Building a deck for idiots.

Like many people, I had a dream of someday owning a home and customizing it to fit my dreams.  However, like many people I realized very quickly how expensive and challenging it can be to actually get this stuff done.

In your mind you might go “O.K. I need some new carpet in our living room.  That’s what we did.   But then I realized that I had to pay someone a lot of money to install.  On top of that I had to find the carpet to put in and that cost a ton of money.  I also learned that it cost a lot of money for carpet padding.  And yes, there’s multiple types and cost of that too.  What a headache!  In addition I had to pick a day to get it installed and move all of our very heavy furniture out of the room.  Moving our 50 gallon fish tank was not fun.  We love the end result but the stress level is super high.

We decided we wanted to get a couple of french doors on both ends of the house.  I’ll save that story for another blog but let me tell you, getting two sets of french doors across town on a trailer is ridiculously hard, especially when the instructions say that you cannot lay down on the side.  So we hired a handyman and he installed the doors.  Next we had to put a deck because the drop off on the one on the B-side of the house(firefighter terminology) is too far down.  My lovely wife and I decided we could do this, I mean how hard could it be?

Natalie, my wife, is a bit smarter than me when it comes to planning.  I was wanting to be a cheapskate and only make the deck a square directly outside the door but she insisted we make it 12 feet across since that is the length boards come in.  It didn’t take long to make me realize that this was the best plan and so we planned accordingly.  Also, I was going to make a straight frame with boards across the top but was convinced to frame it in.  This caused a ton more work and more wood but really does look good and professional in the end.

Physical wise I would say that I expended a lot of labor in this project.  Multiple trips to home depot to buy wood and Quik-rete will have a toll on your back.  Also digging the post holes is rough.  I had dig them because I do not have a tractor to dig for me, although I was offered to use a friend of mine’s.  I decided I did not want to tear up the lawn in that area.  I had to dig 14 holes.  Also keep in mind that this project will take a lot of time.  You have to set post and wait for a day or two for your post to completely dry.

So Natalie had a vision of a nice out door deck with a chiminea and a couple of chairs.  The area is perfect because it is under a tree and it tends to be a lot cooler on that side of the house.  So without much procrastination I began by setting my post the proper distance across the front of the door.

Here it begins

Here it begins

Front view

You can see in the photo that I bought a few of the concrete deck boots.  That was my plan originally but the deck sits too high and it would have taken way too much effort to raise the ground to sit those on.  I have the boots but will not use them until we build our second deck in the back because it does actually sit on the ground.

I put the post in and let dry.  I then butted the frame right against the house.  The frame is made of 2 by 8’s on the outside.  The inner frame is made of fence post, make sure you only use pressure treated lumber, it cost more but will last a long time without rotting.  The inner frame is made of 2 by 6’s.  I probably could have used 2 by 4’s but decided to make it more stable.  For the post I bought 8 foot long post and had the guys at home depot cut them in half.  The outer frame was 12 foot boards, I had to put them in the back of our Honda Pilot and hang them out the back of the car on multiple occasions.  Also, just a note.  You will need a lot of deck screws.  I ended up needing just over 2 boxes of 1 1/2 inch deck screws.  I ran out near the end but luckily had a few outdoor screws from another past project.  The screws I had to use to finish the project sucked and kept stripping out on me.  So please “Be prepared and buy enough screws!”.

Cart of tools

Preparation is key.  I am not a very organized person and this project took a little longer than it should have.  It was our first time and so we made a few stupid mistakes on some measurements and had to back track a bit.  My key to success was loading my garden cart with all the equipment I would need so I could just roll it all out daily when I began to work on the deck.  Don’t mind the extra stuff in my cart!   I did say I was unorganized!  I kept all the screws I would need, quik-rete, circular saw, saw zaw, jig saw, drill bits, corner brackets, and extension cords in this cart that way I wasn’t running around searching for items every time.

Coming together

I paid close attention to leveling to get it as straight as possible.  We put on the finishing boards and left a gap in between the boards on top.  I read in multiple post to leave a gap the size of a nail.  For our deck we went a little bigger so that the board spacing ended up pretty perfect.  One rookie mistake we made was buying some of the top boards and then going on our California vacation.  The boards sat outside in the elements and sadly became a little warped.  Don’t buy your top boards until you are ready to put them on to avoid this, or keep them in the garage or something.

Finally we were about done.  We bought some stain and Natalie stained it a darker color.  This was darker than I envisioned but looked nice next to our house.



Stained deck

Stained deck

One big hiccup we had was right next to the house.  When our guy put the door in he put a wood threshold going out but left a gap.  I had no idea how I was going to deal with this.  I asked a gentleman at Home Depot if they sold something to fix this awkward gap between the wood threshold and out deck.  Here is a picture of what I was dealing with.


Houston we have a problem!

Houston we have a problem!


He told me that he never saw anyone build a deck like that and that most people but up the deck to the existing wood.  I told him that wasn’t possible.  He just didn’t get my dilemma despite the fact I showed him this picture.  His solution was to get wood to fill and use contractors liquid nail to glue in there.  I bought the stuff he recommended but realized that was not a good idea.  I carefully cut a board to fit the gap tightly and we pounded it into place.  At this point we had already set the top boards so we had to remove the top board closest to the house.  We drilled the board into the frame and it was really solid and looked really good.  It looked like we knew what we were doing!

Solution to gap Gap problem solved


So that is the finished product.  Hopefully I can inspire someone who may not believe they can do it themselves.  I will ad more photos when we get our chairs and all the surrounding area done.  Please feel free to ask questions or comment on your deck project.  Would love to hear that someone benefited from this post!


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