of the draft up there.

On the upside, we now have a safe, environmentally friendly rooftop terrace with three drainage systems. No such thing as overkill! Plus, it legally exists– it’s on the property’s records. It has fancy lights on the rails (Danny’s good idea) and I put in a very hip porch light. There are also GFCIs so I can plug in Christmas lights and my kettle, because God knows I need a cup of tea after all this.

No, we’re not putting a hot tub or a grill on it; this thing is nowhere near a kitchen and has zero privacy… also, a hot tub is heavy and full of water (shudder!) and a grill is full of fire (double shudder!). We have a perfectly serviceable back patio for that kind of thing.

On a nice day like today, the deck feels like a little piece of California, where we never could have afforded a home in the first place. I wish all of you could come sit on it with us. Who needs furniture?

TL;DR: We got decked, yo.