5 Lessons We Learned While Building a Deck

When you build a deck from the ground up, you're going to learn some things. Here are some of the lessons we learned while building a deck this summer.

Match Deck Board Lengths

Deck boards, like the ones from Prowood that we used on our Getaway project, are commonly sold in lengths of eight, 12-, 16-, and 20-feet. Matching the size of the deck to these board lengths makes it easier and faster to build and eliminates undue seams and waste.

Kiln Dried Lumber is Better

Pressure treated lumber dries out after the treating process. When it warps, twists and bends, you’ll have a real nightmare attaching deck boards. Kiln Dried After Treatment (KDAT) lumber is dried straight and will stay much straighter years after installation. You’ll avoid the problem of warped wood.

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Get the Right Hangers

Joist hangers are another critical connection. They transfer the load from the joists to the beam and ledger. If you’re using 2×12 joists, you need 2×12 hangers.

Joist hangers for decks must also meet corrosion standards with a special G-185 coating (some manufacturers label this as ZMAX or Triple Zinc). Stainless steel versions are available for decks built near saltwater. When fastening hangers, nail through every hole in the hanger with the right-size nail called for by the hanger manufacturer.

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Joist and Beam Spans Matter

Joists, beams and posts work together to frame and support your deck. Joists run at 90- or 45-degree angles to the decking (we went with 90 degrees) and shouldn’t be spaced more than 16 inches from center to center.

The joist span, or distance between beams, determines the size of the joists you need. The size of the beam determines how you space the footings and support posts.

Consider a Landing

Instead of a small staircase, increase the footprint and of your deck and add a landing; it will be easier to step on and off the deck. Built the same way as a deck, a landing is a great way to keep the scale of the stairway similar to the deck.

An easy way to attach it to the deck is by using adjustable truss hangers that attach to the face of the rim joist and hang low enough to for a seven-inch step.

Mike Berner
Mike can build any complicated project. He also reviews tools with a keen attention to detail and creates projects for every level of DIYer. He learned some of his craft when he was a schoolteacher, but more as a builder. When he’s not building or remodeling something, Mike has two young kids that keep him on his toes.