How to Build a Deck: Wood Decking and Railings

An outdoor deck can give your backyard an attractive focal point, as well as a practical space to enjoy warmer weather or brisk evenings outside. Whether you opt for a professional installation by a licensed contractor or want to learn to install decking yourself as a DIY project, knowing what building a deck entail can help you gain an understanding of what’s involved. Whether you want a grand, multi-level deck or a simple wood patio, the installation process involves determining the type of design you want for your deck, choosing your materials, and understanding the various parts of a deck.

What is it like to renovate a deck?

In this article, we’ll learn first-hand what it’s like to renovate a deck, and turn it into the ideal spot for the kids to play, for you to grill up the world’s best steak, or for your family and friends to relax and watch the sun set.

1. Know what you’re dealing with

Decks, like basements, get stability from the foundation of a house, but you can’t always see what’s going on. Dustin explains that although he was able to lift off the existing plywood decking to remove and replace the damaged 2-by-6 beams underneath, it was difficult to determine the extent of the rot without some careful assessment.

In his case, he found that the issue was caused by rainwater pooling at a low point on the deck’s surface, so the structural damage was minimal. If you’re in doubt, however, this is the time to get a professional opinion. Don’t replace your whole deck only to have to do it again in a couple years’ time.

2. If you’re rebuilding, you don’t always have to replace the entire deck

Dustin found that he was able to contain reconstruction to a small area, which cut down on time and costs. Removing the plywood top with a circular saw, he switched out the damaged 2-by-6 beams, and reinforced the area with two additional 4-by-4 posts so that pooling would be minimized.

3. Design your deck with safety and affordability in mind

When he was planning out his deck space, Dustin decided to splurge in some areas and cut back in others, but his priority was safety. With two young children, and living in an area affected by heavy rainfall, he wanted to maintain the kind of rough deck surface that would prevent slipping, so he chose to use a low-maintenance rubberized deck surface coating product as a base.

Because this was a less-expensive option, Dustin invested more in railings that would not only provide safety, but also make the deck look fantastic.

4. Plan for prep

No matter what decking you choose, removing an old deck surface can take a lot of time. Dustin had to use a floor sander and a power washer to get the existing paint off of his deck. Depending on what is already in place, you may need to rent equipment. A sander works for gritty surfaces, while a power washer may do the trick for already-peeling paint.

5. Make sure you have all the tools you need ahead of time

For his deck project, Dustin relied on a number of saws: the circular saw for removing the old materials; a table saw to cut the new plywood; and a miter saw to shape the 4-by-4 posts. He used a large drill for installing the lag bolts for the posts and the plywood screws, and he suggests that you invest in the best levels you can afford so that you can avoid any issues with drainage over the long term. Safety glasses are also a must.

6. Add lights

One thing that Dustin regretted not doing is running a small electrical line through the top of the railing. This would have allowed him to put in a deck lightings system that would be decorative on warm summer nights, and install Christmas lights easily in winter. This is a fairly easy addition to the project, he says, especially if you already have had some experience with light electrical work.

7. Your deck plans

What are you planning for your deck this year? Are you building a deck from the ground up, or renovating a current one? What deck accessories are you thinking of adding? What are some of your concerns when it comes to a DIY deck installation?

Tell us all about it in the comments of this post.