Monthly Archives: June 2012

Where a window closes, a door opens…onto a deck

After three years of talking about it, we finally did it! We found a great contractor with a extremely reasonable price (especially considering where we ended, but more on that in a minute) and scheduled the time back in April to have an exit to the backyard and a deck built.

This was the estimate and hand-drawn plan.

Here’s the thing, aside from the money investment, this project took forever to commit to because it was kind of a huge deal. Not that our deck is huge, but our house is celebrating her 60th birthday this year and here we were talking about ripping a seven-foot hole in the side of her.

I was terrified of what “side projects” would result. Our house is plaster inside and brick on the outside. Add the shifting/settling that’s inevitable and the fact that it’s an exterior, off-grade wall and maybe you can understand my anxiety. Or maybe not, because I’m just a huge wuss. ­čÖé

Either way, that’s why we decided to pay professionals to do it for us. Professionals who have things like diamond-tipped saw blades and three men to carry a ton of lumber. In the end, I know we made the right decision!

It’s taken me a little bit to put this all together so I’m excited to finally be sharing. Here’s how the project went.


The dining room inside.

And of course,

Outside view of that same wall.

The project was to consist of:

  • Knocking out the window and wall surround.
  • Installing French doors and handles.
  • Building a 10’x10′ deck with pressure-treated pine, including a small bench and corner stairs.

Our first purchase was the doors.

Standard French doors from Lowe’s except for the blinds, which are inside the glass.

They look far less glamorous being stored in the garage but we were in love. Since we have a cat who chewed through our plantation shutter cords the first week we moved in and now we have a baby on the way, we were smitten with this ingenious idea. Hooray for no strangle hazard/chew toy/dust collector on the new doors!

And naturally, next was the lumber:

Yay, Lowe’s! Didn’t run over my flower beds or anything either.

It sat in our driveway heavily guarded over the weekend by perfectly placed car parking until the contractors arrived.

Which, yes, I hauled my butt up on and proudly sprawled over like Cleopatra because I’m a nerd.

The contractor showed up at 9 a.m. Monday morning and I was there to talk through the project understandings one last time (before said demo began!).

Our lead guy was extremely friendly and accommodating. He answered all my questions and made a couple suggestions along the way. This was supposed to take a day or two since it was such a small deck.

I left for work and couldn’t wait to get home.

Here’s what it looked like after Day 1:


Not what I thought French doors looked like. ­čÖé

The next day, I met with the guys again… and talked through the project, again. He informed me of a couple of things right away:

  • Our brick isn’t normal brick. I remember our home inspector calling it “Norwegian” brick.┬áMost brick homes are either cinder block or wood covered with brick facing–not Norwegian brick. It’s a true, solid brick home.

These bricks are huge! And, that’s the back of the plaster you can see of the inside wall.

  • But basically, that meant the cute bricks I thought they’d be┬átaking out that I was going to use to landscape was not going to happen. They killed two diamond-tipped saw blades cutting this 6’x7′ hole and everything came out in pieces.

LOTS of pieces.

  • Apparently our header above the window was non-existent so he had to come up with a way to hold that up and then cover it, too. Guh-reat.

So, fast forward a bit and by Day 4, it finally looked like this:

Ah, yes, contractor project time is like New York time, only reverse.

I was admittedly torn by this point–I was d-u-n with the chaos but oh, so grateful we hadn’t attempted this ourselves!

On day five, I came home to this:

Hooray, doors!

We thought day six was the last day…just a matter of finishing touches.

Like this adorable light that they agreed to install at no extra charge since they had the wall open anyway.

And laying down the threshold inside on the floor.

Son of a….

Trouble in paradise, people!┬á They had all left and the project was “completed” so I came home to this and freaked. What the what?! The lightest piece is plastic and comes on the doors so there’s nothing you can do. But that piece in the middle was custom-made by them. Our floors are oak…they used pine. They also apparently just picked up a stain they thought would work and slapped it down.

They must’ve actually slapped it, too, because there was spatter everywhere and puddling, ugh. Awful.

Jeremy and I bought a couple oak wood samples as well as a different stain and tried it. When we found a good match, we told them exactly what to do. Luckily,it worked beautifully and they did an amazing job–I have no idea what happened the first time!

Phew! Wood grain and all.

So, onto day seven (technically, consecutive day 10) and we were finally done!

Here’s the inside:

The final day…late in the evening… but completed.

(Don’t mind the bad lighting. All the walls are white, but I apparently didn’t balance, so the two side walls only look peach.)

And, the outside:

Awwww, yay!

I guess technically this one matches the before picture:

So. much. better. More importantly, it’s so much more functional!

And that’s without any landscaping or decor, obviously, so it’ll just get better. But the craftsmanship is solid, and it couldn’t have gotten more boring or dirty back there, haha.

It ended up costing us a bit more than the original $3,120 for the contractors since we added an outlet, a light fixture and some decorative trim. But the contractors kept their word on price, no matter what was encountered, which I really appreciated.

And the deck and doors are under a two-year warranty so when we realized that the exterior outlet didn’t work (almost two months after it was completed), they didn’t hesitate to come out and troubleshoot. It was a bad outlet so they replaced it. Easy peasy.

I also learned a lot. From the importance of daily conversations with your experts and workmen to paying attention to the littlest details, like actually testing the outlet during the walk-through.

So, that’s my little project wrap up. I can’t wait to seal it, put out bright flower pots and chairs, and just soak it in.

Anyone else have projects they just finished? Any that they actually completed on-time?