Build a Deck

Tips and tricks

A deck can extend your living space and break up the lines of your home, adding visual appeal. Here, we will discuss tips and tricks for planning, building and maintaining your deck.

Exterior Design

Before you begin, take a walk around your property to choose the best location. It is wise to ensure that you will make use of your new addition. Take note of the changes in sun and shade. This is especially important if you love to sunbathe or loathe direct sunlight. Many people build off the kitchen for dining and entertaining. A deck makes it easy for guests in a small home to spread out and relax. Be sure to check zoning regulations and homeowner's association requirements (if applicable), and know where your underground utilities are. Call Digger's Hotline at least three working days before you break ground. This nonprofit organization can save you from expensive repairs and serious or fatal injury.

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Planning Is an Important Step

Things to consider when building a deck include choosing the right materials. Use decking nails or screws, ring or spiral shanked. Other nails may pop up. Stainless will cost more but won't rust.

Use a semi-transparent or clear finish with UV blockers to maintain original wood color. Pre-stained, brown, pressure-treated wood will save time.


Now that you're breaking ground, how low do you go? If you live where the ground freezes, you must dig past the depth of freezing - six inches is usually recommended. Also, when it comes to pillars, wider bottoms are better here; they help to prevent rising.

Make sure the deck is square. Square means that two intersecting lines create a 90-degree angle. If the frame is square, all else will go more smoothly - there will be fewer irregular cuts. Here is an easy trick: At an intersection, measure down one line and mark it at three feet. Measure down the other line and mark it at four feet. A straight line between the two will measure exactly five feet if the joints are square.

Some other good ideas are to:

  • Angle nails slightly toward each other for more staying power.
  • Drill pilot holes to help prevent splitting.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from splinters.
  • Slope the ground away from your home for drainage.
  • Be sure that the drop from your door to the deck is four to six inches. This will help keep the rain / snow / debris from entering your home.


Proper maintenance ensures beauty, usefulness and longevity. Most decks will need to be treated with a sealer every two or three years to reduce discoloration, moisture damage and the risk of damage from wood-eating insects. Sweep the deck regularly, as leaves and debris retain moisture. Use a putty knife to clear in between boards.

A deck can add value and comfort to your home, and it can be a great do-it-yourself project. If you have good plans, the right tools and a strong back, you should be ready to go.

By Terra Fletcher

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