Eight Things You Need To Know Before Building Your Perfect Deck

A beautiful deck can add value to your home and enhance your enjoyment of your living environment. Imagine relaxing in your outdoor retreat, enjoying the sunrise with a cup of coffee or taking in the lovely colors of a gorgeous sunset. You might have some ideas on how you want your deck to look as you daydream about it. Your dream deck can become a reality, but you need to be mindful of several important tips that will help make this project a success.

Mid adult carpenter cutting wood with handheld saw while coworkeKnow What The Local Codes Are

A deck that is above a particular size and height will require a building permit. Check with your local building department on what those codes are to make sure that your project is in compliance. Any building projects that are not built to code will cause you problems if you ever decide to sell your home. Adhering to building codes will also ensure that the structure is safe for the intended usage.

Come Up With A Design

Walk around the house and decide on where this deck will be built. Will it be an extension from the back of the house? Is it on an upper level? Does it stand on its own? Sketch out a design on paper. See if your nearest home center has computerized design tools that can help you render a drawing of the deck. These types of tools can even generate a list of building materials from the design that you create.

Prepare A Solid Foundation

Your dream deck must be built on sound footings that are properly installed to code. The footings are set in concrete and the depth must be below the frost line determined by where you live. A typical deck must be able to support the weight of the structure itself, otherwise known as the “dead load”, and the weight of the furniture and people, known as the “live load”. A typical deck should be able to support about 60 pounds per square foot. However, if your live load will be heavier because you want to add huge planters or even a hot tub, the support structures will need to be reinforced for safety.

If your deck is going to be attached to your house, you will need to attach a large beam or the ledger to the side of your house where the substructure of the deck will be built. The beam is typically two inches thick by either eight, ten or twelve inches wide. The ledger and footings, when set properly and to code are the key to a finished structure that will be safe, level, and sound.

Proper Installation Of Joists

After you set the ledger, the deck frame will be built. The joists should be made from pressure-treated lumber. It is absolutely vital that you use accurate measuring tools like an engineer’s square to make sure that the joists are square when you attach them. The joist hangers should be attached 16 inches apart from the center of the side rails. Lay out all of your joists and then, using galvanized nails, secure them all at once.

The first floor board that you lay out should hang over by about half an inch. If your deck is protected by an enclosure, tongue-and-groove flooring material can be used.

Selecting Your Deck Materials

Traditionally, decking materials are made from wood. They can be natural, treated, and even resistant to insects. However, more and more consumers are turning to composite decking. Although this material might cost more than wood, the long-term advantages outweigh the extra cost. These benefits include durability, less maintenance in cleaning and the the lack of a need to refinish. Many composite decking manufacturers guarantee their products for up to 20 years. This reduces the need to replace deck boards as frequently as wood boards.

If you choose wood deck boards, select them carefully. Boards should not be curved or cupped. The edges of the boards should be devoid of knots. However, it is often difficult to have all of your deck boards in perfect condition. If you do end up with boards with a cup, install them so the top of the curve is upward.

Use fasteners, either screws or nails, that are labeled for building decks. These are designed for exterior projects. You can fasten your deck boards from the top or you can choose a fastening system that fastens from below. This allows the fasteners to be hidden from view for a more seamless appearance.

Space The Boards Apart

Wood boards will expand and contract based on weather conditions. When you lay down the boards, allow gaps between the boards so that water can drain through. Typically, wood boards will require a gap of one-eighth to three-eighths of an inch. Spacing for synthetic boards will depend on the manufacturer’s specifications. You can achieve even spacing by using special spacers.


You will need to protect the beauty of your wood deck with a coat of finish. If you use lumber that was treated, you will need to wait a few months before finishing. There are many sealers and stains that will give your deck the color that you want. Your wood deck will typically need to be cleaned and refinished every two years or so.

Deck Railing

Be sure to consult with your building codes when installing your deck railings. There are usually guidelines similar to what you would expect for railings for stairs and inside the house. Railings come in many designs and choosing the right design can truly enhance the beauty of your deck. Make sure that you purchase enough for your entire deck.

Your deck can be a reflection of your style and taste. When you choose fixtures, use the style of your house and your furniture to find a complementary look. Enhancing it with the right trim and details will give it the unique qualities that will make the deck of your dreams extra special.