How to Build a Deck for Non-carpenters Part 2
This is the tedious part. Here’s what you need to do.
1) Clean the bloks. Use the hammer and chisel to knock off the bulges where the boards will go. If all the bloks will have 4×4 posts, then just do the center. You can also do this after you lay them out and just clean off the part you will use of each blok.
2) Lay out the deck bloks. Get a couple of lengths of string and make sure all the blocks are in line with each other and relatively square. I didn’t do this and it cost me about an hour of work when I had to realign and relevel two bloks.
2a) For a 12×12 deck, there should be 3 rows of six piers. The rows are 5 feet apart and the piers are 2ft, 4 inches apart within each row. The decking will run in the same direction that the rows are, so if you have a preference, arrange the piers accordingly.
2b) If you’re going to need 4x4s for every block, they do not have to be square. THEY NEED TO BE LEVEL, but not really square.
3) To level each pier; I used the trowel to cut the grass around the blok. Then use it to pull up the grass and expose the dirt. Replace the pier and check for level. Pound dirt and/or pier until level. Pound the side that the bubble is on.
That’s the foundation. Now for the Framing
This is where you really need a buddy. You’re going to put the four outside boards on first, then the four inside boards. I suggest you start with the one next to the house or whatever you’re building next to. You’ll need to leave about two inches for the decking.
Place the board on the piers (vertically). Start at one corner and lift the board up until it is at the level you need. Measure from the bottom of the board to the center of the pier.
Cut a 4×4 that length. Place the 4×4 post in the pier. Put the 2×6 on top. Repeat for the other corner. Check for level. If that board is level, then you are good to go. Depending on how your piers are, you repeat for the one or four more piers under that board.
Now do the opposite board. Same thing. check for level after EACH post you place. If one post is off, then it will make the whole board unlevel.
TIP: You are going to cut some posts wrong. It’s OK, everyone (I mean everyone) does it. Save those pieces. You can use them for another pier later or cut them into thin slices for making shims. [Shim – a thin piece of board used to level something.]
Now for the tricky bit. With the two opposite sides done, put the third outside board in and (using ONE screw on each end) screw it into the two already level boards. Make sure it is level. Then put in the posts for it. Do the other side the same way.
Square the frame. Use a carpenter’s square to check for square AND measure from corner to corner. Always double check. This is an important bit. Measure the distance from the NE corner to the SW corner. This distance should be equal to the distance from the NW corner to the SW corner. Keep in mind that the boards may not be square. This is a good double check. It’s OK if it’s a little off, but don’t be a lot off.
To adjust, pick up one corner and move slightly. Readjust the posts (they will tilt). Check for square and level again and again and again until it is very very good. Remember, perfection is the enemy. It will not be perfect. It almost cannot be perfect, but it should be really, really good.
Do the interior2x6s the same way except don’t screw them in until they have all their posts and are level.
It should look like this. (I have one more 2×6 to place)
You will probably look like this. Note the knees, hence the knee pads… it gets worse too.
Now, screw everything (I mean everything) down. I used three screws in the end of every 2×6. I used three screws from the 2×6 into the 4×4 post. You’ll have to screw at an angle, 2 on one side and 1 on the other. At this point, you won’t be moving the deck anymore.
The frame is done.
This is the easy part… making license plates as Neil Stephenson says. Place 2×6 onto frame. Make sure it’s square and even. Screw in. I use two screws per joist. It’s time consuming and hard on the knees.
TIPS: Use knee pads. Use the rubber mallet to ‘adjust’ the boards. A friend can be useful if a board isn’t quite square. Have him push while you screw.
That’s pretty much it. Enjoy.
This project took about 16 man hours. My wife helped one day for about 5 hours. It wasn’t arduous at all. This is the final deck. Notice the big hill. That’s the remains of damage from Hurricane Rita, two years ago.
The next project will extend this deck with a walkway to the art studio.