Cedar Deck Remodel With New Planter Box Benches!

14 Materials
7 Days

Our deck was starting to fall apart. The fir railing posts had some rot against the decking and the cedar deck boards were splintering. The foundation and supports were still intact but the finishings were badly in need of a remodel. Time for a DIY project!

We decided to remove the old decking and replace it with new boards. Since the fir railings just rotted anyways, we edged the deck with cedar stairs and bench-height planter boxes instead of railings. I love how much larger and more usable our deck feels now (even though it's on the same footprint!). The added raised bed garden space is a bonus.

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BEFORE - Old Deck
BEFORE - Here's the old deck. The cedar decking boards were starting to splinter and disintegrate. They were custom-milled true 1" thick boards with a nominal 4" width. The deck had wooden railings on three sides, although some sections had been removed to accommodate the old hot tub (which was dealt it's final blow acting as a giant ice cooler during our wedding).
Brainstorming the Remodel
Brainstorming - Before we could start demolition or order new lumber, it was time to brainstorm what we'd want/need. I made a simple 4-board-width decking pattern that matched the lengths of lumber we'd need to the lengths available at the lumber yard (with the minimum amount of waste). It's nice to know how much of which lengths of lumber you'll need when you're ordering at the lumber yard. The decking pattern also ended up being a real time and lumber saver once the decking started to be laid.
Old and New Lumber
Choosing New Lumber - We found these lovely 1"x6" boards at our local lumber yard. They're a bit thinner than the old lumber, but are also wider. They shipped the boards right to our back yard! For the fascia boards (siding of the stairs, other vertical surfaces) we had custom 1"x8" milled. It had to be custom milled to get the 16' lengths required for the new stairs down to the grass.
Removing the Old Lumber - The first big step was to remove the rotted cedar decking. We also needed to relocate the perennials plants that were growing around the perimeter of the deck.
Lumber Delivery
Lumber Delivery - We got the lumber for the project delivered. It made things SO much easier! We do have a pickup truck which we use for small loads, but there was a lot of boards in our order and some were very long. I'd definitely get it delivered again. If you order enough boards, sometimes they won't even charge you for delivery at the lumber yard.
Installing New Decking
Installing New Decking - The new 6" cedar decking was installed over the entire deck. My husband and his best friend did this work over a few hot summer days (and a lot of cold drinks!).
VOC-Free Stain
Eco-Staining the Deck - I applied a VOC-free Eco Wood Treatment to the deck boards to calm down the bright orange colour of the cedar and make the deck look like it fit in with the rest of our house. I was really happy with how this product turned out! It was quick to apply and turned the wood a lovely grey, aged colour (see photo with box and paint brush for example of stained cedar).
Grading the Lawn - I brought in some extra soil from the pile in the backyard to raise the grade of the lawn up to the stairs. I tried to keep the soil from touching the stair lumber due to moisture in the soil. The soil was lightly compacted and raked level. I topped the soil with a high-quality soil mix and then seeded it with grass seed.
DIY Planter Boxes
Building Planter Boxes - We built planter boxes for the longest side of the deck. There were 2 large boxes (one on either side of a small set of stairs). The boxes had a 2"x4" frame, were clad in 1"x8" custom cedar, and were lined with salvaged plywood from our wedding dance floor (as well as some leftover plastic vapour barrier we happened to have). The planter box exteriors were also treated with the VOC-free Eco Stain.
Preparing for Planting
Prepping the Boxes - The planter boxes were set on a slightly raised perimeter foundation and fixed in place. The boxes fitted with automated DIY drip irrigation (instructions for how to do this yourself are on my blog). The bottom of the boxes was left open to allow for drainage.
In-Place Composting - To reduce costs and keep as much organic material on our property as possible, we decided to try raised hugelkultur beds in the planter boxes. The bottom layer was deciduous logs from a tree we felled in the winter. This was infilled with nitrogen-rich weed-free yard waste and organic amendments. We topped this with a thick layer of homemade well-rotted leaf compost. The compost was then topped with high-quality potting mix.
Planting the Boxes
Planting the Boxes - I planted canna lillies and dahlias in the boxes that had previously been in some large containers beside our house. I wanted to test out this height of plant to plan for next summer.
Finished Deck
AFTER - Here's how it all looked at the end! I'm so happy with this result. The grass grew in beautifully and our new deck space feels much larger with the new stairs down to the yard (even though the footprint/structure is the same). I can't wait to plan what to grow in our planter boxes next year! There's more photos of the finished deck on the original post for this project on my blog (see the original post link below).
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Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Joanie
    on Oct 17, 2019

    It is amazing what you did, from before and after. It looks great! I like your house with the dark and beige. What did ya do with your old lumber? Could or WOOD you use it in your house for something decorative??

  • Lindsay Robinson
    on Oct 19, 2019

    The eco wood preservative you used. Do the stamped information they put on the board at the factor does it show though the staining? In other word do I need to remove any factory information prior to staining?

    thank you

  • Mickie
    on Oct 24, 2019

    Why cedar wood if you are staining it to look like other wood colors? Thank you.

    • Carol Donahue
      on Oct 26, 2019

      Cedar lasts much longer than other wood, such as pine, and is usually recommended for outdoor projects. The downside is that cedar costs more.

Join the conversation

2 of 76 comments
  • Linda
    on Aug 29, 2020

    Very, very good job. You should be proud of yourselves. We did something quite similar a few years ago - changed out an older deck with railings and on the same footprint installed a deck with no railings and surrounded the deck with flowering shrubs. It looks so much bigger! We didn't, however, change the color with a stain. I might do that now that I see yours. Really terrific.

  • Becky Dellinger Robertson
    on Aug 29, 2020

    very nice!!

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