What to Know Before You Build Your Own Deck

August 11, 2021
HomeOutdoor Living IdeasWhat to Know Before You Build Your Own Deck

Wondering about whether or not to build your own deck? With the right expectations, know-how, and resources, building your own deck can be an enjoyable and cost-effective option.  

To help you ask whether it might make sense to build your own deck, we’ve assembled top DIY tips and considerations on: 

  • Assessment of an existing substructure, project scope, and materials. 
  • Consideration of build variables like tools, labor, and timeline.  
  • Familiarizing yourself with decking installation best practices. 
  • Adhering to building codes and securing a permit. 
  • Building a new substructure (if applicable). 

ALREADY SURE YOU WANT TO DIY? 
Learn what actually goes into building your own deck with installation guides and easy-to-follow videos in our Deck Building Resource Center. EXPLORE  

Step 1: Assess Substructure, Scope, & Materials 

Before you build your own deck, ask yourself these questions to decide whether or not you feel comfortable taking on the project. 

Substructure

Whether you’re simply resurfacing your existing deck or adding on an extension, you need to fully inspect your substructure to ensure it is structurally sound.  

Identifying substructure issues before you build your own deck

Common Substructure Issues  

During your deck inspection, check for common substructure issues, including:  

  • Correct joist spacing and blocking 
  • Mold, mildew, or rot 
  • Loose or rusted fasteners 
  • Bent or damaged joists 
  • Joists out of plane 
  • Insecure or rotted ledger board 

While minor issues with your substructure, such as loose fasteners or a few damaged joists can often be repaired, in most cases, it is best to replace the entire substructure. A newly built substructure ensures your new deck not only looks great, but also boasts safe, sturdy connections and lasts for many years to come.  

Scope: Deck Shape & Design

  • What will your deck shape be? (Note: Your deck’s height and shape will also determine whether you need a building permit). 
  • Will you lay your boards straight or go for a more complex deck pattern such as:  A picture frame border? Diagonal decking? 
  • Will your deck need a railing (required when deck surface is at or above 30” inches from the ground)? 

Deck Material

Explore Your Cost to Build a Deck 

Discover how TimberTech delivers high-performance decking with exceptional long-term value.  

Step 2: Consider Build Variables 

Should you opt to build your own deck, you will take on the role of not only laborer, but project planner and coordinator. A few factors to think through include: 

Tools 

Do you have access to the right tools for your build? And are you comfortable using them?  Common tools include:  

  • Cutting tools, like a jig saw, miter saw, and/or table saw 
  • Fastening tools such as a drill and your chosen fastener   

Labor  

Will you have help building or will you be working solo? 

(Having help will of course speed things up).  

Working alone will mean you have a longer timeline — but also complete control of your build.  

Timeline 

What is your proposed timeline?  Do you have a hard deadline?  Several factors will affect your project timeline including:  

Get the Guidance You Need for Your Build 

Discover best practice guidelines and helpful videos for all parts of your deck build from substructure to decking installation, railing, and more.  

Step 3: Get Familiar With Decking Installation

Get familiar with decking installation before you build your own deck

Before deciding to build your own deck, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the decking installation process to help you decide where you might need some assistance.  

Despite some variations in decking installation depending on deck material and fastener type, all installations will require:  

Cutting deck boards as necessary. 

Installing deck boards with your chosen fastener

Ensuring proper deck board spacing

Covering the end-cuts of your boards or leaving them exposed. 

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Step 4: Follow All Building Codes & Secure Permits 

Secure a permit before you build your own deck

If you feel comfortable with your answers to the questions above and the deck building process steps involved, you’re ready to get started with your project.  

Building Codes 101 

Building codes can affect design choices such as your deck shape and size, railing height and design, or whether your deck needs a railing at all.  

Regardless of whether you have an existing substructure or are building a new one, make sure your deck design is up to code. Review local building codes before confirming your design so you don’t run into any issues when trying to get your building permit.  

Building Permits 101 

Before you build your own deck, you likely need to acquire a building permit from your town or city hall. 

Bring a detailed drawing of your deck to secure your permit

How to Get Your Permit 

You’ll need to bring a diagram of your deck with dimensions to your local building department, so they can confirm it will be built to code. Once they approve it, they’ll issue you the proper building permit.  

Start With a Plan 

Kickstart your deck design with one of our customizable deck templates in our 3D Deck Design tool. 

Step 5: Build Your Substructure (If Applicable) 

Substructure best practices to build your own deck

You’ll need to build a new substructure if you’re building a brand-new deck or if your existing substructure is beyond repair. Extending your deck will also require an additional frame built in connection with the existing substructure.  

Tips for building a substructure include:  

KEEP IN MIND 
Working with a contractor means you won’t have to do this all yourself. LEARN MORE 

Step 6: Get Started 

Launch the deck designer to design your own deck

Now that you have the best practices for how to build your own deck, it’s time to dive in: You’re ready to design your deck with our 3D Deck Design tool.  

Start with either a customizable deck plan template or jump right in and begin designing your ideal deck from the ground up. 

Turn Your Deck Dream Into Design

Play with shapes, colors, lighting, and railing to bring your deck ideas to life with our custom Deck Designer tool.

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