Building a wood deck is a rewarding experience for homeowners – but it’s also a project that requires a lot of hard work and planning. Even for the best DIY-ers, a deck can be a daunting task, so knowing when to consult a professional versus going about it on your own is important.
Even if you decide to DIY, a good rule of thumb is to consult a pro at least once in the planning phase before you start building. If you haven’t built a deck before, you’ll be surprised at the skill and hard work it takes to performing tasks as simple as digging post holes.
A contractor can help get you to ask the right questions and point out obstacles and opportunities in the deck building process. They may even allow you to work with them on the project itself.
A good contractor will be able to help bring your design ideas to life while helping you maximize your budget. For example, when choosing between an 8-foot deck and a 12-foot deck, most homeowners think the smaller deck will be noticeably less expensive. While the 8-foot deck will save you some money, it is only slightly cheaper than the 12-foot – which the right contractor will explain. The cost savings may be a few hundred dollars in materials and labor, but a larger deck can be magnitudes better than a smaller one.
Contractors can also help you to secure a building permit and ensure the deck is built safely and to code. Design is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean much if the joists are spaced out too far or the ledger connection to the house is too weak. These things are critical for a safe and long-lasting deck.
Pros to working with a contractor:
With all that being said, there is no limit to what you can accomplish on your own! Especially when it comes to designing and planning your deck, you as the homeowner should take control. Decide how you want your deck to look, where it will be located, how you want to use it, etc. For the rest, it depends on your skillset, how much help you have and what your comfort level is on anything from running a table saw to working with heights.
If you are going to DIY, I’d recommend reading the DCA 6 prescriptive deck building code . It covers how to properly build a strong, durable deck.
Pros to DIYing:
Keep in mind that building a deck is not a small project– it includes everything from flashing, span charts, guard post connections, excavation and heavy lifting of large framing members. So, be ready to invest time and energy regardless of whether you DIY or DIFM.
If you’re on the fence, I would highly recommend getting help from a contractor as a deck is a long-term investment. After all, when a safety ramification is involved, it’s best to do things right, and there’s only so much YouTube can show you!
Mark knows more about tools than anyone has a right to know. With his wife Theresa, Mark hosts the popular MyFixitUpLife talk show, is the general contractor for Food Network’s ‘Save My Bakery,’ and has been a project manager for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and expert guest on PBS, DIY Network, Discovery Channel, A&E, NBC’s The 10! Show, Good Day Philadelphia, and other national radio and TV programs.