Building a DIY Wood Deck: Your Quick Start Guide
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Building a DIY Wood Deck: Your Quick Start Guide

The reader will get a good understanding of how to approach building a deck and will learn the simplest way to get a list of materials and an accurate drawing or blue print for the job.

First its a good idea to draw a simple diagram of the shape of your house and yard. Include sunrise and sunset locations on your house. This becomes important when using your deck comfortably in winter or summer. In the summer the sun will rise from due East but as we approach winter the sun will move slowly to the South East. Its usually not a good idea to build a deck on the North side of the house if you live in areas with cold winters as ice and snow will not melt very fast. On the other hand if you live in a climate that's warm all year long the North side of the house provides shade for your deck.

Decide on the dimensions for your new deck

Once you've selected the best location you'll have to decide how big you would like your deck to be and how high. The higher you go up the more room you'll have to leave for a staircase if you want access from the ground instead of through a upper room. Also consider and look for an electrical outlet in close proximity to the deck. An outlet close by can be used to provide power for lighting and other appliances for your deck.

Set a budget

Next how much can you afford to spend and what material would you like to use for your deck. There are many different kinds of wood that if treated will provide a long lasting beautiful look and feel. There is also plastic wood available now that needs no paint or periodic treatments to keep it looking brand new. The plastic lasts a very long time.

Make your measurements

Now its time to measure dimensions of your deck. Here's a tip make the deck in standard wood dimensions, for example wood or plastic will be available in 6"x 8'x 1-1/2(six inches wide by eight feet long by one and a half inches deep.) also these boards will come in longer lengths 8,10, 12, feet they can also come in different widths 6, 8, 12 inches most of the time depth is kept at 1- 1/2 inches. A good thing to do is use these dimensions to your advantage for example ( deck at 8 feet by 10 feet)  6 inches times two is one foot so you wold need 20- 6"x8' x 1-1/2" boards, to make an 8' x 10' deck using 12" boards you would only need 10-12" x 8' foot boards. However 12" boards used for floor decking don't work as well as 6 or 10 inch boards because they have a tendency to warp more than the smaller width boards.

Now that you have the floor boards figured out its time to consider the support stringers that will hold your deck floor straight and will carry the combined weight of all your friends and tables and chairs. Most stringers are made using a 12"x (deck length (8',10',12' feet)) normally spaced 2 feet on center across the width of the deck with two of the stringers making the sides.

Are you handy enough to drive nails? If not, use screws.

You will have to decide whether or not you can swing a hammer accurately enough to use nails. If you can drive a 16 Penny nail with 3-4 swings using a 21oz hammer then you can use nails but if you can't a miss will damage the appearance of your deck. In this case I would recommend using Philips head screws that are 2-1/4" in length with a medium fluted ridge that spirals down the screw also you will want to get several Philips driver tips #2 or #3 whichever fits the screw head snugly no wiggle. you will also need to buy brackets for the stringers this will allow you to attache one end securely to the house. The best way to ensure a good connection is to cut a board for the front and back of your deck, the back 12"x (deck width 8',10',12'feet) attach this piece to your house measuring from a wall stud 16" inches on center and drive a screw through the piece with a big enough screw to get through the 1-1/2 deck board the siding (3/8 to 1/2 inches) celotex (1/2" inch) and into the stud an inch to inch and a quarter use a drill bit smaller than the diameter of the screw to make holes where the screws will go this helps to drive them easier. This board that attaches to your house and sets the location of deck to the house. Attach stringer brackets to the board attached to the house at 2' foot centers.

Confirm that everything is squared up

Then to make sure your deck is nice and square to the house use an old carpenter trick measure the deck from any corner of the deck to the opposite corner now do the other two corners they should measure the same the measured X ensures that a rectangle or square deck is square and not skewed make these two lengths as close to the same as possible but don't spend all day as 1/4" is close enough for carpentry on this particular measurement.

Laying your foundation and your decking

Now you will have to lay out holes along the stringers these holes will be used to hold 4"x4" square posts embedded in concrete at least 18" that will hold and support the stringers. Again they make brackets that will tie the stringers to the posts. Once this is done you're ready to put down the floor decking using your 6", 8', or 10' inch wide boards place the deck across the stringers perpendicular ( 90 degrees from each other) Its the opposite of parallel ( running side by side to each other) fit the boards with a spacing of at least 1/4" but not over 1/2" other wise things can fall through and be hard to recover such as your wife's best silverware. Place a 12"x (wide of deck) on the front to make the face of the deck using screws that you use to attache the floor.

What kind of railing?

The simplest is using 2" x 2" boards for the vertical pieces (the ones that go up and down) and 2"x 4" or one of your boards you use on the floor put one on the bottom and the other on the top if your using 10" boards for your flooring then you may have to make a double vertical rail.

Building stairs

If your deck has been elevated enough to require stairs here's what you do: measure from the top of the deck to your landing that's sitting on the ground. The landing can be made from concrete paver stones wood or what ever looks nice and doesn't provide a slippery surface. Now do you remember from algebra class Pythagoras therom  C^2 = A^2 + B^2 OR ANOTHER WAY IS GET RID OF THE SQUARE  C = (THE SQUARE ROOT) OF A^2 + B^2) this equation gives the rise over the run ( the angle of the stairs) - ideally you want your stairs to be (top of stair 12" and height of stair 6") look at a stairway as a right triangle the stair slope is the tangent of the angle or C in the equation A is the sin (rise) B is the cosign (run) the ^ sign above means (example A = 6x6 = 6^2 or six raised to the second power meaning multiply 6 two times 6x6=36 , 6^3 means 6x6x6=216) a right triangle has three sides and three corners one corner equals 90 degrees and the other two corners added together will equal 90 degrees for a total of 180 degrees therefor rise over run on the stair that's 6" rise and 12" run (C= SQRoot of A Squared plus B squared ) = ( C= AxA + BxB then take the square root of the total of A & B this will equal the distants from stair tip to stair tip this gives a stair 12" on top 6" step down and 13.41" from front tip of one stair to the front tip of the next step also the arc tan of 13.41 gives the angle of the slope.

Now go build!

Now that you have a good idea of how to start I'm going to give you the easiest way to build a deck go to Home Depot or most other large building materials store and ask them to sit down with you dimensions and design your deck using their computer software most all of them have it and it will give you a list and price for every thing you need.

Hope this helps Have a Great day and a Better Tomorrow. Vic.

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Comments (2)

Quick Start Guide, sounds like that one page set up guide that comes with a new computer or printer. You've certainly packed a lot of information in one short article, maybe too much because you left several very important areas out of your informative article. First you didn't mentioned checking with the building permits department at city hall and that's very important because most areas will require a permit before you can start construction on a deck. Second you didn't mention contacting the local utility company to find out the locations of underground electric, gas, water and telephone lines. Damage one of those during construction and you have a very expensive and possibily fatal problem on your hands or the hands of your survivors. To apply for a permit you will need drawings that are more than a mere sketch. The good news here is that you can go to Lowes on line and design your deck there using their deck designing/building software free. all you have to do is sign up for a free account. After logging in to your account go to "How-To", then click on "Interactive DesignTools," then, under "Building Products," click on "Deck Design Tool." This is a very intuitive program that allows you to design and build the deck of your dreams. After the design is finished you can print out the design, the plans to build it, as well as a bill of materials that you can use at Lowes, Home Depot, or any other supplier of your choice. But you will need the information providing by the building codes department first before using the program because you to know required footer depth, minimum weight per sq.ft. that the deck must support, etc. The deck building part of the site will give a complete list of the tools needed as well as detailed step by step instructions on how to assemble the deck. These instructions are loaded with pictures and diagrams that every first time deck builder will need to complete the project successfully. I had no trouble following your article and filling in the gaps, Vic, but it's never a good idea to assume that your reader may have knowledge that they really don't have because it can get them into serious trouble. I'm not going to get into what assuming anything does to the writer who made the assumption.

It is actually easy to build a wood deck as long as you have the little skills in creating wood products. However, if you don't have any idea of creating this wood deck, it is better to purchase a ready made product. I really appreciate the information you have written on this article. Thank you, keep it up!