Rear Deck Beam Removal

Today we continued with rebuilding the rear deck.  My consultant, brother Tim, after examining the photos I had been texting him, recommended that the entire beam (the one with the most dry rot) be replaced.  This is not advice I wanted to hear!  I had many good reasons for not replacing the beam.

  • The dry rot was not deep and there was plenty of healthy wood to bear the weight.
  • The beam is heavy.  Richard and I may not be able to lift a new one into place.
  • The beam goes into the house.  Who knows what may come tumbling down once I start removing structure.
  • A new beam is expensive.

None of this swayed Tim.  Finally I capitulated, reasoning that it doesn’t make sense to ask advice from an expert if I’m not going to follow it.

I began by removing the stucco around the beam, using the air impact tool. I always feel good when I get a chance to use the air compressor and tools for something more than filling tires with air and blowing out the vacuum filter. Then I removed the rotted wood from the side of the beam. Note that the beam extends under the upper story floorboards. I was using a long-shaft screwdriver and feeling like a dentist performing a root canal.

Tim recommended I cut through the 2x10 band so I could see how the beam was fastened. Oooh! First air tools and now the Sawzall! Actually, this appears to be a very poor design. Tim tells me there should be a weather-proof seal aroound the house, and the deck should be fastened on the outside of the seal. This design provides a way for moisture to enter the house. Fortunately I live in a desert -- in a wetter climate the house structure could be compromised.

The plan is to cut the beam about two feet from the wall, remove the long piece, and then wiggle the short piece out. One of the removed 2x6 floorboards was pressed into duty as a support for the long end of the beam.

For once, things worked according to plan. I used a circular saw (another power tool!) to cut about halfway through the beam, then the Sawzall to complete the cut. The support held up the long cantilevered portion of the beam. We slid the beam out until it could be tipped over into the yard. The beam was surprisingly light - Richard and I had no trouble carrying it off.

The short end of the beam was still attached to the house and would not move. Using the Sawzall with a demolition blade, I found and cut nails holding the top of the beam. Then the Sawzall overheated and refused to work, even though bottom of the beam still had four nails holding it. I managed to remove the nails with a crowbar, and the short piece was removed from the wall.

Hopefully I'll be able to find a 6x10x108 beam without a lot of trouble. Hopefully Richard and I will be able to lift it and plug this hole.

The beam at the south end of the deck is rotted out. There's no saving it and it will be replaced. I took this picture from atop a ladder. I was too close to the beam to get it all into the photo, so I took three shots and stitched them together using the panorama-stitching program Calico 2. This produced a fish-eye effect you can see in the photo.

Here's the southeast corner of the deck, after the rotten beam has been removed. This concludes today's chapter of the deck rebuild saga. More to come.

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