The dry rot finally won. After years of replacing rotting deck boards, we decided 2019 was the year to replace the aged deck on the back of our 1968 Streng Brothers inspired mid-century modern home. The question then became plastic or wood, natural color or painted deck material.
The 12 by 30 foot deck is an integral part of our home. The house sits 18 to 24 inches above the grade in the backyard. From the back of the house, the landscape slopes down to the old Linda Creek channel that runs through several yards on our street in Granite Bay.
Replacing The Deck on a Mid-Century Modern Home
This part of the deck-creek story is only important because I have seen our backyard flood to within inches of getting into the house. We were also designated as being in a 100-year flood zone by FEMA in 2017. Consequently, if we want to keep any items dry in the event of a flooding event, the deck is crucial.
From all indications, the house was designed and constructed with a deck which runs along most of the back of the house. The severely weathered deck we inherited in 2003 when we bought the house was the second iteration. However, I’m fairly certain the second rebuild incorporated some of the original redwood decking material.
I don’t know when the deck was painted a white color to match the house. It was most likely painted white to retarded the deterioration of the deck from the sun and rain. As I repaired the deck over the years replacing boards and surrounding bench, I continued to stain the deck, but I had the stain tinted to match the Malibu Beige color of the exterior of the house.
Whether by accident or design, the painted deck with surrounding bench seating was both utilitarian and looked good, from my perspective. The deck looks like, and is, and extension of both the interior and exterior of the house. We considered removing the deck completely and putting in a paver stone patio. But no design we could conjure seemed compatible with the nature of the mid-century modern home design where the outside landscape is part of the living environment of the interior of the home.
After we decided to keep the deck, the next decision was the type of material to replace it with. We looked hard at the plastic composite engineered wood decks. But there were three issues.
- They can get really hot during the summer.
- They can be very slippery in the winter.
- There was no color that matched our Malibu Beige.
Our deck is on the north side of the house. It gets full summer sun and is completely shaded in the winter. The sun just bakes the wood. In the winter, it can be so wet and moist that a green alga can grow on the surface of the deck.
Redwood Deck Painted To Match House Color
I spend many hours on the deck in the summer and really don’t want it any hotter than our already toasty Central Valley summers in California. I have also slipped plenty of times on the frosty deck in winter and don’t want an ice-skating rink of a plastic deck. There was also a part of me that was tired of always turning to non-biodegradable plastic stuff as well.
That left redwood as the only choice. But how could a person paint redwood? Also, why was I contributing to the cutting of trees just to please my desire for a deck? The conflicts and guilt were real. However, after painting many deck boards over the years, I saw how a properly maintained wood deck could last for decades. The siding on our house is redwood, painted, and in great shape.
A deck of redwood also allowed me to make minor modifications without the specialty saws and tools required for the plastic composite deck material. While I still feel bad that my deck contributed to the demand for the limited resource of redwood, it just seemed like the best fit. The redwood deck was also more expensive than the quotes we received for the plastic deck designs.
The construction of a deck was above my do-it-yourself experience, so we hired a contractor. All I asked of the contractor was that the redwood be delivered a couple days early so I could prime all of the boards. I let the contractor, Gary Holt of Holt Landscaping and his crew make the design decision on how best to construct the bench that borders most of the deck perimeter. Otherwise, the construction was a straight-forward replacement of the old deck.
We did decide to tackle the painting of the deck ourselves to save money. Once the deck was in place, we put down three coats of Behr porch and patio paint, tinted Malibu Beige (a Kelly Moore paint color). As the original deck was demolished, I also took the opportunity to install landscape fabric to suppress the return of Acanthus plants, lay down some perimeter pavers, and run some low voltage landscape lighting cable.
Deck Bench Landscape Lighting
While the replacement of the deck was a necessity, I decided to splurge and add some under the bench lighting. My goal was to softly illuminate the deck and stairs so that from inside the home the deck was plainly, but not glaringly, in view. I selected the LF Wall Light from FXLuminaire. They are designed to be fitted into and illuminate rock walls. But the thin design of the LED lamp worked well when secured to the bottom of the bench.
I also added a couple of wide angle spot lamps to illuminate the backyard. Finally, attached to the transformer, I installed a photocell to activate the lighting from dusk to dawn. I have another landscape lighting transformer and I am always adjusting the timer with the changes of seasonal day light. The photocell takes care of that task.
The deck installation on the part of the contractor was $16,500. Included in the quote was $850 to paint the deck. We avoided this cost by painting it ourselves, but the paint and supplies was still approximately $150, including primer. The landscape lighting lamps, wire, and transformer totaled about $950. I did the installation of the landscape lights, which took a couple of days, saving a little bit more money.
Overall, I’m pleased with the new redwood painted deck. It is almost an exact replica of what it replaced. However, the benches are a few inches wider and securely fastened, no more wobbly bench seats. With the addition of the under-bench landscape lighting, there is a greater sense, at least in the evening hours, of the house being larger as we look out the large sliding glass windows. The LED bench lights also make it easier to watch the racoons and skunks cross the deck on their nightly forays into our backyard.
From the outside, not much has changed. The deck, with a color that mirrors the exterior of the house, doesn’t look like an addition. It looks like part of the home. I don’t think the deck is especially a mid-century modern design – if there is such a thing for a deck – but it seems to integrate well with the home. There is also a little extra sense of security knowing that if, or when, another flood sweeps around the house, the deck won’t collapse.