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Deck Building 101

Deck building is a full-featured construction project that can require a substantial investment in tools and materials. It is essential to do your homework and understand what you are getting into before starting the project, especially if you will be a DIYer.

Deck Building

Start by obtaining a good blueprint plan or reading a few books on the subject. Then, make hand sketches of the design and walk through it mentally before you begin–the more time spent visualizing the work ahead of you, the less likely you will be to run into mistakes that can result in costly delays. Contact Deck Builders Charleston SC for professional help.

The first step is to prepare the area for the deck. Remove any large rocks or roots, and dig holes for the foundation piers. Once the piers are in, mix and pour the concrete for the footings if you’re using concrete. If you’re going to use metal piers, set them and secure them with bolts. Once the footings are set, it’s time to install the beams. One classic error that can lead to a collapsed deck is when do-it-yourselfers attach the beams to the support posts by resting them on top of the post. This is not a safe practice, and it is against most building codes. Instead, the beams should sit inside of an L-shaped notch that you create with a circular or reciprocating saw, or on special steel framing connectors.

Before you build your deck, it’s helpful to draw a scale diagram of the project on square-ruled graph paper. You should also mark the locations of any structures, drives, walks or permanent plantings. You will also want to use the diagram to locate your stakes for constructing batter boards and to ensure that your deck frame is square to the house structure.


There are many materials to consider when building a deck. Wood is the most common material for decks, but synthetic and composite materials are also available. Each has its own unique features and benefits. It’s also important to consider your local building codes before beginning any construction. Many communities have set-back rules, height requirements and other regulations that impact how a deck can be built.

Begin by preparing the soil for the foundation of your deck. Dig your footings, making sure to go down deep enough to avoid frost heaving during the winter. Use a post hole digger to dig the holes, or rent one if you’re going to be building a large deck. If the soil is too soft to support a deck, add some crushed stone or other base material to increase its strength.

Once the footings are in place, you’re ready to begin building the frame of your deck. Start by installing a ledger board, a 2 x 10 or 2 x 12 board that attaches to your house framing and forms the structural side of the deck. Tuck a flashing strip under the siding where the ledger will sit, to keep water from getting behind the framing and damaging your home.

Next, cut pressure-treated 2x stock for the front rim joists and install them, staggered as needed. Fasten the joist hangers (also called double-flange or concealed-flange) into the ends of each joist, using the appropriate size nails as recommended by the joist hanger manufacturer. To prevent sagging, be sure to stagger the butt joints by varying the lengths of joists where they join. Then fit the inner 2xs of each joist into the post anchors and toe nail them down with 16d nails.


Decks are outdoor rooms that connect the home with nature. They offer the chance to enjoy the sun’s warmth or watch the stars come out on a summer night. Unlike indoor rooms, outdoor spaces are open to nature and the breezes that carry the smells of the garden. To fully realize their potential, outdoor spaces must be planned carefully.

During the planning process it’s important to consider what will be going on under and around the deck as well as on top of it. For example, if the deck will sit below ground level there may be drainage issues that need to be addressed. Similarly, if the deck is to be used as an extension of a living space, access to doors and windows needs to be taken into account.

Another crucial consideration when designing a deck is its layout. Walking pathways between designed areas should make sense and be comfortable to navigate. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a walkway that’s 3-4’ wide anywhere it will be needed. This will allow people to move comfortably and prevent them from being forced into tight spaces that feel claustrophobic or restrictive.

The most critical area of a deck’s design is the foundation that it rests upon. A deck is typically built on concrete footings that are sunk into the ground beneath it. Deck joists run perpendicular to the house and support posts attach to the bottom of these joists. To keep the structure stable, these posts need to be anchored to the foundation to prevent them from shifting or sinking over time.


Decks add outdoor living space to the home, and you can customize them to suit your lifestyle and budget. Before you build, plan your deck on graph paper to scale (typically 1/4″ to the foot). Draw a birds-eye view of applicable setback lines, structures, drives, walks and permanent plantings. On the same sheet of paper, ink in a square-ruled outline for each side of your house and joist locations. For a large deck, you may want to include one or two elevations. Having good, detailed plans helps you avoid costly mistakes. They also serve as useful reference when you shop for lumber.

A ledger board attaches the deck to your house, and forms one side of the outer frame. Wood floor joists are installed within this framework, and deck floorboards are attached to the joists. Stairways provide access to and from the deck.

Before you begin framing, take time to think about the ways you’ll use your deck. The layout should accommodate these activities with comfortable traffic pathways. For example, consider a dining area near the kitchen and a lounge area next to your favorite seat in the sun.

During the planning phase, you can also run your ideas past a building inspector and/or structural engineer. They can provide you with valuable advice and guidance to help ensure the safety of your family and friends while minimizing costs, time and inconvenience.

Once you have your design, mark out the perimeter of the deck with strings and batter boards made from 2-foot furring strips. This is especially important if you’re building an irregular shape, such as an octagon. Then you can lay out the principal frame of the deck, including interior joists spaced 12 or 16 inches apart and rim joists that form the outer edge of the deck.


Decks are typically made of wood, but they can also be built from a variety of other materials. Composite decks, for example, use wood fibers and recycled plastic to create a durable deck surface that does not require staining or sealing.

The first step in building a deck is to construct the basic framework of the structure. This includes the principal beams and joists that support the deck, as well as the stairs and railings that provide access to it. A large deck may require multiple support beams, while small decks can be built with just one. Once the deck’s structure is complete, it is ready for the surface decking material to be attached.

When constructing the deck’s framework, it is important to follow the International Residential Code guidelines for stair and guardrail construction. These guidelines are available for download free of charge from the American Wood Council and should be followed closely to ensure that your deck is safe. In addition to following the guidelines, it is a good idea to call your local building department and inquire about specific requirements in your area.

The next step in the process of deck building is to drive stakes around the perimeter of your desired deck and mark them with strings. The stakes will serve as guides when constructing the batter boards, which are used to lay out the frame of the deck. The batter boards should be positioned at the same height and length as the stakes, and it is crucial that they are square to the house and to each other.

After the batter boards are in place, they can be leveled and fastened to the posts with joist hangers. Then, interior joists can be installed. The size and spacing of the joists depends on the design of your deck, but they should be spaced no more than 12 or 16″ apart.

How to Keep Your Deck Clean

If you live in a drier region, your wood deck may need little more than the occasional sweep and a good soak. Deck Cleaning Summerville SC should work fine.

For organic messes like algae and moss, use a cleaner with a mildewcide such as oxygen bleach (usually in a premixed form or as powdered borax). These products are especially useful before staining, as they lighten dark areas, making the color of the finished deck more uniform.

deck cleaning

Your deck is a focal point of your backyard and the hub for many large and small gatherings. It is also subjected to harsh UV rays and wet/dry cycles that can cause it to lose its luster over time, if not properly treated with a penetrating sealer. As the weather warms up and people begin spending more time outdoors, your deck will require more frequent attention to maintain its appearance. The best way to keep it clean is to sweep regularly and apply a cleaning solution as needed.

Use a conventional garden hose or pressure washer to wet the deck surface, then scrub it thoroughly with a stiff bristled brush and an appropriate cleaning solution for your wood type. Always check that the cleaner you’re using is safe for your particular deck material and is compatible with any plants located on or near it. You can also make your own cleaning solution with household ingredients, such as water and white vinegar, but be sure to test it on an inconspicuous area of your deck before applying it to the rest of the surface.

Sweep the deck surface, working in a direction parallel to the grain of the wood, to remove any loose dirt. Be sure to move any furniture, plants, or other items off the deck before sweeping to avoid damaging them. If you’re using a pressure washer, be sure to hold the nozzle at least 6-12 inches away from the surface of the deck to avoid marring it with excessive force.

Once the deck has been swept and cleaned with a pressure washer, rinse it thoroughly. This is especially important to do for railings and stairs, as these are often difficult to reach with a broom and can collect grime underneath.

Be sure to rinse any tarps that were used to cover nearby items during the cleaning process. Also, be sure to rinse any brooms that were used to sweep the deck. Rinsing the deck helps to prevent the buildup of residue and can speed up the drying process. Once the deck is dry, you can re-install any furniture or other items.

A good deep cleaning of a wood deck is often needed before staining. It’s a job best done in the spring or summer so that you can enjoy your deck all season. To do a thorough job, remove all furniture and cover any plants or bushes near the deck so that the cleaner doesn’t run off into them.

Use a garden hose to apply a liquid deck cleaner to the surface of the wood deck and let it soak for a few minutes. Then, scrub the deck with a synthetic-bristle brush and work the cleaner into the wood grain to lift embedded dirt. For severe stains and dirt, use a power washer (be sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions) to spray the cleaner at a low pressure, pointing it away from people and glass windows.

For stubborn mildew stains, try using a cleaning product containing mildewcide, which kills the mildew spores and seeps into the wood grain to reduce future mildew growth. These products can be purchased as premixed solutions or liquid concentrates. They work differently from basic deck cleaners because they don’t simply clean; they leave a residue that discourages new mildew growth for weeks or months.

After applying a chemical cleaner, always use a deck brightener to restore the natural pH of the wood. The brightener will also prepare the wood for your chosen stain. Whether you choose an oil or water-based stain, it’s a good idea to test the color and coverage of the stain on a small area before applying it to the entire deck.

A high quality oil-based stain will last two to four years, requiring less work before it’s time to reapply. Water-based stains (latex) are available in an opaque or semitransparent variety and can last up to six years. Before choosing a stain, consider the look you want: opaque stains tend to hide the wood grain and are best for darker colored decks, while transparent stains allow the wood grain to show through for a lighter appearance. For both, be sure to thoroughly clean the deck before staining and to use a high-quality staining brush to avoid streaks.

Over time, your deck can take a beating from the sun, rain and snow. A regular cleaning schedule will help minimize deterioration and keep your outdoor living area looking its best.

Depending on the condition of your deck, it may require some scrubbing to remove mildew and other dirt buildup. For light scrubbing, you can use a garden hose and scrub brush, or a pressure washer at a low setting. If you use a pressure washer, be sure to set the nozzle at least a foot away from the wood and avoid using a high-pressure setting that could damage the boards.

For severe stains and dirt, you’ll need to use a commercial deck cleaner product. Typically, these contain detergents and chemicals that can kill algae, mold, and mildew growth. Look for one that is safe for use on your type of wood, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Always use rubber gloves and eye protection when working with any cleaning product.

Before applying the deck cleaner, hose down the entire surface to soften and loosen any dirt. This will make it easier to scrub and rinse the deck later. It’s also a good idea to clear away any debris or planters before beginning to make clean up easier.

Scrub the deck in the direction of the wood grain with a hard-bristled brush. Alternatively, you can use a power-washer on a low setting to get the job done quickly and effectively. However, it’s important to note that the metal bristles on a power-washer can scratch or damage wood.

If your deck has visible mildew stains, you can apply a deck brightener product to restore its color and texture. These products are available in premixed sprays or as concentrates. Mix the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply it to your deck surfaces. Unlike deck cleaners, most deck brighteners don’t rinse off the wood, so they should be left on for the recommended period of time. Afterward, you can rinse the wood with a hose and a scrub brush. The wood should then dry completely before replacing any furniture or plants.

Immediately after you’ve scrubbed or sprayed your deck cleaner, rinse it thoroughly. A regular garden hose will do the trick. Be sure to use a low-pressure setting, as high pressure can damage the surface of wood and composite decking.

Alternatively, some manufacturers offer ready-to-use cleaning products that don’t require any prep work or pre-rinse. These products can be applied with a power washer or simply brushed on and left to soak. Most contain detergents that dissolve dust, dirt and spills. Many also include a mildewcide to kill mildew and mold and leave behind a film that discourages future growth.

Natural wood decks, stained or un-stained, require special care and attention to keep them looking their best. For example, the build-up of grime can cause splinters and rot. For these types of decks, a wood cleaner is specially formulated to clean and protect the surfaces. The cleaner contains a combination of ingredients that removes dirt and grime, but it also bonds with the wood grain to add an extra level of protection. These products are available in premixed form for easy application and in concentrated crystal or liquid form to be diluted with water.

A natural option for unstained wood decks is white vinegar, which can freshen a deck and remove some light stains. Be sure to use distilled white vinegar, as it won’t damage the wood or stain. Some brands of vinegar even have a scented variety that can eliminate stubborn smells from pets or smoking.

Some all-purpose cleaners are designed to remove a wide range of unsightly elements, including grease, oil, dirt and stains, from different types of decking materials. Most of these are meant to be used with a pressure washer, but some can also be applied with a brush or mop. These products often contain a combination of chemicals that are specific to each type of decking material, and they can be quite strong.

Before using any homemade or commercial deck cleaner, always follow the manufacturer’s directions for mixing and applying. If a product requires you to wear rubber gloves, do so, and make sure you’re wearing eye protection. In addition, if the cleaner or boosting agents contain ammonia, be sure to take extra precautions by wearing a respirator and working in a well-ventilated area. Ammonia and bleach create toxic chloramine gas, which can irritate your skin, eyes, nose and throat if inhaled.