Rich Davis works on the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. The deck isn’t 100% finished, but is far enough along for the Davis family to use it. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rich Davis works on the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. The deck isn’t 100% finished, but is far enough along for the Davis family to use it. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Mukilteo man’s pandemic project: A 500-square-foot deck

Rich Davis had never built anything before, but the shutdown left him with ample time to learn a new skill.

Rich Davis had never built a deck before, but he figured a pandemic was the perfect time to try it.

The Davis family moved into their Mukilteo home 15 years ago. The deck built with the house in 1986 was failing, so they had a decision to make: continue with costly repairs, resurface it or rebuild the deck from the ground up.

Davis, 57, planned to resurface the 500-square-foot deck, but after tearing off the boards, he saw that it needed more work than he thought.

“The deck had sagged near the gulch — we live on a gulch — and so it had sunk 5½ inches from the back of the deck to the front,” he said. “That’s a pretty big drop.”

A project that he estimated would cost $6,000 turned into one with a $15,000 price tag. But it was worth it.

The deck now has two levels — the bottom is 8 by 12 feet and the top is 16 by 20. They expanded the bottom level so that the family can barbecue from there. Davis even installed cabinets for grilling storage.

“It will be nice to have one section for cooking and then we can have the other for eating and entertaining,” he said.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s really, really complicated,” Rich Davis says of his deck project. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s really, really complicated,” Rich Davis says of his deck project. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Davis rebuilt the deck with the help of his 24-year-old son. Quentin was furloughed from his job at the Seattle Golf Club at the time, so he’d stop by the house nearly every day to help his father.

Neither of them had built so much as a spice cabinet before, let alone demolish and then replace a 500-square-foot-deck.

“I was kind of worried because he’d never done a deck before,” wife Yumi Davis said. “In the middle of the project, I was like, ‘Should we call a professional?’ But he did a good job. He’s a pro now.”

Davis made sure to do his research, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t make mistakes. He cut a long board with the wrong tool, which made the edge noticeably jagged, so it had to be replaced. He also forgot to measure twice before securing joists, so he had to move all the brackets.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s really, really complicated.”

Rich and Yumi Davis decided to replace the treated pine with a bamboo composite. But it wasn’t an easy decision. Some composites were too slippery. Some didn’t look enough like wood. Others were easily scuffed and scraped.

“There are so many advantages and disadvantages to each type,” he said. “We’d go back and forth and back and forth.”

Rich Davis had never built anything before and made some mistakes. But “he’s a pro now,” wife Yumi Davis says. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rich Davis had never built anything before and made some mistakes. But “he’s a pro now,” wife Yumi Davis says. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

They picked Apollo composite decking because it’s engineered to outlast traditional wood decks and PVC-composites. The boards are designed to be slip-resistant, so that even when wet, they have reduced slickness. They’re also more durable and scratch resistant — marks can be rubbed out with a scratch pad.

Rich and Yumi are empty nesters, and Rich enjoyed working with Quentin in May and June, before the younger Davis returned to work at the Seattle Golf Club.

“It’s been a good bonding time, for me and him to be shoulder to shoulder, and do this work together,” Rich Davis said. “He’s been a really big helper.”

Quentin said he enjoyed the added father-son time the project provided.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “The project allowed me to take my mind off not being employed during the quarantine and have something to do — feel fulfilled.”

After retiring last year from his job as an insights and analytics manager for a marketing firm, Davis volunteered at Edmonds College and the Bishop’s Storehouse food bank to fill his time.

“Back then it was just a real struggle to feel meaningful, so I had a rough few months,” he said. “Now that I’ve gotten in the groove, this pandemic hit, and I thought ‘Oh no, all the things that are making me feel productive and useful are going away. ’ ”

But he soon realized the pandemic was teaching him to enjoy doing nothing. It’s allowed him to have some “me time” at home. His relationship with his wife of 32 years has improved because they spend more time together. He gets to play with their yellow Lab more, too.

Rich Davis used Apollo composite decking instead of wood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rich Davis used Apollo composite decking instead of wood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Now that Davis is working in his own back yard, he doesn’t feel the need to go-go-go. Quarantine time is his time — though he still teaches classes for Edmonds College.

“Maybe they weren’t really adding any value to my life,” he said of his volunteering. “This quieting down has been a real blessing, to allow me to just be.”

In addition to rebuilding the deck, Davis has installed a fence and added stepping stones to the garden and chicken coop, plus some gardening and beekeeping. “I’ve done all kinds of stuff, but this was the biggest one,” he said of his backyard projects.

He still needs materials to ship from China to finish the staircase, railing and deck trim. If it weren’t for shipment delays due to COVID-19, Davis said he would have already finished the deck. He also wants to add LED lighting to the stairs, install a natural gas fire pit and hang their kayaks underneath.

But the missing bits haven’t stopped the Davises from enjoying their new deck. They like to have meals, visit with friends and family, or sun themselves — but they have yet to fire up the barbecue.

“It’s a great product,” Rich Davis said. “I really like how it feels and looks. I’m very happy with it.”

“Whenever it’s a beautiful day like today, we go out and eat lunch or dinner,” Yumi Davis said. “We’re enjoying it every day.”

Yumi said she was surprised how fast her husband and son built the deck. She guessed they’d be without one all summer.

“It’s a good time for the project,” she said. “Once we tore it down, I was like ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t know how long it’s going to take to build.’ I thought maybe October.”

What’s next? Davis has plans to paint the house.

“The deck looks so good, now the house doesn’t look as good,” he said.

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; sbruestle@heraldnet.com; @sarabruestle.

Your project could be next

This story is the first in a new Herald series on pandemic projects. Did you find the time to build a boat? Write a biography of your grandfather? Earn a Spanish language certificate? We want to feature your project in the Panorama section. Email features@heraldnet.com.

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