How to Build a Deck for Non-carpenters Part 1

I am not a handyman.  That’s OK, I can read instructions and am relatively intelligent, so building a deck shouldn’t be that big a deal.  You’re in the same boat I am or you wouldn’t be reading this.  It’s OK, accept your lack of skill and move beyond it.  Even my grandfather, a master carpenter, wasn’t skilled at some point in his life (probably when he was four).  I’m here to help you and give you all the hints that I learned while building a deck.

Steps to build a deck

  1. Design
  2. Supplies and Equipment
  3. Foundation
  4. Framing
  5. Decking

 That’s it, five steps.

Design your deck

 We all know one of those guys who handy to the extreme.  They can chop down a tree and turn it into an entertainment center in 2 hours.  You aren’t him.  If you were, you wouldn’t be here.

 With that in mind… keep it SIMPLE.  Standard boards come in 8, 12 and 16 foot lengths.  Your first deck should be 8, 12, or 16 feet wide (six would be OK too).  This just prevents you from having to cut a lot of boards.  Even better, make it a square.

 Is the location of your future deck perfectly flat?  It’s OK if it’s not.  The ground doesn’t matter as long as you can make the piers level.  It actually helps if the ground is muddy.  It’s easier to pound the ground flat when it is slightly wet.

 Supplies and Equipment

 The following supplies are exactly what I used.  At the end of is some things I wish I had and/or should have used.

 1)      Chop Saw

a.       You can use a circular saw, but I prefer the stability and accuracy of a chop saw.  Be sure it can cut a 4×4 post.

b.      Yes, you have to carry boards to the saw, but it’s not that big a deal (I’ll explain why in a bit)

NOTE: This link is to the saw I have.  You can get a plain chop saw cheaper, but this one will do anything you need, especially if you aren’t a pro carpenter… even if you are a pro.

2)      Hammer

a.       Not for why you think

3)      Chisel (rated for concrete)

a.       Because the Deck Blok Piers aren’t perfect.  Use the hammer and chisel to clean and flatten the areas where the boards go.

4)      16 oz rubber mallet

a.       A ‘persuader’ is always useful.  It won’t crack the piers if you pound on them with a rubber mallet.  You can also ‘gently’ tap boards into place.

5)      Electric Drill

a.       Mine is a Black and Decker Firestorm CORDED drill.  I don’t care what they say; I don’t like the battery ones.  They are 24 volts.  Big deal, mine is 120 volts at 5 amps.  And it ran for 12 hours.  NOTE: the link to Amazon isn’t mine.  The Firestorm has a unique dual collar system.  Press a button and the drill comes off to reveal a driver bit.  Replace the drill collar to drill.  It’s neat.

6)      Extension Cord

a.       See above

7)      Gloves (landscaping or rated for concrete)

a.       Trust Me.  I burned through two sets before getting some concrete gloves.  Mine are from Red Rock from Walmart.  They’re good.  If they breathed, they would be perfect.

8.)      Tape Measure

9)      Level

a.       Get a good one.  If you have a helper, get two.

10)  Trowel

a.       For helping level the piers

11)  Drill bits and driver bits (several)

a.       Tip of the day.  The screwdriver bits on drills get used up pretty quick, even if you are careful.  Once you start slipping, it will only get worse.  They’re a couple of bucks for a four pack.  Get several.  99% of the time, you will use Phillips #2 bits.

12)  Carpenters square

a.       It’s OK, you can use it even if you aren’t a carpenter.

13)  * string

a.       Helps to line up piers and square the deck

14)  * knee pads

a.       Trust me



 I built a 12×12 deck and here’s exactly what I used.

18 deck blok piers

36 2×6 12ft treated boards

2 4×4 12ft treated boards (well one a little bit)

2.5 inch deck screws, I used about 3 pounds worth.  Buy a bunch, they’re cheap.

 If you want your deck high, then you might need more 4x4s.  My deck averaged about 10 inches high.  The longest 4×4 I cut was 14 ¾ inches and the shortest was 1 1/4 inches.  Your mileage may vary.

 I’m building a second deck later, so I ordered way more stuff.  


 All told, this deck took about 16 man hours of labor.  The hardest part is leveling the piers.  Wait, it’s not hard, but it is tedious and very dirty.

Part two will cover Foundation and Framing.


~ by OgreMkV on November 21, 2007.

One Response to “How to Build a Deck for Non-carpenters Part 1”

  1. My wife and I are wanting to build a deck in the backyard next spring, so we appreciate this helpful guide! I like that you suggest keeping your deck simple by making it square. We’ll be sure to take some measurements and find a square footage that works in our yard.

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