accidental engineering

quick-strike tactical deck

a friend's rental property had a death-trap of a deck, uneven decking, dangling railings, rotted joists. the stringer was even peeling off of the house! with the move-in date of the next tenants imminent, and dubious of the home owner association's ability to perform timely repairs, we decided immediate action was necessary.

today's Tuesday tip-day is about the jig I whipped up to help ensure an even spacing of the decking screws. while there are plenty of off-the-shelf solutions to this problem, we didn't have time for Jef to one-day-ship us any of them. and besides, who wants to spend $19.73 on a piece of plastic, when a 2x8 scrap is free!

  1. chop off a ~8" piece scrap decking.
  2. mark the desired locations of the screws. apropos of nothing, I chose to put one screw 3/4" from the end, and 1.5" in from each side of the board.
  3. (optional) drill a pilot hole through each piece. maybe you have time for that kind of thing?
  4. screw each screw through the wood, trying to be perpendicular as possible.
  5. important! here is the tip—take the screws out, flip the wood over, and screw them into the holes from the other side, until a tiny bit of the screw (~.25") sticks out from the wood. this way you ensure that the mark will be made right where you made it, without having to worry about sticking the screw in perfectly straight.
  6. use the jig! line it up with whatever decking board you are attaching, and give it a few whacks with a hammer, mallet, or scrap of wood.
  7. would you look at that! perfectly positioned pinpricks for precise pounding placement.
2x8 scrap with two screws spaced on one end

well, that's it. if you were expecting to have your mind blown, I apologize. the jig worked great, and the deck went in without any problems.

completed deck, looking out from inside
completed deck, exterior view

unfortunately, I didn't think to take any before pics, so you will just have to trust me that it is a major improvement. time will tell if the HOA agrees.

as a bonus for reading such a lame tip, here are some well-fitting cutouts I did for random electrical and drainage bits. it would be great if these weren't here in the first place, but there you have it.

cutouts in the decking to accommodate various tubes and wires
wow, what a fit.

update 5 March, 2020

it's been about 6 months since we snuck in the deck replacement under the ever-watchful gaze of the HOA. the tenants seemingly have been enjoying the deck, and haven't vanished into the abyss below.

deck with patio furniture and fire pit. also a Christmas tree stand?
look at this deck, supporting the weight of patio furniture with aplomb.

7 August, 2020

it happened. it really happened. the day we all feared has indeed come to pass.

“The deck railings have been removed and maybe also the deck has been treated with an unapproved product. The deck is part of the HOA common elements and permission is required to make changes to the exterior of the townhome in any way. I'm not sure what action the board will want to take about this. They may require the railings are replaced at your cost. Please submit a completed architectural application form and let me know what product was applied to the deck.”

we humbly await the judgement of the counsel.

text message: can you imagine if someone were to fall from this height???
the absolute horror.

12 September, 2020

almost exactly one year later to the day, the HOA board approved the deck structure, and even agreed to rebuild the railings at their cost, seeing as all of the decks were in a state of disrepair. we really were just saving the tribunal a bit of effort. mission accomplished.