Have you ever seen "Holmes on Homes"? My contractor asked me this the second day he was on the job with my dec renovation and my heart leapt into my chest. I looked at what he showed me and knew he was perfectly correct. I felt so stupid. I even said this to a friend.
There is more to this story. I knew this part of the deck had a problem. I knew it while the contractor was building it, and I knew all along I would get to this point someday. Why feel stupid now? I made a decision; it was a good decision for me at the time and I stand by it today. That momentary clutch of insecurity? Gone. Well, I wish I could have come up with some snappy response at the time rather than letting my sense of insecurity flap in the breeze.
This deck is only three years old. It took three years from planning to finish (well, winter did get in the way). I thought I did all the right things: got quite a few quotes, talked to people who had worked with the various contractors, polled everyone I knew, got recommendations, narrowed it down to three who who all had quoted similar prices and then picked the one that seemed to have the best recommendations, who seemed to know what we wanted and seemed competent to do the job.
Except it didn't quite work out that way. I knew there were problems fairly early on. The contractor seemed to read the plans with blinders, only looking at one little piece at a time, not relating the pieces to the whole. But my hands were full. We had just learned G had lung cancer. I was supervising the deck, closing the business, and trying to get G through chemotherapy and major depression. Then there was more depression and heart surgery and a deep dive into dementia and frontal lobe impairment.
At some point, after the concrete was poured and the foundations were solid and sound, somewhere between the third and fourth carpenter on the job, I just said to myself "its only money; I just want it over and done and I'll fix it later". I had stopped paying as much attention to how the job was going by that point. I had too much on my mind but I knew the cost was running well over contract. But I also knew the hard stuff was done. The concrete pool was now reinforced and no longer tipping down the cliff. I didn't have to worry about my pool falling down on the roof of the house below me. The french drains were in place and the deck was no longer pitched toward the house so that all the rainwater ran into my foundation. Those were problems left me by the contractor who built the house. I knew the pool, for which a permit had never been issued to begin with, was now up to code.
Lumber and labor are expensive, but they were the least parts of this job. I could do them over. I didn't want to pay for another extension on the building permit. I didn't want a long legal battle and I knew the contractor was going to want all the money he could get. I didn't want the distraction when I needed to apply all my energy to helping G.
This spring I was ready. I had two goals for the summer deck redo: Fix the area immediately around the pool, which had some issues and would require some structural modification as well, and replace the decking on the entire deck, as the material we originally requested has major mildew problems. That second item was not the fault of the original contractor as that information came out after the deck was planned and under way and the company declared Chapter 11 rather than deal with the unhappy customers. It was a necessary expense that falls into the general life category I call "suck up and deal". I talked to a contractor I know and trust, and reserved a spot in his schedule.
In the end, we will only get the middle section of my decks done this year, the part around the pool. I needed more structural work than I anticipated which means the job is taking longer and costing more than expected. The good news is that I love the way it is turning out, and I love watching carpenters who take pride in their work and tackle a job with care and meticulous planning and workmanship. The final results will be worth the effort. Even now, before they have finished, the deck looks worlds better than it did before, as seen in this post. This makes me very happy, happy enough that I don't mind having to put off replacing the deck surface on the other two-thirds of the deck, the parts that are structurally sound, until next spring.