DIY Deck Building 101

Citadel Home Inspections   |  

I want to get this off my chest and give all of you “weekend warrior” builders or carpenters a word of advice.  Just because you own a hammer doesn’t make you a carpenter.  I own a wrench and socket set but I’m no auto mechanic.  If my truck needs brake, I go to the mechanic.

If there is one area of the average Home Inspection, as a Home Inspector I am constantly seeing and writing about in the Inspection Report, it is decks being poorly constructed.  I guess that lots of people think a deck can’t be that hard to build so why not do it myself.  While I applaud your DIY attitude and pluck, please before you start, do a little research on proper and basic framing practices.  If you’re reading this you obviously have access to the internet, for Pete’s sake Google deck framing.  A lot of Municipalities even have info for you to refer to and info about getting your building permit. 

That’s right a permit.  If your structure is 108 square feet or over, in Ontario you need a permit.  If you’re not in Ontario check to see who Governs Building Codes.  Oh, but wait, you’re not going to attach it to the house to get around the permit issue?  WRONG, urban legend!  It doesn’t matter if it’s attached to the house or you build it on the back forty of your 1000 acre property….over 108 sqft, you need a permit!  Which means two things at least.  It will be inspected by the Town Building Inspector (CBO) and it’s gotta be done right. 

Here’s a list of tips when building your deck;

  • Don’t use deck blocks as a footing, sink them below the frost line or pin them to bedrock
  • Use 4x4 posts with 8” sonotubes up to 5’ and then higher use 6x6 with 10” sonotubes
  • There is no such thing as a 1 ply beam, ALL beams are 2 ply or greater
  • All joist spacing should be no greater than 16” OC (on center), use joist hanger for flush mounted joists
  • Post to beam connections should be made thru-bolts or lag-bolts (look at the diagrams for best style of connections etc.)
  • On the railing 2x2 pickets aren’t structural, you should have a 4x4 post at the beginning and end of each run and every 4’ along the expanse.
  • And here is my #1 pet peeve for the weekend warrior, NEVER NEVER NEVER use deck screws for joist hangers of any other structural connections.  Deck screws do not have a shear rating and are designed solely to hold you deck floor boards down.  For structural connections use, lag-bolts, thru-bolts, properly rated nails for the job or if you don’t mind spending a little extra $ for the ease of using screws vs nails, Simpson Strong-Tie makes a line of rated connectors as well as a million different saddles, straps, ties, hangers, caps etc.

So educate yourself on good framing practices, get your permit and then bribe your friends and family  with beer and burgers and build it right.  So when me or another Home Inspector looks at your place, we’re not telling the buyers that it looks like the deck has build by Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

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