While decks can come in all shapes and sizes, the basic form of a deck is universal; there are footers, posts, frames, decking boards, and a railing. With a handful of tools and some basic construction knowledge, building a deck can be a simple task completed on a long weekend. Before you get started on any deck project, check with your local city or municipality for coding and inspections.
Things You'll Need
2x6 pressure-treated boards (length will depend on the width of the deck)
5 pressure-treated decking boards, 4
x 6 foot
4 step stringers (number of steps/stringer will depend on your plans)
Railing uprights of choice (i.e. 2 x 2 x 3 foot pressure treated, quantity will depend on plans)
Socket/wrench for carriage nut
Nail gun and compressor set up (optional)
Spiral shank nails (if using a nail gun)
3 inch deck screws (if not using a nail gun)
2 inch deck screws (or spiral shank nails)
Miter saw (optional)
Concrete mixing tub or concrete mixer
White marking paint (optional)
Concrete forms (optional)
Planning and Layout
Step 1: Consult With a Building Planner
Meet with a building planner at your local lumber yard to determine the close estimate of material you will need and help you with information on deck code requirements and inspections for your specific area. The building codes might dictate the size, railing, footings, and other details of the deck build.
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Step 2: Get Utility Lines Marked
Call for utility mark-outs before digging. You can call 811 to request the markings. Call at least a few days ahead of time to ensure the utilities are marked before you start working.
Step 3: Stake the Corners
Plant a stake where a corner will be. Tie string around the stake. Measure 3 inches shy of 24 feet (23 feet, 9 inches) moving toward the next corner and marking it with a stake. Wrap the string line around that stake a few times and move toward the next corner. Establish all four corners in this way.
Step 4: Check for Square
Check for square of the deck layout before you continue. Start on the short side of your new 90-degree angle and measure up 6 feet to make a mark. Return to the corner and measure 8 feet down the far side and make a mark. Measure from mark to mark. This measurement should be 10 feet but may need to be adjusted in or out to square the angle. Set your stake. Repeat this for each corner until your outline has 4 right angles.
Step 5: Mark Post Locations
Mark a spot with either spray paint or a shovel where the first stake is located. Measure every 4 feet along the string line in each direction marking each interval with the paint or shovel. These marks indicate where the posts need to be placed.
Step 6: Dig Post Holes
Dig a hole at each mark at least 2 feet down and at least twice the size of the post. This may vary depending on codes and frost lines in your area. In some areas, these holes will need to fit the concrete forms as well.
Step 7: Set Your Posts
Set posts in holes (and forms if necessary) and mix concrete and water with a hoe in a mixing tub or mixer. Pour concrete in holes until the hole/form is filled.
Step 8: Level the Posts
Level each post and tack a 2x4 or scrap lumber to the post and a stake driven into the ground to keep it solid until the concrete sets. Leave posts and concrete to cure overnight.
Framing Your Deck
Step 1: Mark the Top of the Deck
Mark a line on a post at the height that the top of the deck will be (this will be determined by style and possibly codes) and subtract 7 1/2 inches and make a new mark for the ledger board (7 1/2 inches is the height of the decking board and the 2 x 6 frame). From this mark use the level to get a straight line to all the posts (due to the unevenness of the ground a measurement cannot be taken at each post).
Step 2: Hang Ledger Boards
Attach the ledger board to the posts (along the 24-foot length) with 3-inch decking screws or spiral shank nails first. Use the 12-foot pressure-treated 2 x 8s on the outside to show fewer joints. The 8 foot pressure-treated 2 x 8s will go on the inside of the posts creating two lines of sandwiched posts. Double check level as you go.
Step 3: Insert Carriage Bolts
Drill two 1/2-inch holes diagonal to each other per post and tap carriage bolts through. Insert them so that the heads will be showing on the outside and the hardware will be on the inside. Tighten bolts with ratchet/socket until the carriage head or nut becomes flush with the ledger board.
Step 4: Establish Band Boards
Dedicate the four 2 x 6 x 12-foot boards to become band boards so that there are two lengths of 24 feet. These band boards will act as a layout marker for the deck joists as well as an outside frame to hide joist ends. Lay the boards in two lines butted up to each other so that you can lay out both band boards at the same time. The band boards are the exact 24 feet and will stick past each outside post by 1 1/2 inch, which is the width of a 2 x 6 board. This way the posts are inside the framework but the total width of the deck is 24 feet.
Step 5: Mark Lines on the Boards
Measure 1 1/2 inches from the beginning and make a mark on each board for the width of the outside joist. Measure over from the end 15 1/4 inches and make a mark followed by an X (this denotes that the joist starts at 15 1/4 inches and covers the X so that the center of the joist will fall exactly on 16 inches). Continue this pattern of marking a line 3/4 of an inch prior to each multiple of 16 inches until you reach the end of the board where the last mark will be 1 1/2 inches from the end as in the beginning.
Step 6: Attach Your Band Boards
Attach band boards to each post using three 3-inch screws or spiral shank nails to each post. Band boards will sit on top of the ledger boards and overhang the outside posts by 1 1/2 inches.
Step 7: Insert the Joists
Insert joists between band boards at each of the layout marks. These will also rest on the ledger boards with the exception of the two outside joists, which will get attached to both the band boards and the posts. Use three 3-inch screws or spiral shank nails to attach the joists to band boards and posts.
Install the Decking and Railing
Step 1: Attach the Decking
Attach decking to floor joists with 3-inch screws or spiral shank nails. Cut out any notches or holes to work the decking around the post using a jigsaw; this makes a nice finishing touch and keeps the posts intact for hand rail uprights. Start with a full decking board and then stagger each consecutive row by four feet. This helps break up joints and gives more strength to the deck.
Step 2: Cut Final Row
Rip down the final row of decking boards with a circular saw (if necessary) to the proper width, allowing for some overhang if desired. Attach with screws or nails.
Step 3: Cut the Posts
Cut each post to the proper height from the top of the deck (minus 1 1/2 for top railing). This is generally around 3 feet but may be specified in some areas.
Step 4: Attach 2 x 4
Attach a 2 x 4 parallel to the deck, flush with the top of the posts and at the junction of the decking and the posts using 3-inch screws or nails. Remember to leave a 4-foot section open between two posts for the stairs.
Step 5: Attach Top Rails
Attach the 2 x 6 top deck rails to the top of the post, flush with the outside of the post and covering the 2 x 4 edge using 3-inch screws or nails.
Step 6: Create a Spacer Block
Cut a spacer block to the width that each railing upright needs to be. This is generally about 3 inches plus or minus 1/4 inch, but check with your local codes.
Step 7: Level the Upright
Level the first upright and begin attaching with 2-inch screws or nails. Space them with the block and check level every five or six uprights; adjust accordingly.
Build the Stairs
Step 1: Cut the Steps
Cut a 2 x 8 into two 4-foot, 3-inch sections and mark a line at 1 1/2 inch on each end. Again measure over 15 1/4 inches, drawing a line followed by an X and repeat (this layout will give you a 4-foot wide set of steps).
Step 2: Attach to Stair Stringers
Attach each step stringer to the 4 foot, 3 inch 2 x 8 using 3-inch screws or nails. Attach the 2 x 8 to the flat side of the stringer just past the angled edge (opposite to the upright of a tread).
Step 3: Attach the Stairs
Place the stair form on the face of a band board or outside joist so that the outside stringers line up just outside of two posts (this saves digging new posts for stair railing). Level treads parallel to the ground and the whole stringer set up with the deck. Use patio block to set the bottom solid. Attach stairs with 3-inch screws or nails and 3-inch lag bolts.
Step 4: Install Bottom Posts
Dig two more holes for posts near the bottom of the steps for hand rail post. Set the posts, level them and pour concrete into the post holes. Attach the posts to the stairs with carriage bolts—you don't have to wait for the concrete to set unless it's necessary for inspection.
Step 5: Attach Side Rails and Top Rail
Cut the bottom posts, top rails and 2 x 4 rails at the same angle that the deck stairs are laid out. Attach 2 x 4 side rails flush with the top of the post using screws or nails. Attach the top rail to the posts but this time flush with the outside edge of the 2 x 4.
Step 6: Attach the Uprights
Attach uprights so that they're level vertically and spaced properly. Check with local codes for additional requirements on stairs and railings before final inspections.
Be sure to consult local codes before starting.
Try mitering joints for an added touch.
Always wear proper safety equipment.