A do-it-yourself deck project can be a fun and rewarding experience. You can also save about 60 percent the costs of hiring someone to build it for you. However it comes with a lot of work and planning. It takes the average DIY deck builder an entire summer of working on the weekends to complete the project. In addition to the actual construction you will need to draw construction plans, get permits, order materials, locate your utilities, and manage inspections.
Having the right tools, carpentry skills, and a few friends to help will also be very important to a successful project. You should have at least a circular saw, drill, hammer, tape measure, level, chalk line, saw horses, speed square, shovel, post hole digger, wheel barrow, and ladder. It may be helpful to have a compound miter saw, reciprocating saw, router, nail gun, and compressor.
Your plans should be drawn to scale using graph paper or a computer system. Show the position, size, and length of all joists, beams, and footings. You will also need to indicate the height of the railings, the stair rise and run, the ledger board attachment detail, and the types of material you will be using. You can purchase a plan on decks.com or hire decks.com custom plans service to assist you.
Always get a permit if it is required. Failing to get a permit can lead to fines, tearing down your project, or preventing you from selling your house. Getting permits usually involves driving to city hall and filling out a permit application, submitting 2 sets of plans and a property survey. The city may have a copy of your property survey if you can't find one. The cost widely ranges from city to city. Some permits are only $50 where others are over $1000. Some are a flat fee, some are based on square footage, and others are based on the value of the project.
You will probably need a footing inspection, and a final inspection. In some cases especially for low decks you may also require a framing inspection. It is the inspectors job to make sure you are building according to your approved plans and to local building codes. If you are planning on changing the design or construction of your deck you will need to first run this by the inspector.
Ordering materials is critical to every project. Find a good local lumberyard that specializes in deck projects. They should have a good variety and supply of deck materials. They should also be able to help provide some helpful service and advice along the way if needed. When ordering materials make sure to add at least 10% extra for waste, errors, and defects. You should be able to return all undamaged materials at the end of the project. It is never a good feeling to run out of material and have to waste your time trying to track down a few boards or joist hangers. Store your materials in a safe place and covered with a tarp.
Remember that every project presents unique challenges. You will need to be able to adjust as problems arise. Professional deck builders have had years of experience to learn from their mistakes and they still run into issues on almost every new project. Use resources such as decks.com articles, videos, calculators, and forums for support. Be patient and don't be afraid to ask for help from inspectors, your lumberyard, or your friends. Deck building is a team sport.