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7 Things You Need to Know Before Building a Deck

05/23/2017
7 Things You Need to Know Before Building a Deck

Ready to Build That Deck? Here Are 7 Things You Should Know First.

Looking forward to upcoming barbeques with family and friends on your new deck? There’s only one thing left to do – build the deck! Well, that and buy a new grill, but first things first.

Building a new deck can be an exciting affair. But whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a decking contractor, there are a few key things you should learn before breaking ground on your new entertaining space.

Determine Your Decking Budget

Sure, you may have a round number in your head. However, it’s important to be honest with yourself and determine exactly what you want out of your deck – and what you are willing to pay for it. There are a lot of options for decking design, material and functionality – many that fit even the most modest budget. Ball-parking your budget, though, isn’t enough. Spend some time considering what you want and some time looking in detail at your finances. If you do, you’ll avoid being surprised or disappointed with the final product – and you’ll get what you want from your deck.

Think Outside the Box

If your new deck is intended to replace an existing deck on your property, don’t make the common mistake of simply recreating the original. For starters, it may no longer be up to the current code. Recreating an old look also robs you of some creative freedom you could use to build something entirely new. Though you may be tempted to save money and time by using the existing understructure and simply adding a new deck on top, it could end up costing you more in the long run. Speak with a contractor or your local lumber yard to determine which materials are sturdy enough to reuse, and which aren’t. You don’t build a new deck every year. The structure you build will likely be there for decades or more. You have one chance to get it right. Make sure you do. Spend some time searching for inspiration, researching materials, and…

Know the Decking Code

Just about every city and municipality has a detailed (very detailed) code for building a residential deck including a permit process you must follow in order to be approved. Government codes are not exactly known for their brevity or ease of understanding, but you can learn a lot – and ensure you stay within the legal parameters – by studying up on your city’s decking regulations. The San Diego City guide for deck permits and rules is actually a very helpful resource that will not only help you know what you can and can’t do, it will also help you get a better idea of what size materials you’ll need for your new deck.

Learn to Talk Like a Pro

Whether you’re building your own deck or hiring a contractor, you’ll be better off if you know what you’re talking about – or at least sound like you do. Speaking the language of a deck builder helps you get exactly what you want out of a deck by ensuring nothing gets lost in translation. There are plenty of resources out there, from how-to guides to online courses to blogs that will help you speak the native language of building and carpentry. Sharpen your skills before talking to a contractor or your local lumber yard.

Decide on a Look

You have a variety of choices of materials for your new deck. The right decking materials depend on your budget, how you intend to use your deck and – most importantly – what you want it to look like. From natural softwoods like Redwood and Cedar to composite materials that last a lifetime, there’s bound to be a material that fits your preference or style. Do some research to see what’s out there, and visit your local lumber yard to check out the merchandise in person. If you want your deck to match a portion of your home or property, bring a sample into to your lumber yard to find the right match.

Concentrate on the Top

The understructure of your deck is important. It must be built both to code and to the correct specs for structural integrity. What it looks like, though, is not important. When it comes to designing your deck for style, concentrate on the top. Decide what materials you’ll use, whether you want the deck to be stained or natural, and how you want the deck to be nailed or screwed down. Do you want a more craftsman look with visible screws or something with cleaner lines and hidden fasteners? Your preference affects your budget (hiding fasteners is often a tad pricier), but getting a deck design you want and will enjoy for decades is priceless.

How “Up to It” Are You?

Before you build your deck, determine how much effort you are willing to put into both building and maintaining it over the years. Natural wood decks are gorgeous, unique and cost-effective – but they do require ongoing deck maintenance, from cleaning to sanding and staining. If you want a more “set it and forget it” deck, you’re better off spending more on a composite deck, which require near-zero maintenance and can be cleaned with a spray down with your garden hose.

Well, that’s your homework. Get to it, then get to building that new deck!

Need advice from the decking experts? Contact your local J&W Lumber store to get your decking questions answered.

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Derek Dewitt
Derek Dewitt
4 years ago

My wife and I want to build a deck this spring, but we aren’t sure where to start. I like your point about getting to know your city’s decking regulation and laws though. We don’t want to risk building the deck only to find out it violates the law, so we’ll be sure to look into this first.

Jordan Curry
Jordan Curry
4 years ago

As one of my hobbies, I enjoy helping my parents building decks. I really enjoyed how you talked about the difference between softwoods like Redwood and Cedar to composite materials. Having the right structure is important and decks are a great way to add value to a home.

Alexandria Martinez
Alexandria Martinez
4 years ago

Now that my fiance and I are moved into our new home, we want to start making some improvements. We really want to make some changes to the deck to start with. We will visit a lumber yard to look at the materials that they have to offer, that way we can get the best possible look.

Greta James
Greta James
2 years ago

Thank you for advice to concentrate on the style of the top of the deck and what you want to be visible as no one will really see the underneath. Yesterday, I was talking to my godfather, and he has decided that he wants to put a deck on the back of his home. I hope he looks for good, sturdy railings as I want his grandkids to be safe that high up.

Eileen Benson
Eileen Benson
2 years ago

I like your tip to find a local lumber yard to visit so we can evaluate our material options in person. My husband is going to help his brother build a deck this month so that he and his wife can have a nice place to relax with their family. The info you shared here should help them find a type of wood that’ll fit their budget and style preference!

Michelle Bayer
Michelle Bayer
2 years ago
Reply to  Eileen Benson

Thank you Eileen!! Our local lumberyards sometimes get overlooked but are a valuable resource! Locations like our have very knowledgeable and friendly staff who can take the time to walk you through every step- no searching for phone numbers or getting robo dials!! We love to help
Happy Building!!

Tori Raddison
Tori Raddison
2 years ago

I love how you said that recreating an old look robs you of creative freedom because that’s important to me. The only reason I would build a deck is to make it how I like it. There’s no way I’m going to use the old design.

Michelle Bayer
Michelle Bayer
2 years ago
Reply to  Tori Raddison

Tori thanks for reading!! Decks are a great way to express your creativity!
Happy Building!

Charlotte Fleet
Charlotte Fleet
2 years ago

Thank you for explaining that you should decide on a look that you want for your deck and that you will need purchase the right materials for that look. My husband and I are excited for the warmer summer months and can’t wait to get out in the sun. I think we should build a nice elegant deck with a deck railing so the kiddos are safe to roam around as well.

Michelle Bayer
Michelle Bayer
2 years ago

Thank you for reading Charlotte! A nice elegant deck with a deck railing sounds great!! Awesome idea to keep your kiddos safe 🙂 Happy Building!

James C. Richardson
James C. Richardson
2 years ago

This appears to be extremely valuable

Alice Carroll
Alice Carroll
2 years ago

You made a good point that I should always review the local building code in my place before planning to build a deck in my property. I’m thinking about getting some aluminum deck railing even if the deck itself would be made from hardwood. I hope my county doesn’t have some obscure ruling that somehow would prohibit something like that.