Deck Building Checklist
Have you been dreaming about adding to the value of your home with a sunny, comfy deck area? Perhaps the time has come to go for it! But before you start this project, carefully consider all its components and come up with a detailed plan. To help you do this, check out our handy guide:
Although you don’t necessarily need to hire a contractor or architect to design your deck, you should definitely do your research before coming up with a plan. Start by carefully reviewing the boundaries of your property. If the information you have is not complete, hire a surveyor.
When coming up with a deck plan, use graph paper to sketch a scaled drawing. Determine what you want in your deck as you make your plan. Ask yourself:
- Will you need stairs?
- Where will they come from?
- Where will they lead?
- How will you access your deck?
- How high do you want your deck to be?
Also be sure to allow for any necessary utility hook ups, and mark off these areas before beginning to build.
Choose a Style
Next, invest in specialized books and magazines, as you seek to come up with a tried and tested deck design. These plans should be drawn up in detail, and in most cases, must be approved by your local building or zoning board.
Some deck styles to consider:
Tiered – This type of deck allows you to create various areas for eating, relaxing, swimming and playing.
Elevated – This type of deck may offer a great view, but is not necessarily safe for children and is less private if neighbours are close. Bear in mind that decks that are more than two feet off the ground should always have a railing.
Ground Level – A ground level deck blends into the environment and makes your yard look larger. It’s also a great option if you have young children.
Materials and Foundation
Decks are most often made with pressure treated wood, which is the versatile standard. However, there are other decking material options available today which are growing in popularity, including recycled plastic and wood composite.
Next, think about your foundation. Ask the following questions:
- What type of soil are you working with?
- Will the deck be anchored to the house or set apart from it? What type of deck would you like to build?
- Are you prepared to do major excavation work?
- How much do you plan on spending on your project?
Answering these questions will help you choose between the following foundations:
- Concrete piers with sills
- Concrete piers without sills
- Prefabricated deck blocks
- Foundation piles or screws (no digging required)
Think About Size and Space
The comfort of your new deck depends on its size. Allow for about four to five feet per person regularly using the deck, and add some breathing space for company. The orientation of your deck is also important. Plan and position your deck in relation to the sun’s position in your yard during the summer and don’t forget to consider the location of trees and other factors, such as sheds and garages. Avoid wind by locating your deck where the house will provide some protection, and be careful not to place your deck under a gum-dripping spruce or nut-bearing tree. Finally, consider privacy, for yourself and your neighbours.
Do Your Homework
Once you’ve drawn up your deck plan, you should take a close look at your home and yard to be sure your dream deck has the potential to become a reality. You can do this yourself, or hire a professional inspector. Find out if the exterior walls of your home are sturdy enough to support a structure such as this, if support is necessary. Check the drainage and grading of the area where the deck will be built and fix any problems before work begins. Next, become familiar with various building materials, and take the time to learn how decks are built.
Take your project plan to your local building inspector. He or she will review your plans and advise you of any necessary changes. The inspector will also advise you of any special permits and building requirements required for your area. Take notes and ask for copies of special instructions relating to your project. Make sure to become familiar with the procedures for setting inspection dates.
Time to hit the hardware store! Be sure to bring your deck plan, and all your critical measurements. Most home improvement stores have service people who can look at your plan and help you purchase the right supplies.
Some items you will likely need for deck building include:
- Caulking compound
- Pre-mixed concrete
- Gravel or crushed stone
- Cinder blocks
- Post caps
- Post bases
- Seismic ties
- Joist hangers
- Cardboard tube concrete forms
- Ring-shank spiral-groove nails
- Joist hanger nails
- HDG bolts or lag screws, and washers
- Carpenter’s level
- Carpenter’s square
- Plumb bob
- Wheelbarrow (for mixing concrete)
- Caulking gun
- Wrench (to tighten lag screws)
- Circular saw
- Tape measure
- Safety glasses
- Scrap lumber for bracing
Tip: Don’t forget to keep your receipts!