Creating Design and Building Excellence in Decks, Arbors
& Backyard Living Spaces
This is a temporary page and will be updated as time permits
Please read this very Important page
I purposely left my old heading above so you could see that I started this page as a temporary page. It was started to help out very upset homeowners calling me and asking why their deck had failed that other contractors had built for them. So I went out and took pictures to help them visually understand why their decks built months prior were failing or not built up to quality building standards that they had hoped for.
As of late I have gotten so many calls from home owners with projects that have failed that I am now leaving this page up permanently. It will help you to understand the intricacies of building a new composite or Ipe deck, which is very very different from a redwood deck. What can go wrong and the right way to build a beautiful new deck.
When we use to build only redwood decks there wasn't such a problem because the top redwood boards are structural meaning they are very strong, if some of the deck framing below were bad, out of level, warped or spanned too far the top structural redwood planks would hold everything together and hide the problems.
Now because composite and PVC decking are made with plastic, have no structural strength and mold to the framing, they show anything wrong with the framing and are not forgiving. These decks don't usually fail until months after completion when the wood framing dries out, warps or bows. The contractor is long gone leaving an eye sore and very upset home owners. I am showing a very small sampling here but it will give you a very good idea of the problems ( the pictures on the left side of the page below) and what great design and craftsmanship ( on the left side of the page) should look like.
You may have wait a minute for the pictures to download as there are a lot of picture on this page, please be patient as you will recieve 26 years of my hard earned knowledge in a few minutes of your time.
You can enlarge the pictures once the + sign appears on lower right corner of the picture. The sign will appear once the page is down downloading.
On the left column of this page are pictures of decks that other contractors have built. Fixing problems accounts for 28% of my business.
This deck waves, the picture shows it well. The girders under the joist are too far apart and the joists warped.
Another deck that waves from a contractor not designing the framing right. Please enlarge to get the full scope of the problem.
This deck dropped an inch over an 8 foot span. The Girder spans were wrong and the Pressure treated framing failed.
This deck also dropped over and inch and bounces as you walked across it. Composite decks have to be framed different than Redwood decks.
Enlarge the picture and see how you can see all the screw holes. Somene did not take the time to do it right.
In this picture not only are the screws done wrong but the breaks in the decking are in a row so they are visable. This is what happens when someone uses the cheapest route in DESIGNING decks.
This deck was built so the screws don't line up straight, were screwed in too deep.
This deck was on a 15 million dollar house. The deck was an $100K Ipe deck and the contractor could not even build a simple deck parallel with the pool, then left a huge uneven gap. Even big name contractors are not imune to doing bad work.
Here is an IPE deck done wrong and it cupped. I see so much of this with IPE decks. Please enlarge the picture to see how bad of problem this can be.
These steps are built about one inch out of level, people just don't realize.
This was a 8 year old deck. Why was one girder still new and the other girder rotted out. If this would of been done right the owners could still be using their deck.
Another deck and gain the third joist not showing was still good while the bottom two rotted.
This deck was done! if you can believe that. The stairs have no facia board covering the P.T. framing. The piers are outside the deck because the piers are used as 4x4 railing posts and deck supports. The metal and wood railing posts don't match Terrible terrible design and craftsmanship.
The owners are happy with this? The post are ugly pressure treated, the arbor is painted grey while the deck redwood. The ends of the arbor boards are square and there are too many posts. They hired the wrong architect and contractor.
Someone could not even cut the deck board around the post close enough. Then the deck board was not screwed right and popped up. THESE ARE THE THINGS I WILL NOT TOLLERATE ON MY DECKS, OUR CRAFTSMANSHIP IS FLAWLESS.
How hard is it to build a deck level with the bricks?
Again? The rim deck board is not the same level as the deck? I see bad craftsmanship like this so much these days, where is the pride?
These 45% angles on the steps are crooked, yet this was done by a reputable landscaper until the job was abandoned when he got in over his head.
This poor lady saw my website and wanted an IPE deck. I gave her a price and she said that she has a cousin whom could do it for 30% less than my bid. She called me three weeks later in tears. That is her foot showing in the picture as she was literaly crying and saying she paid for this work. She wanted to know if there was anything I could do?
This was an extremely expensive deck 9 months old with uneven cuts and bad gapping. The wood is splitting and the plugs failing. Not only poor poor craftsmanship but built wrong and failing. The house was 8 million plus and the owners thought they hired a good contractor.
This may be another small complaint but the gaps are uneven, large then small gaps, the deck looked terrible. I guarantee this will not happen on my decks.
The retaining wall below the deck was put in wrong and failed, the ground shifted and the deck dropped. There are so many things that can go wrong if not designed and built right.
On the right column are all decks that M&M Builders have built. They give good examples of what craftmanship and great design should look like for your reference.
Ipe hardwood decking straight and level.
This is what a perfectly level Trex decking should look like.
One of the inherent problems with standard pressure treated framing is it warps and makes the deck wave and warp. So I invented what I call cross framing. I have not had a single problem with warping in 10 years once we implemented cross framing.
You can see in this close up shot there are no waves and this deck is 100% level.
In this picture the screws become close to invisable. Can you see why you can't see the screws in our decks?
Enlarge the picture to see how designing a deck the right way leave no breaks and perfect screws patterns.
I looked at 2,000 pictures of our work to find obvious picture of breaks in decks, I could not find one. This deck had random breaks but you can't see them,they are random.
This owner needed space badly so they wanted a deck built parallel to the pool, not easy to do, it did not vary more than 1/4 of an inch the entire length. Look at the clean round cuts, from a craftsmanship point of view it is perfect.
You are not supposed to intsall IPE decking this close to the ground, but clients still want it so I have come up with a process that has close to eliminated the usual cupping.
These step a both beautifully designed into the deck and level.
Can you see the difference between cheap pressure treated and the good pressure treated on top. Unfortunately most use the bottom P.T. wood.
I came back and upgraded the top boards on this deck to trex years later. I did not have to do anything to the framing as there wasn't one sign of rot on the framing. There are reasons why some decks rot and some don't.
You can see we installed a nice facia board on our stairs, you don't see a bunch of ugly piers under the deck. All the treads match and it is a very clean look.
How about a beautifully designed deck and arbor for a small space where the deck and arbor match, the arbor doesnt have 8 posts. You don't see pressure treated wood. This family spent years of enjoyment on this deck.
If you can cut decking around the rocks of a pool like this you can sure cut around a post.
This deck does not have anything to do with the picture at the left except it was 20 feet off the ground very complicated and still level with the sill of the house 20 feet up.
This deck is 8 feet off the ground and still level with the concrete across its 20 foot length.
Here are some complicated steps built around a large oak tree for the fairbrae swim and racket club.
The differnce in quality is pretty evident here. The deck on the left later cupped also because they used clip, the boards were to close together and other various reasons. You have to know exactly what you are doing when it comes to building IPE or composite decks or they will fail.
This is an extreme close up, can you see any plugs? Can you see any differnce in spacing. There is a reason why I don't have any pictures of boards meeting like the pic on the left, how about realizing that differnt materials have qualities that don't lend themselve to certain designs and will fail. They look good in magazines at first though.
This is boring and redundant but the spacing is perfect the whole length of the board. The small details are the finishing touches that make outstanding work.
We built the block and the wood retaining walls for the house decking. These will not fail, they are done right. It's like the old saying "You have to start with a good foundation." That is what I base by business on and the reason why I design and build craftsmanship and quality into every project I do.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about M&M Builders.
Mark von Dohren
A couple of jobs we just finished in case you are interested of before and after pics.
Start or the project
932 Willow Glen Way
San Jose Calif. 95125
Ph. (408) 315-5388
Fax (408) 297-7787
Lic. No. 450459
or our new location at 802 Jordan Ave. Los Altos Calif. 94022 Call