How to build a deck

November 23, 2014

Having the proper tools and materials is an absolute must when planning to build a deck on your own. But before starting your DIY project, there are several other key things to consider when building a deck.
Here are some important deck building tips to keep in mind:

Permits: Unless you're building a deck that will not be anchored to the house itself, most municipalities require a permit for new decks. The permit is obtained once a plan for the deck is drawn.

Level: Decks can be built at ground level or can be built up to the second floor. Decks can also be multiple levels connected by stairs or steps. The optimal level for building a deck depends on where people will be entering and exiting the home most frequently.

Location:Understanding the sun is also important. Where possible, plan to build the deck in a location that can leverage natural shade (eg. from nearby trees). If you do not have trees nearby, you may have to consider installing a shade or a retractable awning. Consider where gas lines for the barbecue are affixed and adjust the location accordingly.

Materials: The most common material used for building a deck is pressure-treated wood or some type of composite material. Pressure treated lumber is relatively cheap and durable but over time the wood does tend to become discoloured and worn. Composite material mimics wood, requires minimal maintenance and comes in elegant styles, but is more expensive.

Foundation: Use poured concrete piers or precast deck blocks for the foundation. Deck blocks are easy to install, but if the soil is soft, the deck can shift. Concrete bases are ideal but slightly more expensive and require more effort. Make sure to use the right screws, as the wrong type may either break or corrode with time. Select fasteners made specifically for decks. While stainless steel fasteners are the best, they may cost a little more. Look for screws that are safe and recommended for deck building.

Preventing long term damage: Consider installing deep concrete footing that extends below the first joist line. Make sure to use a builder tube to prevent frost from damaging the footing. Because rot can also cause serious damage to decks, even when using rot-resistant materials such as pressure treated wood, give thought to how water will drain from the floor joints. By decreasing the internal joint drying time, the life of the deck will be extended. Purchase moisture traps to help avoid trapped water. Even after the deck is built, you will need to regularly inspect the foundation to ensure that there is no water buildup.

Today, several types of pre-customized, ready-made deck kits are also available. The most important aspect is to get the right size and style that matches your home. With the proper time, materials, planning and patience, and keeping in mind these tips on how to build a DIY deck, the experience can be an incredibly rewarding one.

How to build a deck
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