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Building a DIY Deck: What You Should Know

Constructing your own DIY deck is a doable task, but it takes research and skill. Here are a few things you'll need to know before tackling this project.

There are thousands of DIY decks built each year, some by novices, some by experienced home DIY pros. Unlike a paver patio, a DIY deck is a more complex project that involves careful consideration of materials and construction. Here's an overview of key terms and questions to ask before thinking about building your own deck.

Do you understand construction language?

As you research DIY decks, you're likely to run across some common terms. They include:

  • Decking: Decking is installed over a frame.
  • Joists: Joists are horizontal pieces that help to support a floor or ceiling. Rim joists are the outermost joists in a frame.
  • Cap rail: A cap rail adds a decorative finish to the tops of rails.
  • Beams: Beams support a deck horizontally.
  • Posts: Posts support a deck vertically.
  • Footings: Footings are the way a deck supports a base and its load.
  • Face: A board's wide surfaces.
  • Edge: The longer sides of a board.

Can you make a plan?

There are a variety of sources for creating a deck plan, including online planning tools and services available at home supply stores. Before you plan, though, you'll need to check with your municipality about codes that affect your proposed project. Once you've created a plan, you'll also need to generate views from various angles and elevations. You will need to get building approval from your city in order to proceed with the plan, too. If your deck involves digging, you will also have to have a utility evaluation so that you do not hit any underground lines.


Can you complete these DIY tasks?

Building a DIY deck involves multiple construction skills. Those include:


  • Driving nails both straight and at an angle into decking.
  • Drilling post holes and traditional holes.
  • Measuring angles to ensure that the deck is square.
  • Building stairs with the correct rise.
  • Pouring and leveling concrete, as well as sand or gravel. You will also need to set posts and beams if your deck is elevated.
  • Measuring and allowing for sills in your house related to placement of the deck surfaces.
  • Digging deck footings to reach below the frost line, if appropriate for the region. This may involve using a posthole digger or an auger.
  • Installing railings if needed. This involves semi-skilled carpentry.
  • Removing and replacing siding and flashing on your house. Your deck will connect to your home, and you may have to take off pieces of the house and fix them.

Research, research, research

There are whole books that detail plans and specific steps to follow when constructing a DIY deck. Review the options at your local library or bookstore and make sure you understand the requirements, tools, and expense before attempting a DIY deck.


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