You’ve decided it’s time to build the deck of your dreams and have it available for this summer’s entertainment of friends and family and you are handy enough to do it yourself! There are some basic things you are going to need to do before getting started, before you ever purchase one piece of material for your new dream deck. Remember, the biggest key to a successful deck (besides the time, money and labor you put into it) is the durability of the deck once it is built. By using good materials, taking the time to make sure things are level and weather sealed, your deck will become not only a place for your friends and family to relax but a well thought out and carefully crafted addition to your home.
The first step you will need to take is to check with your local zoning office and find out what (if any) restrictions you will be running into and also apply for any permits that might be needed before you can start constructing your deck. If you have an existing deck, you will have far less resistance applying for your permits than if you’re building a brand new deck. When applying for your permit, chances are you may be asked to provide a set of plans for your deck. They do not have to be professionally done, but they will have to have certain information in them. These include (a) where the deck is going to be (including in proportion to property lines, utility lines, etc.); (b) how much space is between the railings; (c) how high the railings are (minimum 36″); (d) size, spacing and type of construction of the foundation of the deck; (e) size and location of girders; (f) size and spacing of joists; (g) what type of fasteners you will be using; (h) size and type of deck boards; and (i) size of posts. If there are any specific weather issues in your area (floods, hurricanes, etc.) or local zoning requirements, your local zoning office will have specific requirements for some of these items.
One important consideration to consider is handicap accessibility. As with bathrooms (showers, tubs, and sink) and kitchens (sinks, ovens, stoves), many deck designs can be made to make life easier for the elderly. If you plan to live in your house as you grow old, you should strongly consider adding ramps instead of stairs for accessibility.
Material considerations will be your first challenge to overcome when building your deck. There are a variety of materials that are suitable to build a deck including pressure treated lumber, composite material, Aluminum, Western red cedar, teak, mahogany and other hardwoods and recycled planks made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polystyrene (PS) and PET plastic as well as mixed plastics and wood fiber. Once you determine your budget you will be best able to determine which type of material is best suited to your individual needs.
Tools will play an important role in your success in building your deck. The proper tools will ensure that your deck is high quality and well built, and while no fancy tools are required, there are some basic tools you will need to be sure you have available before you begin the construction process including: a framing hammer, shovel, level, wheelbarrow, plumb bob, cement hoe, pencil(s), trowel, nail pouch, pry bar, safety goggles, caulking gun, extension cords, socket set, framing square, power saw, saw horses, hand saw, and tape measure.