When the nice weather hits, you may wish you had a nice deck to relax on. If you follow these guidelines you can build the deck you want without spending too much money.
Build a Deck That Doesn't Apply To Building Codes
With saving money as the primary motivation for this project, there are some regulations to consider. Building codes vary in each region of the country, so make sure to consult your city code guide before beginning your project. Using Portland, Oregon as an example, here's how you cut the costs.
Avoid buying a permit by building your deck no more than 30" above the adjacent grade at its highest point. Also, make sure no portion of the deck is closer than three feet from the property line.
With the deck 30" or less above grade, you do not need to dig concrete footings 18" or more into the ground.
With the deck 30" or less above grade, you do not need to install guardrails.
Build your deck as a walkout, from a back door for example. This will allow you to attach your deck to the house, saving material.
If you are going to install stairs, make sure there are no more than three risers (steps) a maximum of eight inches each in height. This will prevent you from having to install handrails and stay within common code guidelines. 24" should be your maximum height above grade.
If possible, avoid using posts and frames with a "beam under" design (explained below).
As an example, assume a modest deck size of 12' x 8'. That is 96 square feet of summertime enjoyment! All framing material must be pressure treated. Since we're saving money, the decking and stair material will be pressure treated as well (as opposed to using costly cedar or mahogany).
How to Build The Deck
Using your back door as a reference guide, measure down 9 3/4". This is the maximum step down allowed by code. If your grade is high enough, bring that measurement up to no more than two inches below the door. This will prevent any step down from the entry point.
Install a 2x8x12' ledger board against the house. Level across your measurement at the door and mark that as the TOP of your ledger board. If you are anchoring into concrete, pre-drill holes every two feet, staggered at the top and bottom of the ledger. If you are anchoring into the siding, make sure to drill through your ledger into wall studs. In either application eight-inch bolts are to be used.
Space the remaining Pier Blocks equally, six feet away from the house, before you set them and install the outside support beam. To ensure the support beam is parallel to the edge of the house (creating a frame that is a perfect rectangle of 90-degree angles), measure six feet away from the house from both end sides of the ledger boards. Starting at the ledger-point of each six-foot measurement, measure eight feet down the ledger. Measure the distance between unattached ends of the six-foot measurement and the eight-foot measurement; this measurement measures the length of the hypotenuse, or the longest edge, of the triangle). If the shorter edges of this triangle are eight feet and six feet, the hypotenuse should be 10'. If it's not, the pier blocks will not be properly placed.
Next, set your pier blocks. Level across from the BOTTOM of your ledger to your Pier Block. You want the level to be 7 1/2" ABOVE your Pier Block. This is the "Beam Under" design. It allows your joists to hang from the Ledger Board and sit on top of the Beam. Press Pier Blocks firmly into the ground once at the correct height. Fasten two 2x8x12' together and place onto your Pier Blocks. Check for square (six, eight, ten) and shift the beam as necessary. Lay out your ledger and beam for framing. Measure across the ledger and beam every 16" and install one 2x8x8' joist at each mark. Toenail joists into the ledger, flush with the top. Sit the far end of your joist ON TOP of your beam.
Install one 2x8x12' outside ledger flush with the top of the joists that extend past the beam. Install joist hangers to each joist along with the inside ledger. Install decking. Starting at the far end of the deck, hang the first 2x6x12' decking board 3/4" past the outside ledger. Install using 2 1/4" wood screws. Space the remaining decking no more than 1/8" apart and complete decking installation.
Place patio furniture and barbecue grill on the deck. Enjoy!