Building A Deck

Written by Donald Sparacin
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Building a deck can be a great project that will add beauty and functionality to most homes. With a little patience and clear instructions it can also be a great family project. The skill required in building a deck isn't all that extensive. If you can hammer a nail, properly measure and cut a piece of wood, follow instructions, and dig a few holes you can add value to your home and feel the pride of accomplishment.

Building a Deck Isn't Rocket Science

Contrary to what builders might say when they want to charge you $15 to $25 per square foot of deck surface, building a deck isn't all that difficult. Deck plans can be found in every home center, on the Internet, and in every library. If you follow the instructions, a simple deck can be constructed in a weekend with a little help, or over a couple of weekends if you're doing it alone. One person with even the most basic skills can erect a near-ground level deck with very little effort.

Deck building always begins with pressure treated posts that are set into the ground and cemented in place (you can instead set a concrete footing and connect the post on top with a specific piece of hardware). Depending on where you live, the holes should be anywhere from 18" in warmer climates to 3' in those areas where the frost line is deep. Make sure that the posts are level, since they will be supporting the entire weight of your deck, furniture, and friends. Joists will be affixed to the posts at either 16" or 24" intervals, and the decking material will be affixed to the joists.

When preparing the posts to support the joists and subsequent decking, be sure to think about leaving some of them long enough for the railings and stairs (if necessary). Not all decks will require a railing, but if your deck is above 2' it would be wise to include it into the design for safety. One important note worth mentioning is to remember high school math. The Pythagoras theorem (A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared) will help you insure that your deck is squared. The easiest way to do this is to remember 3-4-5. Measure 3 feet along the house, 4 feet along a string that you bring out from the corner of the house, and 5 feet from each end point. The result will be a string line that will be exactly perpendicular no matter how far your deck goes from the house.

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