Mahogany Deck and Skirted Staircase

I was a sub-contractor on this job hired to install all the interior doors and to trim out the the doors and windows. I also helped install the kitchen cabinetry. While the tiling of the baths, foyer, and pool changing rooms and their connecting halls we being worked on I moved outside to tackle the last major project, the decks. Although the framing was complete it was far from straight and some of the supporting 4x4 posts had twisted badly. This is what happens when factory "wet" pressure treated (PT) lumber is allowed to dry rapidly, especially in a direct summer sun. I power planed the high joists and replaced the warped posts as well as others to get the the outside long edge of the deck nice and straight to a stretched line.

The staircase was framed to give a generous 14" tread and a gentle 6" rise. Each step had mitered perimeter boards with a field of three 3 1/4" mahogany decking boards to produce a "breadboard" pattern. This technique hides the end grain on the boards. The outward facing 2x12 PT stringers were chosen to be defect free and doubled as the finished trim. The riser cuts on these stringers were mitered to match clear 1x6 PT risers, again hiding any end grain. All fasteners were stainless steel.

I worked with and stored the PT stock in the shade of the north side of the house. Before installing it in the hot sun I sprayed it generously with sealer. This greatly slowed the drying process and minimizing any warping, twisting, and checking.

After the framing and decking was completed it was time to make the railings. Although the top and bottom rails appear to be one piece of stock they are actually built up. I milled "nailers" with beaded edges from the decking boards that fastened to the balusters. I then attached the factory handrail and used a beveled 2x for the bottom rail to make the sections. This not only hid all the baluster fasteners it gave the top the bottom rails some additional detail, strength, and mass that would have been otherwise lacking.

With the Stairs built, and the decking and railings installed my job was done. However, I was dissatisfied with the "nakedness" of the structure from ground level and convinced the general contractor the need to shirt in this openness. I used clear grain 1x6 PT boards and milled a "bead" on one edge (both sides) to celebrate the joint. I pre-sprayed all the boards with sealer after beading and the following morning installed them up tight as I knew they would shrink some. Making a batten door with the same boards under the head of the stairs made a useful storage area close to the pool.

Once everything was completed satisfactorily, and since water is the enemy of all wood, I soaked the entire finished structure with sealer using an HLVP sprayer.

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