Why is DIY Deck Installation a bad idea?
Let’s start this blog off by talking about some of the reasons why you should not install a deck off the side or back of your house without professional assistance.
Though the money you would save and the beaming pride you could bestow onto yourself from building your deck might sound appealing, choosing professional deck contractors for the project will always be your best bet.
Here are a few initial thoughts about why it is generally unsafe and far too challenging to build a deck without professionals.
1. Decks can easily come apart and fall to the ground. It is actually pretty common for people to get mildly or seriously injured due to deck failures. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, there were 2,900 injuries and two deaths from collapsing decks between 2016 and 2019.
2. It is extremely time-consuming and difficult. It may just appear from the outside to be a few wooden panels nailed together, but the entire internal set-up is relatively complex. Digging for the posts of the deck can take a very long time, and you may come to realize that you need a jackhammer after breaking through the topsoil of your yard.
3. Without the right tools, you may be unable to accomplish the whole construction.
4. Safety is key when handling heavy building materials and power tools. Without the proper training, you could potentially finish your project but potentially with a serious injury.
How does constructing a deck work?
As mentioned earlier, deck construction is a hefty task that ought to be done by licensed professionals. Regardless of whether you build it yourself or use contractors, the steps are pretty much the same. The rest of this blog will summarize the vital steps to build your dream deck.
Before you begin
There are various options you can choose from for what kind of deck you want to build, but you may have to choose based on your yard’s landscape. If your backyard is at a heavy downward slope, you will need to account for it. On the same note, the grading of the deck base itself is important to keep in mind. You want the concrete base to be completely flat, but you also need to make sure that your yard still drains properly in the event of severe weather.
Other factors to consider before construction are the specific licensing rules in your area. Depending on your neighborhood’s homeowners’ association and the city’s building requirements, you could be strictly regulated in terms of the design of your new deck.
One vital step to take before digging holes into your yard for the deck posts is to call the number 811 to have underground utility lines marked. Lastly, be sure to design the deck so that there are no windows or doors that interfere too much with the railings that will go on the outside of the deck.
Choosing proper materials
One more thing to note when planning out your deck construction is that the materials you use can make a huge difference in the time and money it takes to take care of your deck after it is finished being built. Most people choose between real wood and composite material for their decks. Composite materials are typically a mixture of reclaimed wood and synthetic plastic.
Though real wood may be a more traditional option, you ought to understand how much more difficult and costly it is to properly maintain real wood decks than those built out of composite materials. Generally speaking, maintenance for real wood should take place annually and can include cleaning, staining, sanding, and repainting. In addition, these tasks might require the use of specialized equipment that is expensive.
Even with proper maintenance, wood decks will need to be repaired much more often than composite decks since wood is more vulnerable to the elements. The wood will eventually wear out, and a bill for replacement materials will easily cost you thousands of dollars. Experts say that typical wood decks will last around 10-15 years and that composite decks will last around 25-30. All of these factors regarding the costly upkeep of wood decks as compared to composite decks lead to appraisers placing a higher value on homes with a composite deck instead of a wood deck. Homeowners and appraisers alike consider composite decks to be finished products. On the other hand, they may consider a traditional wood deck to be something that will imminently require repair/maintenance.
If you do choose to go with traditional wood, you do need to be 100% sure that the lumber is pressure-treated for the framing and joists of your deck, which will hold a significant amount of weight when the deck is in use. For the most part, pressure-treated wood is wet after it is purchased and delivered from a store. Because of this, it can take up to six months for the wood to dry before you can stain it completely. Regardless of the maintenance cost for real wood decks, the time it takes to dry alone may prompt you to consider a composite deck.
Note that when ordering materials, you should probably order significantly more lumber than you think you need. In a construction project as difficult as this, you will inevitably need to correct mistakes in cutting the wood pieces properly.
A simplified summary of the building steps
1. Dig holes for the deck posts.
Learning about this first step may require you to construct your deck alone.
The process of digging holes for posts can take an incredibly long time, and there is a good chance you will have to tackle the challenge of digging through extremely hard materials. When you encounter rock and clay, which lie under the topsoil of many landscaped surfaces, you will need to use a jackhammer to break through these materials. Attempting to dig through rock and clay relying on manpower alone will quickly prove to be futile and could even result in injury.
One important thing to remember when digging the pier holes, in particular, is that they should be at least 30 inches deep to ensure that they are well below the frost line. If these holes are too shallow, the pier wood will expand and contract depending on the weather. This can lead to a compromise in the integrity of these vital weight-bearing posts. It might be a good idea to hire someone to dig the pier holes, even if you do not use these contractors to assist with anything else.
2. Pour the concrete.
People generally buy concrete in bags and then mix it themselves. You can pour the concrete bags into a wheelbarrow and follow the instructions on the bags to mix a good amount of fresh concrete properly.
When pouring your concrete into the pier holes of your deck, you want to make sure that the concrete comes up at least eight inches above the ground’s surface. If the concrete is not sufficiently high, then your wooden deck posts anchored to the concrete piers may be too low and can risk being submerged by water.
Even if the lumber is properly treated before installation, it should not be sitting in water for a prolonged period of time. With the wooden posts too close to the ground, you also risk termites chewing through the wood and further compromising the integrity of your deck.
3. Attach the anchoring deck posts to the base
When you secure the brackets that will hold the posts onto the concrete pier bases, make sure that the bracket bolts are aligned directly in the center of the pier bases. This will help protect the structural integrity of your deck.
4. Attach support beams and construct the frame
After attaching the support beams to the anchoring deck posts, you must install the rim joists to create your floor frame. These steps involve very heavy materials, so you must get help from others when screwing the rim joists, end joists, and floor joists to their respective beams and base posts.
5. Attach the boards to the joists and trim them
Once you have your frame completed, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you attach your wood boards to the joists. Make sure that the band board is properly flashed, or you run the risk of having leaks through your deck. It is also important to stain and seal the wood boards if you are using a real wooden material like cedar. Lastly, you may want to check that the boards integrate well with the existing doors that lead out to your deck for stylistic reasons.
After you have done all of the above, your final step in constructing your new deck is to trim the boards to the correct length depending on how much overhang you want for your deck floor and whether or not you are installing railings.
The summary of these steps is exactly that: a summary. Taking a look at this outline might be enough to convince you that building your own deck is too difficult of a task to do yourself. However, if you need any extra convincing, research the step-by-step instructions on constructing your own deck. This would likely seal the deal in dissuading you from attempting to accomplish the task without licensed professionals.
Though paying a company to send contractors to get the job done may seem expensive, at the end of the day, it will likely yield significantly better results and take much less time than tackling the deck-building project on your own.