Installing an outdoor deck is a great way to improve the outside of your home, add value, and create a space for socializing. A good deck will last many years, and be the heart of many a grill, party, or summer lunch. With all they have going for them, it’s a wonder that not everyone has one!
It’s a common mistake to think that fitting a deck is an easy task, and while it is within the realm of possibility for more experienced DIYers, there are plenty of occasions for mistakes to be made. Seemingly small mistakes can grow into big, dangerous problems, as the structural integrity of the deck is compromised, possibly leading to collapse.
Fortunately, we’ve listed the 11 most common mistakes you need to avoid, below.
Fitting a weak ledger board
The ledger board is the backbone to your deck, and the point from which the rest of the elements branch out from. It attaches to your home directly, and it’s essential that it’s done properly. Many DIYers make the mistake of thinking it’s enough to fix it to brick work, or other siding materials. In fact, the only safe way to do it, is to cut through all the sidings and insulation, and fix the ledger board directly to the existing floor joists or wall studs, using high quality fasteners that extend through the rim board of your home.
Forgetting the flashing
Before patching up the siding, it’s important to add flashing to the ledger board and sealing everything up properly. Flashing is a waterproof barrier that must be placed where the decking meets the house, in order to avoid water and damp finding a way into your home in the future. This also protects the ledger board, and ensures a strong and sturdy deck. Silicone caulking can be used to add further protection, and to seal up the edges of the flashing.
Choosing the wrong deck boards
There are many types of deck boards available now, from exotic hardwoods, to inexpensive pressure treated boards. The best type for you depends on what your plans for the deck are. If you’re looking to add value and improve your home for resale, the most expensive, exotic hardwood boards are not the best idea, as you’re unlikely to see a return on your investment. Instead, choose more affordable materials such as pressure treated combo boards such as hem-fir. For durability, go for a composite wood or PVC based board.
Not treating your wood
No matter which deck board you choose, all wooden elements of your deck must be treated. Any unsealed wood will soon begin to look weathered and run down, but will also begin to break down sooner, vastly reducing the lifespan of your deck.
Getting off on the wrong foot
Deck post footers support the parts of the deck that aren’t directly attached to the ledger board. These need to be rock solid in order to support the huge weight of a deck, and prevent movement or collapse. There are many mistakes that you can make with footers, so be prepared! They must be buried in undisturbed soil — this can sometimes mean digging up to 48 inches deep. The tops of the footers should extend at least an inch above ground level to prevent issues with damp. And finally, they must extend below the frost line, and as a minimum, should be buried at least 12 inches deep.
Bolting the girder to the side of the support posts
Girders are horizontal support beams that typically attach to the support posts. The best way to fix them is to secure the girders on top of the posts. However, many people make the mistake of bolting them to the sides, which puts a lot of stress on the joints, and can lead to collapse.
Blocking access points
When designing your deck, you have to take into consideration any basement windows or service access points you may be blocking. Be on the lookout for service panels, vents, electrical sockets, exterior lighting, outdoor faucets, and drainpipes, and be sure that access is maintained. For basement windows, make sure there’s a minimum escape route of 36 inches under the new deck.
Poor spacing on the steps
If you’re fitting steps, plan these in advance. You need to make sure each riser is the same height for safety reasons. Also, make sure that any steps you do have aren’t too steep, shallow, or narrow. Open risers are also a bad idea, and can easily become tripping hazards, as feet become trapped between the steps.
Not paying attention to handrails
Handrails and guardrails are always a good idea, promoting safety as well as giving your deck a more finished look. Be sure to follow local codes when planning the height and the spacing between balusters. With everything to code, make sure you fix it securely; simply screwing or bolting it on is not enough. Handrails are typically required to resist a load of at least 200 lbs from any direction. By using high quality deck fasteners, and connecting it directly to the frame and joists, you can create a solid handrail that will meet this requirement.
Using inferior fasteners and fixings
Once your deck is built, it’s difficult to make any changes, so make sure you get it right first time. Don’t skimp on fasteners and fixings such as screws. Use the best quality fittings to ensure the longevity of your deck.
Not applying for the necessary permits
No matter how well you’ve built your deck, if you haven’t got the necessary permits, there’s a chance you could be ordered to tear it all down. So, before you do anything, head to your permitting department to find out what you need and to check the local codes. You may be required to submit plans and drawings, and pay a small fee. These codes are there to ensure your safety, so it’s well worth being sure your deck meets them before you begin.