Common Deck-building Misses

A deck in your backyard is one of those places you take your friends, have a barbecue, and generally just chill out. When planned well and built properly it can be the pride and joy of your home. – Planned and built poorly, it can be nothing more than a shack waiting to decompose under the harshness of the sun and rain. I recently embarked on my first outdoor deck construction. Needless to say, as with many first-timers, there were many things I would have done differently could I go back in time. For the sake of those outdoor deckof you who may be thinking of undertaking a similar project I’ll bring out the 2 major mistakes that I made in my deck-building.

The planning and preparing phase

This is obviously your most crucial phase, where you decide what kind of deck it will be, where it will sit, and how big it will be (m2). But before you begin making any concrete decisions on the size you’ll need to know your placement options. You will want to choose an area that doesn’t need to be tampered with as much as possible, as leveling off ground or constructing a grade is more work and may need to involve power shovels and professionals. The idea is to select a piece of land that is big enough to hold your deck, as well as has a reasonable grade to keep the surface runoff from flowing toward your deck.

This was one of the main areas I messed up on. – Not making sure the ground I built my deck on was on a “hill”. In fact, it had slopes coming TOWARD it! The level of this particular piece of land was significantly lower than the surrounding land, which meant it was also prone to getting a lot of runoff and flooding. But there was one thing that was on my side, and that was that the previous land owners had dug a fairly deep ditch around the entire perimeter of the land. This was obviously done to keep the water level in check and possibly even to control its benefits for other uses such as farm irrigation.

So I made sure this ditch was doing its job by keeping it free from debris as well as widening and deepening it a bit. This ensures the water table doesn’t rise above the level of the ditch. This does not however, ensure the runoff doesn’t come toward the deck. This had to be done by constructing a short “retaining wall” which created a downward slope leading outward around the perimeter of the deck where the land was sloping inward previously. Thankfully, I built the awnings to protrude about 1 meter past the deck walls and so I built the retaining wall at the 80 cm mark from the deck to direct the rainfall to the other side of the retaining wall. (There’s not much you can do if the wind drives the rain INSIDE the retaining wall.)

Having said that, you can SAVE having to go through all this if you simply PLAN your deck well and make sure the land you’re building it on has the proper grade!

Make SURE you build your deck floor at least 60 cm above ground level!

This is VERY important! Failing to do this will result in prematureoutdoor recreational area rotting and failure of your structural floor posts and floor – and subsequently your entire deck! This amount is necessary to allow sufficient air flow which will ultimately preserve your deck. Providing for sufficient air passage keeps the humidity level down which in turn does 2 very important things: 1. Prevents rot due to a consistently wet environment, and 2. Keeps termites at bay as these creatures love nothing more than a damp, wet, woody heaven. Installing a fan under your floor is also recommended as this will complement your efforts to keep the area as dry as possible.

Pictured is the deck I am still in the process of building. Wish me luck!

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