4 Things to Consider Before Building a Deck
What You Should Think About Prior to Getting Started
Not all new decks have a solid plan behind their construction, and many homeowners will decide to install a new deck without considering potential issues. They choose instead to rely on their own experience, their understanding of regulations and codes, and home improvement resources found at their local home improvement store, library, or online.
While a certain amount of do-it-yourself know-how will serve you well as you prepare your outdoor space for a new deck, it can be frightfully easy to overlook some key considerations in the excited rush to build your new space. Here are four things you should definitely consider prior to getting started on your decking project.
1 – Placement and Design
Your first consideration should be the placement, size, height, and overall design of your deck. Would you prefer an attached structure or a freestanding deck? Do you want multiple levels? Do you want distinct areas for different activities? This is the most fun part of the process (until you’re having a celebratory beverage on your completed deck), so enjoy it and be as creative as you wish.
Many home improvement stores and websites offer software that can assist you in designing your deck—even calculating your necessary materials if you feed in accurate measurements. If you’re unsure where to start, check out one of these free deck blueprints and suggested materials lists.
2 – Building Codes, HOA Rules, Etc.
Check with your local government, whether that’s city, county, or state (in some cases), to make sure that your plans are in compliance with local building codes and zoning restrictions.
Purchase any necessary permits and check with your homeowner’s association to ensure that your plans will not be in violation of their rules. Also, keep in mind that if you want something that’s against the rules or out of bounds, there may be a variance you can request or an appeals process that will still allow you to build your dream deck.
3 – Decking Materials and Finishes
Next, you’ll want to choose your decking materials, keeping in mind what type of finished look you’re hoping for. Decking materials can be broken down into three basic categories:
- Pressure treated wood is sturdy, resists the elements, and is best used for framing and posts of the deck. However, it typically doesn’t provide a good aesthetic and is difficult to finish.
- Wood decking boards have a pleasant, natural look, but can also carry many imperfections, such as warping, cupping, and knotholes. They also require regular maintenance to protect them from the elements.
- Composite decking, made of recycled wood and plastic fibers, has several beautiful finished looks, requires little to no maintenance, and generally weathers better and longer than natural wood.
You’ll also want to choose the desired look for your railings, lighting, and other finishing touches.
4 – Hardware, Fasteners, Footings, Etc.
The cement footings for your new deck have to be installed correctly and to code. In many locations, this will require digging below the frost line and working with concrete. For some homeowners, having a professional install the footings may be a more viable option.
Attached to the footings, the posts and framing (the hidden supporting parts of the deck) can be constructed using cheaper and stronger pressure treated wood as mentioned above. However, pressure treated wood may not be ideal since it doesn’t look very appealing and is often rough to walk on. It’s best to use this material where it won’t be seen or felt, such as in hidden areas.
Selecting whether to go with screws, nails, or a hidden fastening system of some sort will be your last consideration prior to finalizing your plan, purchasing materials, preparing the site, and getting to work. Whichever fastener type you choose for your deck project, make sure that you are picking fasteners designed and rated for outdoor use.
Getting the Deck You Want Starts before the First Swing of the Hammer
Building the best possible deck for your home requires careful planning, attention to detail, homework, and preparation. If you follow the four steps outlined above, you should be well on your way to building the deck you want long before you ever touch a hammer.