Building a House Deck

In the United States, becoming a homeowner comes with a wide array of advantages and benefits that normally are out of reach for inhabitants with only rental agreements. One of these benefits is the owner's right to customize the interior, as well as the exterior appearance of the property based on his or her specific tastes and preferences. In addition, legal owners of the real estate property can also construct multiple attachments, which often not only improve the visual appearance of the property, but in fact may also increase its future market value. Today, we shall take a look at one of such tangible amenities – namely a house deck – and provide tips and advices with regards to its construction.

Building a Deck: The Basics

Before we examine the actual construction process of a house deck, it is important to make sure everyone is on the same page with respect to the structure in question. First of all, the vast majority of decks are constructed out of wood that is typically much easier to work with than some other materials, especially for amateur carpenters building a deck as a DIY project. Consequently, some of the tips and advices we shall provide later on may not be as effective when working with some composite materials, or metals. Secondly, the deck structure we will build will be elevated, as that is a common requirement of many house decks. On the other hand, we will not place any specific limits on the length and width of the deck, and will even explain how to calculate the proper weight distribution to ensure the final structure is stable after it is constructed. Finally, we will briefly examine several different types of decks to illustrate that every builder can find at least one deck design they will ultimately be satisfied with.

Building a Deck: First Steps

Before you even consider cutting a piece of wood, it is crucial to take care of several things in advance to ensure the actual building process will go as smoothly as possible.

  • First, many jurisdictions require the owner to apply for a building permit before constructing a house deck. It is highly recommended to check with one's local town board beforehand, as decks built without proper permits will often need to be demolished.
  • Secondly, it is crucial to obtain a deck plan, or design one yourself. The plan must include information regarding the desired length, width, and even the height of the deck. Additionally, it is highly recommended to obtain a plan of your property as well, and ensure that your chosen deck design will in fact fit within the legal bounds of your property. If you are unsure how to design a deck plan, there are many great deck design websites on the internet that will help simplify the process.
  • Thirdly, it is important to have the necessary construction tools. Most professional carpenters, as well as many amateur repairmen will already have them. For starters, you will definitely need a good hammer, a drill, a level and other measuring equipment, and a good saw – preferably an electric circular one. Additionally, you will need various ratchets, sockets, and screwdrivers to put the deck together, as well as a shovel.
  • Finally, you will need the materials: the lumber, and the various screws, nails, and bolts, that will hold the structure together. These will come with several additional requirements, which we shall take a look at next.

Building a Deck: The Materials

Given the fact that the deck will be exposed to the environment all year long, it is important to select materials that will be able to withstand different weather conditions. First of all, you must purchase lumber rated for outdoor use, and treated with a water repellent that prevents degradation. Similarly, the nails, bolts and screws will need to be galvanized, in other words treated to prevent corrosion and oxidation. The metals galvanized using hot-dip galvanization process will normally be the one most resistant to corrosion. You will also need concrete for the foundation of each footing of your deck.

Building a Deck: The Construction Process

Once you have taken care of all the required permits, finished designing your deck on paper, and have acquired all the necessary tools and materials, you will be able to finally begin constructing your deck.

The Outline:

  • First, you should carefully mark the height of your future deck on the side of the building it will be attached to, preferably extending the mark to account for the full length of the deck. You should take into consideration, and mark the thickness of the lumber used as well, to prevent any leveling issues later on.
  • Once you have the length and height marked out, you should place small hooks, or J-shaped bolts at the marks representing the horizontal edges of your future deck, and attach a string to them.
  • Extend the two strings to account for the width of the deck and affix them to a pair of batter boards, ensuring the strings are leveled and parallel to each other. The extended strings will produce a rectangular outline, which should correspond to the desired dimensions of your deck.

The Base, the Post, and the Ledger:

  • Using a posthole digger, dig a hole for each footing of the deck, and pour concrete foundation over each pier block placed in the hole. Wait several days for the concrete to dry completely, before moving on.
  • Next, you will need to attach a ledger onto the structure the deck will be attached to. This can often be a difficult step for amateur carpenters, but is absolutely necessary. Again, it may be better to invest in a detailed deck plan, instead of trying to design everything from scratch.

The Flooring and the Posts

  • Again, this step will often be very difficult for beginners, as it will involve precisely cutting up the wood for deck flooring, and positioning it along the anchor posts.
  • When cutting up the pieces, it is highly recommended to use a circular saw to save time.
  • Once you have the decking all laid out, it is a good idea to add a few support posts to hold the entire deck together.

Building a Deck: Final Remarks

Building a deck for your house can be a great DIY project, but every amateur carpenter will have to put in quite a lot of time and effort in order to produce a well-designed and well-built structure. Additionally, every builder should realize that there are many different deck designs out there, and there is no reason why they should ever settle for a "basic" design, if it is not to their liking. Finally, all builders should remember that it takes persistence and perseverance to complete a task as challenging as building a house deck, and one should never stop at the first sign of problems.