What’s great about building a deck is it’s a project you can tackle in a short amount of time with some fairly basic tools and minimal skills.
That’s not to say building a deck is easy.
And I’m not suggesting you should stop reading this article and run to the lumber yard (you do shop at the local lumber yard, don’t you?) with your credit card for a pile of lumber you’ll nail together as soon it’s delivered.
The truth is, without proper planning, a lot can go wrong. In fact, without planning ahead there’s a good chance a lot will go wrong.
That’s why I recommend you spend a few days or as much time as necessary to put a solid plan together. Because you deserve a deck that’ll not only last a long time, but will provide you with a safe addition to your home.
Keep in mind, there’s more to developing a plan than the detailed drawing you’ll provide to your local building inspector. You want to ensure your deck will be as functional for your household as possible. That means having goals and knowing why you want to build your deck in the first place.
Is it simply to extend your living space? Are you building a deck because your yard isn’t flat and difficult to enjoy? Is it to have a place outdoors where you can spend time with your friends and family? Are you building a deck so you can relax in peace by yourself?
Your deck can have many uses and can be designed to be as unique as you want it to be. Or maybe you want something simple to serve a very basic purpose, such as keeping you up and away from the dirt or grass in your yard.
The truth is, building a deck isn’t hard. If you don’t already have them, you can certainly learn the necessary skills within a short amount of time.
But planning your deck will be the key to a successful project. And the more effort you put into the initial steps, the better your deck will be…hopefully for as long as you own your home!
Finding the right design for you and your home before your build your deck
One of the first steps to your deck plan will be to determine what you want your deck to look like.
There are dozens if not hundreds of variations in deck designs, from the way you lay the decking to the style of the railings to the type of materials you use.
Knowing exactly what you want your deck to look like so it fits your home and your yard is an important step.
While you don’t necessarily need to purchase a pre-designed plan for your deck, deck plans will not only help you with the design, but will provide you with a specific list of building materials. Knowing what material you’ll need can often be one of the critical challenges when you’re first pulling everything together.
The last thing you’ll want is to have to make multiple trips or pay unexpected delivery or pickup charges because you didn’t order enough (or you ordered too much) material.
However, keep in mind most building centers–especially the local establishments–will often help you plan your deck. Many will have deck design software to figure everything out for you. Typically this is a service that’s free-of-charge, as long as you’re buying the material from the same place.
But whether or not you decide to design your own deck or buy a done-for-you plan, you need to account for everything you’d like your deck to include. This will impact the way your deck will be designed and built.
As mentioned above, knowing what you’ll be using your deck for is an important first-step. But you also need to account for features you may not need right away, but may want to add in the future. If you’re going to be cooking out on your deck (who wouldn’t?) you’ll want to think ahead and decide where you would place your grill.
You’ll also want to consider what kind of storage you may want, if any. Perhaps you’d add bench seats to your design, and include a top that lifts with storage underneath.
You may also want to think about your desire for privacy. With a deck, you will be higher off the ground and the view your neighbor has of you may be different than what you’re used to. But don’t worry, privacy can be created easily with various options, such as building a barrier with lattice and even utilizing plants or climbing vines.
You will be dealing with a building inspector to get the required building permit. Even if it may seem like an additional step that will add more time to your project (in addition to paying the fee for the actual permit, do not skip this step in the process. Involving the building inspector and obtaining a permit ensures your deck is built to code and is structurally sound.
Deck safety should not be ignored. Although there are no specific statistics presently available, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that over 20,000 people were injured by the structural failure of a deck or porch over a five year period in the early 2,000’s.
To apply for the permit, you will need to provide your local building inspector with detailed illustrations of your project and any additional required specifications related to materials. This includes:
- The size and shape of the structure
- Where the deck will be built in relation to your home;
- Where the deck will be built in relation to your property lines;
- The height of the deck from the ground;
- The frost line and how the deck footings will be installed under grade;
- Post and beam placement;
- Redifooting documentation;
- Type of soil;
- The hardware and connectors you will use in your construction;
- What material your deck will be built with;
- On-center positioning of the joists;
- Length, width, and thickness of wood or composite material;
- Height and width of the railings and the spacing;
Prior to beginning your plan, you can save both time and trouble by meeting with the local building inspector prior to beginning the design or your deck. This way you’ll know what he or she requires from you prior to starting your initial design. Building inspectors from one city or town to the next have very different requirements and expectations.
What Tools Will You Need to Build Your Deck?
Of course, you can’t build a deck without the right tools! The good news is, a deck can be built with a fairly basic set of tools. And if you don’t own a lot of the tools listed below, you’ll find most to be fairly affordable. The power tools you may need, such as the mitre saw, power nailer, or a power auger can be rented.
- Measuring tape (minimum of 25 feet or more)
- Mitre saw (also called a “chop” saw)
- Circular (hand) saw
- Power drill and screwdriver combo (Note: be sure it’s a quality tool with enough power for lots of drilling and driving)
- Carpenter’s level
- Chalk line
- Contractor’s pencil(s)
- Framing Hammer
- Screwdrivers (Slotted and Phillips head)
- Palm sander
- Hand or power auger (to dig holes for your RediFooting deck footing)
- Spade shovel
- Clamps (for various uses)
- Power nailer and compressor
Building a deck yourself can be a rewarding and exciting experience. With proper planning, having or learning the right skills, and following a few simple steps before you begin your project, you can expect to have a completed project you’ll be proud of and will enjoy for many more years to come.