Sunday, June 19, 2011

Making the Deck Float

This week, we started another part of the deck project.  This time, we worked on the edge of the deck, which we had left without a railing.

Because the surface of the deck is no more than 30" from the ground plane, we were not required to have a railing per building code. I really, really wanted NO RAILING. Railings are tedious to build, they generally clutter up the view, and they add a lot of cost to a deck project. So locating the deck 28" above the ground plane was intentional and desirable from many perspectives; but it quickly became clear that it was undesirable from a parenting perspective!
Design concept in blocks.
My father - Noah and Mattias' grandfather - who helped us build the deck, was, in fact, so disturbed by the 28" drop that he offered to make Fritz a railing for his birthday.

But we were firm: No Railings on the Deck.

It was (admittedly) a dangerous precipice for little 14 month olds who believe that as long as they turn around and go backwards, they can go over any edge, at any height.  In case you are not a parent, that's how you teach babies to go down stairs, "Turn around! Crawl down backwards!" Mattias has learned this lesson so well that it's a hazard; "A 28 inch drop? 6 inches taller than me? No problem! As long as I go over it backwards!"

The stair-crawling technique. Stairs designed under German building codes. But the technique still works.
So, in order to save Mattias from injuring himself, and in order to feel comfortable inviting other piccolini over to our house, it was time to continue to the next phase of the deck: the planter.

The original idea was to remove this fence, and fill the space with a wide planter that was just slightly lower than the deck.  That way, the deck would continue to be a platform "floating" in a sea of vegetation (once the planter is full). And the planter protects anyone from falling too far, should they fall.

At the moment of the photo, all the furniture was lined up along the edge of the deck to form a protective barricade for the previously mentioned 14 month old
There's nothing beautiful or terribly redeemable about the fence, as far as I'm concerned, except for the fact that it's only 6 months old and functioning just fine. For some people, that might be enough. But me?I'm a little annoyed at the way it steps down at the corner. (Whose brilliant idea was that? Ugh.) And I think it's kind of clunky, mundanely vertical, and not so elegant.

After a lot of thought, I finally yielded to Fritz on the idea of leaving the fence in and just building the planter (for now). Because frankly, tearing down the fence would open a whole new can of worms, whereby I'd want to replace/change/alter the whole fence. Later. I'll do that later.

There was also some disappointment when I failed to convince a local woodworker to build us a planter made from reclaimed cedar fencing. Mach's nichts! Onto our simplified, and then simplified, and then simplified AGAIN plan: a landscape timber planter, that still maintains the design integrity of deck-floating-in-(future)-vegetation, by locating itself several inches below the deck surface.

Planter. Or playpen since there's no dirt in there.
Or balance beam.
I am sure you are already imagining how great it will be after we fill it with 5 cubic yards of planter soil and plants over the next two weekends.

We gave up on the idea of building this planter ourselves because 1) we were out of relatives who wanted to take a work-ation at our house 2) Mattias is a total handful these days 3) Fritz is very tired after all that drip irrigation remodeling.

Noah was into helping. Here he is in his role as Sidewalk Supervisor:


And after his promotion to Chief Supervisor:


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