Thursday, August 1, 2013

Building my Deck (Without Any Skills)

Despite my complete lack of experience and lack of handyman skills of any kind, I decided that I was going to build a deck for myself.  As a structural engineer I figured I could design a plenty sturdy deck, but how it actually turned out was... uncertain.  Judge for yourself!
A small selection of framing lumber I dragged home.
 I planned out a 20'x12' deck with a wrap around step.  My back door sits around 20" to 2' off the ground, and where the borders of the deck are: it would be closer to 14"-18".  That's enough that you need either a railing or a step and I had no desire to separate myself from my yard.  So a step all the way around would meet code and not make me take a circuitous route to get to my lawn.

Starting to dump the lumber where the deck would go
 There had been a deck there before.  A little smaller and it was structurally unsound when I bought the house so I had it torn out.  However, I didn't have to mess with the siding at all: which was nice.  I attached some 2x10s to the house with lag bolts and used that to support 2x10 stringers coming out from my house.  On the other end, I put down 4x4 posts into the ground and concreted them in for the foundation.  Then I laid a pair of 2x12s out on top of them as a kind of pseudo-ground beam.

The support at the house and the foundation at the end have been put in place and I'm beginning to run my stringers from one end to the other.

A side view of the ground beams and some stringers waiting to be attached.

A simple, shear connection at the house, these are 2x10s set every 16"

The stringers have all been laid.  They overrun the ground beam by about 2', this cantilever helps balance the forces between the house and the ground-beam and reduces the stress in the beam as compared with putting the foundation at the full 12' away.

The full frame (minus the steps on the end, you can see the ones at the side).  The board at the end of the stringers helps keep them from twisting under a load and locks the deck together.
For the steps I have no "in process" pictures of, but I created them by hanging 2x6s out from the edges.  Framing the steps took three times as long as framing the rest of the deck.  What a pain!  I used hurricane ties to attach them on the side where they'd hang from the exterior beam, and then rock upwards on the beam second from the end.  A couple of nails would keep it from wobbling, but there was no tension to worry about with that beam so no special connection was used.

On the end of the deck (opposite my house) I used three straps per beam.  Two on the outside to hold the beam up, and one on the back to keep it from moving (where again, it pressed into the beam, so no tension force to worry about).  The steps on the side I placed every 2' or so.  At the end of the deck, I simply attached one to each stringer.

Now it's time to screw in the deck boards.  Not much to it, but a lot of work.  It was about 1,300 screws in all.

Due to quantity and, most importantly, length, I  had this package delivered.  The deck boards are all composite which costs (three times) more, but there is no staining or upkeep and they essentially last forever.

Completed deck!  At the corners of the steps, I put solar lights in.

Seems like a decent amount of deck, right?

The composite board wasn't a bad match for the house.

Final costs are broken down here.  The deck screws I counted under "decking" but all other nails and screws went under "connections".  Masonry includes, in addition to the 400 pounds of concrete I poured, a bunch of bricks I was going to use but didn't.  Or haven't, I may put some down on the side of the steps.  Miscellaneous includes the lights, a little spray paint, some gutter stuff and the delivery cost for my deck boards.

Connections  $     257.60
Masonry  $        35.14
Lumber  $     487.90
Decking  $  1,894.80
Tools  $        89.50
Misc  $        87.40
Total  $  2,852.34

The deck was a 20'x12' deck with the steps for a total deck surface of just under 290 square feet.  So for a composite deck with me doing all the labor, the cost was almost exactly $10/square foot.

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