Deck Building Tips

By following these steps, you will find that building your deck is a lot easier than you might imagine.


Once the deck's location has been decided, the deck can be positioned using a simple surveying procedure, the 3-4-5 Rule. Stake a line 4' long parallel to the house wall. One end will be stake A, the other stake B. Connect a second line to stake A, run it perpendicularly to a point 3' away, and attach the line to stake C. The corner will be square when the distance between stakes B and C is 5'.

Once you are certain the corner is square, use stakes and string to complete the outline of your deck. Accuracy is extremely important.

Set Posts

From the measurements in your deck plan, determine the location of the posts and mark these points with stakes. The post holes for the footings should be at least 3' deep and 12" wide. Deeper holes may be necessary depending on the frost conditions in your area.

Tamp a 2" gravel base into the hole and insert an 8" diameter concrete form. Fill the hole around the tube, tamping down the soil. Fill the form with ready-mix concrete, sinking a 4x4 metal saddle into the centre of the concrete. Check that saddles are level and lined up square with the house, and let the concrete cure overnight. Consult your local building official.

Post height is figured by measuring the distance from the top of the proposed deck to the base of the saddles, deducting the thickness of the decking, the joists and the beams. Posts must be cut to their finished height before the beams can be attached.

All cuts and holes in treated wood should be liberally brush-coated with two applications of Timber Specialties EndCoat™ preservative. Follow the instructions and advice on the label.

Attach Beams

Depending on the size and intended use of the deck, beams generally consist of 2x6s, 2x8s or 2x10s nailed together at 12-16" intervals with 3" galvanized nails. Attach beams to posts using 3" framing angles or special connecting hardware.

Attach Joists

It is recommended that joists be installed on 16" centres. Mark the end beams for the placement of the joists and run a chalk line across the remaining beams to mark them. Cut joists to the proper length and attach them to the beams by toe nailing with 3 1/2" galvanized nails or using metal framing connectors and 1 1/2" galvanized nails or screws.

Install Decking

You are now ready to start on the part of your deck that will receive the most attention — the decking. Extra care is required. Carefully inspect each board to determine the best face to show. To minimize splitting, predrill nail holes. We also recommend the use of deck screws to give a professional appearance to your deck.

Butt 5/4" deck boards together. For 2" decking, leave 1/8" spacing. Check your measurements every few boards. If off slightly, don't try to correct with just one board; use two or three. Check as you go for best results.

Add Stairs

Premanufactured pressure treated stringers make installing stairs easy. They are generally available in three heights: 3 steps, for an elevation of 20"; 4 steps, for an elevation of 26"; and 5 steps, for an elevation of 32". For stairs with more than three steps, you may have to provide for two extra posts at the base of the stairs to support a handrail.

Stringers are attached to the header or outside joist using special joist hangers. Cut risers from 2" lumber to fit the riser notch in the stringers exactly, and nail in place with 3" galvanized nails. Cut treads from the same boards used for the decking. Install with a 1" overhang in front and 1/8" spacing between boards for drainage, with 3" galvanized nails.

Add a Railing

Railings are perhaps the most important and attention-getting part of a deck. You can add a distinctive look to your new deck or remodel an existing deck with pressure treated deck accessories. Turned posts and spindles, balusters and handrails are available in a variety of styles and are easy to install.

The height of guard rails is set by building codes (35 1/2" in height for decks over 23 1/2" high, and 42" in height for decks over 71" high). The code may also require a maximum spacing between balusters or spindles of 4". Check with your local building officials before you begin to confirm the requirements in your area.


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P.O. Box 520, 35 Crawford Crescent
Campbellville, Ontario, Canada L0P 1BO