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We should know from restoring our old house in Rapallo that no fix-it-up job is simple.  Unexpected complications always attend a home improvement project.  Our small deck in Arizona was no exception.

I’ve been lobbying for deck replacement for a couple of years.  The old deck was made of pressure-treated boards; they had cupped and splintered in the intense summer heat here, and it was a hazard to walk on them in bare feet.  We knew we wanted to replace the wood with composite boards when the time came; a sale of the Home Depot brand gave us the impetus to get started. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the ugly old and sparkling new:

The first adventure was getting the boards home.  We needed 24 of them.  They are 12 feet long, a bit floppy, heavy, and, it turns out, very slippery.  Because of the weight we had to transport them atop my ancient car in two loads.  As I turned the next-to-the-last corner to get home the whole load slid off the front of the car and skittered across the road.  Fortunately there was no traffic, and even more fortunately two kindly knights stopped and helped me secure the boards for the short end of the journey.  Unfortunately some of the boards got pretty scratched up as they moved across the pebbly road.

Removing the old decking was relatively easy; removing the three large joists that supported the old deck was more difficult.


Our friend John, who is ‘in’ construction, agreed that the outer supports of the deck were in sufficiently good condition to keep.  The old joists were spaced 32″ apart; the new decking required joists 16″ apart, so we went back to Home Depot and got seven pieces of pressure-treated joist wood.  We had not anticipated having to replace all the joists.  Nor had we anticipated having to patch and fill where the old joists met the house, nor where there was a bit of rot in one of the main supports.


It all takes so much time!  And it was hot – 95 F the day we placed most of the joists.


But life in Italy has taught us the phrase ‘piano, piano.’  Just start the job, keep at it slowly and carefully and, as they also like to say in Rapallo, “Wallah!” – eventually your job is finished.

So it was with the deck, and we are thrilled with the result.  We are also utterly exhausted from the work, especially the Captain who had to do all the heavy parts of it.


A quick word about Home Depot: the people there could not be nicer.  We received tons of helpful advice, all of it spot on.  When we bought a couple of small power tools the salesman told us, “If they don’t work the way you want them to for your job, bring them back.”  Home Depot is enormous – it’s the size of a football arena, and contains everything you could ever need for home or garden.  We love our ‘Fai da Te’ stores in Italy, but they are wee in comparison.  It’s not that there’s not a lot of do-it-yourself in Italy – there’s a tremendous amount, much of it extremely creative and very beautiful.  But if you want cement you go to the cement store, if you want wood you go to the wood store, and if you want nails you go to the hardware store – it’s not all under one roof.  And in Italy there’s a lot of use made of old materials; not much goes to waste there.

Speaking of Italy, we’ll be heading home in the next week, so your Expatriate will be silent for a week or two…

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