This is the first post in our DIY decking series. We cover how to build your own deck with premium-performance composite decking materials.
For many DIYers, building the perfect outdoor living space is the ultimate home improvement project. If you plan to build your own deck but aren’t sure you have the skills, knowledge, and resources to do it right, this post is for you.
Start by asking yourself the questions below to find out if you’re ready to build a deck yourself. If you find out you’re up to the task, make sure to check back to read our future DIY posts on how to design your space, what materials to use, and much more.
If you realize building your own deck isn’t your cup of tea, don’t sweat it – we know plenty of qualified contractors in your area that would be happy to help make your dream deck come to life.
Questions to Ask Before You Build Your Own Deck
(Note: These questions are only meant to help you decide whether to build your own deck; please reference specific building codes and installations instructions before starting any home improvement project.)
Are You Replacing an Existing Deck or Building a New One?
According to studies, wood decks have an average lifespan of 10 years – if you maintain them properly. So, if your home has a wood deck, chances are you’re going to have to replace it at some point. That’s the bad news. The good news: if you have an existing wood deck, you probably have a substructure in place that can support the replacement.
To make your first DIY decking project also your last, there are capped polymer and capped composite options that last a lot longer than wood. If you go this route, having an existing substructure is a great start that can save you time and money. But before you make the switch to capped polymer or composites, you need to make sure your substructure complies with all relevant building codes and can handle any extra weight that might be added. (However, with capped polymer decking, it’s generally a lighter load on your substructure.)
If you’re adding a new deck to your home, you’ll need to build the substructure from scratch. In this case, there are a lot of things to consider (e.g., whether the deck is freestanding or attached, building codes in your area, etc.). We recommend reviewing the process for joist spacing and blocking, plus talking to a licensed pro before you build your own deck from the ground up.
Are You Going to Use Any Intricate Design Features?
If you’re taking the time and effort to build your own deck, chances are you’re not afraid to go all out on the design. Here are a couple of intricate (but not overly complex) designs to consider if you’re looking to put a unique spin on your DIY deck.
Multi-Width Assortment (Low Complexity)
Using boards with multiple widths is an easy way to add a custom twist on your deck design. And, multi-width assortments take the same amount of time and labor as installing standard boards as the efficiency gained from installing wide-width boards evens out the added complexity of the narrow-width boards.
Picture Frame Design (Moderate Complexity)
As you can see, frames around the edge of your deck surface are a great touch and can add a classic feel to your overall design. Here are a few things you need to know if you go with a picture frame design.
- This design detail requires additional framing in the substructure to support the framing boards.
- Using wider boards for the outside frame is ideal for decks with railing posts around the perimeter.
- If the adjoining walls of a structure surrounding the deck are not square, each board may require custom end-cuts to avoid gaps.
Do You Have a Budget in Mind?
Going the DIY route is a great way to save costs on labor – which means you’ll have more money to add extra features for your outdoor space. We’re definitely fans of going the extra mile when it comes to deck design but it’s important to cover the basics first. Here’s an overview of the components of a standard deck to help you get an idea of what you’ll need to include in your initial budget (don’t worry, we’ll cover how to accessorize your deck in a future post).
The protective layer on boards that is composed of all synthetic material to protect against stains, scratches, and mold.
Top & Bottom Railing
The uppermost piece of rail that connects the top end of the infill.
The piece that runs along the rail at the bottom, beneath the infill.
The boards that are applied behind each step.
The boards that run around the perimeter of the deck.
Fits snugly between the top and bottom rail to fill the inside area.
Do You Have the Right Tools?
Like any DIY project, it’s important to have the right tools before you start building. Here’s a basic checklist of the tools you’ll need to build your own deck.
- Stainless Steel
- Minimum Screw Size #7
- Face screws to be a minimum length of 2 1/4”
If you plan to use high-quality decking materials like TimberTech® AZEK® capped polymer decking, make sure to use fasteners that meet the following standards:
Having a high-quality jigsaw will make it a lot easier to cut around obstructions like posts.
This tool will be key when it comes time to cut the deck boards. For products like TimberTech AZEK deck boards, you’ll need a miter saw with a fine-toothed, carbide-tipped finish trim blade (12”-60 tooth minimum).
Safety is paramount for any DIY project. Make sure to wear protective eyewear and appropriate clothing the entire time you’re working on your deck.
Are You Going to Build Your Own Deck Solo or Recruit Help?
Past experience with major DIY projects will tell you that asking for an extra pair of hands is never a bad idea. We recommend recruiting multiple friends or family members to help with this project, especially if you’ve never built a deck before.
Depending on the size of your deck, you might need the extra help when transporting materials and holding the boards in place while you secure them. If you’re worried about lugging around all that material, we have some more good news for you: TimberTech AZEK boards are 30% lighter than competitive products, making them a great choice if you decide to build your own deck.
When Do You Want to Build Your Deck?
Outdoor DIY projects are a lot easier when the weather cooperates and it’s nice out. If you’re just starting to plan out your DIY decking project, think about when you want to have the project completed. Most homeowners want to have your deck ready for summer BBQs, so they plan in the winter and build in the spring. It could take anywhere from weeks to months to complete your decking project, so keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
Have You Researched Local Building Codes and Other Restrictions?
When taking on any major home renovation, there are several regulatory sticking points you need to consider. Be sure to follow all local building codes, homeowner association rules, and manufacturer instructions when building your deck. There may be other restrictions depending on where you live, so it’s important to research all applicable regulations in your area before you build.