Building a wood deck can make your home more functional for entertaining and relaxing. But, if you’re a beginner, you may end up with a lousy job that can endanger you and your guests.
So, I’m going to share my step-by-step guide on how to build a wood deck in your backyard, in order to to help you create a durable and stylish space for all your outdoor activities.
Tools and Materials You’ll Need
Plan and Prepare the Deck and Space
Thorough planning and reflection on your current and future deck usage is essential. If you’re working with a limited budget, starting small and expanding later can be a smart move.
Trust me, I’ve been there; it’s easier to add on to an existing structure than to build a brand-new, sprawling deck from scratch.
You may have a more lively party on a deck that can house more guests, but such a deck is also more expensive to build, requires more maintenance, and may not even fit in your yard.
A small deck is perfect if you don’t live with a big family or frequently host parties because it creates a more personal setting and a packed dining table is unnecessary.
The layout of the yard and house will also influence how big a deck you can build. Installing posts or grading a yard with a slope might be more of a hassle and require some basic technical knowledge.
Furthermore, one should consider the costs as well. The price of a deck can be doubled if it is elevated above the ground and requires structural support below it and railings on all sides. This adds complexity and additional materials, resulting in a doubling of the overall cost compared to a deck built directly on the ground. While an elevated deck offers improved views and defined outdoor space, it’s essential to consider the associated costs before making a decision.
Trees and other plants in the way might also alter the look and functionality of your deck. Tree removal might be costly based on the size of the tree, but building around it is also a great option. Although time-consuming, it can be rewarding in the end because it creates a unique, natural seating space.
Also Read: How To Spruce Up Your Backyard
Constructing Your Wooden Backyard Deck
Step #1: Install the Ledger
The most vital link in the deck’s chain is the ledger board, which fastens the deck to the house.
The ledger’s strongest connection is achieved when it is fastened directly to the house’s rim joist; therefore, flashing should be constructed first to protect the structure from water. I always make sure to use an impact wrench to drive half-inch lag screws directly into the house’s rim joist. Believe me, you don’t want your deck to budge an inch.
Flash the L-shaped space where the house’s side meets the ledger board with a second coat of flashing. It will keep water from seeping into the middle of the ledger board and the house, where it could cause problems for the structure below and the deck’s edge.
Step #2: Lay Down the Footings, Piers, or Blocks
You can use chalk strings to mark the footings along the deck’s outside corners. This ought to conform to your proposed layout. Place these at 8-foot increments across the front rim joist.
Below the frost line, a hole should be drilled that is large enough to accommodate the footing form. Place the pier mold in the footing hole and pack earth around it for stability.
Pour concrete into the piers and let it dry for a week. You can install the post hardware or foundation into the wet concrete before the pier cures.
Step #3: Assemble the Rim Joists, Beams, and Interior Joists
Following the deck’s footing gear installation, you can assemble the deck’s frame by fastening together the deck’s internal joists, rim joists, and beams.
The distance between each joist must follow local building requirements. You’ll need joist hanging nails, ties, and brackets to combine the wood parts.
Step #4: Secure With Butyl Deck Tape
Where you’re at with this phase depends heavily on the dimensions of your deck and any other relevant factors. You can utilize the joist hangars to establish connections. You can also drill the boards together.
Here’s a pro tip for you: use butyl tape liberally on surfaces where you see wood touching wood or wood touching metal. It seals the seams between the deck’s various components to prevent rot, thereby significantly increasing the deck’s lifespan.
Don’t overlook the corners. I always add corner bracing at the four furthest points for some extra muscle. You can strengthen the sides by adding joist beams.  This is done as a safety measure to ensure the ends are held in place.
Step #5: Position and Space the Decks
To ensure the decking has adequate support, you should install a joist every 14 to 16 inches. This will ensure that the deck has no vulnerable areas.
To also ensure that the decking runs parallel to the house, you must first position the edge of the first board as so before driving in the bolts. The ends should be left extended on both sides.
Assuming you have no idea where the last board will end up, you should work toward the home from the board furthest away.
You should take measurements at each corner as you work your way to the deck’s end to make sure you’re staying on course and will finish with your work parallel to the rim joist.
Step #6: Install the Decks
This is the easy step, but it’s also when the results start to show. For every three boards, measure to see if the length has to be increased by half an inch to three-quarters of an inch.
After finishing the task, use a circular saw to cut a straight line along the fence if an uneven edge is accidentally made. A “bumper” or rail can be constructed along the fence side and back of the deck to prevent grills from ever sliding off the deck.
Step #7: Finish With a Sealer, Stain, or Paint
As the final step, you can use one of these finishes. But if you use pressure-treated wood, you’ll need to let the wood dry out for a while. Otherwise, the boards and paint will eventually crack, so it’s best to allow it to sit for several weeks to settle.
Want to know if the wood’s dry enough? Do the water test. Sprinkle some water on a board and watch. If it soaks in within a minute, you’re good to go for staining or painting. But if you see the water beading up, just hold off; your wood still needs more time to dry.
If your deck is elevated, safety is of the utmost importance. That is true whether you’re starting from scratch or fixing up an existing deck.
At first glance, it may seem like a cheaper alternative to repair an older deck, but a closer look may reveal rotten deck footings or other structural issues. If that’s the case, any new deck you build on top of it is certain to fail and pose a serious risk.
For peace of mind, I’d recommend designing a new deck that’s up to code. Yes, it might cost more upfront, but knowing your deck is safe and secure is worth every penny.
You should maintain decks made of natural wood more frequently than plastic or composite materials. I’m talking regular washes, sandings, and a fresh coat of stain or paint now and then.
Be wary of heavy furniture and planters, too. They can dent the wood or trap moisture, which is a recipe for rot. My advice is to use protective pads or shift those items around from time to time to let the wood breathe.
Cleaning plastic decks and fixing twisted or warped boards is a must.
Upgrade your outdoor furniture, install a sound system, and construct a cover or awning to turn your deck into an extension of your living space. These ten accessories can turn your deck into an outdoor oasis.
Now that you know how to build a wood deck in your backyard, you can move your smoker in, invite your friends, and grill steaks.
Constructing a deck takes time, effort, and knowledge of basic carpentry. But when finished, it will surely increase your home’s resale value and allow you to spend time outdoors in comfort.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.