Summer’s approaching and the desire to get into deck building has hit. The question is, what sort of deck do you want to create? Building a deck is a major project that requires time, effort, money and dedication. So what does it take to build a deck? Read on and find out.
- Go book shopping. There are tons of books on the market about deck design and building tips. Before you can build anything, you need to have a detailed design in mind. Most decks have very common structural designs. These books will immediately show you the process of building the foundation in a step-by-step manner. As importantly, they will give you some very helpful hints on the design options, from a straightforward rectangular deck to a more elaborately shaped one. While looking at these designs, keep in mind what your deck’s main purpose will be. Is it going to be an outdoor entertainment area? Do you want more than one level? Once you’ve got your basic design, then the next step is to come up with your building plan. If you are building your own deck, it is highly recommended that you have help.
- Now that you’ve sat down and studied all the different options, the practical side of things comes into play. You may love that three-tiered deck, but can you afford it? Thankfully, many deck design books will also provide you with the amount of materials necessary, making it easier to determine just how much it will cost to build it. As well, precise measurements are critical. You need to determine the height of your deck and your railing. This is needed to determine the height of your poles when you set them. The finished surface should be two inches below the doorway that enters onto the deck. Before starting, you need a precise structural diagram and measurements.
- Are permits necessary? When rebuilding a deck that already exists, or building a deck that is only about two feet off the ground, permits aren’t often needed. To be safe, call your local building permit office to find out the local rules.
- Go shopping. Keep in mind if you are building a large deck, odds are you’ll need the wood delivered. Other tools and materials used include 4×4 posts, cement, round tubes, joists, deck building brackets, screws and/or nails, bolts, finished planking or surface material, railing materials, steps, lattice, stain and/or weather proofing products, a drill, an electrical saw, measuring tape and a level.
- When it comes to the choice of wood, there are two common ones used: pressure treated lumber and cedar. Pressure treated lumber is the most popular. This lumber is usually spruce or pine and is treated with a chemical preservative that gives the wood a longer shelf life; 90% of decks are built with this. Cedar is a more aesthetic choice, but also more expensive. Often, people choose to use pressure treated lumber for the basic structure, and cedar for the 4×4 posts, the railing, stairs and the finished planking.
- The next step is the foundation. Conventional decks require firm 4×4 posts attached to brackets on top of a cement foundation. The cement goes in the tubes which sit in the ground, with the top being eight inches above the ground. Next, the 4×4 post is attached to the top bracket. By having the cement eight inches above, it prevents the ground from deteriorating the wood. Also, having it in a bracket allows for potential replacement of a single post if necessary. Where the posts are located depends on the overall design.
- The second major step is creating the support frame. These 2×6-inch pieces of wood are called joists. The conventional spacing between joists is 16 inches from the centre of one joist to the centre of the second. Traditionally, joists are nailed together, but the more modern method is to use three-inch screws. These joists are attached to the 4×4 posts. The deck building brackets are also used at this time. The foundation will take up two-thirds of your time. Once you have the foundation, you can build fairly quickly.
- The stairs come next as they are a part of the sub-surface. Keep in mind that conventional steps are seven inches high.
- The deck surface wood is attached board by board at a 90-degree angle to the joists. This is important relative to design. You have to determine which way you want the wood to go, either parallel or 90 degrees from the house as your joists are going the opposite way. When putting in the finished surface, using screws is recommended. If there is deterioration in one plank over time, you can replace the damaged wood easily. If you nail them in, you’re going to have to cut out the damaged plank. Deck boards should be spaced about a quarter-inch to a half-inch apart to ensure drainage, otherwise puddles occur. You don’t want spaces larger than that in case you have guests with high heels, or to prevent small items from slipping between the cracks.
- Building the railing is the next step. There are a range of designs to work with. There are also standards when it comes to child safety. Materials used are a function of design.
- Final step is painting, staining and or weather proofing. Staining/painting is an aesthetic decision. It is strongly recommended to use a water proofing material as it adds to the longevity of the wood. Follow the instructions on the can.
- Put a lattice design around the bottom of the deck to prevent furry creatures from making a cozy home underneath and to deter children from wandering under it.
- Putting carpeting over the deck isn’t recommended unless it is a material that water can pass through. Otherwise, the carpet will act as a sponge and promote wood deterioration.
In the process of building, odds are the design will change. Once the deck starts to take on a three-dimensional shape, suddenly you may see new potential, or decide to make changes. So long as these fit into your overall budget, then get creative. Your deck can be a fabulous extension of your home, so make sure you give it the proper attention.