20 Deck Building Do's & Don'ts (Professional Tips)

October 2, 2020

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Are you looking for deck building do’s and don’ts while planning a deck building project for your property? A new deck is an excellent option for relaxing and entertaining while also offering space for showing off beautiful flower boxes, giving your outdoor space some much-needed visual appeal.

Before you run down to the hardware store and stock up on beams and joists, you might first consider some vital deck building do’s and don’ts. This will ensure you end up with a stunning yet durable deck you love, or know when it’s best to leave this work in the hands of deck builders near you!

deck building dos and donts

What Should You Not Do When Building a Deck?

Before considering some deck building “do’s,” check out this shortlist of things to avoid when building decks. Be sure to discuss any questions you have about this list with a deck builder near you, if needed, so you don’t make any costly mistakes with your new deck.

  • Avoid doing anything before you check on local deck building codes, and that includes just planning your new outdoor deck! A home’s deck must be built to local codes or you could face fines and even the need to remove that deck. To avoid this costly hassle, check on those codes and how they might affect your plans before you begin anything.
  • Don’t overlook the stability and strength of deck footers. Footers are concrete slabs sitting on the ground, which provide support for vertical posts. To keep your new deck stable, ensure you install those footers on undisturbed soil below the property’s frost line.
  • Never install the support or horizontal beams to the sides of the support or vertical posts. This can lead to the shearing of those beams and deck collapse. Instead, attach the support beams to the tops of those posts, to keep them in place and help disperse their weight.
  • Avoid incorrectly spacing the joists or constructing a deck with fewer joists than needed. Joists are boards underneath the actual deck itself; these provide support for the deck boards. Spacing those joists too far apart or not investing in enough joists means that the deck boards support its entire weight, risking breaking and deck collapse.
  • Don’t assume that all deck flooring is alike! Many exotic hardwoods are durable and less likely to dent or scratch but might also be tough to sand and refinish. On the other hand, inexpensive softwoods might be too soft for heavy foot traffic. Rather than choosing the cheapest material or something that simply looks good, note your needs, average foot traffic, and other details before deciding on deck boards.

bench sitting on homeowners brand new built deck

  • Many amateur deck builders attach the deck’s ledger board directly to a home’s exterior siding. That ledger board acts as the spine of the deck but it should be attached to the home’s framework for proper support. It’s vital you remove the home’s siding, wrap or tar paper, insulation, and other materials before attaching the ledger board.
  • Another common mistake made by homeowners during deck building is forgetting about needed access to electrical outlets, water bibs or valves, buried plumbing pipes, and other features on your property. While blocking these items can mean inconvenience for a homeowner, blocking dryer vents and egress from basement windows is a surefire way to get your deck condemned by building inspectors! Be sure you’ve had the city mark off underground wires and pipes and have planned your deck around other such items on your property.
  • Along with access to outlets and other features, it’s vital that you consider how your deck might affect access to your home, garage, and other such areas. As an example, you might take groceries from the car in the garage through the backdoor of the home; if you build the deck in front of that backdoor but put the deck’s stairs several yards or meters from the garage entrance, you need to walk all that way every time you go grocery shopping! Plan the deck carefully around doors, walkways, and other features of your property.  
  • Not all fasteners are alike! Remember that your deck will be outdoors and exposed to high humidity, rain, snow, and the like. Use high-quality, corrosive-resistant fasteners for your deck, and ensure they’re rated for its overall weight and wood type as well.

  • One way that many homeowners cut corners for their deck’s price and construction is by foregoing handrails when not required. While local building codes might not require handrails on low-rise decks, this doesn’t mean they’re not needed! Never skimp on safety when it comes to your new deck and invests in handrails and rails around the outside of the deck even if not legally required.
  • Once your deck is built, and even as you’re building the deck, you need to apply a waterproof coating. Too many homeowners overlook this step, perhaps thinking that pressure-treated wood doesn’t need a sealant, or they wait too long after deck installation to seal and protect that wood. In turn, it might suffer damage from the first rainfall or even morning dew!
  • Another mistake to avoid is poor deck planning, and especially adding too many features or not enough features to make your deck comfortable and inviting for you and your family. For example, if you try to add too many built-in benches or storage features on a small deck, space might seem cramped and crowded. On the other hand, no benches, a lack of built-in lighting, or a large deck with no details can make for a cold, empty space outside your home!

Some “Do’s” to Consider When Building a Deck

Now that you know a few things to avoid when building a deck, you might consider some “do’s” to consider before deck building. These simple tips will ensure your new deck is a beautiful, relaxing spot you’ll enjoy for years to come.

deck design overland park

  1. Consider using screw pile foundations for a deck. These are large pins that are screwed into the ground and which serve as a strong base for the deck itself. Screw pile foundations are often used to brace up a home’s foundation, so you know they offer lots of structural stability for a home’s deck!
  2. Lay out your deck’s plan before doing any construction. Using string or landscaping spray paint to outline what would be the deck’s overall construction, and then note if it’s in the way of doors, cuts off needed space for working a lawnmower around the property, and other such issues. Make changes as needed before deck construction.
  3. Use double joists in the middle of the decks. Joists are large boards underneath the deck, providing support and structural stability. Double joists provide even more support, reducing the risk of deck sagging as well as board chipping and cracking.
  4. Never overlook the need for a slight slope on your deck! A 2% slope allows water to drain away from the deck face without creating an unsafe incline.
  5. Consider your area’s weather conditions when choosing deck wood. Lots of exposure to harsh sunlight can dry out softwoods, while exotic hardwoods common in tropical areas are better for areas with high humidity.
  6. Choose a deck design that complements your home and property. Narrow floorboards complement a modern home, and a hexagonal shape provides lots of visual interest against a small, square house.
  7. Your neighbors might take great interest in your deck building and new deck installation, so be prepared to add lots of privacy features! Include planter boxes for tall shrubs or add outdoor curtains to block their view.
  8. Be sure you trim back overhanging branches above the deck, as tree branches often result in lots of twigs, leaves, seeds, and other debris on the deck. To reduce potential damage and keep that deck clean, prune those branches before deck construction.

How Do You Build a Deck That Won’t Rot?

Wood rot is a common problem for decks, as that wood is exposed to constant humidity, rain, snow, and other weather elements. To avoid otherwise unnecessary wood rot, ensure enough clearance between the decking and your lawn; once that grass reaches deck wood, it holds moisture and chemicals against the deck, risking rot. Clearance also means more air circulation, keeping deck wood dry.

Regular sealing is also vital, even for pressure-treated wood or exotic hardwoods such as bamboo or ipe. It’s especially important that you seal decks immediately after installation, as sometimes pressure-treating misses various spots and you want your new deck to have all the protection from the elements it can get!

If you’re very concerned about wood rot, you can also choose composite decking, made from a mixture of wood chips and plastic particles. The plastic mixture reduces moisture held by the wood and its risk of rot. Metal and plastic decking are also excellent choices for tropical areas and those prone to high humidity levels.

waterproofing wooden deck in overland park

Can You Build a Deck Directly on the Ground?

Floating decks or those built directly on the ground eliminate the need for stairs and provide a cleaner, less cluttered appearance. Another benefit of a floating deck or one not attached to the house is that your city might not have local codes overseeing its construction. Floating decks also allow for easier access to outlets and water bibs or valves on exterior walls, while reducing or eliminating the need for rails.

However, note that floating decks aren’t built directly onto your property’s grass but should be constructed over a concrete slab or loose gravel. Putting a wood deck directly on the grass means wood rot and other damage, and can allow the deck to sink and shift over time. To build your floating deck directly on the ground, opt for special concrete blocks designed specifically for deck support, which you can usually find at any local hardware store.

What to Do After Building a Deck?

After building a deck you want to seal the wood as needed, using a sealant or protective coating meant for that wood species in particular. Do this as quickly as possible, so the wood isn’t exposed to the weather any more than necessary.

It’s also typically vital that you have the deck inspected, to ensure it’s built to local codes. Remember that those codes are in place to ensure your safety and the structural integrity of your home and other features on your property. If your deck doesn’t pass inspection, make fixes as soon as possible, so you avoid property damage and potential accidents and injuries!

deck inspection up to code

How Do You Save Money Building a Deck?

You’ll find the biggest savings in downsizing your deck overall; the smaller the deck, the less you’ll spend on building materials, stain or paint, sealants, and other items. Match your deck sizes to precut lumber and prefabricated deck building materials such as footers and joists, as this will save on the cost of fabricating deck materials.

Along with using prefabricated and precut materials, avoid as many fancy deck details as possible. This means planning a square or rectangular deck, which won’t require as many cuts as a hexagon or curved deck design. You might also forego built-in features such as planters and benches. and buy these items separately.

Keep these tips in mind when planning a deck. Find out local codes, plan the deck around needed egress points and other features, and ensure you’re using proper joists and other foundation materials. Remembering these points and a few other decking building do’s and don’ts will ensure you end up with a deck you’ll love for years to come.


A Word from Overland Park Deck Builders

This article was a collaborative effort by the professionals at Overland Park Deck Builders. When you require deck building services in Kansas, we're the experts to call!


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