‘Megadeck’ transforms outdated home into vacation retreat
August 29, 2018
New Jersey builder, Bob Kiefer, never planned to construct one of the biggest, most elaborate decks of his life in the wilds of Vermont. But when he saw the view overlooking a pine-tree studded lake with rolling mountains as a backdrop, everything fell into place.
“It was just a beautiful spot, with a beautiful view. The whole project was designed to appreciate that view,” recalls Kiefer, owner of Decks by Kiefer.
“When you get a nice property like that, it’s like ‘Thanks for the opportunity, for letting me work on this project.’”
While the vista was stunning, the house it belonged to was another matter: Though it had modern lines, the outdated home desperately needed a facelift. But what started as a simple 1,200 square-foot deck soon evolved into a multilevel, wraparound, 2,000 square-foot “megadeck” complete with vaulted roofs, tongue-and-groove ceilings, infrared heaters, a wood-burning fireplace, an outdoor kitchen, and lighting in the ceiling and railings.
Once the client saw how much the deck transformed the house, the project grew into a full makeover that moved the starting price of $120,000 for just the deck to $350,000 for the whole house. The entire home is now truly custom, wrapped in the deck’s same golden Ipe wood with the strong horizontal lines freshening the whole structure while directing the gaze outward to that breathtaking view.
Kiefer was careful to use cable railing on the deck itself to preserve the panorama. But he also said the cable rail infill was chosen for its low maintenance and cost compared to wrap-around glass. “There’s just less cleaning with cable and it really lets that view come in,” he says. “By the time you curve the glass it gets very expensive.”
Kiefer further lowered the cost of cable by using longer runs, 20-foot to 30-foot, requiring fewer overall cable assemblies and less hardware. He estimates this saved him about 40 percent on the cable alone.
He was also able to save money and help open the view by using single rather than double posts at the corners to terminate the cables. Since the cable fittings attach through the post and bear up against the outside face, Kiefer had to slightly offset the drill holes for opposing cable runs in order to provide clearance for the fittings inside the post. He says because there are so many holes, this trick only works on extremely strong Ipe posts.
Another part of preserving the view involved using large glued-laminated (glulam) beams to support the deck and vaulted roof, which eliminated the need for too many columns. “If you didn’t use engineered beams, you’d have a post every 8 feet using 2x10 girders,” Kiefer explains. “With the glulam, we were able to do 20-foot spans.”
Kiefer also used two different grades of glulam: construction and finished. He used the finished glulam beams where he didn’t want to cover or wrap them. Instead, he simply stained those beams to match the rest of the Ipe wood. The construction beams on the bottom got a dark stain and then Kiefer cleverly used the scrap pieces of Ipe wood to wrap the posts.
“That gave it a different, more contemporary look,” Kiefer says.
But once again, for Kiefer and the client, it all came back to the view. “The last night, all the workers and I lit up the fire, had a few beers and pizza and just sat on the deck for awhile,” he says. “It’s a fabulous feeling to visualize something and just go ahead and build it.
Company: Feeney, Inc
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