How To Build a Deck

Building a deck is extremely rewarding, but doing it yourself can be a time consuming and challenging DIY home improvement project.  If you aren't sure you are prepared to do it on your own, get help!  Here is a useful local deck builder resource where you can find pros in your area and get free quotes as well.

Some cities and counties have building codes that strictly regulate building materials and construction practices. Check with your local government for guidelines. If your area allows you to construct the deck, follow these steps.

Tools and Materials

  • 4” x 4” posts each 4’ long (for footers)
  • 2” x 6” boards 12’ in length (for joists and deck boards)
  • Toggle bolts
  • Galvanized nails
  • Tape measure
  • Saw
  • Goggles
  • Framing square
  • Level
  • Hammer
  • Drill

All wood should be pressure treated.

Step 1

Plan and design your deck. The materials you need will depend upon the size of your deck. Sample plans are available online or at your local home improvement store.

Step 2

Check building codes and have the design approved. If your county or city requires decks be up to code, submit your plans per their guidelines.

Step 3

Organize materials. Follow the plan to count how many footers, joists and deck boards are needed. Measure out the length of each piece.

Step 4

Layout the design. Plan your design in the yard. Make certain to mark the corners and locations of all footers. When possible, place spacer boards into the ground. These boards should be hammered into the ground outside where the deck will be to form a sort of frame for your building. Before any building begins, be sure that your deck is square and even. If the footers are even 1/2” off center, the deck will lose stability.

Step 5

Place the footers. Using posts 4’ in length is best if the deck will sit on the ground and if you don’t want a post above the top surface of the deck. Place the footers deep enough in the ground that they will be stable. For taller or large structures, you may need to set the posts in concrete. Check your local building codes.

Step 6

Secure frame boards to footers. Secure the frame boards to the exterior of the footings creating the deck frame and sides. Use heavy bolts for stability. Once all the sides are installed, check again to verify they are square and even.

Step 7

Build joists. Cut the joist boards to the proper length. Secure each joist one at a time. You can use metal joist holders for additional strength if you want. Nail each end of the joists to the end boards. Depending upon your code requirements, the joists may need to be spaced 12” O.C. (on center), 16” O.C. or 24” O.C.

Step 8

Place deck boards. Cut the deck boards to the desired length for your deck floor. If you could not get boards long enough to span your deck you will need to stagger the boards so that they do not end on the same joist. Boards need to run perpendicular or at a 45 degree angle from the joists. The angle creates a more stunning look but will require much more time and additional materials for waste since you will need to cut off each end. Lay the boards out starting at one end. Nail each board. Allow for minimal space between the boards for expansion and contraction.

Step 9

Finish deck surfaces. Make sure that all deck boards are square with the frame boards. Finish up the deck with a weatherproofing sealer for added protection against the elements.

Creating a deck can be a worthwhile project for any homeowner. Make certain to follow local guidelines and plan carefully. After a few weekends of hard labor you will have a great space to relax or entertain while enjoying the outdoors.


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Thanks for the tip, Cass.

By Edward Sanders

Ipe is a great deck material, by the way!

By Cassandra Seveny