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What You Need to Know About Decks Part 1

Deciding to expand your living area by adding on a deck is a common American tradition. No matter if you plan to hire a professional or do it yourself the key to a successful deck is all in the design. Picking the right materials for your budget, climate and what you plan on using the deck for are all essential things to take into consideration when designing your deck. Here are a few things you should know if you are planning on a building a deck.

What You Should Know Before Building Your Deck

  • Permits are a requirement unless you are building a really small deck. Before you purchase any materials consult with a contractor to determine which permits you will need and so you know how to get them. If you don’t get the correct permits you could end up wasting a lot of time and having to start all over again.
  • Not all decks are made out of wood. In fact, there are a wide variety of materials like PVC or composite that can be used to build your deck. One of the most popular types of material used for decking is pressure-treated wood since it is not very expensive but can last for years without warping, twisting or chipping.
  • Expect to give up access to your backyard for a little while. Since you will have to dig and prepare your backyard for deck installation you will probably not be able to use your backyard until your deck installation is finished.
  • Decks don’t have to be one level. They can be multiple levels as well. If you feel like your backyard is not big enough to fit the deck of your dreams then a multi-level deck could be your best friend.
  • Decks are a very expensive investment so you should always try and protect that investment through the use of sealers and stains that protect from UV rays as well as climate changes and can even enhance the natural color of the material you use.


Footing is very important in the design of your deck because it provides a solid foundation that will support your deck and it is the first thing everyone encounters when they use your deck. The more footings your deck has the better the total weight load is distributed and the less weight the deck has to carry. It also lightens the load that the ground will have to support. Without footings deck posts could possibly sink into the ground under all the weight the deck may be carrying. If you live in an area where it is extremely cold and the soil freezes then you will have to install the footing below the frost line to prevent it from moving when the soil freezes during the winter. How big your footings should be will depend on the condition of the soil and the climate in your area. Since footings are installed underground the material they are composed of will have to be made from material that won’t decay. The most common material footings are made of is concrete although there are multiple types of material that can be used.


When building a deck frame joists, the repeated structural members, are used. The number of joists needed is related to the number of footings and beams that will be installed in the deck. They are usually constructed in the deck with a ledger on one side of the joist and a beam on the other side. If you want to install a rail on your deck then you will need to have a larger frame that will provide more strength in the rails. The size of the joists needed is directly related to the size of the deck based on the measurements; 2×8 up to 12 feet, 2×10 up to 15 feet and 2×12 up to 18 feet. If you have an upper level deck then a 2×10 joist is the minimum size that can be used to make sure your deck will be safe and stable enough to support strong railing.

Adding a new deck to your backyard is an opportunity for homeowners everyone to extend their living room to the outdoors. But, before you go out and start planning your deck and purchasing material learning all you can about decks is a great way to stay ahead of the game. For more helpful tips and information about building a deck and all the things that go into it check out Part 2 of Everything You Need to Know About Decks.

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