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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.