Decks and patios are fantastic additions to any house. Building a deck adds a distinguishing feature to your home and can improve your quality of life. Best of all, they add value to your property. The cost to build a deck is easily offset by the increase in home value. If you decide to sell your house sometime in the future, you will be able to receive more money on it due to this additional structure.

You have the option of hiring a contractor to design and build your deck. However, if you follow a step-by-step list of sound suggestions, you can enjoy crafting this structure yourself. Always nice to stand on your new deck knowing it was built with your own hands. Here’s how to build a deck that will be structurally strong and long-lasting.

How to Build a Deck – Main Tips

When it comes to how to build a deck, the first thing you should do is draw a professional set of plans. Even if you are knowledgeable and handy at building things, without a good set of plans mistakes can happen. Errors will cost you time and money.

Get the plans drawn first. Your plans will give you a precise figure on actually how much it costs to build a deck. The costs depend on the information in these vital plans.

The remainder of the steps involves building a deck of any size. Following the extra tips and suggestions on how to build a deck will also help if you need to make corrections or replace any parts of your deck in the future. These plans include how much it costs to build a deck depending on the amount of materials needed.

#1. Dimensions & Plans

deck plans and structure

On the one hand, your deck doesn’t have to be attached to the home. On the other hand, if you are going to place it at an entrance door, you’ll need to fit you design and dimensions to match up.

The actual size and placement of the deck are both flexible. You’ll need to account for landscaping, property lines, or other existing structures, but you can build as large a deck as you want. This is also where you’ll determine how extended you want the structure to be and adjust the size.

Decide what you want to use your deck for when determining the dimensions. If you want a space for outside parties, make sure you build one of sufficient size. If all you want is small patio like space for a couple chairs and plants, a small deck will suffice. The dimensions can be adapted to your desires.

These measurements become important when you begin to draw the plans. They will ultimately determine how much material you will need. If you’re thinking about building anything larger than a small patio, consider having the plans drawn professionally.

This will save you more time than you realize, and help prevent mistakes. Once your dimensions are finished and a plan drawn, it’s time to start the building process.

#2. Mark & Layout

The steps here apply to the concept of how to build a floating deck. While the notion of floating may conjure up visions of something buoyed by water, this idea is different. A floating deck simply means a structure not built on a concrete slab or foundation.

Take your plans and dimensions and stake out the area for the deck. The first set of stakes will be nothing more than the total length and width. You can use simple sticks, but a couple of dozen little marker flags are very useful. A good suggestion to visually see the overall dimensions is to go from one flag to another and snap a chalk line mark on the ground.

#3. Post Installation

a beautiful deck in a backyard

Once you have the rough outline measured off, start the process of marking the spots for the posts. Always better to add a couple of extra posts during this phase. The posts are the support for the entire deck. This is the most important part of how to build a deck properly.

Mistakes in this phase can cause potential problems with your deck in the future. You should position your posts no more than 8-feet apart. Round distance measurements down, as it’s better to add an extra post than to have too few.

The length of post buried in the ground should be equal to the height above ground. If your deck is a second story structure, it’s recommended you hire a contractor to set the posts and build the foundation. These plans are for single decks 1 to 4 feet off the ground.

Decide how high you want your deck to be off the ground. Add 2-feet to each post length over the floor height. This measurement is from the ground up to the floor and marked on the plans. Cut all your posts and lay them out at each spot on the ground.


These steps cover how to build a floating deck on a level lot. If you have a sloping grade, your plans must account for the post heights to make the floor level. That is a major reason why you should have your plans professionally drawn beforehand.

Dig your holes 8 to 12 inches wide and as deep as your plans indicate, usually around 18 to 24 inches. Set each post one at a time, making certain they are level vertically. You can fill them back in with dirt and set them with water. However, since the posts are the critical support for the deck, it is recommended you set them in concrete.

#4. The Frame & Support Joists

Allow the posts 24 hours for the concrete to set before beginning to attach the frame and joists. This is a stage where you could use a hammer and nails, but the professional recommendation is to take the extra time to use bolts and screws. Using bolts and screws adds strength to the deck construction, plus it allows for repairs or changes to be completed much easier.

Measure you outside frame supports for the deck. It is suggested that you use nothing less than two by 8s, but for larger decks two by 10s are sufficient. Your center joists can be two by 6s, but the outside frame needs to support a large portion of the deck’s weight. Again, always add a little more, rather than suffer the consequences later.

You will now mark and drill all the bolt holes for your frame. Two bolt holes at each end of your frame board, setting them at a 45-degree angle. Hold the board up against the outside, butting up to each post. Mark inside each hole so you can drill your posts.

Additional Tips

Take the outside frame boards and test them all sliding a bolt through each hole. Once you guarantee that all your holes match up, lay the frame inside up on the ground. You will now attach all the hangers for the center support joists.

The number of joists is determined by the size of your deck. Since you’re working on a professionally drawn design, this number will already be determined. Use screws to attach all the hangers on the inside of each outside frame board. Again, screws over nails are the better choice.

After all your hangers are in place, bolt the outside frame to each post. You’re now ready to set the center support joists on the floor. Your plans will determine if you need a center post and any additional inside frames. Follow the recommendations of the individual who drew up your set of plans on how to build a deck.

#5. Attach the Floor

a small yet elegant deck

The next phase of how to build a deck is the one that begins to show the most rewards. As you add the flooring planks, the visual appeal of your deck will become apparent. As with the other steps, a few extra safeguards are suggested.

Do a dry layout of all your floorboards. Go along and mark every location where you will attach the board to the outside frame and through to the center support joists. Take the boards off and drill hole slightly smaller than the screw diameter you are going to use to attach them. This is another step, which will prove useful if you need to make adjustments in the future.

Line your deck boards back up one at a time, working from the back of your deck to the front. This is especially important if your deck is attached to your home. It’s easier to fix problems away from the house than butted up against a wall. Attach all your flooring planks with screws, and you will step back and view your new deck.

#6. Adding Steps

To determine how to build steps on a deck, follow these same guidelines. Use screws and bolts because if you do, you can always move the steps at a later time.

#7. Adding a Pergola

There are some steps on how to build a pergola on an existing deck where you will follow these same suggestions. Again, plans are critical, and preparation ahead of time recommended. The same idea follows that building a pergola using bolts and screws is highly suggested.

#8. Weather Proofing

All decks are built using pressure treated lumber, but you can complete some extra steps to keep them shining throughout the season. You can use a stain type wood preserver to change the color or use a clear treatment. If you use a high-quality wood preserver the first time, your deck will not only last longer but stay shining throughout the year.

Let’s Recap

Building a new deck can be a lot of fun. Take the time to have a professional set of plans drawn before you start. This will help you prevent mistakes and build a sturdy addition to your home. Learning how to build a deck is fun and most of all, you can step back and admire your work, knowing you did it yourself.

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