I’ve always been a hands-on guy and love the thrill and feeling of achievement that comes with a successful DIY project. So when I decided to move with my family to Austin, I thought it was the perfect chance to try out my deck-laying DIY experience, particularly with some simple but classic concepts I’ve seen in exclusive homes, hotels and resorts.
If you’re the type that loves a challenge, I’d like to share with you some of my how-to guides. And if you don’t have much experience in DIY but are excited by the idea of a custom home, you could hire the services of professional home builders in Austin for a classic job well-done.
First, make sure to adhere to all known DIY safety tips and good practices, like avoiding loose fitting clothing or jewelry that could get in the way. Also remember to take your time and don’t rush anything, or else you might have to start from scratch.
Also make sure to use safety equipment and tools. For this project, my tools for the job were a tape measure, drills, circular saw, gloves, spirit level, screwdrivers, wood drill bits, spade, club hammer, wood preserver, varnish brush, and of course, decking.
My deck planning stage
First, I did a rough sketch of my decking design. I also laid out battens that marked the edge of my planned deck to give me a picture of how it will look like. After deciding on the size of my deck, I mapped a scale plan of the area. I marked on any obstacles such as air bricks, outside house walls, waste water soakaways, door openings, manhole covers, and trees in the compound.
To comply with building regulations, I made sure the top level attached to my house wall on the plan was at least 150mm below the damp proof course (DPC). I was also careful to avoid blocking any air bricks, so I allowed for cut-outs and access hatches in the deck around the drain inspection covers.
Measuring the area
From my scale plan, I measured the area of my deck in square metres. The area of decking covers is shown in each packing. So, to give me an idea of how many packs I would need to buy, I divided the area of my deck by the area a pack covers. Next, I calculated how many rails and posts I would be using for the project. Store owners and assistants can help if you’re unsure.
Getting the ground ready
Using string and pegs, I measured the deck perimeter. Next, I cleared all the turf and shrubs from the area and firmed down the ground below by covering the area with deck fabric to stop weeds from growing through the deck. To make it firmer, I weighed down the fabric with paving slabs. It’s also okay to use concrete slabs or to peg the fabric. It’s better to lay the framework for a deck onto a concrete foundation rather than directly onto the soil.
To support the timber joists that hold the boards, I laid and arranged the slabs in a grid pattern with each slab about 1400mm distant from the next.
Then using my spirit level, I worked the deck to make sure that for every meter of deck, there was a 10mm drop. The next step was to lay down the deck timbers. To make them secure and firmer, I had to first cover the paving slabs with squares of bitumen DPC membrane.
Constructing the framework
I built the outer pattern of the deck using 150mm high and 50mm wide joists that rested on top of the paving slabs. Then with 100mm rustproof screws and external wood glue, I fastened the joists: one screw on the top edge and two on the sides of the joist.
Since I was fixing the deck to my house, I first screwed the joist to the wall and out a lot of stainless steel washers between the joist and the wall to provide a space of at least 10mm. Then I applied a spirit level to ensure the outer frame is flat and slopes slightly away from the house. I also used extra pieces of DPC for any other detailed adjustments.
Then I filled the outer framework with the long joists, allowing a space interval of 400mm, and screwed them — at right angles to the completed deck boards — to the frame.
Fixing the deck boards in place
This was the sweet and final step. I fixed short deck board sizes at right angles between the joists to firm the framework. Once all the joists were fixed in the right places, the framework was completely rigid. The coast was now clear for me to lay the deck boards, beginning next to the house. I laid six at a time, allowing spaces of about 5mm between boards to allow for ventilation and expansion during the wet season.
Remember that it’s okay to apply variations of your own personal preferences or needs, like fitting the boards diagonally or cutting them to create a unique pattern. Keep in mind that you will probably spend more time and energy on this.