Surrey Carpentry

Professional Carpentry & Joinery Service

Multi-level decking
Multi-level decking

Multi-level decking – Pirbright, Surrey

This job was quite satisfying.

Decking is a fantastic solution to making a pleasant space out of a part of your garden that is lumpy and uneven, and that was exactly the case here.

It was built from right outside the back door of this house in Pirbright all the way to the shed, angled at 45° to the house onto the grass, and stepped up around the corner of the house.

In this case, plywood with a softwood grain was used for the finished surface rather than the normal decking timber, and in doing this, we saved about three quarters of the price!

This will look just fine when it has been stained and preserved, and besides, it would be very easy to take the ply up and lay decking timber, should it be required sometime in the future, perhaps when the economy picks up!

Initial stages of the framework

Initial stages of the framework

Initial stages of the framework

Initial stages of the framework

Initial stages of the framework

Initial stages of the framework

Above are some shots of the initial stages of the decking, which is to fix the outer joists of the frame to whatever you have available that is secure, ensuring that they are level as you fix them.

Once they are fixed, the common joists can then be fixed between them, and in theory, should be level providing you were accurate in fitting your initial joists.

Common joists fitted in first section

Common joists fitted in first section

Common joists fitted in first section

Common joists fitted in first section

First section now supported on bricks and noggins fitted

First section now supported on bricks and noggins fitted

Sometimes though, the timber can be a little bent which can lead to the decking being out of level. To counter this, i fitted the joists with the bend hanging down, then later they could be wedged into level from the ground when the framework is supported on bricks. The noggins also add strength and rigidity.

Beginning the framework for the lower section

Beginning the framework for the lower section

Building the second section around a tree stump

Building the second section around a tree stump

Second section completed, leveled, supported and noggined

Second section completed, leveled, supported and noggined

Quite a bit of digging was involved before i could begin the second section, which was a triangle and around 150mm lower than the first. This was to ensure that the framework, once level, wasn’t touching the ground and rot would be prevented.

Luckily for me (not!), the 8 or 9 wheelbarrows of earth which had to be removed was around an old tree stump, and I lost count of the amount of roots I came across that need to be sawn off! There were a few swear-words, but i think all the neighbours were out. If they weren’t, their windows were closed!

The framework had to be built around the tree stump, which was cut off at the same level as the top of the framework, so that the ply could be kept level.

The third section went more smoothly

The third section went more smoothly

All sections completed, level and secure

All sections completed, level and secure

The next step is laying the plywood boards

The next step is laying the plywood boards

Thankfully the third section, which was the same level and adjacent to the second section was a lot more simple to do because it was basically another square. There was a bit of trimming around the drain to do near the back door but other than that, it was quite straight-forward. Once it was all leveled and supported, it was time to start laying the boards.

The tree stump was ground down

The tree stump was ground down

A plastic membrane covers the stump

A plastic membrane covers the stump

The boarding continues with the stump leveled off and fixed to

The boarding continues with the stump leveled off and fixed to

That tree stump hadn’t finished with me yet.

It was poking up higher than top of the framework, so it would’ve interfered with the ply boarding. I took an angle-grinder to it and ground it down to the same level as the framework. It seemed like quite a good idea to use something that hindered my structure as part of my structure! Before I layed any ply on it, I covered the stump with a piece of plastic membrane to prevent the stump from drawing moisture from the ground and depositing it on the underneath of the ply, possibly causing it to rot.

I then carried on laying the boards, using the stump to fix to.

Decking complete!

Decking complete!

Decking complete, a great improvement!

Decking complete, a great improvement!

The good thing about a job like this is that the easy bit laying the boards, was the last bit!

Tree stump aside, this job went really well, and will look really great when stained up.

All we need to do now is wait for summer, and then its time for barbecues! :)

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Softwood & MDF staircase with Oak & Chrome handrail - West Sussex

Softwood & MDF staircase with Oak & Chrome handrail - West Sussex

Softwood & MDF staircase with Oak & Chrome handrail – West Sussex

This was the second of two staircases I worked on in West Sussex, the main staircase can be seen here.

This staircase was built in the newly constructed section that connected two originally separate buildings together to form a large single residence. As you can see in the image to the left, the staircase is actually 3 staircases connecting 4 different levels. This is because one of the original two buildings was higher than the other.

The stairs themselves were made from softwood strings and newel stubs, with MDF treads and risers, while the handrail was from B&Q’s range of Oak and Chrome.

Routing the softwood strings

Routing the softwood strings

The staircase having been assembled

The staircase having been assembled

A single bullnose at the bottom of the middle flight of stairs

A single bullnose at the bottom of the middle flight

It was a fairly straight-forward process, as although the staircase had to connect four floors, it was only three straight flights, with no winding sections. There had to be some careful measuring before construction began, as the tread rise and going for each flight was slightly different, and a landing had to be constructed at the top of the top flight to meet regulations as there was a doorway there.

The middle flight was fitted first

The middle flight was fitted first

The bottom flight was fitted second

The bottom flight was fitted second

The top flight and landing was fitted last, before the handrail was started

The top flight and landing was fitted last, before the handrail was started

The oak and chrome handrail, newels and spindles are fitted

The oak and chrome handrail, newels and spindles are fitted

The softwood stub newels were rounded over for decorational purposes before the chrome newel bases were fitted.

Once they were on, the oak newel posts were slotted in and the chrome handrail connectors were slotted onto them once the newels were cut to the correct height ( the oak newels and the oak handrail are the same and are supplied in lengths of around 3 metres).

The oak handrail could then be fitted and the chrome spindles then followed once the oak base-rail was fixed onto the softwood strings.

I must admit that i was dubious about the appearance of the B&Q Oak and Chrome handrail system, but once it was installed, it felt fresh, clean and modern, and really did look great :)

On the other hand, B&Q sell it as something for the DIYer, but i could imagine the average non-skilled DIYer having quite a bit of trouble getting their head around some of the initial measuring and positioning of components. And this is not helped by the slight irregularities of the chrome fittings which make some easier to fit than others.

But that said, this was another job that went really well, and as always, the best part was that my customer was very pleased with it.

:)

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Continuous Spiral Handrail in Maple

Continuous Spiral Handrail in Maple

Continuous Carved Spiral Handrail in Maple – West Sussex

This is a job i was very pleased with. It took a lot of patience and frequent checks to make sure it was shaping up correctly, but the end result was extremely satisfying.

It was for a customer in West Sussex, who had bought a plot which had two separate buildings, the main house, and an annex a short distance away from the house. What he did was pretty fantastic, because he joined the two together to make one big house!

In fact, the Maple Handrail i’m describing here was for one of two staircases that would eventually be in the house, the other staircase I built from scratch, and can be seen HERE.

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Original iron banisters to be removed

Above are some photos of the original iron banisters and hardwood handrail, and in my opinion, are extremely outdated and quite ugly. You might notice in the third photo that the spiral string (side of the staircase) has some awkward looking angles on it where the straight sections meet the spiral section.

Clamping pieces of timber onto the string to smooth out curve lines

Clamping pieces of timber onto the string to smooth out curve lines

Clamping pieces of timber onto the string to smooth out curve lines

Clamping pieces of timber onto the string to smooth out curve lines

Smoothed out curves ready to take baserail and handrail

Smoothed out curves ready to take baserail and handrail

After smoothing out the awkward-looking angles by sanding the convex edges and filling the concave edges, the spiral string was ready to use as a template for the new maple baserail and handrail.

Many people don’t realise that spiral baserail and handrail, although only about 30mm/60mm x 80mm in profile once finished, must be constructed from much larger lumps of timber to account for the curving. In this case, the lumps were around 120mm thick x 200mm wide x 650mm long, and the new spiral maple baserail and handrail each required 4 pieces of timber this size to be carved by hand and joined end-to-end.

Oversize lumps of timber being carved spiral, but squared profile.

Oversize lumps of timber being carved spiral, but squared profile.

Spiral carved sections being joined in square profile stage.

Spiral carved sections being joined in square profile stage.

Square profile carving now complete for baserail

Square profile carving now complete for baserail

I began with the baserail, and each section of this had to be carved into its spiral shape, but square in profile. That is to say that no moulding or grooves were yet to be applied to the timber.

This was because once i had the whole baserail carved into a square profile, it would be much easier to uniform the finished profile using a router and other power tools.

The actual carving of each section meant that i continuously had to carve away some timber from the underside of the section, try it onto the section of the string that it would eventually be fixed to, carve some away, try it on again, and repeat until the underside of the section was exactly the same shape as the string. (To ensure i had exactly the right shapes for both the baserail and the handrail, i used the string as the template for the baserail, and the baserail as the template for the handrail) Once the underside was perfect, the sides and top of the section could be carved square to the underside. I don’t mind admitting that this was a laborious process that took a lot of patience, and I lost count of the times that I had electricians, plumbers and other tradesmen all staring at what i was doing in disbelief! :)

Carving the groove for the spindles into the baserail

Carving the groove for the spindles into the baserail

Fine chiseling the groove for the spindles into the baserail after routing

Fine chiseling the groove for the spindles into the baserail after routing

Finished baserail with moulding and grooves

Finished baserail with moulding and grooves

Once I had all the sections of both the baserail and handrail carved spiral and in square profile, I was able to begin routing out the grooves for the spindles to be located into, as well as the moulded profiles.

Routing out the holes for the connectors in the handrail

Routing out the holes for the connectors in the handrail

Routing out the holes for the connectors in the handrail

Routing out the holes for the connectors in the handrail

Routing the spindle groove onto the underside of the handrail

Routing the spindle groove onto the underside of the handrail

I created a jig on my router to accurately machine the bevel on the sides of the handrail

I created a jig on my router to accurately machine the bevel on the sides of the handrail

I created a jig on my router to accurately machine the bevel on the sides of the handrail

I created a jig on my router to accurately machine the bevel on the sides of the handrail

I used an angle-grinder to shape the top of the handrail

I used an angle-grinder to shape the top of the handrail free-handedly using diminishing grits

Fine-sanding the whole handrail

Fine-sanding the whole handrail

Fine-sanding the whole handrail

Fine-sanding the whole handrail

Handrail fits perfectly onto the baserail :)

Handrail fits perfectly onto the baserail

Routing the mortice holes into the newels

Routing the mortice holes into the newels

With the spiral sections of both the baserail and handrail complete, the next thing to do was to mortice the newel posts for them to be fitted to.

These newels had a ‘spigot’, or peg on the end of them, which was to be inserted into the stub of the old newels that had been chopped down to a specific height.

These stubs had to have 50mm diameter holes drilled into the top of them to take the spigot of the new maple newel posts, and i can tell you that those old western red cedar newels were hard as rock, my poor drill could barely cope! :-D

With the newels fitted, i was able to fit the spiral handrail, as well as the straight sections upstairs

With the newels fitted, i was able to fit the spiral handrail, as well as the straight sections upstairs

Spindles can now be fitted and it really starts to take shape!

Spindles can now be fitted and it really starts to take shape!

As the spindles were fitted into the spiral section, each spacer between the spindles had to be carved to suit the spiral!

As the spindles were fitted into the spiral section, each spacer between the spindles had to be carved to suit the spiral!

The spindles really make it look special :)

The spindles really make it look special

A huge improvement on the old iron banisters

A huge improvement on the old iron banisters

Quite an impressive sight to see as you enter the house, I think!

Quite an impressive sight to see as you enter the house, I think!

Although this job was hugely time consuming and very fiddly at times, i thoroughly enjoyed it. The customer was a really nice guy, and always doing what he could to help out, and that makes a big difference on a job like this. (There was also always a lot of tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits to be had! ;) )

It’s a job that i’m extremely proud of, and i’m sure that my customer was as pleased as i was with it, and that is what it’s all about!!

Feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like something similar done for you, or even if you’d like a bit of advice. I’m always happy to help :)

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