3 Tips for the DIY Deck Builder

Spring is right around the corner here in the Northeast. This is the time of year when lots of well meaning husbands, will attempt to build the deck that their wives have been asking for. As a fellow DIYer who routinely finds himself in over his head with various projects, my hope is to save you from making a big mistake that will haunt you later. Even if you are doing the work yourself, a deck is still an expensive project. Especially if you are using composite or vinyl materials instead of the traditional wood. So by taking a little extra time up front, hopefully we can extend the life of the deck.

  1. Get a building permit. I know this is a hassle, not only to get it upfront, but with all the inspections that are needed. But the inspector will make sure that you are using the proper hardware and flashing necessary for a long-lasting deck.

  2. Get the Ledger board right. The connection of the deck to the house is the most important part of the whole project. Almost all of the deck collapses you see in the news are caused by 3 things, 1) Improper or lack of flashing, 2) Lack of joist hangers, 3) using only nails to attach ledger to house. So make sure you remove the siding from behind the ledger, install ice & water shield or some type of rubber/vinyl roll flashing between the ledger and the house wall. Also add a “z-channel” flashing to the top of the ledger after it is installed. Use ½”X5” lag bolts or 5” Ledger Locks to attach to the house. And lastly make sure you use triple zinc coated joist hangers to attach the joist to the ledger.

  3. Don’t skimp on the footers. I’m a big fan of the “overkill is underated” mindset when it comes to deck footers. Some people will tell you that is is okay to just dig a few holes, dump a couple bags of dry sackrete in them, and build your deck. That might work for a mailbox or a fence, but not for a deck. Take the extra time to mix up the sackrete and let it harden.

In general, make sure that your framing and footers are done properly. It is tempting to skimp on these things because they are never seen again after the floor is installed. But think of it this way, why put vinyl or composite decking that has at least a 25 year life, on a deck frame that isn’t going to last that long? Happy building and enjoy that new deck!

By Ray Ebersol