Dangerous deck (C) Daniel FriedmanDesign Suggestions for a Simple Deck
Deck Design-Build Online Guide

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Starting point for building a simple deck: basic deck building supplies & tools: here we begin designing and building a simple deck by describing the essential deck design decisions to be made, followed by tips for selecting lumber at the lumber yard, along with a list of the tools and materials you will need.

This article series describes construction details for decks and porches.

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Simple Deck Design Starts Here

Pier installation details (C) Daniel Friedman

Design Considerations: Alongside a house, a door onto the deck is a must. If possible, build at an existing door, removing any steps that might hinder construction.

Determine the size and spacing of structural elements for your deck.

Decking is ordinarily laid over joists spaced 16 inches apart, but diagonal decking calls for 12-inch joist spacing.

A railing—mandatory on all decks over 2 feet high and recommended on lower decks—requires the addition of special bridging to keep the posts from twisting the joists they are attached to.

Sketch a plan of your deck that shows all the dimensions. You may need to submit the plan and apply for a building permit; if not, it’s wise nonetheless to confirm with local authorities that the design complies with building codes.

At the Lumberyard

Examine each board individually. Avoid curved or twisted planks; they are hard to work with, and the defects can worsen over time, weakening the deck. And while you may prefer redwood or cedar for the decking, choose posts of pressure- treated southern pine rated for ground contact.

Shopping tip: it may sound obvious but don't rush out and buy framing lumber or decking before you have made a deck drawing, know your plan, and thus know what widths and lengths of lumber are actually needed. It's nice to avoid unnecessary repeat trips to the lumber yard because you find you need to exchange a 10' 2x10 for a 12' 2x12.

Special Materials for Deck Construction

Galvanized joist hangers and a variety of other framing connectors greatly simplify deck construction. Galvanized hangers are widely available—as are nails of appropriate diameter and length. Do not substitute common nails, which will make joints that lack the necessary strength.

Other fasteners should also be galvanized to prevent rust. Redwood decking, however, requires acid-resistant aluminum nails.

Equipment for the Deck Building Job

Besides common carpentry tools, you will need a posthole digger and a water level for a day; consider renting them. Your circular saw must be powerful enough to cut heavy, wet pressure-treated wood. Use a carbide-tipped crosscut blade, and back off if the motor slows.

Before excavating, establish the locations caution of underground obstacles such as electric, water, and sewer lines, and dry wells, septic tanks, and cesspools.

Basic Materials Needed to Build a Deck

Tools useful for deck building (C) Daniel Friedman

Tools for deck building

  • Measuring tape (25-foot,)
  • Plumb bob and string
  • Posthole digger,
  • Carpenter's level (4' is better than 2': longer = more accurate)
  • Mortar tub,
  • Hoe,
  • Trowel,
  • Water level (I've had bad luck getting mine to work and often use a long straight piece of lumber combined with a 4' level)
  • Circular saw,
  • Framing square
  • See DECK BUILDING TOOLS for details about carpentry tool choices, types, uses.

Materials for deck building

Simpson steel framing connectors (C) 2013 Daniel Friedman
  • Mason's cord for use with the plumb bob and to lay out your deck location from the batter boards (more on those later)
  • Concrete mix (how much depends on the number and height of deck post piers required)
  • 4-by-4 posts (we like 6x6 posts for appearance & added security)
  • 2-by-6 or larger framing lumber
  • 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 decking, usually 5/4 treated wood; also
  • 2-by-4, rails ? (we use 2x6's for topping deck guardrails; for graspable handrailings don't use 2x lumber unless you intend to use a router to cut grasping grooves
  • 2-by-2 pickets and 1x lumber (we use 1x6 or 1x4") for batter boards to aid in deck layout
  • Galvanized common nails of several sizes for framing connections, 6d, 10d, 12d possibly 16d; exterior-use galvanized, coated, or stainless-steel structural screws if you intend to screw deck flooring to joists
  • Carriage bolts (j- by 6-inch)
  • Framing connectors (photo above left is an example; you'll want joist hangers and connectors to connect posts to girders). Use the proper size galvanized nails intended for use with framing connectors

Safety Tips for deck building

  • Protect your eyes when hammering nails or using a circular saw.
  • Wear a dust mask when cutting pressure-treated lumber, and wash hands thoroughly after handling it.


Continue reading at DECK PLAN & SKETCH or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.



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