How to Build a Deck
Completing a deck project requires a lot of steps, but none of those steps in how to build a deck are that insurmountable. Once you build your own addition to the house, you’ll want to show it off to the neighbors and family, because you should have a sense of accomplishment in finishing a wood deck.
Building Deck Steps – Design
The first building deck steps begin with deck design. Keep in mind a number of factors when designing your deck. Water drainage is key, because you want water to run off your wooden deck. If not, that becomes a huge problem, so you want your deck elevated somewhat, but install railing for a deck more than 36″ off the ground.
Beginning deck builders should use simple materials, such as composite decking material, dimensional lumber and good hardware. Consider pressure treated lumber as an option, but be prepared to deal with excessive sawdust.
Finally, determine the amount of climate and temperature factors you need to factor in. If you live up north, evaluate frost line and damage from soil expansion and contraction. If you live in a place like Texas, keep in mind similar problems brought on from extended periods of 100 degree heat.
Get a Building Permit
Many local building authorities require residents to submit a building plan for a project like a wooden deck. When submitting such a design for a building permit, include rough structure plans and the distance from the property lines. One advantage of this step is that you get profession feedback on your deck plan.
Setting the Ledger
Set the deck ledger against the house wall, attaching the ledger with lag screws. Make sure you this against a flat surface. Use shims to create a flat surface, instead of removing house siding (which causes leaks).
Install flashing between your wood and the house. If you have stucco, skip this step.
Layout the Vertical Surface
Prepare the ground you’re building on for construction, by setting a string between all four corners of the proposed deck. Your deck surface needs to be square and level, then define where your vertical supports need to go. Make sure your layout is square using basic math.
That is, use the Pythagorean theorem, where A-squared x B-squared = C-squared. You may be running for the hills when I say that, but it’s nothing to get freaked out about. Here’s why.
Once you have your lines marking off your deck surface, measure 3 feet along one line and 4 feet along the other. Mark both points. Then measure directly between those points, so you have measure the lines of a triangle. If this comes out to 5 feet, your layout is squared. If not, keep working with it, until it is on every corner.
Concrete Footings – Check Deck Footings
Have the building authority inspect your property for foundation concerns. Remember to dig for footings below the frost line, to keep the deck from shifting during freeze cycles.
Cast concrete footings in the ground. After you do this, attach concrete piers on the top, which are there to hold the posts.
Let the footings set for a week before continuing with the project.
Test the Plumb (Depth)
Check for plumb by cutting a post longer than needed, the setting it in post anchor. Once inside, mark the plumb with a line level. Make sure this mark is the same height as the bottom of your proposed joists (support beams).
If your joist is going to sit on a beam set on your post, remember to subject the height of that beam, then mark and cut that beam.
Once you have this measured, set the post in the mooring and secure it. Do the same for all your posts, but remember to mark and cut each of them separately, because they’re likely to have height variations.
Either bolt or nail your beams into place. Attach who many ever joists or braces you need. Add rim joists, while making certain they are square. These are the boards you’ll be nailing your deck to, so squaring them is important.
Mark a Ledger
Your ledger is a length of board horizontally attached to the side of your house, which is meant to hold up that edge of your deck. Starting at one edge, mark the joist locations along your ledger. Use a scrap piece of lumber to take marks off your ledger, then transfer those marking to the beam of wood opposite your ledger. This should keep things squared.
Fasten the Joists in Place
One you add joist hangers, fasten the joists in place. Remember to keep the bowed side of the joists face up. Add blocking, if you don’t think the structure is stable enough.
At this point, set posts for any overheads, benches or railing that are in place. Install any railing that go through the deck. Install any plumbing or wiring that goes underneath the deck.
Add Finish to the Foundation
Once this is done, add any protective finishes you believe the underside of your deck will need. The bottom of a deck is going to be a moist, dark place, so adding a protective finish should help maintain the foundation of the deck.
Lay the Decking Boards
Cut your decking boards to the proper length. Starting with the ledger, lay them across the joists. Remember to keep the convex side of the board up, because this is more attractive.
If you’re going to err, let the boards run long. This can be adjusted later. One their are in place, nail or screw the boards to the outer beams and joists. Decide whether you want spacing between the boards, or you want them flush.
Prepare for Final Board
Set aside a slimmer or a wider board for your final board, to plan ahead. As you approach the end of the deck, try to gauge which boards are going to fit best on your deck.
Once finished with this part, cut the longer boards to make them uniform.
Railings and Stairs
Complete the deck with any outer railings or stairs. Add benches and other amenities, as needed. On the outer part of your deck, add protective finishes you deem necessary.
Deck Building Tips
Building a deck has several tricky steps and there’s a lot of terminology you won’t encounter in your normal day, but you can learn how to build a deck, if you don’t mind a little work, a little math and maintain your patience. Follow these deck building tips, don’t get frustrated by any obstacles or setbacks, and you’ll have a deck on your house in no time.