Deck Builder's Guide

Build Decks Faster and Easier Just Like The Pros

This guide has been designed to help local DIY (Do It Yourself) deck builders learn the process for building professional decks easier and faster. Although the bulk of the guide’s content can be applied to building any deck, this guide has been written for Winnipeg customers referencing local resources and building guidelines. We have made our best effort to steer the readers of this guide in the right direction, however it is the responsibility of the reader to ensure they build their decks in accordance with local building requirements.

We would like to firstly acknowledge input from the trusted Winnipeg deck building contractors who have shared their best deck building tips, tricks and techniques.

  • Seeber Build
  • T-Reno-Sauras Contracting
  • Paul Gloux, Certified Carpenter
  • Dr. Post
  • Postech Winnipeg Screw Piles
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Step 1: Draft Deck Design

The first step to building a great deck is to create a rough outline of what it will look like. Begin by taking some measurements outside so you know what dimensions you are dealing with.

Use a sheet of graph paper to lay out you design. Each square in the graph paper can represent 1, 2, 3, 4 feet, or more; this way your sketch can be roughly to scale. Just concentrate on your outline for now.

Pro-Tip:

Invest the necessary time in the planning stage. Proper planning and design saves headache, regret, money and marriages. – Seeber Build

Step 2: Visit A Local Building Center

Building centres like Rona and Olympic Building Supply will work with your draft design to create a detailed deck plan; be sure to let the building centre staff know whether or not you intend to build on piles. Qualified and experienced staff at the building centre will prepare detailed computer generated plans. The computer software used by the centres are programmed to meet local building code, eliminating the task of sifting through City deck building guidelines. The detailed plans prepared by your building centre should serve as excellent blueprints for building your deck.

In addition to the detailed plan, you’ll get a “take-off” sheet which is simply a list of all the materials and hardware you’ll require to build the deck you’ve designed. Using the take-off sheet, the building centre will prepare an estimate.

Once you’ve decided on where you will be purchasing your materials, it is recommended that you have the materials delivered. The bulk of contractors who own big trucks and trailers have materials delivered and so should you. The reason is that delivery is often made with a truck equipped with a Moffat which is a versatile fork-lift like machine that can often get your materials right up close to the job site, saving you a ton of time loading and unloading. Delivery fees are usually nominal.

Pro-Tip:

Balance budget and lifestyle. Wood is cheapest but requires regular maintenance. Composite is most expensive but is maintenance-free. – T-Reno-Sauras Contracting

Pro-Tip:

Ask the Building Centre to provide a few extra pieces of wood so you are not running back to the store on building day. Left over wood can always be returned at a time convenient to you. – Postech Winnipeg Screw Piles

Step 3: Building Permit

If your deck is higher than 2 feet off the ground (measured from the underside of the joists), then you will be required to get a building permit. Learn all there is to know about obtaining your City of Winnipeg deck building permit by visiting: www.winnipeg.ca/ppd/permits_deck.stm

Pro-Tip:

Building codes are minimum standards and should be treated as such. The best built decks are over-engineered and exceed minimum code. – T-Reno-Sauras Contracting

Step 4: Call Before You Dig

Should you be using concrete or screw piles to support your deck, you are required to contact Manitoba Hydro to complete a Call Before You Dig. This is a FREE service and not something you want to go without; if you do hit a gas or electrical line the results can be unimaginably devastating. A typical time frame from when you call to request an appointment until it is completed is 3 days to 2 weeks.

The best strategy is to call your piling contractor of choice and book the installation of your piles soon after you’ve arranged your Call Before You Dig appointment. You have only 10 days from the date Manitoba Hydro has completed your appointment to complete all piling work.

You may also want to locate your water line and other potential utility services, visit this website to find out what additional utility locates you may need to arrange: www.callb4udig.mb.ca

Manitoba Hydro:

1-888-MB-HYDRO (624-9376)

Step 5: The Layout

For anyone who wasn’t paying attention in math class, the layout process can often be the most daunting task of building a deck. However, with these few tips and tricks you should be able to mark your job site just like a pro. You’re going to need a measuring tape as well as marking pegs (large nails or rebar work best but wood pegs will also do) and although optional, sometimes string lines are helpful.

1.    If the deck is attached to the house, marking the side running along the house is a good first step.
2.    Now to find your outside corners you will want to use a measure tape and the two tricks here:

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Step 6: Preparing The Foundation

OPTIONAL 1ST STEP:
If you are building your deck in an area of the yard that grows grass and weeds very well, it would be a good idea to cover the area so that weeds and grass don’t grow up through your deck.

  • Dig approximately 3” deep; you don’t have to worry if the ground is perfectly level at this point.
  • Place the landscaping fabric on the ground, you can place wood along the perimeter so that the fabric stays in place temporarily.
  • If you are building with deck pads, now would be a good time to put your deck pads/blocks in place, see instructions under “Option 1: Deck Pads/Blocks”.
  • Cover the building area now with a decorative rock of your choice up to grade; the rock will now nicely cover the landscaping fabric.

OPTION 1: DECK PADS/BLOCKS FOUNDATION
There is a great website designed to assist DIY home renovators build using a brand of deck pads/blocks known as Dek-Block.
www.deckplans.com

The website is very informative and years ago, helped me build my first deck, which was built on similar deck pads/blocks. Check out the section “How To Build” for complete instructions on how to build on deck pads/blocks.

The rest of this guide will focus on customers who will be building decks on piles.  Be sure to still read the various Tip’s From the Pros!

OPTION 2: PILED FOUNDATION
Typically you will only need to mark the pile locations on the job site, sit back and enjoy watching your piling contractor do what they do best. Postech likes to install screw piles using a laser level so they are installed to the perfect height to support the beam; if your piling contractor is equipped for this sort of install, also include a desired height indicator.

If you purchased ground anchors from a building centre that you plan to install yourself, it is well worth it to invest in the ground anchor manufacturer’s installation tool which should include instructions.

Step 7: The Beam

To assemble your beams, you will want a nice flat surface or the use of sawhorses. It is a good idea to use waterproof wood glue in combination with nails or screws to join the various pieces of wood that will make up your beam. A common mistake when making a beam is to incorrectly stager the joints. Try to place joints in locations where they will be supported by posts or piles.

Pro-Tip:

Beams need to be secured with fasteners every 18″ with 3- or 4-ply beams secured from both sides. Joints only allowed over supports or 1/4 spans. – Paul Gloux, Certified Carpenter

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Step 8: The Ledger

Ledgers can be tricky and many people make one or two costly mistakes when attaching the ledger to the home. Two common costly mistakes people make are: 1) bolting ledgers into stucco, brick or siding and missing the homes structural framed studs; and 2) neglecting to get the flashing right.

Mistake number 1 will result in structural issues and it is the most likely cause of a deck failure. It is a costly mistake where your deck can literally rip the ledger off the house and collapse. Avoid this mistake by never installing a ledger board over-top of siding and using a good stud finder to pinpoint solid anchor points for your ledger. Lag bolts should be a minimum of ½” and always installed with a washer.

Mistake number 2 can be just as or even more costly; if the flashing isn’t installed correctly, water could penetrate behind the ledger and begin rotting out your home’s frame. Avoid this mistake by using a flashing system that makes sense for your home. Let the professionals at your building centre of choice know what type of siding your home features so that they can include the proper flashing kit.

Pro-Tip:

Start every job out right. Properly fasten your ledger, level the beam(s) and then check that your frame is square. – Dr. Post

Pro-Tip:

Use metal flashing over a ledger and under siding to protect your home from water. If you have stucco a thick bead of exterior silicone caulking will do the trick. – T-Reno-Sauras Contracting

Video for installing a ledger board and flashing:

Step 9: The Frame

A typical first step for getting started framing is to cut your joists to the same length. Lumber of the same length is necessarily the exact same length when it first arrives; the wood could be as much as ¼” different from one another. Decide on your desired length and cut all wood accordingly.

Now prop the beam on the posts or piles, placing the joists in the joist hangers along the ledger board and over-top of the beam. Start with your outside joists and make sure you get them square; you might have to move the beam slightly to square the frame. Once square tack the joists to the beam and secure the beam to the posts or piles. Once all the joists are in place you can cap them off with a rim joist.

To further solidify the joists and reduce “bounce” you should use blocking between the joists; blocking is simply smaller pieces of wood fastened between the joists mid-span. Stagger your blocking and it will be easier to fasten them between the joists with either screws or nails.

Pro-Tip:

Make sure your joists are well planned, spaced evenly and straight. You will never see them once the deck is complete but you will be sure to see the direct result of your joists in the screw pattern on your decking. – Seeber Build

Pro-Tip:

The deck foundation and frame are the most important parts of the deck. You may have the most beautiful unfinished deck but if it isn’t strong, straight and level, it won’t be beautiful for long. – Seeber Build

Pro-Tip:

Nothing beats the look of a curved edge. To curve a rim joist, make a series of cuts 1/8″ to 1/2″ apart and 1/4″ from the face of the board deep. This will allow you to curve the board nicely. – T-Reno Sauras Contracting

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Step 10: The Decking

Home stretch… just get some boards screwed down (not nailed) and your deck will be looking just like a deck! Although a fairly simple part of the process, there a few little things to keep top of mind when decking.

1.    Have enough space between the deck boards for good water drainage; a standard  spacing is a nail or screw width between boards.
2.    Make sure the crown faces down. Check the end of your board, you should see rings  in the wood, try to make it so that the boards are all frowning; this will make sure that when your wood dries it doesn’t have a tendency to bow upward.

Pro-Tip:

Rather than cutting decking boards to length, run them past the deck, snap a chalk line and make one long cut. – T-Reno Sauras Contracting

Pro-Tip:

Get your surface screwing perfect by snapping chalk lines to keep you straight. – Dr. Post

Pro-Tip:

Avoid sinking the screws too deep past the top face of the board. Sinking a screw too deep will speed up the rotting process, cause hazardous splinters and make it difficult to remove boards later. – T-Reno Sauras Contracting

Step 11: Guard Rails

Guard rails serve two purposes and the first is they provide a safety barrier so people aren’t spilling off your deck. The second purpose is that they are decorative and often a great deck looks incomplete without great rails. There are many options for rails from those you build from wood to PVC, glass, iron or aluminum pre-fabricated rail kits.

Remember, the primary function of a guard rail is safety; if you are building a rail from wood, be sure to use wood and fasteners capable of withstanding focused loads upwards of 200 lbs; wood screws won’t be sufficient for supporting rail posts, you’ll need heavy duty fasteners like a lug screw or bolt. If you opt for a pre-fabricated rail kit, be sure to use the fasteners included or recommended in the kit.

Guard rails should be non-climbable with no spacings exceeding 4 inches. Decks 6 feet or less in height, should feature a minimum of a 36 inch high guard rail; higher decks should feature guard rails a minimum of 42 inches in height.

Pro-Tip:

You will need a handrail for a stairway with more than 3 risers. – Paul Gloux, Certified Carpenter

Pro-Tip:

Make a jig from a piece of wood to space your spindles perfectly. – T-Reno Sauras Contracting

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Step 12: Stairs

Stairs should provide easy access to your deck and built with safety in mind, serving as an exit in case of emergency. This means you need to build your stairs with a natural step pattern in mind. Stair risers shouldn’t have more than a 3/8” difference one to the next; aim for a uniform rise.

Local code will require a minimum of a 3 foot wide stair with riser heights not exceeding 8 inches, runs that are a minimum of 8-1/4 inches and tread widths that are at least 9-1/4 inches wide. Take note that the bottom step will not feature a tread and should be made shorter to keep consistency in the step pattern.

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