Guide On How To Build A Deck (2)

Guide On How to Build a Deck

This is the first part of a three-part series to guide you through constructing a raised, attached deck. While we won’t specifically be covering floating decks, the basic processes are the same. This guide doesn’t work for covered front porches and grounded patio decks. We’ve broken this complex topic into three parts. This first part acts as an overview of the process with detailed instructions for planning and layout.

The best improvement you can make to your country home and active indoor/outdoor lifestyle is to build a deck of warm and inviting wood—for family cookouts, parties, close supervision of kids and pets, or simply for someplace to sit back in the sun and watch the tomatoes ripen. And, it needn’t be the sort of architect-designed, megabuck extravaganza you see in the slick magazines and “ideabooks.” Designing a simple four-square deck and doing the elementary masonry and carpentry yourself, you can add 100 cents of every dollar you spend directly onto the market value of your home. Indeed, if you shop carefully, you may even be money ahead!

First, visit (don’t phone) the local building inspector to see if you need a building permit and inspection(s). In most populated areas, you will. Built right, decks are permanent structures and, like it or not, society has legislated itself a say in the appearance and durability of structures that will outlive their builders. Communities determine setbacks (distance of buildings from property lines) and interpret regional building codes to specify size and spacing of structural members, depth and size of foundations, dimensions of stairs and railings and more. Looking for home deck services? Look no further! Hitch Property Constructions has you covered. 

Some inspection departments encourage owner/builders, and offer deck plans and tips for satisfying the code. Others are biased toward the building trades and may be sticklers for detail. All can force you to tear down a deck if it fails inspection. But, as a town assessor once advised: “If you don’t need a permit, don’t get one. Filing it will alert us and your property tax may go up.” Even if a permit is not required, to build a deck that will hold up in your climate, learn code requirements and follow them.

Building A Ground Level Step-By-Step

The beauty of a ground level deck lies within its simplicity. You can choose a pretty area of your yard to build your deck and admire the view. Or, you can also dress it up with pavers back to your house if you want a more polished, elegant look. The choice is up to you and your own personal backyard aesthetic. Hitch Property Constructions has a wide range of decking services Melbourne services. 

Step 1: Planning and Design

Consider where you’d like to put your platform deck by imagining how you’ll use it and assessing your terrain. Since you’re not attaching the deck to your house, you don’t have to worry about door clearance. However, you will need to consider drainage below your deck. Does the ground slope for water run-off? Building the deck so it’s well-ventilated will help it last longer.

  • Create a Full design. Allow for all features you’ll want included from the list above.
  • Create a written plan. Professional landscapers, contractors and even home improvement stores can help you create a blueprint. This will let you tackle design and space issues before starting.
  • Measure the area. Mark the area with stakes. This is just a rough in to determine the approximate placement for the batter boards. You’ll make fine adjustments next.
  • Make batter boards out of furring strips. This is just three pieces of furring tacked together to create a frame to hang string from. Place them outside the corners of your planned area. Larger decks will need additional posts marked with additional batter boards spaced along the outer perimeter. Check your design and local building code for specifics.
  • Mark the outer layout with string. Tie strings to the batter boards to mark the outer edges of your deck. Make sure the strings are as close to level as possible.
  • Adjust the strings as needed to square up the area. Your area is square when the diagonal measurements between the corners of the string are equal. Mark the final string locations on the batter boards.
  • Remove any sod if code requires it. Rent a sod cutter to make the job go quickly.
  • Determine you post layout along the strings. Layout will depend on your local building code and the size.
  • Spray marking paint for footer locations. This marks the dig locations of your footers and posts.

Step 2: What Type of Material Will You Use?

A ground level deck is meant to be low, which means you’ll want to consider the type of wood or composite you’ll use for framing. If the bottom of your deck frame is less than 6″ above the ground or partially buried, you should use pressure-treated wood that is rated for ground contact. This type of wood has a higher level of preservative that guards the wood against rot and decay.

Do you want a step or two to your platform deck? If so, consider how you’ll attach the steps because if you attach them with stringers, you don’t want to bury metal in the ground since it can corrode.

Step 3: Consider Ground Level Deck Ventilation

The ground under a platform deck will get wet. Sustained dampness is the enemy of a ground level deck since it will lead to mold, rot and decay. Make sure you build your deck high enough for ventilation so the ground can dry out. That way, your deck will last longer. Generally, if a deck is less than 12 inches above the ground, the perimeter of the deck must be open for free air to flow beneath the deck.

Step 4: Plan the Foundation and Leveling

You can create a simple foundation by placing concrete blocks at the deck’s corners. You can also place your structure on top of gravel for better drainage. Next, you’ll put stakes in the ground and string the perimeter using the stakes and hang a line level. Once you know your deck outline is level, you’re ready to move to the next step.

Step 5: Lay the Beams

Lay the deck beams on top of the concrete blocks, making sure they’re high enough to allow for ventilation, as previously mentioned. These beams will serve as your ground level deck framing. Next, measure diagonally and tap the beams to line them up. It’s a good idea to use temporary stretchers (a temporary wooden framework that props the beams up) to hold the beams in place. You can use pressure-treated shims below the beams, if needed, to keep them level. You may want to add additional gravel to level out the ground.

Step 6: Attach Anchors / Joists

Once your beams are level, attach angle brackets at the corners of the deck where joists and beams meet. These will add additional support at the corners of your ground level deck. Once again, use your string level to assess the evenness of your terrain and deck.

Step 7: Attach Inner Joists

Using joist hangers, fasten the joists into the beam faces at regular intervals. Make sure to use the recommended spacing from the decking manufacturer. This provides stability and gives you a good idea of how the decking will lay. If you’re planning to add steps, then consider your stair placement.

Step 8: Lay the Decking

Finally, your decking is starting to take shape and resemble the structure you’ve envisioned. Take the first length of decking and line it up with the outside edge so it’s even. Then, install your decking boards perpendicular to the joist, making sure they’re well-secured. Make sure to gap the boards appropriately for proper ventilation, checking the manufacturer’s recommendations for gapping.

Step 9: Trim the Edges

Once your decking is installed, use a circular saw to trim any overhang, making your decking neat and even. Clean up the discarded ends of wood. Now you can admire your new ground level deck.

Step 10: Add Steps or Stairs

If you want steps for your ground level deck, then you will need to decide on how many and how you’ll build them. Some deck builders add additional footings on the ground or you can hang stringers from the deck. You can attach the stringers from the platform deck joists with either metal angle brackets or 2 x 4’s.

Step 11: Enjoy Your Deck

Once your hard work is finished, it’s time to relax and enjoy your new deck. Add seating, friends, a grill, and refreshments for a well-deserved break.

Guide On How To Build A Deck

DIY Deck Building Advice From A Contractor

With spring in the air, building a deck might be on your mind. Building a deck is not as hard as you might think, and if you follow some basic guidelines it can be a great DIY project.

Advice #1: Build Your DIY Deck Level

Decks are built to add living space to a home and every one of them should be built nice and level. For some home sites this is pretty easy, as many back yards or areas around the home are relatively flat. Here in Colorado, flat is rare – my deck starts at ground level near the front door of my home, while the far side of my deck is about 15 feet off the ground. Check out our Melbourne decking services services here. 

Advice #2: Get a Permit before Attempting to Build Your Own Deck

Most municipalities require that decks be approved by the local building dept. Low free-standing decks may not require full permitting, while 2 story complex decks may require fully engineered plans. It is always best to check with your local permit office before you get started.

Advice #3: Build Your DIY Deck on a Firm Foundation

Over the years I have seen some great deck designs which I would be proud to call my own.  But more often than not, many of the deck repairs I do as a Denver-area contractor are due to shortcuts the original builder used during the initial construction. I have done demo on some decks where the deck’s support columns were simply set on the dirt. Others had been set on rocks, blocks and some wimpy poured footers.

Like with most home builds a sturdy foundation results in a sturdy project. The key to a good start is a solid foundation. The most common base I use is a poured footer in a Sonotube®. For this type, a hole is dug to frost depth and a cardboard tube form is installed.  Concrete is mixed and then poured into the tube, and then an anchor bolt is then inserted in to the wet concrete.  After the concrete has set the form is removed and the hole is back filled and a post bracket is mounted. The anchor bolt/post base provides both compressive and uplift resistance.  This is repeated for each of the deck’s support columns. Does this sound intimidating? You could always hire a concrete contractor to pour your foundation, even if you are choosing to build the deck yourself.

Advice #4: Choose the Right Framing Material

The framing of a deck is what the “decking” is mounted to and it provides the “skeleton” of the design.  Some types of decking can span long distances while others require a tighter spacing of the joists. Your local climate will also dictate some of these parameters.  Snow and wind loads vary from place to place and the material choices will also affect the design. I like to use pressure treated wood for all of my framing, as in my experience it provides the best long-term durability.

Advice #5: Hardwood Decking Stands the Test of Time

Up to this point most decks are pretty much the same…concrete and pressure treated lumber are pretty universal, as are pressure treated framing joists. Your choice of decking and the railing system can set your deck apart from others. Ages ago there were only a handful of choices available: decks were built from Redwood, Cedar or Pine. Today these options are still available, but we now have dozens of synthetics and hardwood options.

The deck on my home is about 650 sq feet and is built from a dense, fire-resistant hardwood called Ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”). I rebuilt my deck 15 years ago and because of Ipe’s great long long-lasting properties it still looks new today.  My favorite material is still Ipe, but I concede that a lot of the synthetic materials look good and have reduced maintenance. My eco-minded brain prefers a natural product that is not petroleum-based. A hardwood deck that can last 60 years or more is a sound investment. With proper care, a hardwood deck can usually outperform some lesser composites. Add the natural beauty and sustainable nature of real wood and you can see why hardwoods are popular for decking.

Guide On How to Build a Deck

This is the first part of a three-part series to guide you through constructing a raised, attached deck. While we won’t specifically be covering floating decks, the basic processes are the same. This guide doesn’t work for covered front porches and grounded patio decks. We’ve broken this complex topic into three parts. This first part acts as an overview of the process with detailed instructions for planning and layout.

The best improvement you can make to your country home and active indoor/outdoor lifestyle is to build a deck of warm and inviting wood—for family cookouts, parties, close supervision of kids and pets, or simply for someplace to sit back in the sun and watch the tomatoes ripen. And, it needn’t be the sort of architect-designed, megabuck extravaganza you see in the slick magazines and “ideabooks.” Designing a simple four-square deck and doing the elementary masonry and carpentry yourself, you can add 100 cents of every dollar you spend directly onto the market value of your home. Indeed, if you shop carefully, you may even be money ahead!

First, visit (don’t phone) the local building inspector to see if you need a building permit and inspection(s). In most populated areas, you will. Built right, decks are permanent structures and, like it or not, society has legislated itself a say in the appearance and durability of structures that will outlive their builders. Communities determine setbacks (distance of buildings from property lines) and interpret regional building codes to specify size and spacing of structural members, depth and size of foundations, dimensions of stairs and railings and more. Looking for home deck services? Look no further! Hitch Property Constructions has you covered. 

Some inspection departments encourage owner/builders, and offer deck plans and tips for satisfying the code. Others are biased toward the building trades and may be sticklers for detail. All can force you to tear down a deck if it fails inspection. But, as a town assessor once advised: “If you don’t need a permit, don’t get one. Filing it will alert us and your property tax may go up.” Even if a permit is not required, to build a deck that will hold up in your climate, learn code requirements and follow them.

Building A Ground Level Step-By-Step

The beauty of a ground level deck lies within its simplicity. You can choose a pretty area of your yard to build your deck and admire the view. Or, you can also dress it up with pavers back to your house if you want a more polished, elegant look. The choice is up to you and your own personal backyard aesthetic. Hitch Property Constructions has a wide range of decking services Melbourne services. 

Step 1: Planning and Design

Consider where you’d like to put your platform deck by imagining how you’ll use it and assessing your terrain. Since you’re not attaching the deck to your house, you don’t have to worry about door clearance. However, you will need to consider drainage below your deck. Does the ground slope for water run-off? Building the deck so it’s well-ventilated will help it last longer:

  • Create a Full design. Allow for all features you’ll want included from the list above.
  • Create a written plan. Professional landscapers, contractors and even home improvement stores can help you create a blueprint. This will let you tackle design and space issues before starting.
  • Measure the area. Mark the area with stakes. This is just a rough in to determine the approximate placement for the batter boards. You’ll make fine adjustments next.
  • Make batter boards out of furring strips. This is just three pieces of furring tacked together to create a frame to hang string from. Place them outside the corners of your planned area. Larger decks will need additional posts marked with additional batter boards spaced along the outer perimeter. Check your design and local building code for specifics.
  • Mark the outer layout with string. Tie strings to the batter boards to mark the outer edges of your deck. Make sure the strings are as close to level as possible.
  • Adjust the strings as needed to square up the area. Your area is square when the diagonal measurements between the corners of the string are equal. Mark the final string locations on the batter boards.
  • Remove any sod if code requires it. Rent a sod cutter to make the job go quickly.
  • Determine you post layout along the strings. Layout will depend on your local building code and the size.
  • Spray marking paint for footer locations. This marks the dig locations of your footers and posts.

Step 2: What Type of Material Will You Use?

A ground level deck is meant to be low, which means you’ll want to consider the type of wood or composite you’ll use for framing. If the bottom of your deck frame is less than 6″ above the ground or partially buried, you should use pressure-treated wood that is rated for ground contact. This type of wood has a higher level of preservative that guards the wood against rot and decay.

Do you want a step or two to your platform deck? If so, consider how you’ll attach the steps because if you attach them with stringers, you don’t want to bury metal in the ground since it can corrode.

Step 3: Consider Ground Level Deck Ventilation

The ground under a platform deck will get wet. Sustained dampness is the enemy of a ground level deck since it will lead to mold, rot and decay. Make sure you build your deck high enough for ventilation so the ground can dry out. That way, your deck will last longer. Generally, if a deck is less than 12 inches above the ground, the perimeter of the deck must be open for free air to flow beneath the deck.

Step 4: Plan the Foundation and Leveling

You can create a simple foundation by placing concrete blocks at the deck’s corners. You can also place your structure on top of gravel for better drainage. Next, you’ll put stakes in the ground and string the perimeter using the stakes and hang a line level. Once you know your deck outline is level, you’re ready to move to the next step.

Step 5: Lay the Beams

Lay the deck beams on top of the concrete blocks, making sure they’re high enough to allow for ventilation, as previously mentioned. These beams will serve as your ground level deck framing. Next, measure diagonally and tap the beams to line them up. It’s a good idea to use temporary stretchers (a temporary wooden framework that props the beams up) to hold the beams in place. You can use pressure-treated shims below the beams, if needed, to keep them level. You may want to add additional gravel to level out the ground.

Step 6: Attach Anchors / Joists

Once your beams are level, attach angle brackets at the corners of the deck where joists and beams meet. These will add additional support at the corners of your ground level deck. Once again, use your string level to assess the evenness of your terrain and deck.

Step 7: Attach Inner Joists

Using joist hangers, fasten the joists into the beam faces at regular intervals. Make sure to use the recommended spacing from the decking manufacturer. This provides stability and gives you a good idea of how the decking will lay. If you’re planning to add steps, then consider your stair placement.

Step 8: Lay the Decking

Finally, your decking is starting to take shape and resemble the structure you’ve envisioned. Take the first length of decking and line it up with the outside edge so it’s even. Then, install your decking boards perpendicular to the joist, making sure they’re well-secured. Make sure to gap the boards appropriately for proper ventilation, checking the manufacturer’s recommendations for gapping.

Step 9: Trim the Edges

Once your decking is installed, use a circular saw to trim any overhang, making your decking neat and even. Clean up the discarded ends of wood. Now you can admire your new ground level deck.

Step 10: Add Steps or Stairs

If you want steps for your ground level deck, then you will need to decide on how many and how you’ll build them. Some deck builders add additional footings on the ground or you can hang stringers from the deck. You can attach the stringers from the platform deck joists with either metal angle brackets or 2 x 4’s.

Step 11: Enjoy Your Deck

Once your hard work is finished, it’s time to relax and enjoy your new deck. Add seating, friends, a grill, and refreshments for a well-deserved break.

DIY Deck Building Advice From A Contractor

With spring in the air, building a deck might be on your mind. Building a deck is not as hard as you might think, and if you follow some basic guidelines it can be a great DIY project.

Advice #1: Build Your DIY Deck Level

Decks are built to add living space to a home and every one of them should be built nice and level. For some home sites this is pretty easy, as many back yards or areas around the home are relatively flat. Here in Colorado, flat is rare – my deck starts at ground level near the front door of my home, while the far side of my deck is about 15 feet off the ground. Check out our Melbourne decking services services here. 

Advice #2: Get a Permit before Attempting to Build Your Own Deck

Most municipalities require that decks be approved by the local building dept. Low free-standing decks may not require full permitting, while 2 story complex decks may require fully engineered plans. It is always best to check with your local permit office before you get started.

Advice #3: Build Your DIY Deck on a Firm Foundation

Over the years I have seen some great deck designs which I would be proud to call my own.  But more often than not, many of the deck repairs I do as a Denver-area contractor are due to shortcuts the original builder used during the initial construction. I have done demo on some decks where the deck’s support columns were simply set on the dirt. Others had been set on rocks, blocks and some wimpy poured footers.

Like with most home builds a sturdy foundation results in a sturdy project. The key to a good start is a solid foundation. The most common base I use is a poured footer in a Sonotube®. For this type, a hole is dug to frost depth and a cardboard tube form is installed.  Concrete is mixed and then poured into the tube, and then an anchor bolt is then inserted in to the wet concrete.  After the concrete has set the form is removed and the hole is back filled and a post bracket is mounted. The anchor bolt/post base provides both compressive and uplift resistance.  This is repeated for each of the deck’s support columns. Does this sound intimidating? You could always hire a concrete contractor to pour your foundation, even if you are choosing to build the deck yourself.

Advice #4: Choose the Right Framing Material

The framing of a deck is what the “decking” is mounted to and it provides the “skeleton” of the design.  Some types of decking can span long distances while others require a tighter spacing of the joists. Your local climate will also dictate some of these parameters.  Snow and wind loads vary from place to place and the material choices will also affect the design. I like to use pressure treated wood for all of my framing, as in my experience it provides the best long-term durability.

Advice #5: Hardwood Decking Stands the Test of Time

Up to this point most decks are pretty much the same…concrete and pressure treated lumber are pretty universal, as are pressure treated framing joists. Your choice of decking and the railing system can set your deck apart from others. Ages ago there were only a handful of choices available: decks were built from Redwood, Cedar or Pine. Today these options are still available, but we now have dozens of synthetics and hardwood options.

The deck on my home is about 650 sq feet and is built from a dense, fire-resistant hardwood called Ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”). I rebuilt my deck 15 years ago and because of Ipe’s great long long-lasting properties it still looks new today.  My favorite material is still Ipe, but I concede that a lot of the synthetic materials look good and have reduced maintenance. My eco-minded brain prefers a natural product that is not petroleum-based. A hardwood deck that can last 60 years or more is a sound investment. With proper care, a hardwood deck can usually outperform some lesser composites. Add the natural beauty and sustainable nature of real wood and you can see why hardwoods are popular for decking.

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