October 30, 2014

Deck Railings and the Final Deck Reveal

In all my uncontrollable, overly excited celebration about finally finishing the window and door switcheroo, I forgot that I owe you guys an update on the deck.  It's been a long deck building season, and we had our share of obstacles to overcome, (like a flood and man eating ants

but my God it was worth it:

We finished off the railings, first by cutting all our posts to the correct, uniform height, and then attaching 2x4s in between them for stability.

 We placed a second set of 2x4's 4 inches up from the deck floor, low enough to meet code but high enough to shovel snow out under them.  Because you have to think about that stuff in Minnesota.

 Next we used long pieces of our composite decking on top as the railing.

Then one weekend while I stayed at home, my Dad finished off the railing with stainless steel cable. 

Remember when we placed two 2x4s in this corner and I said that I would explain later?  This set up allowed us to string the cable and make the 90 degree angle.

At the ends the cable finishes with fasteners that will allow us to tighten the cord over time if we need to.

 We wanted something a little more substantial at the railings, so my Dad installed these metal poles by drilling the perfect sized holes into two trim boards that he sandwiched onto the top and bottom of the poles, and then attached directly to our 2x4 rails.


I love how we were able to use the spare piece of granite that we found behind the garage as a finish to these steps.

Using cables verses spindles made a huge difference in keeping a beautiful, open view. 

The underside of the deck still left a little to be desired though.  (Code: Will the work ever end?)

The original deck had wall on the bottom which not only helped keep leaves and rubbish out, but served as a nice storage space for things like the dock ladder and extra folding chairs.  We left a few of the original boards up, but had a bunch more we needed to add. Luckily we saved some boards and they fit in pretty seamlessly.

We also rehung the gate and added boards to the side of the steps.

But on the new side of the deck, we had to start from scratch.

It was relatively easy to add 1x6s cut to length.  We used a uniform spacer to make sure the gaps between boards would line up all the way down the length of the deck.


 Let's put a fork in it- this deck build, and stairway to our new entry is finally done!

Of course, we still have a little painting to do.   

We plan to save the paint job for next spring though, (2015: The Year of the Exterior.)  It's not just because we're lazy and tired of this deck that we're waiting, green treated lumber is supposed to age for 1 year before you paint it.  That will also give us time to decide what color to paint it.  
  • The old deck was red, which worked, but would require us to paint (and repaint over the years) that beautiful new natural colored composite decking. 
  • We could paint the whole thing white, but it would get dirty easily and require lots of repainting over the years.
  • We could just paint the railings and side boards white and leave the decking natural.
  • Or for that matter we could sand the red side boards down and just stain the entire thing with a natural color.
  • Or we cold paint the deck a gray color to match the shingles and bring another color to our exterior pallet, sort of like these homes:

I honestly have no idea what to do with it right now, so I'd love to hear your vote for the deck color.  What do you think would compliment the house and make that deck look like a beautiful addition worth months and months of our time this summer?  Because seriously, at this point anything less than "showstopper" is not worth it to me.  Please weight in in the comments below!


  1. I would leave the composite deck material alone and probably paint the skirting boards red. Not sure what I would do with all the railing - probably white (or red depending on how busy it might look) but leave the top natural since it is the deck material. Since the deck is uncovered and you have rather extreme weather you want to avoid painting the deck surface for ease of upkeep - isn't that why you used composite deck material in the first place?

    I love what you have done so far with the cabin - it looks like it has always been this way. Previously you could almost see the progression of floor plan changes and additions. You've done a great job with long range vision for the cabin and breaking it into small projects that don't have you living in a total construction zone when you are trying to have some R&R time.

  2. the deck looks fantastic and so does that view! love all the cabin updates! Your hard work has paid off!

  3. Can you really paint that composite decking? Sounds like a bad idea. I vote keep the deck, railings and the under-deck boards a natural color. i.e. Do nothing to the composite and stain the wood. If that all gets painted it feels like too much red, and the house reads as squatty rather than wide and gracious. If color is decided on as the way to go, I vote semitransparent gray stain, but definitely not red, and only on the wood components. What a great build! I love the modern cable railings!

  4. Or! Or! Would a very dark (like charcoal) color on those under-deck boards cause them to recede visually? Giving the deck a floating effect?? :-D If the railing posts went dark too they might disappear against the view of the lake, as well. Just a thought.

  5. Wow! The new railing suits the model and design of your house. You made the procedure seem so easy and understandable. I'm sure a lot of your readers learned from it, and will try to do something similar as well. Thank you for sharing that, Erin! All the best to you!

    Max Hall @ Schafer Construction Inc