If you’ve ever sat out on a deck in the evening, shooting the breeze with loved ones and watching the sun set or enjoyed your breakfast on the deck at dawn accompanied by a symphony of chirping birds, you know that a well-built deck can facilitate some of life’s sweetest pleasures. If you plan to build your own, however, beware. They may look simple enough, but many DIY-ers have thought the same thing, only to end up with all kinds of challenges related to what they thought might be an easy backyard project. Read on to learn about some of these mistakes so you can avoid them yourself.
Leonard Ang

Leonard Ang

Leonard Ang, Marketing Manager at AQVA.

Easy mistakes

Building your own deck is a satisfying process [that can have] a beautiful result. It expands your living area and is great for sunny days. Here are some easy mistakes to avoid when building your own deck.

Poor Planning.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Building a deck is not as easy as one, two, three. You need to be able to make a plan on how your deck is going to look and how you’re going to build it. Being unable to plan could lead to poor construction, overspending on materials and code violations.

Wrong Materials.

You must be able to determine the proper materials you need for your project. You need to research, look for choices, and compare them [so you know which] suits your project best. You also need to make sure that you have all the materials you need before you start screwing in your first deck board.

Improper footers.

You must be able to provide the best footers for your project since this will make or break it. This will determine the safety of your deck and how long it will actually last. This is the foundation of your deck so make sure you have deep enough footers and the right footers.

Simple mistakes to avoid

Forgetting the permits

Most towns and cities require a permit before you start building, sometimes requiring plans to be submitted. Always check with your permit office first and your HOA if you have one.

Weak foundations

It’s always tempting to rush to the “real” building parts. You know, the parts you can see. Foundations are boring but absolutely essential. A block of dirt just won’t do the trick. Make sure you pour solid footers for your support columns.

Not getting it square and level

Decks in many areas are built on uneven ground so take extra care to get your deck level. It’s also easy to build decks that aren’t square so take extra time to measure carefully. A deck is square when the diagonal measurements are equal. Believe me, you’ll kick yourself every time you use it if your deck is leaning to one side or isn’t square.

Skimping on the right tools

Building a deck – or any project for that matter – is much easier with the right tools. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune but you definitely want to make sure you have all the recommended equipment, especially a good cordless screwdriver.

Donovan Gow

Donovan Gow

Donovan Gow is the owner and head handyman at House and Tool which specializes in home improvement projects and tool reviews. He’s been doing home improvement projects since he bought his first fixer-upper over 20 years ago.

Alex Berezowski

Alex Berezowski, Owner/General Manager of The Foundation Experts Inc, a foundation repair and home waterproofing company.

Ledger board

One mistake homeowners make far too often when building a deck on their own is not ensuring all bolts behind the ledger board are caulked and sealed. The reason for this is because the most problematic part of a deck is the ledger board attached to the house wall.

Homeowners also need to make sure that the board itself has been properly flashed to prevent any water penetration. When working on this part of the deck, it’s also critical to use vinyl spacer pins so that water can be drained freely between the ledger and the house. Otherwise, you risk the chance of having significant water damage in your basement, particularly if your house is on a downwards slope.

Wrong deck boards

The biggest thing I’ve seen when people build decks on their own is that they’re likely using the wrong deck boards. One size doesn’t fit all, and you really need to assess what you’ll be using the space for before paying for lumber that’s ultimately going to make your deck far less functional than it should be.

If you’re using pressure-treated boards on a deck that will receive a lot of foot traffic — especially barefoot — you need to be aware that it splinters easily without maintenance. It’s something no one thinks about until their child is crying because they have a big splinter stuck in their foot. Not the end of the world, of course, but it’s incredibly uncomfortable and the wear and tear will start to show on your deck.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ipe boards like Brazilian Walnut are extremely durable and some of the best around for weathering storms and foot traffic alike. But the wood is very hard and difficult to work with because of that. You’ll almost certainly want to hire a professional to install this type of board, but you’ll end up with a longer-lasting deck that’s absolutely stunning.

Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey – President of WikiLawn.

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