Psychotic Man Hired to Repair My Mother's Deck

by Octapoo

Saturday, June 5, 2021 at 03:26:00 UTC

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About 2 months ago I sent a text to my mother's landlord to ask him to do something about the deck on the front of her house, since it always makes me worried it might collapse someday, especially in the summer when the wood dries out and it becomes extra wobbly. In particular it's attached to the house with only 5 seemingly-too-small bolts, even though there are holes for 7 or 8. He said he'd get someone to do it.

Today that someone and two others were outside looking at the deck, so I came outside to make sure they were aware of the issues I had with it. The guy was kind of psychotic.

After waiting for them to finish their own discussion, I didn't get more than 3 words in before the guy interrupted me and assured me that there was nothing to worry about. So I persisted, and eventually mentioned how the whole deck is supported by just 3 nails at one place. He then interrupted again to tell me about how it was actually supported by the main post and the joists, and then one of his guys said that the board I was pointing at was merely decorative.

I have a stupidly accurate 3D model of the deck I made years ago so I can show you exactly what I was talking about. (Except for the stairs which I didn't finish because they look like shit but seem structurally fine.)

This second picture is looking up under the deck. The deck boards are brown. They're held up by the blue boards (called joists), which are held up by joist hangers which are attached to the purple boards (which I don't know what they're called). Those purple boards are then attached to the yellow posts with 3 to 5 nails depending on which board we're talking about. Thus, if you pull out those three nails, that whole section of the deck no longer has any support. So you get five people up there and you can easily have 1,000 pounds held up by 3 nails. That seems like kind of a basic thing that someone building a deck ought to realize, right? ...but, no. One of them told me that the purple boards are just decorative and don't serve a structural purpose.

So I was like "can you just let me finish what I'm saying before you respond?" He took great offense to that and was like "well I'll let you talk for a minute." Like, FFS, a minute? Anyway, I only needed a minute, so I explained all of that, and what followed was "oh, that's fine, that's how the deck behind my house is built" and "that's how they made them 20 years ago" and "the fact that it's still standing shows that it's fine."

Like, all I know is what I learned watching two really good TV series called "Holmes on Homes" and "Holmes Improvement," but I know that's not how you fucking do it. That purple board needs to be a big-ass continuous beam (rather than separate boards as it is) and needs to have a huge bolt through it attaching it to that post, such that there's no way the bolt is coming out and therefore no way that the board is coming free. With three nails, not only might the nails work themselves out over time, but I also doubt that the shear strength on three nails is sufficient for the weight that might be on a deck, and the fact that they're at the very end of a board means that it wouldn't be that hard for the board to split and let go of them. It's just a shit design built by someone who didn't know what they were doing.

So then this dipshit started going on about how rude I was being and how he was going to tell on me to the landlord, which is quite amusing because the rudest thing I'd said at that point was "Can you let me finish so that you know what I'm talking about before you tell me that it's nothing to worry about?" Like, even if I'm 100% wrong, would you not want to listen to what I'm saying so that you know how to explain to me why I'm wrong? ...but that was it. I wasn't down there to say that he didn't know what he was doing or anything, I just wanted to make sure he was going to fix what I had a problem with.

So I sent the landlord a text to explain that he'd hired a moron, but he didn't quite get it and thought he could just let the guy do the work then look at what he'd done. So I sent another text with a picture and explained how the guy doesn't understand the structure. Then the landlord replied "We appreciate you and I am not paying him until we look at it with you. Thanks for looking out." I'm not positive what that means but hopefully it means it'll get fixed correctly.

Also, I'm not positive this is what they were talking about as I was waiting for them to stop talking to each other, but the guy seemed to know he needed to do something about how it's attached to the house (I guess he got that much direction from my landlord) but he only wanted to replace one of the bolts that attach it to the house that had come half-way out, but otherwise seemed to think that the thing to do was to take some of the load off of the house by running one long board down the length of the deck and then putting one (just one) post in the middle to support it. Since I got to see where they were pointing as they talked about this, I'm pretty sure they were describing what I'd built in pink and outlined with an orange line here:

Why the fuck would you do that? First of all, the house is strong as fuck vs. any wood you might attach, so you'd just want to better secure the thing to the house rather than worry about taking the load off of the house. The house can totally handle it. Second, the house is the only thing providing any support against lateral forces, whereas this "balance it on one post" idea is the fucking opposite of lateral support. Again, I feel like I have to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume he had a better idea than this in mind, because it's just so stupid that it's hard to believe that anyone would suggest it, but it's what I heard while I was down there. In particular, I'm positive that they said "just one post in the center."

Oh, maybe he was talking about a jack post to lift it off of the house in order to work on the attachment to the house? That would make more sense, though still having just one jack post seems insufficient unless the plan is to replace/add bolts one at a time, in which case you could move the jack to where the work is being done, but they were rather clear that the post should go right in the middle.

IDK, but anyway, my whole reason for posting this was that I just can't get over how insane the guy was. Like, despite how crazy the "one post in the center" idea sounded, it wasn't even on my mind at the time, so I didn't bring it up. I just wanted to make sure he'd noticed how few bolts were holding the deck to the house and how insufficient the attachments to the front posts were, since those things are what I wanted the landlord to fix. However, it's like my mere presence was somehow a threat to him and he couldn't so much as let me point those two things out to him and let him decide how best to address them. He was for some reason offended that I, someone who (as far as he knows) lives in the house and pays rent, should have anything whatsoever to say about what he's about to do, and he seemed convinced that the landlord would feel the same way about it.

I don't know how else to explain it other than that he thinks that renters are just the slaves who live in the quarters and should keep their damn mouths shut and let the more intelligent land-owners work. If I were black, I'd totally be tempted attribute the whole thing to racism. It really was like he hated me by default just because I dared to be in his space, and he felt like I had no business being there and was insulted that I would even dare to speak to him. The whole conversation was just so damn bizarre.


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