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6 things to consider before building your own deck

Posted by Mike Posted in Blogsouth

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There's a an old saying "Why pay someone else to do something when I can do it myself?".  This questions is asked by thousands of homeowners every year in relation to their deck.  It's one thing to have some cracked deck boards that need replacing or a loose handrail, but what about when you have a deck that is unsafe and needs to come down and re-build a new one.  Is this a project you can do yourself?  Let's look at a few factors  to consider when  building a deck yourself.

1.  Time-  Do you have the time?  The answer for most people is no.  Most deck rebuilds will take a professional crew of 4-5 contractors at least 3 days so if its you and maybe your buddy, you should plan on at least 3 times as long.  For the average person they only have Saturday and Sunday so that means for you to build a fairly standard size deck it will take you somewhere around 5-6 weekends to build your deck.  This doesn't take into account any staining or accessories that might go into it.  If you do have a flexible schedule and can work through the work week this time can be a little more workable.

2.  Permitting and codes-  All decks have to be permitted.  This is a common mis-conception that the permitting is not required for a deck, but as soon as you bolt and attach your deck to your house is has to be permitted and inspected.  Pulling a permit is not expensive, but it can be time consuming and difficult.  In most area you must submit plan drawings of the structural layout, a site plan and proposed cost to build.  Keep in mind that architectural drawings may also be required to pull a permit.

Your deck should also be up to code. The codes seems to change with the wind so this can be difficult to keep up with as a DIY'er. Recently in Georgia there was a 23 page amendment just to the deck codes.  If you don't build you deck up the current codes then you risk safety (see number 4) and you might have a hard time selling your house in the future.

3.  Help - Building a deck is no one man job.  You will need several extra hands on the job.  From bringing material to your backyard and staging it to digging footings is all back breaking work.  Trying to do it yourself with no help is overwhelming.  Having one or two people that know what they are doing is a good start and a few more that can do some heavy lifting and grunt work is an ideal situation.When you get more than 4 people it is hard to have enough for everyone to do unless they all know what to do without being told.  Like all home improvement projects pizza and cold drinks are a must for your help to keep them motivated.

4.  Safety- Most home improvement projects require some sweat equity, but building a new deck is dangerous task.  Most decks are elevated around 10' off the ground if there is a walkout basement.  This poses a serious risk that you or someone helping you could fall off the deck or ladder while building the deck.  Using proper safety equipment is important to ensure the safety of you and those around you.  Using the proper safety equipment is also important when using the various power tools required to build a deck.  Gloves, safety goggles or eye protection, and adhering to all OSHA regulations is a good rule of thumb for keeping yourself self while working on your project.

5.  Materials- The abundance of material options can be overwhelming to homeowners and the availability of these products can be every more frustrating.  When working with a professional they will usually have a good feel for which products have been proven and which ones are easy to get your hands on.  Doing some internet research can produce some really nice and cool products, but getting them can be not so cool.  When selecting materials for your deck a local lumberyard can be your best asset.  A lot of times they have a showroom and tons of samples.  Make sure and call around first and ask if they sell to homeowners.  Many lumberyards sell only to builders and contractors, but several of them specialize in walking a DIY'er through the process.  For more information on material types click here to download our free guide to choosing between wood and composite decking material.

6.  Quality - The quality control of building your own deck is one of the big draws to do it yourself.  You can control every aspect of the finished product.  Every cut is just how you want it and every nail and screw is placed by you.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your personality.  Some homeowners like to be able to look at a project and work a punch list with a contractor to make sure they are happy.  If you build it yourself you are in control of the punch list and wether or not it gets done.  If you are like most homeowners plan to make some mistakes since you don't build decks for a living.

If you decide that building a deck yourself is just too much check out our blog on meeting with contractors by clicking here.

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