A simple deck rebuild turned tricky in Fernhill, Queenstown

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By Joanna Mathers

Queenstown is a celebrated winter resort, and the owners of a home in Fernhill overlooking Lake Wakatipu enjoy nothing more than soaking in the spa on a freezing night, looking out over the snow-capped mountains. And when they wanted a larger deck from which to enjoy the hot waters, they contact the Refresh team for help.  

David Dolphin is the owner of Deilf Ltd, Refresh Renovations in Queenstown. He explains that an existing deck of 50sq m was in place when he was called in, but it was not large enough for the owner’s needs.

“The whole structure needed to be rebuilt from the foundations up, significantly enlarged and re-decked,” he explains.

The plan initially involved ripping up the deck and starting again, a job estimated to take around four weeks. But life (and renovations) rarely goes to plan and there were issues from day one.

The first challenge the Refresh team encountered involved compliance standards. As it turned out, the existing deck wasn’t the right height off the ground; 300mm of soil had to be removed to ensure that height standards were met.

“The existing deck had just been sitting straight on the ground,” says Dolphin. “And because the site is located three levels below street level, we couldn’t get diggers in and we had to hand excavate the site.”

It was during the course of this excavation that the team encountered a second problem.  

“We found a massive tree trunk. In order for us to install the posts under the deck we needed to remove at least part of this,” Dolphin explains.

Once again, this was done by hand. This fiddly and frustrating work involved cutting and grinding the stump until it was low enough to have a post placed on top, and it added days to the process.

Once the excavation work was complete, the deck build could begin in earnest. The structure needed to be sturdy enough to have to withstand the weight of any winter snow and to bear the load of a six-person spa pool.

The idea initially was to use an existing retaining wall at the side of the deck to help support the weight, but as it transpired, the wall didn’t have proper footings and needed to be reinstalled.

Concrete for the new footings had to be pumped down from the road, but fortunately, the cement truck pipe was long enough to reach the location of the new retaining wall. “This was one thing that did go in our favour,” laughs Dolphin.

With the retaining wall strengthened, the structural elements of the decking were able to be put in place. A low-maintenance wood/plastic composite from Biform was used for the decking and the four to six-person spa pool reinstalled. The builders were able to reuse an existing floating glass balustrade for the new deck, offering the owners unimpeded views over magnificent Lake Wakatipu.

With all the additional work needed for the unexpected extras, the initial timeline of four weeks ended up being stretched to eight. The work was completed in early June this year, and the deck is now around 55 sqm in size and includes a small walkway in front of the downstairs bedroom.

Although there were some extra costs involved and time taken due to the unexpected hitches, Dolphin says that the owners are very pleased with the results and are able to enjoy watching the lake from the comfort of their (now) up to standard, weather-proof deck.

Highlights

Project outline: Rebuild an existing 50sq m deck to create more space for the owners to enjoy their spa and its views over Lake Wakatipu.

Project estimate: $45,000

Project spend: $53,600 (due to unexpected issues arising through the build process.

Build duration: Estimated one month, actual time two months due to issues with compliance and retaining.

Biggest challenge: There were three main challenges here – excavating to ensure the deck height was compliant with Council regulations; removal of a massive tree trunk; creation of a new retaining wall.

Biggest triumph: Reusing the existing floating glass balustrade on the new deck, which offers unimpeded views over Lake Wakatipu.

 

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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