If you plan to build a deck yourself, there are a few basic things you need to know before you start. Building a deck is more than just simply nailing together lumber. There are measuring and building standards and codes to understand and follow in order to build a deck that will be aesthetically pleasing, structurally sound, and will last for years to come. Here are just a few basics about deck building.
Decks are built in a series of specific steps. In order for the deck to be safe and built correctly, each step must be completed before the next step is started. Knowing ahead of time what is required of each step will help your deck building project go more smoothly.
Deck Building Basics: Planning
Planning is the first step when building a deck. You will need to know the size of the deck, the location of the deck, the purpose of the deck and who will be using the deck. Will the deck be simply a landing at a doorway or will it be a large deck that will be a place for entertaining family and friends? Will the location be suited for the intended purpose and will the location still be good five years from now? Will there be small children or elderly people using the deck. If so, you will need to take extra safety precautions like handrails and gates.
Check with local authorities about building codes and building permits. Depending upon the requirements in your state, county or town, you may need to get a building permit and have your project inspected. Local ordinances may require you to present a set of blueprints or a design with a list of materials before receiving a building permit.
Deck Building Basics: Choose a Deck Design
The height, size and design will determine the materials you will need for the deck. You can design a simple deck yourself or purchase plans at local home centers or download plans from online sources. A basic deck design will include footings, posts for vertical support, beams for horizontal support, joists, decking, railings, stair stringers and treads.
Deck Building Basics: Gather Materials
Decide if you will be using pressure-treated lumber, lumber that is naturally rot- and insect-resistant like redwood or Western Red Cedar, or composite materials. Pressure-treated lumber is chemically treated to resist weathering and rot as well as insect damage. Naturally-resistant lumbers are long-lasting and resist warping, swelling, rotting and insects. Composites are made of recycled plastics and wood fibers and are long-lasting, low maintenance deck building materials. Your choice of materials will be determined by the availability in your area and the budget for your project.
You will need lumber for posts, beams, joists, decking, rails, and stairs. Materials for footings may include fast-setting concrete or deck blocks. Specific widths and lengths will be determined by the deck design.
Deck Building Basics: Tools
The tools needed for most basic deck designs may include a post hole digger, drill, screw gun, circular saw, reciprocating saw, miter saw, square, level, chalk line, pencil, measuring tape, fasteners (screws or nails), string, stakes, and hammer.
Deck Building Basics: Lay Out and Building
The deck should be squared with the building it will be against. The deck itself will need to be squared regardless of its size or shape. Determine the height of the deck. It should be approximately two to four inches below the doorway of the house to keep water out.
Dig holes for posts then set posts with fast-setting concrete. After concrete has hardened, lay out, measure and cut then attach beams and joists. Attach decking materials, railings and stairs.
The final step would be sealing or staining the deck. Allow the stain or sealer to dry thoroughly then enjoy the new extension of space for your home.