We’re in full deck building mode this weekend building a floating deck in a previously unused corner of our yard. We loved building our first deck and definitely learnt a lot. Are you thinking of building a deck but have no idea where to start? I feel ya. Here are some tips I hope will help make the whole deck building process more fun and less stressful!
Research, Research, Research
After talking Chris into building the deck ourselves we did a lot of research. I like books & blogs and Chris likes YouTube so we really covered all our bases. I recommend becoming familiar with all aspects of deck building like parts & materials before you even think about the design (it’s totally worth the wait).
Get out the garden hose
Looking through a gazillion inspiration photos on Pinterest and drawing pictures of the shape and size of your deck on the back of an envelope can be really helpful – but our favourite planning tool is our garden hose! Lay out your hose (or scrap wood, whatever!) and mark the outline of your deck IN PLACE. It’s much easier to see what will work and what won’t IRL. Make any adjustments you need and when you’re happy write down all the measurements.
Check with your municipality
Are you going to build a floating deck? Do you need to dig concrete footings? How deep do you need to dig to be below the frost line? Make sure to check with your municipality to learn about any requirements or bylaws that exist in your area for decks. You may also need to get a permit before you start building.
Look at your grading
When we were planning our deck we didn’t really pay attention to grading and we should have. It wasn’t until we were cutting down our posts that we realized that our deck was going to be too high for our backdoor because of how sloped our yard is. Knowing this early on will help you make design decisions that will work best in your yard.
Be prepared to adapt
With any DIY there’s going to be stuff that doesn’t go as planned. Be ready to adapt and don’t stress about it. Our grading issue? We decided to create a two-level deck by using joist hangers in front of our sliding door, and then stepped up by installing the joists on top of our beams over in the high area of the yard. It totally looks like it was intentional and it worked so well because we were willing to adapt and get creative.
Talk to a professional
Since this was our first time building a deck we wanted to make sure we were getting all the right materials in the right lengths, so once we had our plan I headed to our local Home Depot. I sat down with someone who entered all our details in to their deck program and provided us with a detailed shopping list, a plan for where to dig our post holes and lots of other amazing info for our deck. He also made some great suggestions for saving money by changing the direction we were going to run the deck boards.
Deck board spacing
This was one area where we did the opposite of everything we learnt in our research. Everything we read/watched said you should space your deck boards so there is a small gap between them. Okay, that’s easy. EXCEPT our neighbour build his deck a week or two before us and he said that the gaps between his boards got dramatically bigger after the deck was built – he had to take them all off and reposition them. Why? The wood got very wet before building and it shrank once it fully dried – makes total sense right? To make sure we didn’t end up in the same situation we installed our boards tightly together and now we have perfectly spaced deck boards.
DIY stair stringers
If your yard allows you to use pre-cut stair stringers – DO IT. They’re totally worth it. If they just won’t work with your grading and you have to create your own…I’m sorry. Have a little cry and then watch this video from cottage life which will totally save the day.
This one is huge – big projects like deck building can be really stressful, especially if you’ve never done it before. You and your building partner will both make mistakes and that can lead to fighting. My husband Chris and I are very lucky that we can do these types of projects together without shouting at each other. Our secret? Neither of us knew what we were doing and we didn’t claim to. We made mistakes and we laughed about it!
Celebrate your awesome skillz!
When you’re all done make sure to celebrate – you just did built a freaking deck. You’re awesome – share photos! We celebrated with a new BBQ because…yeah…who doesn’t need a new BBQ.