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» Building a Deck, Part 1 in a Series

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A deck is something that nearly every home owner wants, which adds not only considerable value but also immense enjoyment to your home.

It provides a focal point as well as a central location for enjoying the outdoors near your home.
Planning is the most important aspect of building your deck and you will want to consider carefully the elements that it will require to not only match up with your lifestyle, but also your home and landscaping design.

You will want to provide for overhead shade of some variety, consider distance from the home for lighting purposes if it is not to be attached, .

* You may be able to avoid winds by locating your deck where the house will provide protection.

* Legal Aspects may also force a decision, Before you choose or begin to build, check any local ordinances or coding issues.
This may in fact limit not only where you may be, but how far from a neighbors fencing, limitations on size and sometimes even the design must be approved.

In most cases you must have a building permit prior to beginning your project and you will want to have that prominently
displayed prior to starting your work as well as to check with the utility company to assure that you will not be near
underground gas or electric lines.

* Size‚You can build any size deck you want within legal limits. But even within those limits, a deck can be either too
big or too small.

To test your ideas, measure the size you want on your lawn. Drive 4-foot stakes at the approximate corners, then tie string between them at about the height of the railings. Set your lawn furniture in the area to get an idea of how the space will work. The most common mistake people make is building a deck too small.

* Shape and Decking Patterns‚A deck can be any shape you want, and in fact, simple changes like an angled corner or a
45-degree decking pattern can dress up a house with a long, plain wall. Of course, a more complicated deck is more difficult
to build, and may require more materials. You can also wrap the deck around a corner, adding a fence, latticework or even an overhead trellis.

* Height‚Usually, the decking should come to within 2 ” of the bottom of the access door from the house.
Typically, wherever the deck is more than 48″ off the ground, codes require that the posts be braced to prevent swaying and racking.

* Railings are the most prominent visual element in a deck, and offer some fantastic opportunities to use your creative talents and your imagination to gain the exact look that you want. They may include wood, metal, or even rope‚nearly anything that satisfies structural requirements.

* Your railing design will be limited in some cases by building code regulations that are designed to ensure safety for the users of the deck, however these may not apply if you are in a rural setting. Still you do want to be certain that what you build is going to be sturdy and long lasting.

Normally the codes will tell you that support posts may be no more than 6 inches apart, and that the railing may have no spaces larger than 4″.

* Steps and Stairs‚Step and stair construction is closely regulated by building codes. As a rule, steps and stairs should
be at least 36″ wide‚60″ if you want two people to be able to pass each other comfortably. The rise (vertical distance between steps) should be no more than 7-1/2″ and the width of a tread at least 10″.

The slope should not be too steep‚a 7″ riser with a 10-1/2″ tread is a common combination. Building codes will also govern how the stair is supported and attached, and whether or not you need a railing.‚ (From Sunset Decking) * Structural Components‚There are five basic components ofa typical deck:

1) Vertical posts are set in concrete or on piers set on a concrete footing. They are typically spaced 4′ to 8′ apart.

2) Horizontal beams are set on the posts parallel to the decking to carry the weight of the deck.

3) Joists are run between the beams, typically 16″ or 24″ apart. They distribute the weight of the deck and allow you to
use decking boards that wouldn’t be strong enough to span the distance between the beams.

4) Decking is laid over the joists to form the “floor” of the deck.

5) Railings are usually 36″ to 42″ high, designed so no spaces between balusters are greater than 4″.

* The materials used, and the size and spacing of these components, are specified by local building codes.

* Materials
Deck materials must not only be resistant to decay and insect damage, but also withstand the effects of water and sun. Standard construction lumber such as fir, pine or spruce may be treated to protect it from rot, but it won’t hold up under extreme weather conditions or the ultraviolet rays in sunlight.

You’ll get much better durability by using pressure-treated pine, redwood, or cedar. Pressure-treated
material is the least expensive, and can be stained to nearly any color you want. Redwood and cedar offer an added advantage in that they are soft, fine-grained woods that will resist splintering. If you use redwood or cedar, remember that only the heartwood”the reddish-colored portion of redwood or the dark brownish-orange part of a cedar board‚is decay-resistant. The lighter-colored sapwood will deteriorate just as quickly as pine or spruce.

* Once you have a rough idea of what you want, draw two sketches‚one of your lot, showing the deck as part of your landscaping plan, and one of your design. Use graph paper, making each square equal a given dimension (for example, each square may equal 1′ on your lot plan, or 3″ on your design) to get all the components roughly to scale.

Take the sketch to your local home center or lumberyard, and ask a salesperson to estimate and price the materials you’ll need.

Decking may be laid in a variety of patterns, including diagonal, checkerboard, and herringbone. The pattern you choose
will determine the configuration of the supporting joists and beams. From the Sunset book, Decks, ‚©Sunset Publishing

As you decide how your deck will look, draw a detailed sketch on graph paper.


* 100′ Measuring Tape
* Graph Paper
* 4′ Wood Stakes
* Mason’s String
* 25′ Measuring Tape
* Ruler
* Hammer

Check your state and local codes before starting any project.

Follow all safety precautions.

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We are not responsible for accident or injury as a result of your use of this site or its instructions.


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