07 December 2007

4 Simple Steps of Building a Deck

Here 4 very simple steps to follow in building a deck: preparation and layout; building the piers and footing; making of the posts, beams, joists, and stairs; and, building the railings and deckings.

A comfortable space outside the house can be a highlight to home sweet home. Decks are very flexible, both utilitarian and aesthetic. For the do-it-yourself deck builder, building a deck can be a fun endeavor.  Here are 4 simple steps to follow:

Preparation and layout

Free the ground under the deck of sod. For drainage, make it slope away from the house (minimum 1" per 15'). Measure and mark ledger position along wall, height ideally below 1" below the door plus thickness of decking. (Consider joist depth for beams and ledgers instead of joist hangers. Either way, ensure layout consistency.)

Mount ledger (2'x6') to the wall with lag screws (1/2"). Ensure ledger is level and the lag screws long enough to penetrate studs at least 3": lag screws at each end, one at each wall stud in between (16" on center). Either add a Z-shaped flashing above ledger to shed water or space ledger away from wall using washers.

For exterior deck perimeter, measure out 18" from each ledger end beyond outside deck edge. Batter boards follow, then taut strings running from each ledger end to batter boards for the deck's sides. Have a third string running between batter boards to set the deck's outside edge. Measure opposite diagonals. Adjust strings, ledger to batter boards, until you have two equal measurements. Maintain the right distance between strings.

Building the piers and footing

Establish footings' location using plumb bob from the string. Footing holes should be deep enough to rest on untouched soil. Dig 6" deeper and fill hole's bottom with gravel for drainage.

Mix concrete. Pour footings. Measure footings' depth (inches) and divide by 8. While finishing each pour, set a precast pier on the footing to make it extend about 6" above the ground.For piers to bond with footings, choose thin cement mix.

Making the posts, beams, joists, and stairs

Once concrete has set, stand posts on piers. Plumb posts using temporary braces and a level. Run a mason's line, ledger top to each post. To mark for cutting, use a line level. Note: post height equal to ledger height minus beam depth.

Fasten post-beam connectors on post tops using nails and hex bolts (1/2"x51/2"). Set beams into connector. Plumb and square assembly. Secure beams. Mark joist locations on beams and ledgers per your design. Joists in place, crowns up. Then nail rim joist across the joist ends. For stairs, anything goes.

Building the railings and deckings

Lay deck boards, bark side up, both ends centered over a joist. Stagger joints of side-by-side boards. Notch boards around posts, leaving drainage space (1/8"). Space 2"-inch-thick boards by 1/8". You can place 5/4"x6" pressure-treated decking with individual boards flush against the next.

Fasten deck boards at each joist. Two fasteners for each support point for decking up as wide as 6". Make decking run over edge of structure. Saw the ends. Secure railing posts at deck corners and stair sides. Secure field posts. Nail sub-railings, cap rail in place. Add balusters.

Here's a tip: cover the ground with black polyethylene to fight weeds.

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