An outdoor deck is a great place for your family to gather during the spring, summer, and fall months. Some crazy people even enjoy theirs during the winter with a heated whirlpool tub, but that is for another time. If you are planning on putting together your own deck, follow a few tips to save yourself some frustrations and headaches.
Tip #1 – Know Where You Can Cut Corners With A Plan
Spend time planning. If there is one thing that I advocate, it is plan, plan, plan, and plan some more. Then plan over your plans to make sure the plan you have is a truly solid plan. Get it? Having an idea of what you’re going to be doing throughout the project is a great way to make sure if you have to “fudge” something to get the deck together, or look right, that you can do it in a place where you are able to hide it. All problems can be transferred. Know where you can cut corners.
Tip #2 – Make As Few Cuts As Possible — Until The End
Leave all of the excess on your boards while you are building the deck. It has happened countless times, even by us professionals, having a board or two be off and being forced to take up the entire deck to re-square all of the posts and beam boards. Do yourself a favor and leave the excess on the decking boards, beam boards, and posts while you are constructing it. Then once the deck is built you can cut off the excess and build your railing.
Tip #3 – Don’t Countersink Your Screws
You want to know the biggest reason decks fail in so many homes, usually within a few years of building the structure? Because people countersink the screws into the wood. If you have ever hung drywall you know to screw in the screw until it puts slight pressure on the paper of the drywall but doesn’t puncture it. The same theory applies to your decking boards. Sink the screws so that the head of the screw is flush with the top of the board, but does not puncture down into the board itself. These punctures and splits provide areas for the wood to rot and split, leaving your deck looking rough.
One of the biggest problems I have personally run into, and have seen other people I know run into is getting knee deep into a project and then not having the tools necessary to get the job done. If you haven’t already setup your toolbox then there are a few things that you want to pickup and make sure you have on hand for every type of job.
A socket set is a must. Not just any socket set, though. You need a set that has the smallest sizes to the largest sizes. Large enough to work on a pair of eye glasses, and small enough to work on any of the bolts on your vehicles. If I can give you one piece of advice, it is to buy Craftsman. Even if you destroy the tools yourself, in front of a tool salesman, Craftsman will replace them for you for free. Get both metric and standard types.
Likewise, you need a good screwdriver set. The best set I have found is through Craftsman. They’re not cheap but you can get star head, Phillip’s head, slotted, and square heads. The handles are comfortable to use, and don’t hurt your hands when you’re applying a lot of pressure.
Cordless tools work great with both your socket set and your screwdriver sets. If you get enough attachments there are no jobs that you can’t get done. Pick up a Reciprocating saw, a circular saw, flash light, drill, and impact drill. You will spend some money up front on batteries, tools, and chargers, but the peace of mind knowing that you have them when you need them most is priceless.
It is great to be a do it yourselfer these days. Especially during a tough economy, if you or your spouse is laid off work, and the housework needs to be done, being a DIY type is a great way to save a LOT of money. You don’t want to end up like one of the people on those shows you see, who start a project and then have to call a contractor halfway through because they bit off more than they can chew.
Tip #1 – Always Have A Plan Before You Start
Before you dig into any project, you need to have a plan. Expect to spend 10% of the time you think the project will take just on planning how everything is going to come apart and fit back together. This will help you overcome many of the pitfalls that DIY’rs run into once the project is already too far to turn back.
Tip #2 – Plan For Waste
When you are putting in your order for materials, add the totals to your plan. Always account for at least 20% excess, especially if this is the first time you’ve done a project like the type you’re planning. Not having enough materials when you are in the middle of the job is a huge morale killer. Trips back and forth to Home Depot suck. Try to limit them by planning properly!
Tip #3 – You Need More Tools
Don’t just think about the materials you need. Think about the tools you need. Sometimes you are going to need a big flat bar or pry bar, because the house just won’t give up it’s bounty too easily. Other times you are going to need finesse tools, such as different sized drywall knives. Remember, the less trips to the home store you have to make, the better. Plan ahead and you’ll save money and be able to finish your project without too many hiccups.