How to Build a Deck

Deck construction usually begins with a set of plans or drawings approved by the local building department.  After approval, physical work can begin.  We'll go over the planning process, how to build a deck, common codes, maintenance, and deck materials like composite and treated lumber.  

Planning a Deck

For those planning a deck to install a deck in their future, or at least have one installed.  Planning will help ensure a street free process.  Begin with checking local building codes.  These may be easily found online or you may have to reach out to your local building department and ask for information.  Once you have the necessary information you can make informed decisions about your future deck. 

 

Things one may want to consider:

  • What size deck do I want or need?

  • How high does it need to be?

  • What material should I use? 

  • Composite or Treated?

  • What about another decking like Cedar or special lumbers?

  • What is going to be on the deck?

  • Is there going to be stairs?

  • Do I want it covered?  Partially?

  • Is it going to be artistic?  Or Traditional and simple?

How to Build a Deck

Starting off with the base or the post of a deck- depending on your area you may have to excavate post holes as deep as 3 or 4 ft and 1 to 2ft wide or more.  Factors like:

  • Freeze and thaw cycles

  • Weight-plus the maximum amount of intended weight, people, objects, etc.

  • Height

Check with local building departments for accepted practices, most have the information available online.  Also, most municipalities require a permit or paperwork of some sort filed and approved before construction can begin.

  1. Layout deck footprint and mark post locations according to local building codes

  2. Excavate post holes- check depth and width for proper size

  3. Set post in holes and backfill with concrete- let cure for 24 hours

  4. Make sure post are level on all faces- optional but highly recommended-->attach temporary supporting lumber to ensure post do not move out of alignment

  5. Attach ledger board to house or building if attaching to a structure

  6. The following day you are ready to attach support beams, joist, and ban board-                                                -Support beams first​                                                          -followed by ban boards                                                    -Then joists- make sure both ends of the joist are attached with metal joist hanger brackets

  7. Ready to install decking- starting from the house and working your way out​

  8. Mark joist so you can nail or screw the decking in uniform lines following the joist- chalk line will be helpful here

  9. Railing is usually required on decks over 30 inches tall- install railing after deck boards have been installed

  10. Steps and treads can be completed after the ban boards and joist are installed

  11. Lattice or skirting can be installed around the perimeter of raised decks to help prevent pets and animals from accessing under the deck

Common Codes

Deck codes and requirements should always be met and even surpassed.  Common code is:

  • joist spacing of 16 inches or less

  • joist spacing 12 inches for 45-degree angle diagonal decking

  • post spacing from 5ft to 8ft 

  • Railing required 30 inches or higher

  • Step railing required for 3 steps or more

  • deck post footer 12in to 36in or more depending on location and size- colder climates or larger decks require deeper footers as opposed to warmer or smaller decks

  • footer diameter= 12inches to 18inches plus

Maintenance

Deck maintenance consist of:

  • power washing- yearly would be ideal

  • sealing or staining- 1 to 3 years depending on weathering

  • optional- painting 

Power washing yearly should be an anticipated task of owning a deck, unfortunately not everyone does.  When power washing be careful to not get too close with the nozzle as it can cut into the wood, leaving it rough and most likely worse off than before

After pressure washing, decks need to dry before sealing.  During this waiting period, you can use that time to sand your deck lightly to prepare it for sealing.  Decks can take 48 hours or more to dry after power washing

Sealing can be done with a sprayer or by rolling on depending on the type of sealer chosen.  Check manufactures installation directions for best results