Anyone whose handy with a hammer and saw might be wondering how hard it is to build a deck on their own. After all, DIY has become increasingly popular for homeowners.
But should you build your own deck? That’s the age-old question with many different answers.
Well, kudos to you for being open to both options! Because while some decks may look pretty basic from the topside, there’s more to deck construction than you might realize.
So today, we’re going to help you decide whether or not you’re up to the challenge or if hiring a pro is the better choice for you.
Permits, Codes & Inspections
Permits & Codes
Before you begin building a deck, or any structure for that matter, you’ll need to acquire the correct permits. It can be tempting to bypass this step, but it will surely cause more problems down the road if you build your deck without a permit.
If you build without a permit, you risk getting fined by the building department, and they may even require you to tear down your deck and start over.
But that’s not all; if you ever plan on selling your home, it’s common for prospective buyers to want to prepare for upgrades. If they want a permit pulled for your deck, but there isn’t one, you risk losing the sale, losing money, and having to remedy the situation with the building department.
Even if you never plan to sell – when it comes to appraisals, insurance claims, or any property assessment, it can be hard to hide an unpermitted deck forever.
Obtaining a Permit
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a licensed contractor to get a permit for a deck. However, it does require drawings, plans, and knowledge of building codes.
You can expect these codes and plans to include topics such as:
- Joist, beam, and post sizes
- Requirements for spans and cantilevers
- Nail or screw patterns on decking
- Use of tie-downs
- Details showing how the deck connects to the house
- Details of diagonal bracing members, especially for free-standing decks
- Compliance with local codes, condo, and Homeowner Association restrictions
- Set-backs to neighboring properties
- Stairway and railing details
- Footing sizes and depths
- The proper fasteners, connectors, and installation best practices
- Connection details such as post to beam, joist to beam, guardrail to rim joist, stair stringers to dropped rim joist, etc.
After you have the necessary permits, you’ll need to have several on-site inspections during the build. Be prepared to be patient and work with the building department if any issues arise.
You’ll also need to coordinate timelines with the inspector, which can sometimes be the most challenging part. Generally, inspectors are available during regular business hours, which can be a hassle if that’s also when you’re supposed to be at work.
Why Hire a Pro?
When dealing with permits, codes, and inspections, it can become overwhelming for any homeowner who doesn’t have building knowledge or has a busy schedule.
On the other hand, professional deck builders deal with these situations daily. The ins and outs of the building process are a regular part of their job.
Choosing the Right Materials
There are more choices now than ever when it comes to decking and framing materials. Here at Custom Deck Creations, we use Trex composite decking for our deck surfaces and pressure-treated lumber for the framing underneath.
While that may seem simple enough to follow, lumber comes in many grades and sizes, and it’s not just about choosing the highest quality option for your budget.
The trick to a long-lasting deck is knowing which grade of lumber to use during each phase of the build. Using the wrong type can lead to a deck that sways or leans, causing the boards to twist and crack over time. Ultimately, this means you’ll likely need to rebuild your deck in just a few years.
Why Hire a Pro?
Professional contractors have extensive knowledge when it comes to building all shapes and sizes of decks. They’re able to go above and beyond the minimum requirements for a safe and sturdy deck. That means you can rest assured knowing it will last you for decades.
The Cost of Materials
There’s a lot of materials to purchase when you’re building a deck. The price will largely depend on the quality of products you buy, but let’s assume you’re going with high-quality materials that professionals use.
In almost every case, you’ll end up spending more purchasing all the materials yourself. Deck builders have excellent discounts with suppliers and hardware stores because they buy in bulk or have special pricing specific to their business.
Why Hire a Pro
On average, a homeowner pays 10 to 20 percent more for materials than a decking contractor. And even though some contractors might put a markup on materials to e.g. cover damaged material, more often than not, you’ll still end up spending less if you hire a professional.
Unloading & Storing Materials
Handling the delivery and storing of materials isn’t something that crosses many homeowners’ minds. But in reality, it can be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared.
It’s essential to have a safe space to store your materials that ideally isn’t too far from the construction site. These materials can include:
- Composite decking & fascia
- Stair components
This amount of material can take up a lot of space and be quite strenuous and time-consuming to move and organize. On top of that, you’ll want to make sure your wood is properly stacked. Otherwise, you risk it warping, particularly if you’re planning to build your deck over an extended period of time.
Why Hire a Pro
Sometimes unloading and storing materials in your backyard or garage is more than you bargained for. In that case, deck contractors have a team of workers who can tackle the process with relative ease.
Another often overlooked part of the process is renting an on-site dumpster, which is especially useful if:
- You’re taking down an old deck
- You need to level the building site
- You’ll have lots of scrap material and debris after the build
The cost of dumpster rentals can be high, especially if you can’t use them efficiently. And this is often the case for DIYers who can only work on weekends or for an hour or two after work. The longer the deck build takes, the more you’ll spend on dumpster rentals.
Why Hire a Pro
A team of skilled workers building your deck will fill a dumpster in less time and also make the most out of the materials at hand. Less time and materials equal a lower rental cost for you!
Tools for Building a Deck
Building a deck requires a variety of different saws, power tools, hand tools, etc. If you already do a lot of woodworking or construction, you’ll likely have much of what you need. But if you’re new to the DIY game, you’ll need to buy or rent these essentials:
- Miter saw
- Circular saw
- Power drill & impact driver
- Nail gun & compressor
- Framing hammer
- Tape measure
- Chalk line
- Various clamps
- Carpenter levels
- Flat prybar
While this isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, it’s a good foundation of what you’ll need. Of course, every deck will have its challenges, and you may find yourself needing other tools to complete the job.
Why Hire a Pro
If you’re starting from scratch, it can be a lot of money to spend on buying or renting tools. If you buy them, consider how often you’ll use these tools after you finish the deck. However, renting may not be an affordable option if you’re only working on weekends.
On the other hand, contractors already have all the tools they need at hand for the job.
The Time Needed to Build a Deck
One of the most significant factors that will influence a homeowner’s decision is time. You want to be realistic with yourself on how much spare time you have and if you’re willing to spend it building a deck.
Sometimes we get calls from homeowners on the fence about hiring a professional or building a deck themselves. The following year we’ll call those who went the DIY route to see how it went or if they need any assistance.
So far, their response is either “we never got around to it” or “well, we finished the deck, but we’ll never do it again.” They often tell us that it took them and a friend every weekend for three to six months to build it.
It’s always exciting at first when you begin a new project. But building your own deck can quickly stop being fun and end up as a significant source of stress if you feel pushed for time.
Why Hire a Pro
If it’s your first time building a deck, it’s going to be a slow process to make sure everything is done right. Each project will have its hindrances, and knowing the best way to move forward isn’t always clear.
Professionals who build decks day in and day out have the experience to quickly solve problems that come up. On top of that, you’ll have a whole team on the project, which makes the entire process much quicker.
So, if the timeline is a concern for you, hiring a professional may be the way to go.
The Bottom Line
Building your own deck is entirely possible, but you need to know what to expect and have the necessary knowledge and tools to do the job correctly. It requires a lot of planning and patience, even for an experienced DIYer.
If you decide building a deck isn’t the project for you, you can rest assured knowing you’ll still be very involved in the process. When you work with professionals like Custom Deck Creations, we want to hear all about your design ideas. We work with you on choosing the best materials, railings, stair placement, and all the small details to create your dream deck.
If you’re ready to take the next step, we’d love to hear from you!
At Custom Deck Creations, we build composite decks for clients across Southeast Michigan. We work with each customer to design and build the deck matching their vision and budget. Feel free to get in touch or check out some of our most recent projects.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, share it with a friend who’s considering building a deck. Want to keep reading? Check out these posts next: