22 Deck Building Secrets
Build your deck the right way, the first time.
It’s the place you barbecue on warm summer nights and where your children have their birthday parties. It’s where your family gathers for quality time together and your oasis from the chaos of the world. A deck should be nothing short of a sanctuary. It’s an extension of your home and it should feel that way, rather than simply an attachment.
When building your deck, you have a world of options available to you. There are tons of ways to build a deck and to make it your own. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind during your deck building process.
Cover Your Joists
When you’re building out your frame, cover the joists. As long as the wood you’re using can dry, it can get wet occasionally during the process of building your deck, but you don’t want it to sit in moisture and rot. Instead, lay a thin sheet of metal or an elastomeric membrane on top of the joists before you lay the decking to avoid any future catastrophe.
Leave Gaps Between Deck Boards
These gaps are great for drainage and for helping you to avoid a build-up of debris. If the gaps are too small, they will drain until they are clogged with build up and then the deck will hold moisture. A good rule of thumb is to leave enough of a gap between the boards that you can sweep the deck and have the debris fall through.
Watch How Far You Sink Screws
A big thing to keep in mind with every part of building your deck is how much water it will allow your deck to hold. This includes how far your sink your screws. If they are too deep, you will end up with tiny areas where water can pool. Make sure to instead keep your screws flush with the wood.
Upper-Mounted Deck Fasteners
Using upper-mounted deck fasteners can be a little more challenging but there are some definite benefits. Along with eliminating the potential issues that screws can cause, these will also give you a clean, polished look. A metal bracket will be screwed to the side of the joist so you will then screw up into the bottom of the board and pull it down.
Double Joists At Joints
While this will take a little more planning, adding in an additional joist on either side of the gaps in your deck boards can help your deck look nicer and remove the possibility of water pooling on the joists. It will also improve the drainage of your deck tremendously.
Choose The Right Wood Grain
Wood will have growth rings and imperfections. Be sure to choose your placement of the wooden deck boards conscientiously to avoid areas where water can pool and to best repel water.
Without the proper deck-to-wall connection, you can invite water, air, and pests between to your oasis, and who wants that? Be sure to use squares of self-sealing elastomeric membrane behind the joist that’s in contact with the wall to avoid any wicking. Do thorough research about how to properly affix your deck to your home ahead of time to avoid any long-term issues.
Factor In Slope
No one wants to set down their hotdog and have it start rolling away, but that being said, some slope is necessary to aid in water drainage. A good rule to keep is to factor in about a 2% slope away from your home. That will give enough downward motion to drain water without making your deck a hazard.
Simplify Your Joist Hanging
Whether you’re working alone or have a team of people helping you, hanging joists can be tricky work. To make it easier, attach joist hangers to the ledger board before you install your joists. Make sure to measure twice and set these at the right height.
Have Accurate Notching
An easy way to make sure you have accurate notches is to lay your deck board tightly against the post and transfer the post location to the board, measuring and marking the depth of the notch. Double check both sides, especially if there’s a twist in the post or if the post is a unique shape.
Space Balusters With A Jig
Whenever you’re constructing something, accuracy and consistency are incredibly important. They are what will keep your structure standing and looking great. To make sure your balusters are correctly spaced, use a jig. More accurate than measuring and an easy solution, your jig will give you the right measurement every time.
Hanging Strong Stair Stringers
Most decks will require at least one step and that means you have to build a strong step that can withstand the test of time. Cut your 2×12 stringers longer than necessary and secure them to the blocking between the joists or to the joists themselves. Plan on your stairs rising about 7-1/4 in. with a tread of about 11 in. You should also make sure to leave at least 3-1/2 in. of wood perpendicular to the back of the stringer and the deepest cutout.
Straighten Any Bowed Boards
Wood bends. It’s what makes it a great building material, but that means that no matter who your lumbar supplier is, some of your boards will have bowed. You obviously need to straighten these. There are a variety of ways to do this, but make sure you set aside plenty of time to do it.
Trim Your Deck Boards Straight
Having a clean edge on your deck will make the overall look of it much more appealing. To get that straight edge, simply screw a straight board to the decking and use that as a guide for your circular saw. Make sure you allow for at least a 1 in. overhang . Then, just run your saw along your guide piece and you’ll have the perfect edge.
Beveled Post Caps
Another way to make your deck look polished and well-done is with post caps. It also serves a function by protecting the end grain of the post from the elements. You can special order your caps or make your own. Simply run your circular saw at a 15-degree angle. Do this on all four sides and you’ll have an easy, neat-looking cap for your posts.
Don’t Go Cheap On Fasteners
What’s holding your deck up? Screws and nails! So why would you try and cut corners by purchasing the cheapest fasteners out there? This will only lead to them corroding faster and your deck’s lifespan being shorter. Instead, opt for a stainless-steel or coated screw that’s specifically made for pressure treated wood.
If you want more room on your deck, you don’t have to build out – you can build up by adding another level. It allows any groups to congregate in smaller numbers and can help to provide you with visual interest.
Don’t Forget The Railing
You don’t have to choose a plain old wood railing. Today there are tons of railing options. Look around and see what will look best with your style of house. They come in a variety of materials, like glass, metal, vinyl, composites, and cabling, as well as wood.
Play With Color
While your deck is an extension of your home, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with color. Painting your deck with a pop of color is a great way to liven up your otherwise plain or conservative exterior. It’s also a chance to really express your style.
Many people are so focused on the deck, they forget that they’ll want shade in the summer. You could use an umbrella, or with a little extra work, you could have a much more sturdy, professional-looking shade option. Something as simple as a pergola can have a dramatic effect on your entire backyard. Building a deck gazebo can also be a nice touch.
Play With Geometry
Picture your dream deck in your mind. Is it a big rectangle? It doesn’t have to be! Playing with different shapes can make your backyard look more unique and your deck a more inviting place. Instead of the typical rectangle, consider a rounded deck or an octagon.
Remember The Details
Finally, you need to add the details and deck adornments. Picking the right deck furniture can make your design stand out or they can overpower it. Consider how you want your deck to be used and what you want the feeling to be. Is it a party deck or a relaxation station? How you plan the details will make all the difference.