How To Build a Deck

How To Build a Deck
We began by installing 8 6″x6″x10′ pressure-treated posts in the ground. We added an 80lb. sack of concrete per post for structural support. This is a shot of my dad and my nephew. Dad is trimming one of the posts so it can set under the eaves next to the house.

This deck design was custom tailored to this backyard. We wanted the deck to be very sturdy (some would say this is over-built) In my opinion, it is the best way to build a deck. The strength is unmatched and it truly feels like you are standing on a concrete floor. Solid and strong.

My nephew learning the ropes. Checking that the post is square with the house.
My nephew learning the ropes. Checking that the post is square with the house. We attached a 2″x8″x16′ ledger board at the base to keep the rigidity of the posts square while we were setting the posts.
Anthony standing in front of 4 posts set and leveled. This is a lot harder than it looks. These posts are very heavy and definitely require the strnegth of 2 people.
Anthony standing in front of 4 posts set and leveled. This is a lot harder than it looks. These posts are very heavy and definitely require the strength of 2 people.

Pro tip: When installing these posts, allow an hour to pass prior to any handling of the posts. Do Not Touch them. Set your level on the posts and leave them alone. Once an hour has passed, take some of your longboards and screw them to the bases of the posts. This ensures the posts will not shift as the concrete cures around them. Be careful when navigating around them, they make an excellent trip board so watch your step.

Shot of the deck's framing and posts.
Shot of the deck’s framing and posts.

The longboards you see in this photo are only placed to hold the posts in place while the concrete is curing. These will be removed later in the build.

 

Faith helping out with the build. She loves construction.
Faith helping out with the build. She loves construction.
Digging the holes for the next round of posts.
Digging the holes for the next round of posts. We gave the task of digging the post holes to the muscles of the group. He was a beast when digging these holes. Go, Anthony!

Pro Tip: Make sure the holes of your posts are at least 3′ into the ground. This ensures a good grip and attachment of the concrete.

A job well done. My father and nephew standing in front of the posts set in place. This was a long hard day.
A job well done. My father and nephew standing in front of the posts set in place. This was a long hard day.
Adding the header framing to the posts.
Adding the header framing to the posts.

In this phase, we added the big 2″x8″x8′ header boards. These boards will act as the roof structural framing and provide an even look when the baseboards go on. We initially set these boards with screws to make everything clean, level and aligned. We went back and added galvanized thru-bolts. The tops of the posts will eventually be trimmed flush with the header boards.

Another shot of the progress on the header board installation. This is definitely a 2-person job. Do not attempt to do this by yourself.
Another shot of the progress on the header board installation. This is definitely a 2-person job. Do not attempt to do this by yourself.
Another shot of the progress on the header board installation. This is definitely a 2-person job. Do not attempt to do this by yourself.
Another shot of the progress on the header board installation. This is definitely a 2-person job. Do not attempt to do this by yourself.
Another shot of the progress on the header board installation. This is definitely a 2-person job. Do not attempt to do this by yourself.
Another shot of the progress on the header board installation. Notice the small piece of scrap tacked under the header board. This allows for extra support and acts as a rest when installing the board. Safety first.
Header boards being installed photo.
Header boards being installed photo.
Header boards being installed photo.
Header boards being installed photo.
Header boards being installed photo.
Header boards being installed photo.
We added thru-bolts to the header boarfds to ensure strength and longevity. Thru-bolts are the best way to attach header and footer boards to the posts.
We added thru-bolts to the header boards to ensure strength and longevity. Thru-bolts are the best way to attach header and footer boards to the posts.
Another view of the header thru-bolts. These are galvanized.
Another view of the header thru-bolts. These are galvanized. Observe the line that serves as a bolt guide. I measured and marked the location of each thru-bolt to ensure a symmetrical appearance since these bolts will be visible in the finished design.

Pro tip: Use washers and lock-washers on both sides of the thru-bolts. These bolts are very expensive but make the difference in your project. The bolts are made by Hillman and can be found in any big-box store.

We chose to initially install a lattice ceiling to allow for sunlight to shine into the deck area. This would eventually be replaced by plywood and a proper roof was added.
We chose to initially install a lattice ceiling to allow for sunlight to shine into the deck area. This would eventually be replaced by plywood and a proper roof was added.

With the header boards installed. We added 2″x4″x8′ joists set at 24″ on center to allow for the lattice roof. We used simpson joist hangers to establish a connection.

We chose to initially install a lattice ceiling to allow for sunlight to shine into the deck area. This would eventually be replaced by plywood and a proper roof was added.
A stack of wood latticethat will later be used as the ceiling panels.
Another shot of the lattice ceiling. Note the joist hangers.
Another shot of the lattice ceiling. Note the joist hangers.
Another shot of the lattice ceiling. Note the joist hangers.
Another shot of the lattice ceiling. Note the joist hangers.
An 18GA air nailer was used to tack the lattice panels in place on the roof.
An 18GA air nailer was used to tack the lattice panels in place on the roof.
An overall view of the base structural framing completed with 1 run of lattice ceiling. It is starting to take shape.
An overall view of the base structural framing completed with 1 run of lattice ceiling. It is starting to take shape.
An overall view of the base structural framing completed with 1 run of lattice ceiling. It is starting to take shape.
My father and brother observing the framing system. Another long day of hard work. It is starting to pay off!
A view of a section of lattice ceiling from the ground level.
A view of a section of lattice ceiling from the ground level.
The next two sections of lattice ceilig installed. We decided to pre-paint these sections to reduce the mess.
The next two sections of lattice ceiling installed. We decided to pre-paint these sections to reduce the mess.

Pro Tip: Only use lattice if you want an open-air deck. We chose to completely roof the deck after this version was built. We like the roofed version a lot better but this all comes down to personal taste. Both versions are awesome.

A view of the freshly installed lattice ceiling from the ground floor.
A view of the freshly installed lattice ceiling from the ground floor.
This is what the main framing looks like after the posts are trimmed and the ceiling panels are installed. Nice and square. Most of all: STRONG!
This is what the main framing looks like after the posts are trimmed and the ceiling panels are installed. Nice and square. Most of all: STRONG! We used one of thos little big-box store garden carts to haul around the heavy posts and boards.
Theres Hope enjoying the fresh dirt. It was a HOT day.
There’s Hope enjoying the fresh dirt. It was a HOT day.
Adding concrete for one of the small support posts that will attach the the 16' runner board.
Adding concrete for one of the small support posts that will attach the 16′ runner board.
The floor joists are being installed. They attach with a simpson 2x6 joist hanger on each side.
The floor joists are being installed. They attach with a Simpson 2×6 joist hanger on each side.
The floor joists begin. THis is ashot of the first run of floor joists installed.
The floor joists begin. This is a shot of the first run of floor joists installed.

We installed 2″x6″x8′ floor joists. These were all pressure-treated for ground contact. I had to get creative with the framing as we did not want to remove the existing concrete slab that served as a door landing.

On each of the long 16′ boards that run from one side to the other (perpendicular to the joists), I added two 6″x6″x2′ posts per run, and concreted them into the ground. These serve as additional center support so the deck has absolutely ZERO flex when walking on it.

A shot of the floor joists. Note the support post at each of the corners.
A shot of the floor joists. Note the support post at each of the corners.
Support posts concreted into the ground. Use a 5"lag bolt to secure the joists and ledgers to the posts.
Support posts concreted into the ground. Use a 5″ lag bolt to secure the joists and ledgers to the posts.

Use the support posts added evenly through the project (noted with yellow arrows) These are the keyo to having a deck that does not flex.

More angular views of the joist setup.
More angular views of the joist setup.
Joists throughout the rest of the deck.
Joists throughout the rest of the deck.

A 2″x10″x16′ ledger joist was added between each of the support posts to allow for connection of each group of floor joists. 2 extra 6″x6″ posts were added and lag bolted to each of these ledger joists for added center support. This is critical to avoid deck flex.

The deck planks are being installed.
The deck planks are being installed.

For the decking material. we used 2″x6″x16′ boards. We decided to run with 2×6 boards instead of traditional deck boards. They are not much more money and they allow for a much stronger deck. Preventing deck flex is easy when you use strong boards.

Because these boards were 16-foot long, some of them were a little curved from end to end. We used a push bar to push them into place. We used 3″ exterior deck screws to attach the boards and we used a speed square to measure each screw prior to installation. This makes for a nice symmetrical look when complete.

Decking installed. Note the screw pattern is inline and straight.
Decking installed. Note the screw pattern is inline and straight.
Decking installed. Note the screw pattern is inline and straight.
Decking installed. Note the screw pattern is inline and straight.
Decking installed. Note the screw pattern is inline and straight.
Decking installed. Note the screw pattern is inline and straight.

The joists are set at 16″ on center. Do not space them 24″ on center. The 16 OC really helps you avoid deck flex.

Another view of the decking installed over the first of three sections.
Another view of the decking installed over the first of three sections.
The second section of decking installed.
The second section of decking installed.
The second section of decking installed.
The second section of decking installed.
The second section of decking installed.
The second section of decking installed.

The 2×6 boards really give the deck a commercial look. When you stand on this deck you can really feel how sturdy it is.

The second section of decking installed.
A view of the deck through the back door. Looks great!
A view of my screwgun making the railing system.
A view of my screw gun making the railing system.

I wanted to custom build the railing system. I didn’t want to build it in the traditional way. I like the stacked 2×6 / 2×4 look and I like when it looks like the railings disappear into the top and bottom supports. Plus, I wanted the top rail to be wide enough to put a beer on 😉

A shot of the lower section of rail with the crews pre inserted.
A shot of the lower section of rail with the crews pre-inserted.

I measured out every 4″ and marked the 2×4. I inserted a screw at each center line. These will attach the banisters to the top and bottom rails.

Attacj a 2x6 at the base using a Kreg Jog and adding 2 pocket-hole screws (2-1/2") per side.
Attach a 2×6 at the base using a Kreg Jig and adding 2 pocket-hole screws (2-1/2″) per side.
Attacj a 2x6 at the base using a Kreg Jog and adding 2 pocket-hole screws (2-1/2") per side.
Attach a 2×6 at the base using a Kreg Jig and adding 2 pocket-hole screws (2-1/2″) per side.

I used some 2×4 cut-offs as spacers to set the desired height of the base rail.

I pre built the rails on the floor prior to installation. Here is a section built to show how it is constructed.
I pre-built the rails on the floor prior to installation. Here is a section built to show how it is constructed. A banister is attached to a 2×4.
A section of railing completed and installed.
A section of railing completed and installed.

Once you have a section of banisters attached to a 2×4, use a Kreg Jig to make pocket holes in a section of 2×6. Attach the 2×6 base rail between two support posts. After, set your completed banister to 2×4 section atop the 2×6 and attach using 3″ deck screws every 10″. Next, lay a 2×4 atop the banisters and use a level on each banister and add a 3″ deck screw thru the top of each banister. Once all are set, attach a 2×6 top rail to complete the symmetrical look of the deck railing system. See photos for reference.

Railing system installed on deck.
Railing system installed on deck.
How to make a deck rail
How to make a deck rail
Some photos of the first set of railings installed.
Some photos of the first set of railings installed.
Some photos of the first set of railings installed.
Some photos of the first set of railings installed.
Some photos of the first set of railings installed.
Some photos of the first set of railings installed.
My dad enjoying a cold beer after the railings were installed.
My dad enjoying a cold beer after the railings were installed.
A shot of all three sections of rails completed.
A shot of all three sections of rails completed.
A view of the railing system as it meets a corner. The poctet screws make it look like a professional job.
A view of the railing system as it meets a corner. The pocket screws make it look like a professional job.
The deck railing system view from the side.
The deck railing system view from the side.
The deck railing system view from the side.
The deck railing system view from the side.
The deck railing system view from the side.
The deck railing system view from the side.
The completed deck view from the pool
The completed deck view from the pool
A view from the inside of the deck. This is the completed look right after a summer rain.
A view from the inside of the deck. This is the completed look right after a summer rain.
Side view of the new deck.
Side view of the new deck.
Front view of the new deck.
Front view of the new deck.
Side view of the new deck and railing system.
Side view of the new deck and railing system.
Side view of the new deck and railing system.
Side view of the new deck and railing system.

Summary: This was a large-scale project. The total build time was 10 very full weekend days. You will need a couple helpers when the job gets heavy. You will need to stay hydrated if you are working in the summer and wear sunscreen! The total build cost on this project was approximately $8,000 if you are doing the labor yourself. A lot of the added cost was the galvenized hardware and oversized boards at 16′ length.

 

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