Dan’s Decks found on 700-plus valley homes
Dan Weir has been decking out homes in the Shenandoah Valley for nearly three decades.
Weir is the owner and one-man building crew for back yard decks with a color portfolio on his website, dansdecks.net, of 80 decks of various materials, shades of color, big and small and one to two stories tall.
He estimates that by concentrating on his skillset, he has built or worked on more than 750 decks in the past 26 years in new and old subdivisions throughout the valley.
“When I moved to Front Royal in 1988 from Lorton, I was told I couldn’t make a living just building decks, but I found I didn’t need a crew to do what needed to be done,” said Weir, 56.
His craftsmanship shines like a portrait artist. The deck function may not change much but the designs differ as creative solutions are made with the owner.
Barbara Bernard, of Front Royal, is a Weir fan. He built a deck for her 15 years ago and she recently moved into a cedar chalet home with a rear view overlooking the Shenandoah River and national forest.
The chalet’s deck is 17 years old and was crumbling.
“We were thinking of replacing the entire deck with Trex (a composite used instead of wood),” she said, “but Dan convinced us it might be too heavy and suggested a cedar deck to match the rustic look of our chalet. He said it would save money and he wouldn’t have to replace the deck footings.”
Bernard described the old wooden deck as “warped with nails popping out and we couldn’t walk on it without shoes, and when it was windy furniture would blow into the railings and knock some of them out.”
Weir resurfaced the deck with cedar, installed new railings and used horizontal instead of vertical anchoring cables “so they almost disappear and don’t interfere with our view of the river,” said Barnard.
“Dan doesn’t just know all the technical things; he has an terrific artistic side, too,” she added.
Weir notes pressure-treated wooden decks have an Achilles heel, over time often warping, shrinking or splintering as the sun dries the treatment and fast-growing wood, like southern yellow pine, dries quickly.
“The warranty is against fungal decay and termites,” Weir said. “It doesn’t cover all the things that happen to wood in sunny areas, even with the best of care.”
He recommends tightening of galvanized fasteners, and on wooden decks after one year, cleaning and using a UV protective solution to help protect it.
“You can do cleaning on older composite that has fungus or mold but it can resurface on them,” he said.
“Trex was the first to put a hard layer on their composite five to six years ago and solved the problem of fungus and mold,” said Weir, who is a Trex-approved contractor. “It is the best thing they have ever done.”
When customers insist on wood, he recommends tropical hard woods.
Still, he prefers the more expensive but more durable composites “which will look the same 20 years from now. I don’t make any more money, I just pass on the material costs,” he said.
Frank Joyce, of Winchester, recently had Weir renovate his 11-year-old deck.
“We had some wooden boards that were deteriorating, just rotting, that needed to be replaced and he helped convince us to use Trex,” said Joyce.
“He resurfaced our existing deck and I have nothing but good things to say about him; he was always on time and the quality of the work was first rate,” added Joyce.
With a recent need for rotator cuff surgery, Weir admits, “I don’t do tall decks anymore,” although he is thinking of hiring a college student to help this year.
Beginning his career as a general carpenter, Weir said he remembers a fellow carpenter saying the building code “is the minimum the inspector has to see and the maximum I have to do.”
“There is a lot of bogus stuff out there in online references and they give us all a black eye,” Weir said.
He recommends searching company websites for trained contractors and always getting the required building permit.
“Some builders will say you don’t need one but they are wrong,” Weir said. “I am proud of my reputation and I always send out questionnaires afterward asking for constructive criticism.”
And he has gotten it.
“Some say I don’t clean up enough after a day’s work,” he laughed, shaking his head. “But I am coming back again the next morning. If I have a weakness, that is it. I accept it.”