Unless you’re an experienced, proficient woodworker, you really shouldn’t build your own deck. A drill and a positive attitude but no building experience is a guarantee of a disaster. If you’re a beginning woodworker, a deck should never be your first major project. Yes, you could probably build one, and some have – especially if it’s small (10×20 feet for instance), or on a ground level, but there are a lot of good reasons why you shouldn’t build your own deck:
- It will take twice to three times as long to build as a contractor would take because you move slower and you aren’t experienced.
- Labor. Building a deck isn’t a one-man/woman job. You’re going to need assistants to help with different phases of the construction. Do you have enough family or friends who can help? What if they’re hurt or injured on the job. Are you prepared to cover that? If you must pay someone to help you, then you’re probably better off just hiring a contractor and crew.
- You won’t know what you don’t know until it’s finished and you have to go back and fix what you didn’t do.
- It will cost more. Errors and re-doing work always does.
- You’ll have to buy tools as well as materials and supplies.
- Physical demands require a physically fit person. Can you work long hours in a hot sun, or in the cold, or rain? That’s deck building.
- This isn’t just a project you’ll put in a spare bedroom or pass along. It’s going to have your family and friends on it. You’re going to be using it for the next 15-25 years. Are you that confident about its ability to stand firm?
- Creating a firm foundation. You need to have worked with concrete, rebar, footings and leveling as well. They’re a vital aspect of the foundation.
- Creating the proper drainage. Unless you understand drainage it’s possible to create a foundation/drainage issue that sends water into your house or basement rather than away from it. Depending upon the size, style and placement of the deck, you can also create a drainage issue that affects adjacent properties, or that blocks off vents, or affects other house features (gutters etc.).
- Insurance. Will your insurance cover accidents, failure, and even the potential death of someone who was injured on a deck you built, or hurt while building it?
- Code restrictions. Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming don’t require a specific state license for contractors, but others do. And, depending on the size of your deck, you may be required to use/have a licensed contractor.
- Railings. Even the pros struggle with installing railings as there are a lot of ways to create the right railing for each deck.
- The costs of quitting mid-deck. The cost of quitting midway through your deck build can be expensive. Any contractor you call in to finish the job may be reluctant, or charge a lot to do so. If they build on top of what you’ve done, they’re liable for future failures. Most will decline to do the work unless they can tear out what you’ve already done.
Finding and working with a good contractor to build the deck of your dreams is far less expensive than attempting to build your own deck. We’re not saying that you can’t do-it-yourself, only that it’s less expensive, safer, and less of a nightmare to have an expert do it instead.
If you do decide to tackle the project and build your own, start small. Build a freestanding, or island deck somewhere else in your yard. Watch as many good how-to videos as possible. Read as much as you can about building decks for beginners. While many people will tell you about how much money they saved by building it themselves, they almost always forget to factor in their own time and labor costs, and what it means to give up hundreds of hours of time they could have spent with family, or doing other things. Building a deck takes a toll on the non-physically fit. Remember, you’re working outside, in the heat, or rain, or whatever weather you have. If you work only “comfortable” days you double or triple the time it will take to finish. Building a deck can be one of the most satisfying accomplishments you can achieve. But it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you start. There’s a lot to be said for simply hiring a good contractor and letting them create your dream deck.