How to Be a Better Deck Builder

Updated on June 4, 2020
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Cristina is a Florida native and Realtor by trade. She enjoys writing about travel, real estate, and any other topics she finds interesting.

Building a deck can be an intimidating project for anyone. If you’re going to try your hand at being a deck builder, you should be as prepared for the job as you can be. You'll need great attention to detail and your best craftsmanship for your deck installation. It's definitely a project worth taking on if you have the time. Few things will be as satisfying as hanging out on the deck you built yourself.

This article will break down some tips and tricks for improving your deck-building abilities.

This article will break down how to become a better deck builder, so that you can construct the exact kind of deck you want for your home.
This article will break down how to become a better deck builder, so that you can construct the exact kind of deck you want for your home.

When you're the deck builder, you're intimately familiar with every inch of your deck, with every fastener and every board. The deck railing, the deck stairs, and every part of the deck will hold a story that you'll remember for years to come. Building a deck can’t be rushed if you want a long-lasting and safe structure for you, your family, and your friends to enjoy.

Every deck is unique. Your family's needs, the unique geological features of your yard, the size of your house, nearby trees, and your local climate all help determine the deck construction, size, and materials. As with any building project, you want to anticipate surprises, so budget extra for those. If you don't need the extra money (or time) in your budget, great! Spend it on something else. If you do, you'll be happy that you had the foresight to plan for it.

Tips for Building a Backyard Deck

There’s no single way to build a deck. Do you use wood or composite wood decking? Do you need a deck railing? Deck stairs? Regardless of the size of the deck and its various components, there are lots of things that can help you be a better builder. Here are a few tips to get you started!

Use pre-cut deck parts.

Though you can make most of the materials you'll need for your deck, you can also buy many of those in pre-cut pieces. For instance, your local home improvement store likely sells items such as spindles for the deck railing and stringers for building stairs. These convenient supplies save you headaches, speed up your project, and can save you money in the long run.

Choose your lumber wisely.

Many decks today are still built with good, old-fashioned wood. Pressure-treated lumber may still be a favorite among deck builders, but composite wood decking has its advantages. It's often under warranty for 20 years or more, and this might save you money in the long term—though composite wood will cost you more upfront. For homeowners who plan to stay in their home for many years, composite wood offers years of maintenance-free deck enjoyment.

On the other hand, pressure-treated lumber is more budget friendly for your build. It's also easier to stain, paint, or otherwise customize to your tastes and to match your home's exterior.

Make sure you adequately weigh the advantages and disadvantages to the particular kind of wood you end up choosing.
Make sure you adequately weigh the advantages and disadvantages to the particular kind of wood you end up choosing.

Don’t neglect flashing!

Sandwiching boards on boards is super basic, but if you want to protect the structure next to your deck then flashing is a requirement. Just like with a valley in a roof, flashing redirects water so it goes where it should, rather than creating a rotten mess between the deck and the structure you’ve attached it to. Use ledger flashing all across the top of boards that are in direct contact with any sort of building, then apply flashing tape over it such that about half of the width overlaps the flashing and half overlaps the structure.

Seal the invisible bits.

It’s easy to forget that the hidden parts of your deck will need longer-term protection. After all, once you’ve covered them with lumber it’s kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind situation. Instead of opening your deck’s structure to rot and other moisture-related problems, seal the joist tops with flexible flashing (a lot like what you’re using for the ledger that’s against your house). There’s a peel and stick version that makes it really easy to get the job done.

Using the right tools for the job is essential for producing your desired results.
Using the right tools for the job is essential for producing your desired results.

Use a concrete pad as a foundation.

Once upon a time, it was standard practice to dig post holes and encase those posts in concrete or backfill the holes with rocks and soil. We now know this isn't the best practice. A much better option for your deck's foundation is a concrete pad. Pour a level pad on which the posts sit. Seal the post ends and use post bases to prevent moisture wicking.

Use the right tools for the job.

A basic homeowner's toolkit often includes drills, levels, a circular saw, and maybe even a table saw and nail gun. These will get you by for most of the deck installation. You might need more specialized equipment for some parts of the job, however, such as fastening the deck to concrete. For those unusual circumstances, it isn't necessary to buy special tools. Borrow them from friends, and if your friends don't have what you need, many tools are now available for rent from your local hardware store.

There's nothing quite like enjoying a deck that you built yourself.
There's nothing quite like enjoying a deck that you built yourself.

There's much more to building a deck than these tips. They're just a start and mostly serve as tips to help you build the best deck you can. You might also like step-by-step instructions, information on how much it costs to build a deck, and patio planning 101.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Cristina Vanthul

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