Building your own deck – what do you wish you knew ahead of time? : HomeImprovement


Without getting into a long story. Our current ~500sqft deck was built by the previous owner and is a code-violating horror show. The more I read about safe deck-building practices, the more surprised I am that this death-trap hasn’t collapsed and killed my entire family.

Current deck, apologies for the gazillion kid toys

As much as I wish I could utilize the substructure and just replace the failing deck boards, the fact of the matter is that I need to do a full rebuild of this thing. While I would like to hire this out, lumber prices being in the stratosphere means I need to save $$$ on labor and do it on my own. The new deck will be smaller than the current one. We never really spend time on the side piece to the right side of the home in the first picture. The only time we are on that section is to exit the deck.

The new deck will basically match the width house itself, and come out around 2′ farther than the current deck.

I am still in the planning stages, but I am curious what you folks wish you had known ahead of time when building your deck. I am a firm believer in “buy once, cry once”, so I am going to try and overbuild this bad boy as much as possible.

Using the Simpson Strong-Tie deck designer, this is the design and plan I have come up with, generally speaking:

Deck design

  1. 30’W x 16’D, 8′ high.

  2. Helical piers for the post footings. The water table in my back yard is quite high, so I don’t see concrete tubes working out too well. Frost line here is 70″ so I need to go deep (that’s what he said).

  3. 6″x6″ posts, three 2x12s sandwiched together for the beam, 2×10 joists, everything pressure treated.

  4. Ledger attachment to the house. Going to go completely overkill on flashing to make sure rot doesn’t get into my rim joist area of my home. May have to buy stock in butyl flashing tape.

  5. TimberTech Azek all-PVC decking for the boards, fascia, etc. This is going to cost a pretty penny, but I don’t want to deal with sanding/staining deck boards ever again. I like all-PVC over composite, as I don’t want any wood grain whatsoever to worry about in my boards.

  6. Planning to tape the top of the joists and the beam with some sort of ziptape-style product to provide extra protection against rot.

  7. Planning to use Simpson brackets / structural screws for all connections. I’m not shilling for them, they’re just the product I’m most familiar with.

  8. I wish I could afford LVLs for the beam and also for the joists, but that is going to be too much for the budget, I think.

  9. As of right now, my rough material cost + cost of the helical piers is around $10,000 total. Just to get an idea of cost to have it built, I did request a few quote from local builders. Only heard back from one, who said $30,000 to do the entire project and they could maybe get to it by early September. The only three builders I contacted for the requisite 3+ quotes have either ghosted me or are not interested.

What else do I need to take into consideration here? What do you wish you had known about ahead of time with building your own deck? The only part of the build I am not comfortable with is building the stair stringers and getting the rise/run correct. Never done it before and I’ve heard it is a pain in the ass. Might hire that part out.



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