Adding a deck to your home is an easy way to add valuable living space to your property. It’s a great place for entertaining and family get-togethers or just a place to hang out on a warm summer evening. In this article I’m going to outline the steps required to build a basic deck.
All projects need a plan weather it be a full set of blueprints or a simple drawing on a piece of paper. A well thought out project will go much smoother. During the planning stage be sure you know the building codes in your area. Whats acceptable in one town may not be in another. A building permit is required in most areas.
Once you know exactly what shape you are going to build you need to lay it out. Start by marking the points where you would like the deck to start and end on the building. These points can be extended out from the building to your outside corners. Using the 3,4,5 method of squaring will give you lines that are perfectly perpendicular to the building. Mark your corners with stakes. Next measure for footings. Normally footings should be 8 feet apart or less. Depending on how far out your deck will be is the determining factor of how many rows of footings you will need. If your deck protrudes 6 feet you will only need the outside row but if your going a longer distance you will need 2 rows or more.
Now that you know where your footings are going to be it’s time to dig. In most areas footings need to be 42 inches deep but again check your local codes. Sona tubes make ideal footings for decks. Once your holes are dug and your sona tubes are in and back-filled it’s time to pour cement. A simple rule of thumb for 42″ holes is 3 bags of cement per hole. If your going to use post bottoms on your 4×4’s now is the time to add the anchor bolts in the concrete but be sure you install them where the center of the 4×4’s will be.
All decks must have a ledger board. This is normally the same width and thickness lumber as your floor joists. The ledger board must be securely fastened to the building and at the correct height. To determine the correct height of the ledger measure from the house floor or the top of the door sill down 6 inches. This will be the top of the decking. From here measure down the thickness of the decking and that will be the top of the ledger and your joists.
Under normal circumstances deck framing should be 16″ on center. In some areas even 12″ on center is required. Never build a deck 24″ on center as the decking can not span this far. Pressure treated lumber should be used for all wood components and all nails and connectors should be galvanized. Joist hangers should be used at all connections including post bottoms. Posts can either be notched or bolted with galvanized bolts, washers and nuts. When installing 4×4 posts be sure they stick up high enough to accept the railing.
There are many decking choices today ranging from wood to man made composites. Composite decking looks better over time where pressure treated decking begins to look very old as it ages. Composite decking is maintenance free where pressure treated needs to be renewed every few years. Whatever decking you choose it must be installed perpendicular to your floor joists and if at all possible running the same direction as you would normally walk. Be sure flashing is installed between the house and the deck framing prior to installing any decking.
Today there are a wide variety of railing styles. Pressure treated balusters and spindles used to be your main choices for railing materials but currently there are other options. Composite and vinyl railing systems are now available which give your deck a much more finished look and are quite simple to install. Handrails normally are installed at about 42 inches above your decking but this dimension varies widely from area to area. Check with your local building department for correct heights in your town.
Adding a deck to your home can be a fun and rewarding project that can be accomplished in a few weekends. And if you can do it yourself you will probably save enough money to buy that new barbecue grill.