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Albie DIY’d Her Deck! Here Is Why She Chose Composite Decking

Every reveal I’ve done this far since becoming homeowners had been an interior space — living room, launderette, media room, kitchen, flex lounge, washroom, and bonus bedroom. That’s a lot of reveals y’all! While we’d fussed around our outdoor spaces from the day we moved in, we didn’t actually do anything transformative… just enough to adapt to actually having an outdoor space. Backing up a bit…

Living in NYC (and I’m only starting the timeline when my husband and I became a family) our building had a shared outdoor space with outdoor amenities. I believe that experience is what made us realize that one day we’d want that for ourselves. When we moved to WA, our first apartment had a standing-room-only Juliet balcony… then our second apartment had a balcony where we could at least put out a table and chairs. Progress!

Then we bought a home and truly, the outdoor spaces are what sold us on this property. The previous homeowners clearly loved being outside and took a lot of care in creating zones around the property. This gave us a great starting point, because had this simply been a vast area of grass, we’d likely be paralyzed with overwhelm. 

We’d never owned a home. We’d never had land. 

Starting from scratch would’ve absolutely been impossible for us to process on top of everything else. 

when we purchased the house

What was an especially important point of interest for us was their deck — a 24’ x 24’ raised deck where they clearly did a lot of entertaining, with two built-in benches, two patio heaters, two grills, a smoker, and a raised platform for visual interest (I assume). We were in awe! I remember sending Sherry (@younghouselove) and Shavonda (@sgardnerstyle) photos totally geeked out about the deck. The plan, at the time, was to continue to maintain it and eventually stain it… the operative phrase being “at the time”. 

After our first spring, my husband realized this was a deck we’d eventually need to repair… if not altogether replace. It was a DIY build that had definitely seen better days, paired with the work it takes to consistently maintain an outdoor wood structure. 

Get somebody else to do it

By that summer we were full-on researching alternative solutions and landed on composite decking. In the middle of researching the pros, cons, and pricing of composite decking, Stacie (@staciesspaces) had just completed her deck, railing, and pergola install — from scratch! — with Barrette Outdoor Living. Aside from the beautiful design of her deck, I loved that it was something we could possibly do ourselves. After more research — and a lil over a year later — I finally connected with the Barrette Outdoor Living team to kick off what would end up becoming the beginning of a beautiful partnership. 

Here’s what we knew going into this —

1. We did not want to build a deck from scratch — building off the existing foundation would be ideal… especially for building it ourselves.
2. We had no immediate plans to hire this out — knowing how much more work we have planned for our outdoor spaces that we for sure wouldn’t DIY, this is a project we were willing to tackle on our own (see #1)
3. We needed to do this once and do it right* — this project would be permanent… not a temporary solution for a future project

*Note: right does not equal perfect. 

In finally deciding to tackle this project, we decided we would also be adding a railing, which the previous deck didn’t have (this was called out during our inspection). While it was technically to code, that was only because of a one-inch difference. We’d be adding railing and a pergola for separation and shade, but most importantly, we’d be reusing the existing sub-deck foundation. Like I said, because we have future projects that we know we’d be hiring out, we added this one to our DIY column for #thehyggeranch. Hiring this out would cost us tens of thousands, and after talking to the Barrette Outdoor Living team, I was confident in our decision to do it ourselves. 

Little did I know this would take us 6+ months to do! 

You know the saying, “Summer bodies are made in the winter”? The same goes for our deck! We knew we didn’t want to spend a third spring/summer season with folding chairs on our old deck, which by that time was coming apart at the seams — literally! 

Demo began autumn 2022. This was to ensure we planned for the year ahead, however, the catalyst was also the year I’d just endured. 

After wrapping up the inaugural Meridian Experience Weekend, I spent a lot of time outside… way more than I’d ever done in our entire time living here. This became my place of respite and recovery. The more time I spent outside, the more I daydreamed about all the things we could do to make this outdoor area more ours and less theirs (them being the previous homeowners) and I eventually began seriously ideating for #thehyggeranchresort. If you’ve been following along with the deck build over on Instagram then you know we selected our deck color to complement our home’s current color and the color we have in mind for when we upgrade the siding down the road. Permanent, one-and-done project, remember? I was able to get a variety of samples from Barrette Outdoor Living across their different deck collections, including the DuraLife Landscapes Collection that we ended up selecting for our project. You can read more about that process here.

I never really understood how bad the old deck was — because at a glance it was truly a gorgeous deck! — until the new build was underway. Even in keeping the existing foundation we encountered a number of problems…

  1. One section of the deck was completely rotted, which would’ve meant rebuilding it or omitting it. We chose the latter. 
  2. Compromised joists — mostly from rot — needed to be reinforced with additional blocking and lumber is still super expensive these days!
  3. Imperfections in the existing deck would eventually impact our final design since we’d be following those same joists for our new planks.

However, beyond those structural challenges, there were a few other things that made me have a deeper appreciation for tackling this project now versus later. For example, I’d never even dared to walk barefoot on the old deck because it would get really hot or I’d risk needing a tetanus shot from stepping on an exposed nail from one of the planks. I kept a pair of deck slippers for the handful of times that I actually went out there. Who am I kidding… I’m a slippers-always kinda girl, with slippers all over the house! Since completing the build, on the other hand, I’m always out there barefoot. The feel of the new composite deck below my feet just feels so comfortable! 90º days. After the rain. Cool nights. Doesn’t matter. Every time I’m out there, it feels so comfortable underfoot. This is where someone else would say they dreamed of days like this. Not I… yet I can appreciate the sentiment because every time I walk out there with my laptop and tea, with or without slippers, it feels like something out of a novel. 

But I am getting ahead of myself because I haven’t even shown y’all the glow-up yet! Actually, let’s first watch this video so you can understand the zones (just wait for the ad to play):

Finishing a complete deck overhaul meant rolling into some of the prettier parts of this undertaking –

  • Adding a pergola
  • Upgrading the patio heater
  • Creating a fire pit area
  • Creating zones for living, lounging, and dining

This all came together just in time for us to finally & fully enjoy #thehyggeranchresort…

Deck Material | Sectional and Coffee Table | Yellow Pillow | Black and White Pillow | Rug | Tall Heater

Pergola | Roof Panels | Dining Table | Wood Slat Chair | Rattan Chair (similar) | Bench | Rattan Long Pendant Shade | Rattan Orb Pendant Shade | Metal Pendant | Solar Bulbs

Adirondack Chairs | Pillow | Fire Pit | Acrylic Side Table

Now…remember when I talked about being out there barefoot?

When researching decks, and ultimately deciding to go Barrette’s DuraLife® Landscapes Collection Decking, I remember reading about their CoolTrac material composition and being super fascinated by this. In essence, this composition allows for a more slip-resistant and cooler surface, compared to traditional composite decking. While this sounded like a great benefit, it didn’t really mean anything to us because we’d never thought about it being an issue until actually experiencing the difference. One day after it rained, I went outside and immediately noticed that I didn’t have to move slowly in my slippers for fear of slipping. Fast forward a few weeks later, when we got our first bout of heat in the PNW, I stepped onto the deck assuming it would be scorching hot under my bare foot… and it wasn’t! In both instances – rain and heat – I was able to freely move about and that was when I knew we made a good investment for our home and our lifestyle. 

Small Faux Lemon Tree | Vertical Garden Bed | Hose Reel | Paper Pendant (similar)

Now that we’re on the other side of this deck renovation – many months later! – my husband and I both agree that it was a well-worth-it project. It’s inspired so many lifestyle shifts and enhancements – from adding a mini herb garden to upgrading our watering system with HoseLink to intentionally going out to sunbathe – and I love this for us. 

Chaise Lounger | Pillow | Rolling Cart | Seagrass Candle Lantern (similar)

Entering our 3rd summer in our home, we’ve never spent this much time outside and so much of that was tethered – especially for me – to the fact that the deck wasn’t made for US! We loved the look of the original deck… and we loved even just having one… however, we didn’t have a say in the fact that it had built-in benches, the location of the porch heaters, the raised platform… any of it. And while working with the existing sub-deck definitely “limited” our layout, I love that our new choices from the decking company didn’t limit us in terms of color and design details. 

Tall Faux Lemon Tree | Tall Planter | Curveback Adirondack Chairs | Outdoor Rocking Chairs | Lumbar Pillow

The raised platform – and that entire quadrant – that we ended up eliminating is now a 10′ x 10′ slab and dedicated fire pit area that I absolutely love staring at because I can’t believe WE added that design feature! It suits us so much better, especially with the mix of Polywood Curveback Adirondack Chairs and Outdoor Rocking Chairs. Whether it’s one of us just enjoying the solitude with a cup of tea or all three of us sitting our the fire pit making s’mores, this was made for us by us. In the backdrop is the deck skirting, which is the same Boardwalk Decorative Panels that we used for our pergola. And from this same pergola hangs an assortment of black pendants to create a cluster that I think I will continue to grow over time, creating more visual interest and more of those bespoke hygge resort vibes. This cohesiveness is exactly why I’m glad we were able to source such a major upgrade from one place. This allowed us to create a holistic design story from the pergola to the deck to all the peripheral complimentary black details… including our eventual rail addition. 

Grill | Tablescape Line

Now when we go outside to grill, it’s not just grilling – it’s an entire outdoor experience that feels perfectly in alignment with who we are and the life we wanna live. P.S. The previous homeowners left us the most amazing grill and we’re really getting their money’s worth lol. 

Personally, as someone who is introverted, has social anxiety, and is perfectly fine always being home, my home is now officially my fave place to be – all year, all seasons. Staycation > Vacation! The Barrette Outdoor Living details, the furnishings from Overstock, and the accessories that we pulled out from our “room of requirement” – aka the garage lol – all came together in a way that legit feels like a resort… and that I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully put that in words. Just trust me when I say it feels good. 

With tomorrow being the first official day of summer – and opening day of the 2nd annual Meridian Experience Weekend – I am so pleased with every decision we made! From where to DIY, where to hire, and when to pivot it’s all come together in the best possible way. This isn’t to say the backyard is “finished” – because it’s not – however it’s at the best possible stopping point where we can take it all in and enjoy it for a significant amount of time, before feeling like we need to jump into the next project. Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed… but I’ve scaled back my reveals by like A LOT… from six reveals in 2021 to now just one a year lol. Why? Because I wanna live here. I wanna be still. And now, from June to October, I can be still outside on our new deck. As the kids say on the interwebs we outside… but at home! 

Wait…

You didn’t think I was just gonna leave y’all hanging without a nighttime view!? 

Part of what has continued to make this space feel magical is the ambiance created by the lighting! In true hygge-inspired fashion, I introduced hyggebelysning (hygge-lighting) by layering different lighting solutions – a cluster of pendants hanging from the pergola, paper pendants hanging from our palm trees, hardwired ground stakes around the deck and lawn, and a mix of candle and solar lanterns to style with. 

When we bought our home, it did not have hardwired lighting so this was new terrain for us. Thanks to the very helpful lighting support team at LeonLite, we were able to get all the right materials and easily install our new LED ground stakes and you guys!!! I could not love these lights any more! They set the stage for the rest of the lighting plan as we slowly began to phase out the previous solar stakes. There’s still some in other parts of the yard, simply because of where our power is located. They cast a beautiful soft – yet bright – warm glow that’s the perfect addition to #thehyggeranchresort. Our pre-existing IKEA pendant lanterns (similar) have a complimentary warm glow so we were finally able to pull those out of the room of requirement, in addition to some pendant baskets… all of which had been in there for the better part of three years! After a lot of trial and error, I finally found the perfect warm-temperature hanging solar light bulbs for our woven pendants, and created our own makeshift swag kit with black jute. For our metal pendants, I repurposed two hanging solar lights from two of our paper pendants that got damaged. A win-win! A mix of metal, woven, and basket lanterns round out the lighting “tour”. 

So I’d actually like to amend my earlier statement…

My home is now officially my fave place to be – all year, all seasons, from dawn to dusk

*Design by Albie Knows
**Photos by Ellie Lillstrom
***Video by Stan Morris

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Melissa
11 months ago

I’d never leave home either! Gorgeous design and layout of spaces

Joy
11 months ago

Looks like a georgeous place to hang out! And so cosy at night, too. Thank you for sharing and here’s to many beautiful summer days out there 🙂

Albie Knows
11 months ago
Reply to  Joy

Thank you!

susan
11 months ago

Love this so much! I can’t imagine ever living in a place with no outdoor access. Our city yard is small but we love it. It’s fun to see how you changed the space to really make it yours!

Rachel
11 months ago

I love this! The nighttime lighting is so inviting. Always love Albie posts. Thank you for all of the details. What a beautiful job.

Albie Knows
11 months ago
Reply to  Rachel

Thanks for that 🙂 the nighttime scenes are my fave!

A
11 months ago

Looks amazing!! And so do you, Albie!

Allison
11 months ago

This decking is plastic? I’m not sure what is meant by composite. How is it made?

Ally
11 months ago
Reply to  Allison

Composite often has other things in it. Here’s a good Bob Vila article on the options. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/composite-vs-wood-deck/
Personally I can hardly wait to replace my aging deck boards with a product that’ll let me walk barefoot (the dream!) like I did on my old concrete patio….

Katherine
11 months ago
Reply to  Allison

My contractor is a former finish carpenter and he recommended composite when we redid our deck as well. It’s great. Only issue is that it does scratch so you have to be careful dragging furniture across it.

Albie Knows
11 months ago
Reply to  Allison

Thanks for the link in the reply Ally! Sums up perfectly what composite is. And yes, it does scratch. This is why I love having big pieces that we move a lot on wheels, like the chaise & grill. World of difference!

Alice S
11 months ago

GORGEOUS!! Both the patio and the lady! Brava

Jrsinflorida
11 months ago

Love your outdoor space! One of the biggest lessons I learned during the lockdown is that it’s so important to love your home and outdoor spaces are of utmost importance. There is nothing better after a day at work than sitting outside, taking in the view and chilling for an hour or so. We also love using composite at our home in Florida. Our patio furniture is made from “bottlewood” as well and stands the Florida weather test (the sun and rain are HARD on outdoor furniture here). We’ve had our furniture for 4 years now and it has not faded or broken down at all. We were replacing outdoor furniture annually before we purchased our bottlewood furniture. When we replace our dock, we plan on using composite as well. I love the fact that composite recycled “wood” uses 90%+ post consumer recycled plastic.

Albie Knows
11 months ago
Reply to  Jrsinflorida

The lockdown def affirmed that for me too! I leaned into it even more 🙂

Ally
11 months ago

This is fantastic! Everything is beautifully thought out, and you are so talented. Thank you for sharing it all.. I would be thrilled to have this outdoor space at any time of year!

KD
11 months ago

100 percent inspired! The deck added to our house is in similar “before” state and, wow, what a difference. Hello outdoor living!

Katherine
11 months ago

Ooh that night shot! I love that you included lighting and thought through use for evening. It turned out fabulous!

Stephanie
11 months ago

I love the addition of the stone patio. It adds so much dimension to the space and looks like a great hang spot. I also really love the hygge lighting. It’s so important to think about! Thank you so much for sharing, Albie! Best of luck with the Meridian Experience this year! It sounds amazing.

Albie Knows
11 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

You get me! Thank you and thank you!

Roberta Davis
11 months ago

You’re going to have a great summer out there (once Junuary is over)! Everything looks really nice and inviting!

Patricia
11 months ago

As a long time Seattle resident, our mild summers (usually) are a well-kept secret. And we don’t have mosquitos eating us alive every night. Shh, don’t tell.
Your deck and whole backyard looks charming. I’d happily bring marshmallows and peanut butter cups for s’mores any time.
We now live in a downsized condo, which we love, but we do miss our garden.

Jill
11 months ago

I LOVE that the deck doesn’t burn your feet!

Michelle
11 months ago

Way to enjoy the process! I think we all relate to our first-for-us home situation. Not all get redone as beautifully as this. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

Kiana
11 months ago

I would love to hang out here! What an amazing transformation. What are your thoughts on the hoselink? Is it the same as the giraffe retractable hose, does anyone know? Anyway, great job Albie!

11 months ago

🤗 Like thatbits comfy enough for you to walk barefoot out there…now that’s a cozy vibe. Congrats on working magic with this project!

Kelly
11 months ago

Amazing!! Love it, Albie — looks incredible. And love your writing style, too!

Lynn W
11 months ago

What a stunning transformation!!! Thank you for sharing all the details. So nice to have usable space that you created!! Enjoy your hard work 💜

Azure
11 months ago

So good!! I love the fire pit, it really is so much more cozy than an elevated platform area!

Mary Ann
11 months ago

Beautiful — I especially like that you included an evening scene. I thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous photos and learning more about the process. Hope to tackle a (very) small version here in the fall.

Anywho
11 months ago

As an architect, I understand the appeal of a “no maintenance” deck, but I’d like to put out the option of IPE natural wood. It is more sustainable, weathers to a beautiful gray color and has a nice feel under foot. Composite has the benefit of not decomposing, which leads to any waste cuts or demolition filling landfills. A personal issue of mine is that it smells a little plastic-y when hot for years until it is done off gasing. Just trying to put another option out there for a sustainable solution!