Building a Basic Deck

Building a deck may seem a daunting task, but is not impossible if you have a few basic skills such as using a shovel, level, tape measure, hammer, saw and drill.  These tools are straight forward in their use and are skills that are easily mastered.  Don’t let them scare you away from this easy task.  I will give you the step by step procedures for building a simple deck in your back yard that you can enjoy for years to come. This project can be completed in a hard weekend. 

The first thing you need to decide is where you want your deck and how large you want it.  For first time builders, don’t start to large or complicated.  As your skill improves, you can add to your deck and add features that will give your deck more interest.

An eight foot by ten foot deck is large enough for a small group of people to enjoy without falling over each other.  Check the local building codes for requirements (if any) in your area such as footing and material requirements, etc.  If you want to attach the deck to your house, and are a first time builder, you will need a contractor to help you do this correctly and in accordance with local requirements to prevent any problems in the future.  I will cover only an 8 foot by 10 foot free standing deck at this time. 

Some common terms:

Rim Joists:  the heavier support lumber around the outside of the deck

Joists: the large boards inside the rim joists to support decking.  These are normally the same size as the rim joists.

A number with ‘ behind means feet. 

A number with “ behind it means inches.  So 7’0” means 7 feet and 0 inches.

Crowning:  Sighting down the narrow edges of a board (very few are perfectly straight) and marking the area that is high in the center of the board.

The first step is to pick up the materials from your local builders supply.  They will be able to give you a material list based on the size of deck you are building. The material list should include two 8’ and five 10’ boards to be used as joists.   Deck piers will work in most applications and are easy to work with.  Once you have your piers, lumber, nails or screws (recommended) you can get ready to get your hands dirty and have some fun.  Screws are a little harder to install than a nail but they will not loosen up over time causing the deck to wobble.   Piers are a concrete pillar 8 to 10 inches tall and larger on the bottom with cutouts in the top to accept your joists in two directions, 90 degrees from each other.  You can get by with as few as 6 of these, but they determine how solid your deck is when you walk on it.  My suggestion is to use 12 of these inexpensive items and you will not regret the additional cost.  Set four piers at the corners of your deck in a rough square.  If you want it is aligned with your house you can measure from the wall of your house to two pillars and adjust them until they are parallel with your house.  Cut two joists 10 feet long and two 7 foot 10 inches long. These are called the rim joists.  They should be at least a treated 2 x 6.   Remember to crown all the joists.  Place them in the top of your corner piers making sure the 10 foot boards are on the inside of the 7’10” joists.  Screw through the  7’10” boards into the 10 foot boards making sure to use at least three screws that are at least 3 inches long.  These corners you just made should set in the piers securely.  Next, using your level, starting at the lowest corner and working around the perimeter, adjust the piers by removing soil from beneath them until all sides are level.  Keep checking and rechecking during this process.  After you have leveled the entire perimeter, you must check the square of your frame.  To do this, measure between opposite corners in an ‘X’ pattern. These measurements need to be equal.  If one leg of the ‘X’ is longer, slide it toward the short side in small increments until both measurements are equal.  Remember to check for level as you do this step. button head

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *