Building a deck is one of the most approachable and rewarding construction projects anyone can tackle.
A new deck can add significant square footage and value to a home, plus make it a more enjoyable place to live. The world of deck building is constantly evolving, with new materials, new techniques, and new codes to follow. In this comprehensive project guide, over 40 deck-building pros share their jobsite-proven expertise, leading you every step of the way from design to finish with the up-to-date information you need to build the deck of your dreams.
Design & Planning
The design process is the fun, creative phase, when you can begin to shape your dream of the perfect deck. But you'll need to temper that dream with the realities of site constraints, load calculations, and code compliance. In this section, we'll look at the various types of decks, explain how to generate plans, and take a deep dive into the world of deck loads, permits, and codes.
Tools & Materials
Building a deck is relatively straightforward, and for most projects you can get great results with just a few essential tools. We'll help you fill out your toolkit, and then consider the various material options for foundations and framing as well as the myriad choices for decking planks. Wrapping up this section is a guide to the rapidly changing field of deck fasteners and hardware.
Footings & Foundations
Now comes the grunt work of digging the foundation for your deck, but first you'll have to choose, size, and lay out the footings. In this section, we'll walk you through the process of locating and digging the footings, before explaining how to mix concrete, pour footings, and install footing hardware. And don't forget the concrete landing pad at the base of the deck stairs.
Framing a Deck
Ledgers, posts, and beams provide the essential basis for a sound deck. This section begins with an overview of the framing process, and then presents the best ways to attach and flash a ledger to any wall surface. Next, understand how to set the posts and beams and lay out and install deck joists, and your deck is really starting to take shape.
The deck boards you choose for your project define the look of your deck more than any other feature. We begin this section with a basic guide to planning and layout, then get to the heart of the matter: putting down the deck planks (either with nails, screws, or hidden fasteners). Adding fascia and other decorative elements provides an elegant finish.
Not all decks require a railing by code, but for those that do the railing system needs to be secured to the framing and constructed in a way that conforms to strict guidelines.
In this section, we'll look at the various deck railing options, explain how to install railing posts with a rock-solid connection, and present different ways to build and install both wood and nonwood balustrades.
A deck stair might range from a boxlike single step up to a grade-level deck to a long span rising to a second story. Either way, you'll need some careful measuring and math to ensure that each step is a comfortable stride. And, of course, your stair will need to conform to code. In this section, you'll learn techniques for calculating rise and run, securing stringers, and installing treads and risers.
Adding benches, planters, and privacy screens are great ways to dress up a deck with functional, attractive features. And if you want to take your deck to the next level, we've included complete step-by-step construction details for integrating a pergola into a deck. For a simpler project, consider installing accent lighting on your deck posts and stair rails.
Finishes, Repairs, and Maintenance
You've spent a lot of time and money building your deck, so you want the deck to last. The first line of defense is a good finish, and we'll help you understand the various deck sealers and stains available. And we'll show you the right way to apply them. This section also includes information on cleaning and refinishing a deck, conducting annual maintenance, and replacing damaged deck planks.
Complete Deck BuildsIn this final section of the project guide, we'll bring together everything you've already learned and walk you through 5 complete, start-to-finish deck builds. There's a simple patio deck, a grade-level deck with custom details, a multi-feature, split-level curved deck, and much more. With all the information presented here, you'll be ready to design and build your very own dream deck.