How to Build a Deck

Learning how to build a deck for the first time can be a daunting task. There are many different tasks, tools, skills, and methods needed when building a deck. This guide will get you started in the right direction and hopefully make you feel a bit more comfortable.

Step 1

You have to make plans to submit to the municipality in order to obtain your permit. You should go to your city or township and they often have printed out guidelines to give you for making your plans. These guidelines will often give you some pointers on different deck building specifications and codes.

You will also need to fill out a permit application and pay their fees. Some cities require you to have a licensed architect draw up the plans and others will allow you to do it yourself.

Your plans should include:

– Locations and dimensions of footings

– The overall dimensions and also the measurements between different aspects of the deck

– The layout of the framing including the size and type of lumber being used

– What method you are using to attach the deck to the house if that is the location where you are building

– What kind and size of decking material you are using

– What material you are building your railing out of and the railing locations

– The overall dimensions and location of the stairs (if you have stairs)

Step 2

After you have gotten the guidelines on how to build a deck along with your permit from the municipality, it is time to break ground. You want to make a layout on the ground as to where the footings are going to be.

You will then need to dig the footings which are typically 3’ deep with a diameter of 1’. Digging is easiest with a two man gas powered auger. You can rent one of these at your local tool rental location. A one man auger pulls a close second place and hand tools are the most difficult method.

Step 3

Keep in mind when you need to call the municipality to have inspections scheduled. You might have to get a footing inspection prior to building the footings. Many inspectors will answer specific questions you may have about how to build a deck. You can now build your footing(s) which are often either poured concrete or concrete blocks cemented together.

It is wise to rent a cement mixer to do this part as it will save you a tremendous amount of time and save your body. If you are doing a poured footing then you should use form tubes to keep the concrete in shape above the dirt level. You want to come up at least a few inches above the dirt to keep water away from the framing of the deck.

Step 4

The next step in how to build a deck is building the framing for your deck. The first and most difficult step are to attach the ledger board to the house. You have to bolt the board to the house using ½” galvanized bolts with a length that will penetrate the house at least 1 ½”.

You also need to put a piece of ledger flashing on the board which will tuck behind the siding in applicable situations. You will pre-drill the holes then fasten the bolts every 16” with a staggered pattern up and down. So, you will have one bolt towards the top of the ledger bolt and then another bolt 16” away towards the bottom and so on.

You will then build the framing according to your plans using the proper pressure treated lumber. When building a deck use the proper galvanized nails and connectors.  Make sure to fill all of the predrilled nail holes in the connectors.

You will need to install any posts needed for installing the railing during the framing process. The best method to attach the posts to the framing is to pre-drill holes for galvanized bolts.

After the holes are drilled you want to pound the bolts into the holes and tighten nuts onto the bolts. You can add an angle brace onto the post for added stability.  Make sure the posts are level in both directions.

You should also put a piece of framing wood against the post to have something to support your decking material later on. This is a very good trick on how to build a deck that will save you a lot of time and aggravation later on.

You can learn the process of building stairs, which can be complicated, by clicking on the previous link. Half of the stair building process is considered part of the framing step.

Step 5

After you have completed your framing and gotten an approval from the inspector for the framing, the next step is to start installing the decking material. You want to line up the joints in a consistent pattern and try not to have joints all in line with each other from one row to the next.

There are many different fastening methods out there but you are better off going with one of the methods which use screws as they will hold the longest. You also want to leave a ¼” gap between each row of boards to allow debris and precipitation to naturally evacuate the deck. A carpenter’s pencil is an excellent tool to use for spacing. You can use whatever makes you feel comfortable as long as it is consistent.

Step 6

Installing the railing is the last major part of how to build a deck. There are many different methods and kits for railing construction. Each different method and kit will have different steps to take to install the railing.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you are using a railing kit. Whatever method you use to make sure that your balusters leave no more than a 4” gap between them.

You will need to add a hand rail onto the stairs. The top of the railing needs to be between 30” – 38” from the front edge of each tread.  It needs to extend from the front edge of the deck to the front edge of the bottom tread.