Building a deck can be a lot of fun and, when compared to other home improvement projects, is relatively easy to accomplish with a little research to improve your overall building skills.
But as someone who has been involved in deck building for over twenty-five years, there are certain things homeowners and contractors do that improve the entire process overall. These steps not only make building easier, but will give you peace of mind knowing your deck will last a long time.
Tip Number One: Give Yourself Enough time to Thoroughly Research Materials
When it comes to the materials you can use to build your deck, the options are, for the most part, limitless. On one end, you have real wood such as pressure treated lumber and cedar. On the other you have man-made materials such as composites and PVC and more man-mades coming on the market all the time.
The difference in all the available materials is not only the wide range of costs and how the deck will look once it’s complete, but also in how it’s built. For example, the number of joists needed for exotic hardwoods vs a flexible composite piece of decking can vary. That means, in some cases, certain composites may require additional lumber built into the frame.
Different woods may also require different protective treatments, and some may need to be treated more often than others. Composites and PVC decking often require less maintenance, but the cost of the actual materials plus the hardware required for installation can significantly increase the cost of your deck, overall.
That’s why it’s important to narrow down your options as much as possible during the planning stage and have a good understanding of the pros and cons of each material option you’re considering.
Tip Number Two: Take the Steps Up Front to Prevent Water Damage Later
One of the keys to preventing water damage to your deck or house is to use proper spacing to ensure water will not become trapped between two or more pieces of wood. Using proper spacing between your deck boards, your ledger and the material (on your house) you’re attaching it to, and your deck posts is critical to preventing future water damage. Water will always find a way to escape, whether it evaporates or finds its way into the wood against a home.
If you are indeed attaching your deck to the ledger board on your house, without both flashing and proper spacing between your deck and the ledger board you’ll attach to your house, the water will become trapped. And once it becomes trapped, the only way water will find its way out will be through the house, eventually rotting the wood and weakening the construction of your deck and your home.
There are different types of flashing for different applications. Spacing devices can be purchased, or you can make them yourself from a material that will not rot or decay (PVC, for example).
No matter what you decide, spacing and flashing are critical to preventing water damage.
The same case can be made for your deck posts and allowing them to come in contact with a concrete footing. There must be enough space to prevent water from being trapped between the wood and your footing, especially if you use concrete, which can often hold water that can eventually weaken both the post and the footing. Of course, we recommend you skip the concrete entirely and use RediFooting deck footings, high-strength plastic footings that are actually stronger than concrete.
Tip Number Three: Use (or Make) a Jig for Proper Spacing When You’re Building Your Deck
Spacing on your deck is critical. From the joists to the decking to the railings, keeping your spacing consistent every time will make a big difference not only on the quality of your construction, but to the way your deck looks once it’s complete.
Most of the measurements used on a deck will seem repetitive. That’s why a good tip is to either purchase or make your own spacers or jigs for everything from baluster spacing to decks and even for aligning the joists you’ll install (typically) sixteen inches on-center.
Some of the spacing is more important than others. Once example of this is the space you leave between your decking boards. Because when installing decking, you need to ensure there’s enough space for water to drain from the top of the deck. If the board are too tight, water will sit on the deck and try to find it’s way into your deck or home. But you also don’t want to leave too much space between the decking boards. Because if your spacing is too wide, chair legs and even the thin point of a high heel could get stuck and cause a fall, especially over time as boards shrink and spacing tends to open up. That’s where a deck spacing jig like this one for around $7 on Amazon comes in handy.
A decking spacer is recommended, which can be purchased or you can make one yourself by simply cutting a wedge out of scrap lumber. In fact most of the spacers and jigs you’ll want to use to build your deck can be made out of scrap wood.
These three tips are just a few of the simple basics that can make a big difference as you’re building your deck and for the generations ahead you’ll expect to enjoy your construction project.