Albany County

Latham resident transforms deck, backyard while stuck at home

Backyard renovations by homeowner Rocco Ricchiuti on Skyline Drive in Latham on Friday, September 4, 2020.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Backyard renovations by homeowner Rocco Ricchiuti on Skyline Drive in Latham on Friday, September 4, 2020.

Categories: Fall Home

LATHAM — Summer for Rocco Ricchiuti usually means working and traveling.

But this year the Latham resident was stuck at home, with work on pause, trips canceled or rescheduled and even favorite local getaways closed.

With everything on hold, Ricchiuti looked to the family’s backyard for a bit of an escape — and a way to make the season a bit more productive.

“Let’s do something we can enjoy,” Ricchiuti said of his thought process at the time.

Over a few weeks, he restored and repainted the two-tier deck that connects his home of 28 years to the swimming pool. His son also installed a new patio and fire pit.

The projects were new territory for Ricchiuti, who works for the Albany Patroons basketball team and in the tourism industry. He would usually be traveling to Saint Croix, St. Thomas and the Outer Banks during the summer and fall, working with hotels to create guest directories. That’s also when, in the past, he’d hire painters and contractors to come in and complete home renovation projects.

“I’m not handy. I hire people to do everything,” Ricchiuti said. “We used to go on vacation and have the deck painted because it was such a project. There’s 200 spindles. It’s been 10 to 15 years since it had been redone.”

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Backyard renovations by homeowner Rocco Ricchiuti on Skyline Drive in Latham on Friday, September 4, 2020.

This year, he decided to take up the task himself. The deck was in rough shape and needed more than a touch-up.

“If you eyeball, you can see it’s been here as long as the home. Before we made it this nice two-tone, it was this bleached-out wood. Nasty. These [top rails] were all curved up because they weren’t the new Trex decks. Those stairs were a mess,” Ricchiuti said.

With some help from longtime friend Mark Keefe, Ricchiuti removed the warped top rails of the deck and replaced them with gray Trex decking material. He removed each of the 200 spindles and repainted them in a matching shade of gray. Ricchiuti also repainted one of the tables he’s had on the deck for years.

“It’s nice to be able to do this,” Ricchiuti said.

Part of the impetus was also the birth of a grandson, Rocco, earlier this year. Ricchiuti wanted to make the deck safer for his eldest son’s child.

“Nothing was greater than becoming grandparents, and at least in February we held him,” Ricchiuti said during an interview in August. “It wasn’t until last week we held the baby [again]. First time he visited grandma and grandpa here.”

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The family got together to celebrate Rocco’s half-birthday, and Ricchiuti was happy to host in the renovated space.

He spends much of his time out on the deck now that the project is mostly finished and that he’s home, with his wife, Tricia, and youngest son, Nick.

“You know what else is popular during the pandemic? We played Yahtzee. We played probably 300 games out here,” Ricchuiti said. “My wife is the champion. You can’t beat her.”

Now that chilly weather is on the way, the family will be using the new fire pit quite often. Nick installed it earlier this year, replacing an old portable fire pit, and laying down stone for a patio.

“[He’s a] 23-year-old who works 10, 12 hours a day and managed to say, ‘Hey, if I can do this for Mom and Dad, I will,’ ” Ricchiuti said.

They also gathered chairs around the new fire pit and added some plants to decorate. Nick stacked logs nearby so they could have impromptu fires whenever they wanted.

“My wife and him love camping out, love being out. Of course, the campgrounds weren’t open. We weren’t going to be able to really [go anywhere], so they’ve sat out there half a dozen times,” Ricchiuti said.

There’s also one last part of the deck project to finish this season.

“Part of our job before we completely finish the deck will be to lift the deck up and move it back in, because the deck has shifted about 2 inches,” Ricchiuti said. Then they’re going to wrap gray lattice around the edges of it.

But for now, he’s planning to sit back and enjoy it.

“Basically, this is our little paradise,” Ricchuiti said.

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