Thinking of building a deck. No clue what to do.

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by DaveF, Apr 17, 2005.

  1. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    So, I'm thinking of building a deck for my new home and really don't have the foggiest notion what I'm getting into. My original notion was to contract it out, and while I haven't gotten actual quotes yet, some online searching suggests this could cost as much as a new car! If so, maybe I'd better get handy and build it myself. And while I'm a smart, capable engineer, my expertise is photons, not lumber. I've little practical DIY experience.

    Do you have any suggestions for a getting a new deck, either by hiring out the design and labor, or self-built? Any affordable, home-design software I should look at? What about material? Composites seem like a good way to go for decking, but would double the cost.

    I've got a basic design in mind. It's over the walkout basement, so it will be about 9 feet above. But the grade slopes along the back of the house; I'll have to account for that. It would be an L-shape, along the entire back of the house. The left half would be 16' x 16' and the right half would be 8' x 16' (keeping it to typical lumber lengths). I'd have stairs in the middle coming down, parallel to the deck width, perhaps with a landing and a 180-deg bend, so as to not block the basement door or window.

    This is all very functional and relatively cost-effective, but lacks pizzaz. I'm not very pizzazy myself, but perhaps my deck should be. Any sassy design features I should consider?

    The purpose of this monstrosity is for grillin' and entertainin'. And to best enjoy the 3.4 days of summer we have in Rochester.
     
  2. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    This is a recent thread about composite and a type of wood called Ipe. Ipe has the same fire rating as concrete (it's very hard and durable). Also in that thread, you'll find a link to a website that offers some brackets for installed in the boards so that you don't have the nail holes on top of every board. That way you won't have nails slowly creeping up on you.

    It's expensive too, but seems to be a great alternative to the composite decks.

    I've only assisted in building one deck and it really wasn't too bad. The guy I was working with was a computer engineer (read: "also not a lumber expert") and I am a business major, but we got the job done with very few problems.

    One note: if you have a brick house you may need multiple drill bits to drill into the house to attach the deck. We went through 3 bits to drill either 4 or 6 holes. You'll also want to use one of the drills with the "hammer" built into it (I'm sure there's a name for this tool).

    Finally, if you use ipe, you'll use screws. If you don't use ipe, get a nail gun -- it will save you TONS of time.
     
  3. John_Stra

    John_Stra Extra

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    If I were building a deck I would put a built in grill table. If you are looking for a grill the best I have ever used is called the Big Green Egg..
     
  4. Julian Reville

    Julian Reville Screenwriter

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    There are TONS of deck books at your local Home Depot, Lowes, etc. It's one of the most popular things for homeowners to build. I built mine. [​IMG] It's a LOT of work.

    Things to consider:

    hauling a shitload of heavy lumber;
    buying tools: saw, drill, levels, hole diggers, wheelbarrow, concrete mixing hoe, shovel, TRUCK!!!!
    hauling a shitload of heavy concrete mix;
    listening to your SO bitch about your lack of building skills;

    Did I mention it's a LOT of work?

    Don't forget to see if you need a building permit, inspection, local code.
     
  5. Mike Voigt

    Mike Voigt Supporting Actor

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    What you're describing may seem "simple" but it ain't. You'll have to dig holes to create supports for the underlying structure; these may or may not have to go beneath a frost line where you're at. They will also have to be designed to withstand a certain amount of side load - you're 9 ft up in the air. And the dead load (weight of the deck alone) isn't small; my guess is that you'll wind up with at least 8x8 posts. Moving those for a 9 ft structure isn't easy (my guess would be 200 lbs per post), never mind getting them plumb. After that, the joists. Maybe even have to have some scaffolding to put this stuff in place. Not that it can't be done!

    Your underlying structure will need a significant amount of bracing - again, you're up 9ft. Same for your stairs, attachment to the house, etc. You will need some sturdy railings; wouldn't want to fall down... You will probably want to extend some power out there. Maybe even lighting on the steps. Do you want a canopy above?

    Make double sure that the calculations for this are engineered. You're dealing with some significant elevation, possibly wind loads depending on your design, and some seriously heavy stuff to move around.

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
     
  6. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I read that one and read a bit about Ipe. It sounds great, and I'd love to go with a high-quality, exotic hardwood, but practically I think it's excessive for my house. I'm undecided between PT lumber or a composite.

    John - I'll probably not do any built-ins to afford flexibility. Later, when I'm confident about usage patterns, I could add built-in grills, benches, etc.

    Julian & Mike, thanks for the practical thoughts. I'm still in the "what if" stage, trying to layout the design and decide if I can afford it and how I want to do it.

    At times, it seems simple enough to do myself. Other times, it seems overly challenging.

    Talking to a friend, it was suggested to not attach it to the house, but to use crossbracing for support. A poor interface with the house could allow water into the exterior wall and lead to rot. I'd prefer to then do crossbracing, but that requires extra design and analysis to make sure it's done right. I don't want to kill my houseguests with a collapse!

    A middle solution is to contract design work and support structure. I could then do the decking, rails, and maybe stairs.
     
  7. DonnyD

    DonnyD Screenwriter

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    Being in the building and remodeling business, I've done a lot of decks. Yes, decks can be expensive but done correctly, can be a long term source of enjoyment.

    When I cost out a deck for contracting purposes, I typically use about 6-7 bucks a sq ft for material cost, which is using standard treated material, allowing for spec commercial use framing, typical steps and railings. Then after talking with the homeowner and getting their "needs" and desires, I will adjust costs accordingly. Believe me, there is not a lot of the typical homeowners who have a clue what it takes to design and build a deck, especially the support involved for particular grades.

    Two years ago, I built my favorite deck of all time. A friend had a cabin on the Tenn river that was placed on a cliff. With a visit and a little looking, I was convinced I wanted to do a deck where no one thought it possible. We placed footings along the cliff face, attached some steel posts, aligned a huge beam spanning the width and built a cascading deck with a wonderful view.

    Decks can be a complex piece of work, but it is the support and basic underlying structure which will allow you to enjoy what you will actually use. If you do it yourself, have fun and enjoy.
     
  8. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    My only advice would be to make sure it is engineered properly. 9 feet is a long way to fall. Your local building inspector can probably provide the necessary specs. I don't know about going free standing at that height, a decent flashing job should eliminate any leakage problems at the house. Posts sitting on a pad have no lateral stability at all, so I would be tempted to bury the support posts and carry them up to the railing, so it is all one piece. I've seen too many railings that are ready to fall off when just secured to the deck/joists. There may be insurance implications as well.
     
  9. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    DaveF, you and I are in the same boat. I've been looking into a deck that'll go over a walk-out basement. The quotes I've been getting for a 14' X 14' cedar deck with stairs are in the $7k range.

    The deck I want isn't complicated... so, I've considered doing it myself.. but the Mrs doesn't trust me building a 9' high deck. [​IMG]

    Here's a java-based deck designer to play with to give you an idea what you're looking at: DIYonline.
     
  10. Joe Szott

    Joe Szott Screenwriter

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    You know, I was thinking about the same thing just this weekend. I worked in a lumber yard for years so no stranger to wood and concrete, but that whole time I never built a deck or fence myself!

    But I was at the Home Depot on Sunday for other projects and noticed on the DIY board they have a "Build a Deck for Dummies" type class offered once a week. I would think that would be a great resource to check out, especially if you happen to come with measurements and such I'm sure the 'teacher' would be happy to give specific advice. There are also a ton of books out there, but I always learn better from a person than from a page (but that's also just me.)
     
  11. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I saw some earlier comments you made about that, Donny. It sounds great. Do you have any pictures online?

    Jeff - You're right, a 9' deck is quite high, and it needs to be built properly. I need to learn more about free-standing vs. house-mounted.

    Dave P - Those kinds of quotes put fear into my wallet. Do you have any custom or special features? I could reduce my deck to 16' x 16' to save cost if necessary. But I'd rather do the whole ~400 sq. ft deck at once to have it done. And of course, as I learn more, I realize there's an opportunity to make it multi-level, put a landing in the stairs, do fancy things with the railings, and so on. And there's goes the budget. Oh, and I took a pass at it last night with the DIY designer tool. [​IMG]

    Joe - your comment on DIY courses is something I hadn't considered. Thanks.

    Maybe I'll just sell the house, move back to an apartment, and save myself all this expense and hassle [​IMG]
     
  12. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    Well, we were planning on "dog-earing" the corners so it doesn't look too square... and we chose a beefier railing opposed to attaching the balusters directly to the joists... and we were looking at using cedar. Other than that, it was pretty generic.

    Part of the problem is the cost of lumber is so high right now due to the large number of hurricanes last season. It's in high demand because, well, they had to rebuild Florida.
     
  13. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Stupid Florida. [​IMG]
     
  14. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    Yeah.. they get all the cool decks.
     
  15. Eric Kahn

    Eric Kahn Guest

    There are books available on deck building

    If you do not want the house to support the back of the deck you should still attach it to the house to add stability, lowes and home depot both will rent you a hammer drill for masonry work
     
  16. Ed Kerns

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    Dave, I've built a few decks over the years, but am not a professional. From my perspective, it's a very do-able project. By far your biggest complication is the height required. Extra care is certainly warranted when you're 9 feet in the air. I'm looking at a deck much like you describe, on the back of my house. It too goes over a walk out basement. The basic structure is 4x4 posts and 2x10 framing members. Mine is a pressure treated deck and though I've built with composites, I think I'd still build with treated wood if I had to do it again. The exception would be if I were building a very high end structure. There are some beautiful materials available, but they are expensive. Remember that PT decks need a fair amount of maintenance over the years.
    A couple of "nuts and bolts" suggestions; call your local utilities before you dig anything. They will mark all your underground wires and lines. Square and plumb is everything when you build the substructure. Starting right makes the job much easier. Remember not to use galvanized fasteners with the new pressure treated material. It reacts to the chemical in the wood. Treated wood tends to warp when it dries. It probably makes sense to order just the framing members first and the decking and railing when you're ready for them. Building anything is an education, but I always figured the satisfaction was worth the splinters! Good luck.
     
  17. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Eric - I've got some books on building in my Amazon shopping cart, but I've not purchased them yet. It's easy finding books how-to, but I've had little success finding good concept books. Most cover high-end decks that so exceed what I have in mind, I find them no use. I can't find picture books of normal decks, for normal people, with normal houses and budgets.

    Ed - thanks for the suggestions. Though I briefly leaning towards a free-standing deck, I think loss of usable space underneat due to cross-bracing is too high a price. But I'd probably get a professional to attach the deck to my house. The risk is too high for me to do it as a first-ever major home remodel.

    I haven't decided between PT or composite. My mental design is much more refined. The biggest issue is cost. I've got lots to do this year (AC, lawn, driveway, furniture), so the deck may have to wait. Though, furniture is overrated...

    They get sunshine and beaches. They should at least let us in the Great White North have affordable decks.
     
  18. Mark Fontana

    Mark Fontana Stunt Coordinator

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    Ed is right. Don't use galvanized fasteners with the new pressure treated lumber ("ACQ" type), as the high copper content will cause a galvanic reaction and corrode them much faster than with the now-discontinued CCA lumber. (The move from CCA->ACQ lumber for residential use occurred over a year ago due to health concerns about the arsenic content in CCA lumber.)

    If you care about safety and longevity, it is worth it to use stainless steel fasteners, including all joist hangers, nails, etc. It will add quite a bit to the cost, but it is worth it for the peace of mind.

    There are some fasteners available with a ceramic coating. Those might be an OK alternative to stainless steel as long as the coating doesn't crack...
     
  19. DonnyD

    DonnyD Screenwriter

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    DaveF...
    I DID have pics on my computer of that Tenn River deck but apparently those were part of what I lost in a lightning strike to my 'puter a couple of years ago. That episode taught me the need to back up things often!!!!

    But.... I do have some pics of a cascading, multi level deck and stair system that we built onto a wedding chapel a few years ago that has become a photographer's haven. It is about 12 ft off the ground, cascading to a lower deck and dual stairs leading to a bridge and arbor.....kinda complex you might say and pretty nice....
    I could send a couple to you if you wish.
     

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