Building Decks

Is there a forlorn space in your backyard? Does your new house lack individuality? Would you like another option for a children's play area, or do you just want a place to relax and entertain your friends while being a little closer to nature? If you're wistful about the good times you could be having with a bit more room, you might be one of the many folks in our area who are planning on building a deck addition to their homes.

Creating the Design

This is the fun part. A deck can be as simple as a plain, flat floor over beams and joists, with or without an awning. If you prefer, it can be a multi-level structure with built-in benches, planters, and more. Your house's design will determine to great extent how much deck you can and should build. You may need to incorporate railings into the design as well as stairs if the deck is anything more than a simple floor, barely raised above the ground. If you have ideas about what you want, but no practical sense as to how to draw it up, this might be an excellent time to consult a professional builder or architect. In any case, you will need to check with your local city or county's permits department to make sure that your final design meets code requirements. After all, it would be a heart-breaking thing to build your dream deck and then have to dismantle it because it didn't meet the code requirements.

Choosing Materials

There's a lot of leeway here. Decks have been traditionally built of simple, natural wood, but pre-stained wood can save yet another step in the process, and pretreated wood can cut down on insect destruction later on in the life of your deck.

Vinyl siding is another twist for deck materials. However, its low maintenance (Exposed wood decks need to be re-stained every two or three years.) is offset by several factors, including aesthetics, heat retention, and a lot of bounce if you opt for the total vinyl beam and joist system.

Do-it-yourself, or Not!

If you're more of an ideas person than a hands-on type, and you've got the money for it, you will probably reach a point where you consider hiring someone else to build your deck. Think of it: a skilled professional will handle the calculations, the permits, and the hard work. The beautiful results will cost you cash, but you'll know the job was done right and thoroughly, won't you?

Usually this is the way it goes, but there are a lot of horror stories out there about less than scrupulous contractors who came, saw, chatted knowledgeably, took the money, and never returned. Rather than completely trusting someone who is, to all intents and purposes, a stranger with your house and your money, check out Hiring a Contractor without Going through Hell to see all that's involved in this kind of business transaction.

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library has the first materials you need to start building your dream deck: books of design ideas and instruction as well as directions to quality Web sites.
Attention, CRRL patrons: titles in the list below may be reserved for pick up at your favorite branch.

In the Library

Building Decks: Pro Tips and Simple Steps.
Instructions for building three types of decks, plus stairs, railings, and benches to mix and match.

Deck Planner: 25 Outstanding Decks You Can Build by Jim Bauer.
"The perfect deck for any home! More than just an idea book, this helpful resource offers plans and details for 25 decks you can do yourself or contract to build. Includes single-, double- and multi-level decks designed to complement a wide range of home styles."

Decorating Porches and Decks: Stylish Projects for the Outdoor Room by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott.
Dream about adding stylish touches to your new deck? This book has decorator designs to complement a wide range of homes: Queen Anne, Bungalow, Rustic, and more.

How to Design & Build Decks created and designed by the editorial staff of Ortho Books.
"Learn how to design the perfect deck for the yard, from choosing the best site, size, and shape to calculating the proper sizes of joists, posts, and beams. There are guidelines for drawing your own plans, ordering materials, and obtaining a permit, along with complete, step-by-step instructions for building a deck."

Porches & Sunrooms: Your Guide to Planning and Remodeling by John Riha.
Lots of possibilities and expert advice on designing a new outdoor space for your home and ideas to restyle and refurbish existing structures.

On the Web

Deck Maintenance
Ask the Builder gives the low-down on pressure-washing, as well as safer ways to clean and seal your deck.

How to Build a Deck
The folks at handymanUSA have straightforward advice on tools required, planning tips, construction suggestions, design basics, and tables to help calculate sizes. A two-part article. Part Two has step-by-step directions for deck construction.

Do-It-Yourself Project Help: Decks
This site, from Hometime Video, answers many questions about the deck-building process. Includes photos.

Stafford County, Virginia: Deck Policy
Guidelines for Stafford County residents who wish to build decks on their property. Deck Building
Instructions as well as question and answer forums, tables for measuring, general construction tips, and advice on estimating.

Wood in the Landscape
This five-part series on deck building from Architecture Week highlights the history and beauty of decks as well as dwelling on practical matters such as basic framing systems, foundations, beams and joists, decking and stairs, bracing the structure, as well as seating and railing options.