How to build a simple DIY deck
An aspiring deck builder will have to look over various material options when building a deck. They’ll also have to properly allot a budget plan for their project. Usually, the costs needed to build a deck goes from $3,000 and higher but it depends on the scope of your build. Depending on your community, you’ll have to also secure various permits from your local government before you build a deck.
If you’re searching for how to build a deck frame, then you’ll have to keep an eye on all your safety equipment and your knowledge of safety practices. There’s also the problem of timing your build at the right times, especially with 2022 seeing a lot of building material shortages. However, that shouldn’t dissuade you from learning how to build a deck!
Whatever the case, learning how to build a small deck can be a worthwhile investment of time for you! It can be the start of your DIY hobby and help you get others to learn about how to build a deck. In this article, we’ll show you how to build a deck and different things you should know throughout the process.
Take the measurements and cut ledger
Before you get to build a deck of your own, you still need to figure out how to build a deck frame. That’s where the ledger, the foundation where you’re going to build everything off, comes in. Accurate measurements will help you to get your decking layout ideas together and make building a deck easy.
For this stage in how to build a deck, you’ll need to measure out the ledger which is the rim board that’ll be attached to the house itself. Using a bubble level, you’ll want to outline the shape of your ledger. Once that’s done, set up your circular saw to work at siding depth and cut according to your outline and your plans on how to build a deck.
To take care of the spots where your circular saw blade didn’t reach, use a hammer and chisel. Dispose of the cut siding and bring out a piece of two-by-eight that’s preferably been pressure-treated. Measure out this two-by-eight according to the size of your cutout and cut accordingly.
Fix the ledger to the house structure
This step in learning how to build a deck requires galvanized metal flashing to secure the ledger properly and ensure that water doesn’t seep through gaps and cracks. Once your metal flashing is cut similarly to the length of your ledger, install it around the top of your cutout underneath the sidings. After that, attach your ledger with nails to the cutout but take care to not attach these nails to the house studs.
With your power drill of choice, drill a few pilot holes for the lag screws to go into. Along with that, drill counterbores that’ll serve as places to sink the heads of your lag screws into. You’ll need to make two holes per stud and drill holes at every other house stud.
To drive in the lag screws and washers, you’ll need a ratchet wrench set. Once all your lag screws are set in place, use a caulking gun and your exterior-grade caulk around the ledger. Make sure to caulk the lag screw holes and flashing as well and you’re well on your way to starting on how to build a small deck.
Measure and mark the post footing locations
Our next step is another requirement for learning how to build a small deck or a large one. For starters, go around 8 feet outward from the ledger towards where you plan on setting up your deck’s footings. Use two-by-fours in the construction of your batter boards which will guide you.
Place these batter boards on the outer dimensions of your deck. For us, we prefer to have three right around the end and one on each side of the planned deck. From here, you’ll want to use a mason line and run it between the two side batter boards. The line should run above the planned location of your footings.
For the batter boards placed at the end of your deck’s dimensions, attach 3 mason lines from your deck’s ledger to each of the batter boards. These are going to be used to determine the proper location of your deck’s footer and help you learn how to build a deck frame.
Once all the mason’s lines are set; you should find that three crosses are formed. These are where you’ll drop your plumb bob for easy marking. Once you’ve marked all the spots, make sure to not disassemble your batter boards and mason’s lines yet.
Dig and pour hole footings
In this step, we’ll be digging the holes where our footings will be placed into. This is important to building a deck as it will provide the build with stability and ensures it won’t tip or fall in the coming years. At the footing holes you’ve marked with your plumb bobs, dig your footing holes according to what’s required by your local construction code.
To secure the footings once they’re inside the holes, you’ll want to use around 3 inches of loose gravel. Cut concrete tubes out to the measured depth of each footing hole but add 2 inches to each. Insert them into the footing holes.
Prepare concrete in a wheelbarrow and a garden hoe. Once that’s done, pour the concrete down each tube until it reaches the top. Quickly insert J-bolts into each of the concrete tubes while the concrete hasn’t dried yet. Make sure that the threaded side of the J-bolt is upwards. Mark out each J-bolt using your plumb bob. After this step, you can remove your mason’s lines and batter boards.
Attach and fix the posts
The next step in how to build a deck is to attach your deck’s posts. This is started by placing metal post anchors over the J-bolts you’ve placed down. On the threaded ends of the J-bolts, place a nut and tighten it up. Once secured, you’ll want an electric miter saw to cut your 3 six-by-six wooden posts.
Make sure that the length of each is equal to the distance between the top of the concrete you’ve poured into the footing to the bottom of the wood beam plus an additional 1 foot of length. The metal post anchors then need to be nailed to the posts which will then be plumbed and staked via the scrap two-by-fours.
Add cut points on each of the posts by running a two-by-four as a mock-up from your ledger across each of your posts. Start it off at level then drop the end, allowing for around a ¼-inch drop in a 5-foot increment. Having a slope measured out this way will make sure that water flows away from the house.
Remember to mark each cut point with the bottom end of your two-by-four as your point of reference. Wrap this mark with Speed Square but make sure to not cut it out yet.
Cut and install the beams
Even if you search for how to build a small deck, you’ll find that most instructions call for a laminated exterior-grade beam. However, you can get your beam by gluing together a pair of two-by-eights with some strong construction glue and nails.
Once you’ve got your beam prepared, hold it up to the posts and mark up your beam. A circular saw can help immensely as you cut the posts on the marks you made. Once it’s all cut up, you can attach saddle hardware on the top of the posts but make sure that each of the open saddles is all in the same direction, so the beam goes through smoothly.
Insert your DIY or bought beam into the saddle hardware and secure everything soundly with the use of galvanized screws. That should do it for learning how to build a deck frame and we can get to the deck proper.
Attach header joist
Your outside joists can then be attached to the ends of your ledger, all supported by joist hangers. You’ll also want to set each of these joists in a way that runs from the ledge across from them to the beam and even beyond it.
The header joist will be attached to both of these outer joists by face-nailing through your header joist and into the outer ones. Make sure to check the outer frame of your header and outside joists for square. This means measuring the diagonal of each and checking if they match.
Install flooring joists
Now we’re nearing the end of our how to build a deck guide. Flooring joists require a bit more measurement so bring out your tape measure and mark out 16-inch points all along the ledger. For reference, start at one of your outer joists when measuring it all out. Do the same process for the header joist and nail joist hangers in the center of each mark.
For the two-by-eights where the flooring joists will be attached, cut it out to specified lengths and fit these joists into the hangers via nails.
Attach the floorboards to the deck
Check out how many floorboards you’ll need by dry-fitting them onto the deck and counting from your house to your header joist. For the final one, you’ll want it to be right around the edge of the header joist with each floorboard having a 1/8th-inch gap. Of course, do the floor according to your decking layout ideas.
Attach each floorboard with deck screws through the deck joists. Once you reach the last five boards, you may need to adjust the gaps according to what you measured out during dry-fitting. For the ones that will be around the end of the outer rim joists, use a circular saw to cut off their ends.
Build and fix the staircase
Cut each notched staircase stringer to your specified length and attach them to your deck via angled brackets. After that, cut two-by-sixes in a way that you can fit two per step. After that, secure your treads and stringers via deck screws and space them out accordingly (1/8th to 1/4th of an inch). This will depend on your decking layout ideas but can be adjusted accordingly.
Build your deck railing
This is the last step in our “how to build a deck frame” guide. You’ll need to cut four-by-four railing posts to around 43 and 1/4th inches. Via an auger bit, you’ll also need to bore two holes into each of the posts with a minimum depth of ½ inches to sink the lag bolts securely into the posts.
Attach each of these railing posts to the side of your deck with the aforementioned lag bolts, nuts, and washers. For our kind of deck railing, you’ll need to run a two-by-four across the top face of each of the posts and a two-by-six on the very top as a capstone. Two-by-two balusters should be placed between the posts but make sure they’re around 4-inches apart. That should complete your project to build a deck!
When to hire a professional deck builder
When building a deck by yourself, you are bound to save a couple of bucks on construction. However, learning how to build a deck on your lonesome can be an extreme time sink that you may not be able to commit to. You’ll find that, when dealing with DIY projects, more guides delve into how to build a small deck rather than complex decking layout ideas.
If you’re looking for someone to build a deck that’s complex, you’ll need more than just DIY skills. You can also check out our post How to Find a Reliable Deck Contractor. Professional deck builders will be your go-to service when you’re scratching your head on how to build a deck that’s beyond your current skills. Call a professional deck builder and get a free estimation for your deck!