How to build a deck
I have no idea how to build a deck. But, somehow, I seem to have done just that. There it is at the top of the page. I built that with my own small, now-slightly-callused hands.
It’s a bit wonky (though not as far out as my wide-angled camera lens makes it look, I promise!), there are twice as many screws as necessary and that single step took every ounce of engineering ability I possess, which is around 3 ounces.
But it’s secure and it’s a vast, vast improvement on where it started. It’s my first Big Wood Project (name of your sex tape) and the first time I’ve really used power tools.
So this is a story about how to (re)build a deck when you have absolutely now idea how.
Started from the bottom
The gravel was SHARP. I can only assume it’s made from upturned lego bricks. And crucially, you couldn’t rest garden furniture on it evenly.
The grey paint was peeling off the wooden cladding/trim, and the exposed screws had rusted.
Still, we were hopeful that the majority of what was underneath would be salvageable, so we cheerily began shovelling gravel into rubble bags.
Reader, we were wrong
Around 90% of the boards were dangerously rotten. Moisture had got to the screws, which caused them to rust and the wood around them to soften. Simultaneously, years under the weight of (literal) tonnes of gravel had dried out most of the boards to the point of splitting. They’d all have to come out.
This means removing each old board, one by one. If your screws still have heads, you could try simply drilling them out. But if the boards are bad enough that they need scrapping, the chances are your screws are knackered too. So ours came out with a combination of claw hammer, sturdy screw driver and brute force.
A new board was measured to replace each – I used these value boards from B&Q as they were almost the same dimensions as the old boards.
We marked the length of each and cut it with a handsaw. This was soon replaced with a jigsaw when my arm gave out (approx. four boards in). That in turn was replaced by a mitre saw when I thought I might be developing Vibration White Finger.
Mitre saws are incredible.
Each board was then screwed to the frame below with a drill and some special decking screws which are honestly the greatest thing in the world. Don’t try and lay decking without specialist screws. The only thing you’ll screw is yourself (pause for laughter).
Speaking of the frame…
The plan until this point was to leave the frame intact and simply replace the boards. Building the frame is the hardest part of a deck, because everything needs to be level, and correctly spaced so that there are enough points of contact with your boards for rigidity.
Like any good DIY, it didn’t go to plan
Parts of the frame itself were also not structurally sound. By which I mean, you could press your finger into them which even I know is sub-optimal for a solid timber frame.
Luckily, replacing parts of the frame turned out to be simple. Just pop out any boards in contact with it (new or old – we took up and relaid our new boards about six times in total) and remove the rotten piece of frame. You may need to handsaw or jigsaw it out. Make sure there’s a joist, leg or bisecting piece of frame to attach your new piece to! This may mean removing more than the rotten section, but it’s pretty important.
Get your new section in place and drill it into whatever’s nearby. Then lay your boards back down on top like normal.
Trimming and finishing
Once all your boards are in place, you’ll have a raw edge somewhere. You don’t want wood grain exposed – you can get grain protector if it’s completely unavoidable, but it’ll shorten the lifespan of your deck.
Instead, we capped our edges with simple right-angled pine moulding.
Lastly, the whole thing got two coats of medium oak decking stain and it was ready for furniture!
The whole project cost around £300 in materials – £250 in decking boards and £50 on screws, trim and stain.
The table and chair set was a bargain – £67 down from £113 in the B&Q clearance.
These port crates came from a Majestic Wine Warehouse who employ the friendliest staff in the world and, if you ask nicely near the end of the day, they almost always have crates and boxes to get rid of.
This bench had sat in the garage for long enough to turn grey, but a couple of coats of stain and a vintage ’70s seat cushion brought it back to life…ish.
The telephone stand on the left was picked up on eBay for £0.99. One man’s trash and all that…
Time for an indulgent before-and-after?
So if you have no idea how to (re)build a deck, never fear. Turns out you can just sort of…make it up as you go along. Might be my new DIY motto.