This article will give you a good idea of what’s involved in building a deck. There are always quicker ways to do things and you will learn them and invent some of your own as you proceed with your project. Always work safely and make sure you have a good firm footing underneath you. A trip or slip with a power tool can be dangerous. Let’s get started with some of the tools you will need for your project.
TOOLS NEEDED- Electric saw, hand saw, hammer, 8,10 and 12 penny common galvanized nails, 4′ level, string line, pencil, measuring tape, tripod and level gun (rent at your local rental store by the day), 5# sledge hammer, SAFETY GLASSES and a good pair of work gloves (your hands will love you for it) madisen deck
LUMBER NEEDED-If you cannot figure out from your plans what lumber you need, most lumber stores will do a ‘take-off” for you and sell you only what you need for your project. Many pre-made plans contain a lumber list right on them! Get some extra 2 ” x 4″ x 8’ long lumber for temporary supports, etc.. If you buy pre-cuts studs, they are even cheaper. You buy the cheapest thing they have as it is only for temporary use. You can always use them for something. Framing anchors are needed for the post bottoms ledger joist connections and today they make many types of handrail anchors if you want to use them. Look at the anchor chart at the store and see what they have.
Building a deck isn’t as hard as it may appear. All decks have the same basic components, just more or less of them. Posts, piers, floor joists, decking, handrails and stairs are the major pieces of any deck. Footing piers are covered in my e-Book footings so we will assume you already have footings in place and are ready to frame your deck. Building plans are available at most major hardware and lumber stores and give you tons of layout info even if the deck shown isn’t exactly the size you want. Almost everywhere in the country today, building departments want your support posts to remain above grade. When you check with them as to whether you need a building permit or not, ask them. They will be glad to tell you what they expect to see. Remember, if you fail your inspection, they have to come back again and that is extra work for them. They want to pass you the first time!
The companies that provide pressure treatment to your posts have found the posts last a great deal longer if they are kept from having contact with the earth. I prefer this method as well and have found it to be true. Your pier footings or tubes should have been poured 2″ above finished grade and this is where your new deck post will sit. You do not want to sit the post directly on top of the concrete without some type of anchor to hold it in place. Several brands of metal anchors are available at your lumber and hardware stores. If you are using a 6″ x 6″ pressure treated (PT) post, purchase the number of anchors you need, one for each post. One type is a flat plate with a center nail hole and 4 ‘feet” or points sticking out from the bottom in each corner. Place the anchor on the bottom of the plate with the “feet” or points facing downward, away from the post. Nail a 10 penny common nail through the plate into the post to hold it there while you work. Stand the post upright at the line marked for the corner of your framing. The “feet” will bite into the concrete footing pier from the weight of post and make it almost impossible to slide it around. Once the weight of the deck is on the post, it will not move. Repeat this work for each post for your deck. There are many types of post to footing anchors available. Some require a bolt be set in the concrete pier and the anchor then bolts to that and then nails to the post. All work equally well.
Now with all your posts ready, we’ll assume you have 4 for this deck, you can either stand the posts into their exact positions as closely as possible and use some 2″ x4″” lumber to brace them in an upright position until you complete the sub-floor framing for the deck or stand one post, frame to it, stand another post, frame to it, etc. I suggest you stand all the posts first to check your deck layout before you get half of it framed and find out you made a math mistake in your layout.
As you frame along to your plans, the old carpenters adage that measure twice, cut once, is still correct today. Lumber is expensive. Don’t waste it and don’t be in a rush! Wasted lumber costs money and a slip or fall with a saw or sledge hammer, can cause serious injury. Be careful while you work but enjoy it. Your plans show the size and number of post required. At this point they should all be standing, temporarily braced. The next item to be installed is the ledger board on the house if it is not already there. This board(s) will run the width of you deck minus 3″. The exterior band joist nails to the ends of the ledger board for a neat finished look. The ledger board is always one size larger than your floor joists. 2 ” x 8″ floor joists, 2″ x 10″ ledger board. After removing the required siding to allow the ledger to be installed, nail the ledger with some 10 penny commons in a few places just to hold it there. Now a little math work. If you are using 2″ x 6″ decking lumber for your deck floor, set the top of the ledger board, 1 5/8″ below the door sill to the deck. 2″ lumber is actually 1 5/8″ thick. If you want a 4″ step out the door, set it 5 5/8″ below the door sill and so on. With the ledger temporarily nailed in place, layout your joist locations on the ledger. Don’t forget the exterior band joists on each end. Your plans will tell you if the joists are 16″ on center (O.C.), 12″ O.C. or whatever the design calls for them to be. Using your measuring tape, starting on one side of the deck and measuring from the outside of band joist, the next joist goes 16″ ON CENTER, not the edge of the board. More than likely it will not come out even spaces. One space will be smaller. DO NOT MAKE THEM LARGER! The lumber is sized by design to carry a certain weight and making the joist spaces larger could cause a collapse of the deck.
With the joist layout complete, you can now see the spaces between the joists. Starting on the end bays or spaces, drill 2 holes, one above the other equally spaced in the ledger for lag bolts. Each bay after the end bays, gets one bolt not two. Stagger the bolts up and down from the top to the bottom so one bay the bolt is 2″ down from the top in the center of the bay, the next is 2″ up from the bottom in the center of the bay and so on. Pre-drill a pilot hole for each lag bolt. The lag bolt must be long enough to pass through the ledger and house plywood and into the house band joist behind. An example would be using a 2″ ledger, ½” plywood on house, and a 2″ band joist on the house, you would need a 4″ lag bolt. Remember, lumber is 1 5/8″ not actually 2″. Here’s where and electric impact socket gun comes in handy. You need to use a socket and ratchet for this work but it is possible with a plain old wrench. Either way, wrench or socket, your arms will be worn out when you have them all installed. The electric impact gun makes very short work of this task.
Ok we have the ledger installed, joists laid out on the ledger and it is time to build and set the beam across your piers or top of your support posts that will carry the outside end of the floor joists. The beam shown on the plans could be shown as 3- 2″ x 10″. You have to construct a beam from 2″ x 10″ lumber, three pieces thick, as long as your ledger board on the house. If your deck is 12′ long, just nail 3-2″ x 10″ x 12′ pieces together and your done. If your deck is 18′ long this probably will not work. Some long length lumber is available but is very costly. It is cheaper to get 4- 2″ x10″ x 12′ and 1- 2″ x 10″ x 8′ piece. You cut one 2 ” x 12″ x 12′ in half making two 6′ pieces. Layout one 12′ and one 6″ piece end to end. Now layout another 12′ piece over the 6′ piece below and lap 6′ onto the first 12′ piece. Fill the 2nd layer with the other 6′ piece you cut. Nail these together with 10 penny common nails. You now have two pieces 18′ long, nailed together with the joints in the wood not lining up. NEVER line up the end joints. When nailed, place the last 12′ piece over the 2nd layer starting from the 6′ end and lapping over the joint. Fill in the last end with a cut 8′ piece 6′. You have only 2′ of wasted wood so far.! When nailed with 12 penny commons to the first two layers, you have an 18′ long beam, securely nailed together with NO joints lining up. This is very important if the beam is constructed from pieces. Last note, every board has tree growth rings showing on the ends. Place your first layer of both boards so the rings point the same way down. Place the 2nd layer so the rings face up. Place the 3rd layer so the rings face down. When the boards dry out and try to warp, this alternating of the rings will help keep your beam straight and not warp or bow. OK here’s where you need some extra muscle. You must at this point do a little math again. With the support post standing, you need to figure how long the posts need to be, plus the beam, plus the floor joists and then the decking. So again: (* actual size)
floor joists 7 5/8″*