Building a deck: design for disaster


TODAY'S DO-IT-OURSELF Project Is: How To Build a Deck.

There's nothing like adding a deck to transform an ordinary home into a home attached to a mass of inexpertly nailed wood. And just imagine the family fun you'll have this summer with a deck!

"Come on kids!" you'll call to your children. "Let's go out on the deck and have some fun!"

"Shut up," they'll gaily reply, because they are engrossed in a Sony PlayStation video game that they've been playing for 11 consecutive weeks.

"OK, then!" you'll say, stepping out onto your new deck. "You kids are just going to miss out on all the --aaiiieee!" This is the noise you make when you pick up a splinter the size of a harpoon.

Yes, a deck would certainly be a great addition to your home. But if you're like most people, you're reluctant to tackle such an ambitious project for fear that you lack the know-how, or will sever an important limb.

Well, you can stop worrying. For one thing, they are making amazing progress in the field of prosthetics. For another thing, building a deck is not as hard as you think. I've watched TV personality Bob Vila do it many times, and he is a regular do-it-yourselfer just like you, except that he has knowledge, skill, an unlimited budget and a large staff of experts. So let's get started!

Step 1 is to select a site for your deck. You should do this in accordance with the principles of feng shui, an ancient Chinese philosophy whose name means, literally, "new fad." Feng shui (pronounced "wang chung") teaches us that where we locate our household items affects our happiness by controlling the flow of ch'i, which is a life force that is always around us, everywhere, all the time, like Regis Philbin.

If you think I'm making this up, check out any feng shui publication, such as Feng Shui for Modern Living ("The World's Biggest Selling Feng Shui Magazine") which is filled with useful tips, such as this one from the April issue: "Keep your toilet seat down ... to prevent ch'i being unnecessarily 'flushed' away." (You know how true this is if you've ever had to pay a plumber to fix a toilet clogged by a big glob of escaped ch'i.)

My point is that, unless you want all your ch'i flowing onto your neighbor's driveway, you need to locate your deck in exactly the right place. In my experience, the ideal location for a deck, considering all factors, is: indoors. Just lay some boards on your living-room floor and tell everybody it's a deck. This way, you can enjoy your deck without going outdoors and turning yourself into essentially a Dunkin' Donuts for mosquitoes.

If you insist on having a traditional outdoor deck, follow these steps:

Go outside and, wearing steel-tipped work boots, carefully pace off an area the size of a deck..

Mark the corners by driving stakes into the ground, using a No. 6 Whacking Hammer. If you hear screaming, you have lawn vampires, and you should call your Realtor immediately.

Drive to a giant mega-warehouse home-fixin's superstore that runs TV commercials wherein cheerful, knowledgeable employees help you find exactly what you need. Take beef jerky, as you will be wandering the aisles for days, because those commercials are a big pile of ch'i. You will need to purchase the following deck parts: beams, joists, posts, bevels, headers, footers, thrusters, barristers and 8,000 metric feet of galvanized mahogany.

Nail these items together in the shape of a deck, as shown on the Bob Vila show.

That's all there is to it!

Important safety tip: Send smaller, more-expendable members of the gang out onto the deck before you try it.

Nighttime safety tip: Everybody should wear garlic.

Next week's homeowner topic: Faster Gardening through Dynamite.

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