In this article; “How to build a wood deck”, we provide beginners with a quick summary of what’s involved in building a deck and let you determine if a deck is something you should build, or whether you should hire the Pros.
To us, building a deck is a straightforward project and one that can be completed in 2-3 days by DIY homeowners with average to above-average building skills.
Let’s run through the basics of deck building – and help you decide what’s right for you.
How To Build A Wood Deck: Step-By-Step
The First step in how to make a deck is in “planning” the size and shape of the deck you plan to build, as well as the materials you will use. There are a ton of deck ideas online to consider.
The next step in building a deck is understanding the Parts of a Wood Deck. Being familiar with all of the wood deck components will make this project much easier – please see the List of Deck parts below;
How To Build a Deck Frame:
Planning your Deck:
- Size and shape: The size and shape of your deck will depend on your needs and space constraints. You may want to consider a smaller deck with a small yard. If you have a large yard, you may consider a larger deck with various features, such as a built-in barbecue, a hot tub, or a pergola.
- Materials: The materials you use for your deck will depend on your budget and personal preference. Pressure-treated wood is a good option for decks exposed to the elements. If you want a deck that will last for many years, you may want to consider using composite decking materials.
- Permits: You may need to obtain a permit from your local government before building a deck. Check with your local building department to find out what the requirements are in your area.
- Don’t forget you may also need to obtain the necessary permits from your local building department.
2) Site Prep Before Building a Deck:
Once you have a plan, prepare the site for your deck. This includes clearing the area of debris, leveling the ground, and digging footings for the posts.
Steps involved in Site preparation before building a Deck:
- Clear the area of debris: Remove any trees, shrubs, or other objects from the area where you will be building the deck.
- Level the ground: Use a level to ensure the ground is level where you will be building the deck. If the ground is not level, you must fill in any low spots or raise up any high spots.
- Dig footings: The footings are the foundation of your deck. They need to be strong enough to support the deck’s weight, so it is important to do them right. The size and depth of the footings will depend on the size and weight of your deck and the soil conditions.
3) Cement Footings for Wood Deck
Footings are poured cement piers set in the ground anywhere from 18-48″ deep, depending on the frost line of your region.
The Footings are the foundation of your deck and are critical to place and set correctly.
Personally, I dig holes for footings at 50″ deep and use the Quickcrete concrete forms for footings that are 10″ x 48″ overall. Plumb and level in place and pour concrete, for a clean finished footing.
How To Install QUIKCRETE Footing Forms (Video)
I also think you waste less concrete using the concrete form method instead of just dumping concrete in a big hole.
They need to be strong enough to support the deck’s weight, so it is important to do them right. The size and depth of the footings will depend on the size and weight of your deck and the soil conditions.
Three basic steps to install footings for a deck:
- Dig the holes: Use a post-hole digger or a power auger for the footings. The holes should be at least 12 inches deep and 18 inches wide. Consult the local frost line chart or check with your building supplier, to determine the recommended depth of footings in your region.
- Pour the concrete: Once the holes are dug, pour the concrete into the holes. Make sure that the concrete is level.
- Allow the concrete to cure: Allow the concrete to cure for at least 24 hours before you start building the deck.
4) Ledger board for Wood Deck:
The ledger board is the horizontal board of the new deck that attaches to the framing of your house. It is important to ensure that the ledger board is installed correctly, as it is one of the most important parts of the deck.
Note: The ledger board should be attached to the house using large 4-5″ lag screws and washers.
The 4 steps involved To Install a Ledger board for the Deck:
- Locate the ledger board: The board should be installed on the “Rim Joist” of your home. This is the exterior Joist of your main floor framing. The Ledger board for the deck is installed at the same height as the joists – Less the Height of the Deck Board Thickness you plan to use. *IMPORTANT: Be sure to measure and deduct the thickness of the deck boards your using and set the ledger level at that height.
- Use a 4 or 6-foot level to ensure the ledger board is level before you fasten it, by partially setting a large nail into the Rim Joist.
- Attach the ledger board: Once the Ledger board is Level and Temporarily in place, Use lag screws with washers (minimum 4″) to attach the ledger board to the house.
- Ensure the screws or bolts are long enough to penetrate the house framing at least 3- 3 1/2 ” deep.
5) Layout for Joists of Wood Deck
The joists are the horizontal boards that support the deck. They are attached to the ledger board and the posts. The joists are spaced evenly, usually at 24″ ON CENTER, and they should ALWAYS be made of pressure-treated wood.
Here are the 3 steps for installing deck joists:
- Cut the joists to a length: Use a saw to cut the joists to the correct length. The joists should be long enough to span the distance between the ledger board and the posts.
- Attach the joists to the ledger board: Use joist hangers to attach the joists to the ledger board. Make sure that the joists are level.
- Attach the joists to the posts: Use galvanized nails or screws to attach the joists to the posts. Make sure that the joists are level.
NOTE: If you intend to add “Stairs” to your Deck, you should enlist the help of an experienced friend, or carpenter to assist you. Stairs are built next, just before the Deck Railings are Installed.
6). Deck Railings:
The railing is a necessary safety feature for your deck. It should be installed at least 36″ High, as most municipal building codes require.
A deck railing not only provides a barrier to prevent people from falling off the deck, but it can also add to the overall aesthetic of the deck.
There are many different deck railings, including aluminum or cedar, but a 2 x 4 treated wood railing is the most common type, supported by 2 x 2 balusters (spindles).
7) The List Deck Materials:
The materials you will need to build a wood deck railing will vary depending on the type of railing you choose to build.
We recommend bringing a sketch to your local lumber yard and requesting a price for all necessary materials to build whatever size wood deck you plan.
In most cases, lumber yards and home improvement stores already have a complete list of materials and must plug in the size of the deck you want to build.
Before you go, you may want to decide whether you have the budget to build a traditional wood deck with treated pine deck boards, railings, and balusters or if you can upgrade to composite materials such as; the TimberTech Brand – Deck or other recycled polymer decking material brands.
With TimberTech deck materials, you’ll never have to stain and re-stain every couple of years – and they warranty the deck materials for 50 years against certain defects.
The most common Deck materials include:
- Pressure-treated wood: Pressure-treated wood is a type of wood that has been treated with chemicals to make it resistant to rot and decay. This is an important consideration for any deck railing, as it will be exposed to the elements.
- Composite Deck Materials: Many brands are available, considered a big upgrade, but at a significant cost over treated wood.
- Deck screws: Deck screws are a type of screw that is designed for use in outdoor applications. They are made of corrosion-resistant materials and have a sharp point that makes them easy to drive into wood.
- Wood glue: Wood glue is used to join pieces of wood together. It is important to use a type of wood glue that is designed for outdoor use.
- Stain or paint: Stain or paint is used to protect the wood of your deck railing and to give it a finished look. Many types of stains and paint are available, so you can choose a product that meets your needs.
- Concrete: Quickcrete is typically sold in 50 lb. bags and, when mixed with water, sets up in 20-30 minutes.
8) Tools Needed to Build Deck:
The tools you will need to build a wood deck railing will also vary depending on the type of railing you choose to build. However, some of the most common tools include:
- Circular (Rip) Saw
- Tape measure
- Post Hole Digger
- Garden Hose for Concrete Footings
- Safety glasses: To protect your eyes from flying wood chips and other debris.
Below you will find a quick video to show you basic steps on How to build a deck – that closely follows our Guide.
How To Build a Deck (Video)
Additional Tips for Building a Wood Deck
A Few More Tips for building a Wood Deck:
- Make sure that the railing is level. This is important for safety and visual appeal.
- Use pressure-treated wood for all of the framing and deck material. This will help to protect the wood from rot and decay.
- Make sure that all of the connections are secure. Always use galvanized nails or screws, and pre-drill all holes when using lag or thru bolts.
- Inspect the railing regularly for any signs of damage. If you see any damage, repair it immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions: (FAQ)
Q: What Are the Basic Steps For Building a Deck?
The five basic steps involved in Building a Deck are as follows:
- Plan Your Deck Size: The first step is to plan the railing. This includes deciding on the railing height, the type of railing, and the materials you will use.
- Pour The Footings: Once you have your deck plan laid out, you need to dig and pour the cement footings, to set your deck posts on. (alternatively, you can set the deck posts “in concrete” as you pour the concrete).
- Start Building: Once you have a plan, you need to attach the ledger, assemble the floor joists, and set the deck boards.
- Assemble the railing. Once the deck is built, you need to assemble the railing. This includes attaching the horizontal rails to the posts, and the balusters to the rails.
- Stain and Finish the railing. Once the railing is assembled, you will need to finish it. This includes staining or painting the railing and adding any other decorative elements.
Q: Should I Build a Deck or Hire a Builder?
A: If you’ve never built your own wood deck or helped someone else build a deck, you may wonder, “Should I build a deck or Hire a Builder?”
By reading the How to Build a Wood Deck steps above, you can discover how to build a deck, and determine:
A) If You have the skills to build a Deck Yourself.
B) The Desire to take on a Deck project by Yourself
C) Whether you should Hire a Professional builder.
I like to think of a wood deck as an “extension of your home.” Think about it; if you build a 12′ x 14′ wood deck, you just added 168 Square feet of (outdoor) living space to your home!
However, as important of a home improvement as that may be – If you’ve never built a deck before, we highly recommend getting help from a friend or neighbor that has built one (or ten:)
Once you have had personal experience with the basic, but important steps, it’s a cinch to build your own wood deck.
And, don’t forget to check with local building authorities before you start, as this project may require a building permit, which can be important if or when you go to sell the house!
Additional References & Resources