Q: Tim, I really need your help. My husband is making a mess of a deck extension project. I’m concerned he’s using the wrong-sized lumber and the connections between pieces of lumber don’t appear to be secure to me. Are you able to share deck construction basics so my kids and I don’t tumble to the ground below? — Tricia P., Osceola, Iowa
A: All you need to do is spend a few minutes searching the Internet about collapsed decks and you will discover local news websites are littered with stories of these calamities. You can even watch videos of decks collapsing with people on them. Deck construction is serious business, and you need to make sure everything is done correctly.
Entire books have been written on the subject, and it's impossible for me to give you precise, detailed advice. That said, you should start your education at the nadra.org website. The North American Deck and Railing Association owns this website, and it has quite a few helpful documents and checklists that will get you up to speed on some of the best practices of deck construction.
It’s important to realize that treated lumber must be used outdoors. The treated lumber sold now in the United States has a high copper content. When the lumber gets wet and the copper leaches from the lumber, this solution can become highly corrosive to any hardware, framing connectors, screws and nails that are not rated for this very destructive brew. Half-inch diameter bolts can be reduced to withered, rusted rods in just a few years in certain conditions.
Another key point is flashings. If the deck connects to your house, any board bolted to the side of the house needs to be flashed so water doesn't rot out the side wall of the house. There are all sorts of methods and materials to employ, but you need to be skilled to succeed.
Deck railing posts are a major concern because many carpenters and DIY homeowner warriors get this aspect completely wrong. There are special metal connectors that should be used in conjunction with through bolts, not lag bolts.
Beams that are supported by columns need to be attached correctly. There are special pieces of approved hardware to do this or a large post can be notched to accept the beam. Through bolts then connect the beam to the post.
Special tape should be used on top of the joists before the decking is applied to prevent joist rot and to ensure the nails and screws holding down the decking don't pull out.
I’ve got countless deck construction articles and videos at my AsktheBuilder.com website to help you understand what needs to be done to be safe. I urge you to go there and read all my past work about deck construction.
Q: Tim, I’ve got a few interior doors at my home that are driving me crazy. One of the doors wants to slowly close on its own. I’m convinced it’s a ghost. Another door has started to rub up at the top of the door where it touches the door frame. Help this single mom who’s handy but has no money. — Sara B., Corona, Calif.
A: I have the ghost-door issue at my own home with my master bathroom door. She Who Must Be Obeyed has instructed me that it will be fixed this weekend.
The ghost is really gravity. The hinge pins are so well machined, fitted and oiled that if the door is just slightly out of plumb, gravity will pull it closed. The fix for this is so easy you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
All you have to do is grab a few shims or something to shove under the bottom tip of the door under the handle. Be sure the door is open so you can get outside once you do the next step.
Use a hammer and screwdriver to remove one of the hinge pins. Take the hinge pin outdoors and put it on a piece of lumber and strike the center of the pin with your hammer to put a slight bend in the pin. The bend will create enough friction in the hinge to stop the door from closing on its own.
The rubbing door problem is almost always traced to hinge screws on the upper hinge that have come loose. Tighten them and see if the problem disappears instantly. If the rubbing is less, but not gone, then you may have to use a wood chisel to deepen the upper hinge mortise on the door or the door frame.
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