Deck building is an enticing do-it-yourself project that many people successfully finish, while others regret ever attempting. There have been entire books written on the subject, and it is not something you should undertake if you lack basic carpentry abilities. This article will provide an overview of the process, with an emphasis on the fundamental principles of construction rather than the precise blueprints and other information necessary for real construction.
Tools and Materials You Will Need
Deck construction is a comprehensive construction project, so you may need to purchase or borrow a number of tools if you don’t already have them. In addition, the list of materials is amazing. A basic deck can cost several thousand dollars in lumber, fasteners, and potentially new tools.
Here are typical tools required to build a deck:
- Circular saw
- Table saw
- Power miter saw
- Shovel and post-hole digger
- Cement mixer or wheelbarrow
- Carpenter’s level
- Carpenter’s square
- Caulk gun
- Drill and bits
- Tape measure
- Eye protection
- Particle respirator mask
As for materials, you may need:
- Metal flashing
- Pre-mixed concrete mix
- Gravel or crushed stone
- Cinder blocks
- Post caps
- Post bases
- Seismic ties
- Joist hangers
- Cardboard tube concrete forms
- Metal Rebar
- HDG bolts or lag screws, and washers
- Joist hanger nails
- Deck tension fasteners
- Deck screws or stainless steel or HDG nails
Stage 1: Preparing the Site
Assuming you have located or developed your deck design plans and gathered the necessary tools and materials, the first phase of manual labour will consist of site preparation.
On the construction site, outline the shape of the deck using posts and twine. If your deck is a simple square or rectangle, measure diagonally from corner to corner in both directions; a square arrangement will have diagonals of identical length. Using a shovel, clear this measured area of grass and weeds to create a work area. Later, prior to covering this working space with decking, you can add mulch to limit weed growth. But for the time being, your first priority is to create a level working environment. This will be vital when digging holes for footings or concrete piers later in the project.
Mark precisely where the ledger board will be attached to the home. This ledger will support and anchor the adjacent-to-the-house side of the deck. The level at which the top of the header board rests should coincide with the level of the joists, which will serve as the structure for the surface decking. It is essential to ensure that the header is not just the correct height but also level. Refer to your deck designs when detailing the ledger board’s position on the home.
Mark the placement of the footing posts on the construction site. The number of necessary supports and the depth of the footings are determined by both your building designs and the requirements of your building inspection office.
Stage 2: Install the Ledger
The ledger board, typically a 2 x 10 or 2 x 12 board, will be directly fastened to the house framing and will form the structural side of the deck against the house. The general method is removing the siding where the header board will be installed. Flashing should be tucked behind the siding that remains above this section. Extend the flashing such that it extends below the bottom of the ledger board once it has been fitted. This flashing will prevent water from entering the framework from behind.
With bolts or lag screws, the ledger board is then connected over the metal flashing. Caulk the area behind the ledger to further ensure that no moisture can enter.
Stage 3: Install the Footings and Posts
Now you will install the vertical posts that will support the beams, which in turn will serve as the beam’s primary support.
Dig holes to whatever depth your building inspection office specifies, then pour concrete and attach 6 x 6 or 4 x 4 posts to the specified height. In certain instances, posts can be embedded directly into the concrete, but it is preferable to utilize cardboard tube forms and implant metal post anchors in the wet concrete at the top of the form. After the concrete has dried, wooden posts are connected to these anchors.
Regardless of the method employed, it is essential that the posts are perfectly vertical and cut to the exact height specified in the building designs. Many constructors find it most convenient to put the posts first, then trim them to the correct height.
Stage 4: Install Support Beams
Most deck building plans currently call for the installation of one or more horizontal beams. These beams will support the joists that will soon follow. Typically, the deck joists will be fastened to the ledger board by joist hangers and supported on the other end by a beam resting on the newly built posts.
There are numerous possible combinations for posts and beams, so follow your deck plans carefully at this point. Beams are frequently made by sandwiching two 2 x 10s together and resting them on top of the posts, where they are kept in place by metal beam saddles.
In some deck plans, the beam has been positioned some way inside the deck’s exterior border, so that the deck cantilevers over the beam. In alternative deck designs, the beam may form the exterior edge of the deck and serve as an anchoring surface for the joists.
A very big deck may require two or even more beams to sustain the enormous load, whereas smaller decks simply need a single modest beam.
Stage 5: Install the Joists
Installing the primary framework of the deck, which consists of inner joists spaced 12 or 16 inches apart, is the next step “Separated, as well as rim joists, which form the deck’s exterior edge. One end of each joist will be secured to the ledger board with metal joist hangers, while the opposite end will either rest on top of the support beam or, in some designs, be anchored to the inside face of the beam.
Note that corrosion-resistant fasteners and metal connections must be used for all metal connectors and fasteners. Normal fasteners cannot be used with pressure-treated wood because the chemicals in the wood will corrode them. Make sure to get screws, nails, and other chemical-resistant hardware.
The distance between joists and the size of the lumber will also be influenced by your deck plans and the regulations of the building inspection office. Extremely tiny decks may require 2 x 6 joists, while larger decks may require 2 x 10 or 2 x 12 lumber. Load calculations are extremely complicated; thus, it is imperative that you consult your building inspection office regarding requirements for posts, beams, and joists.
Stage 6: Lay the Decking
Now, your deck is beginning to take shape and resemble the intended design. Decking boards, which are either 1×4 or 1×6 lumber or manufactured decking boards with rounded edges, are then attached. Synthetic decking boards, which are known for their durability, will also be available. It is extremely typical to construct the structure of a deck from pressure-treated wood and then utilize synthetic decking materials for the decking surface and railings.
Decking planks are traditionally fastened to the joists with two screws or nails inserted into each joist. However, a variety of “blind nailing” or bracket systems are now available that allow you to attach decking boards without puncturing the surface of the boards with screws or nails. Regardless of the method you use, you must leave a regular space between decking planks. This prevents debris from becoming stuck between boards.
Stairways and railings will be the next step for many decks. Many decks besides platform decks will be required by building codes to feature stairways and handrails. Stairway building can be quite intricate, especially if a deck is elevated and a landing is required partway down the stairs. The primary deck railings may likewise comprise a complex system of posts, rails, and balusters, but they also provide an opportunity for stylistic diversity.
You may be tempted to finish your deck immediately with stain and sealer or paint, but it is frequently advised that you wait a few weeks, until the wood in your deck has dried a bit, before taking this final step. You should finish your deck before the onset of winter, but letting the deck wood age slightly can improve its ability to absorb the stain and finish.