3 Tips for the DIY Deck of Your Dreams

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You've heard that you should always measure twice and cut once. It's sound advice for any do it yourself project.

But it's not the first rule.

If you're doing a DIY deck project, for example, it's a distant second to the most important rule. Unless you “plan your project thoroughly” your dream deck could turn into a nightmare before you even start cutting boards. 

Here are the three steps to planning the perfect deck. 

Dream It

How will you use your new deck? Have you always dreamed of an outdoor kitchen with a smoker and two side-burners to work on in addition to a huge grilling surface? 

There are plenty of places you can turn for inspiration online including sites like Patios USA where you can see a huge variety of outdoor room furniture from dining sets to lounge chairs and even a circular outdoor sofa.

A site like this will not only help you visualize and confirm how you would use your deck. It will also provide the concrete information you'll need when planning. You'll never be able to fit that round sofa, for example, onto a 6×8 foot deck. 

Once you have an idea of how you'll use your deck and approximately what size it will need to be, you're ready to get down to the business of designing it.

Design It

Again, there are dozens of online sources that will help you translate your dreams into a solid deck design. Before you lock yourself into the options at a big box retailer like Lowe's, you might want to spend a little time perusing options on Pinterest sites like this one.

Once you've found a shape and size that fits, you're ready to get down to the brass tacks of fleshing out your design. Or rather, the nails and screws of it. There are three decisions you need to make at this point in your planning.

  1. Floating or Attached? – If your deck will be fairly close to to the ground you may not need to attach it to your house. 
  2. Wood or Composite?Composite deck materials may cost more upfront, but remember that wood will need a protective finish applied every couple of years
  3. Nails or screws? – If you want a seamless look, you'll want to opt for screws attached from below or at an angle.

Some design choices will be dictated for you. Whether or not you need stairs or a railing on your deck are good examples. You'll also what to add a little bit of size to movement around furniture and to accommodate “decor items” like containers for plants in your plans.

Permit It

Some of those “required” design decisions will come from local building codes in your area. It may be tempting to forgo the official permit process because you are building it yourself. Resist the urge. There will be a huge cost down the road when you try to sell your house without the proper permits. 

Building codes are usually designed with maximum safety levels in mind. You may be able to save a little on permits and materials required by permits by getting your final deck design reviewed by a professional. Perhaps you don't need as many footings if you set your deck a different way, for example. 

Build the Perfect DIY Deck 

Your perfect DIY deck is now ready to be built. Whether this is going to be a solo project or you've enlisted the help of a buddy or two, with a proper plan in place, you're off to a good start. 

If you'd like to round out your planning perfectly, you can add one more step. Use sources like this deck building guide or YouTube videos to give you pointers on how to do each step of the construction and you'll truly be ready to start measuring and cutting.