Building a deck is a hard job, but for homeowners who have the tools and the time, it can be rewarding to construct something that’s used all of the time. Before beginning, it’s a good idea to learn some tricks that can make the job a lot easier or help create a deck that’s going to look stunning once construction is finished. Below are a few tips and tricks to know before starting to build a deck.

Before any other step, stop to think about how the deck will be used. Is it somewhere for entertaining? Is it just a place to relax in the evening? Will there be a spa or other large furniture on the deck? Or, will the deck be somewhere for the kids to play outside? Knowing the use helps when coming up with the design and when determining how heavy of a load the deck will need to hold.

Consider the design of the deck carefully. This is the time to start thinking about what type of wood or wood-like product to use, how high the deck should be, how large it needs to be, what the railings will look like, and more. If anything heavy will be placed on the deck, like a hot tub, make sure that is considered in the design, so the deck will provide sufficient support. Plan to spend a bit of time on the design step, as it’s important to get it right from the beginning. Otherwise, it’s possible to end up with a deck that isn’t right for the end-use.

The size and layout for the deck are important, especially if space is limited or there are trees that need to be considered in the design. Take the time to measure out the proposed layout with stakes and string to get an idea of what it will look like, where the stairs will be, how big it is compared to the yard and more. Write down all dimensions when they’re finalized, as it’s easy to forget them before or during the construction.

Think carefully about the materials used. Wood is often used to construct decks and is the traditional choice, but it’s not the only one. Composite deck planks are more durable and available in a variety of colors. There’s also exotic hardwood, which can last longer than pine or other common types of wood used. Look into the durability as well as the cost to find one that fits the budget and will look great for years to come.

Measure the actual size of the wood, not the nominal size, as well s gaps between the wood to determine how many planks are needed for the width of the deck. If there are no gaps between the planks, the water has nowhere to go when it rains. It can sit on the deck surface and cause damage to the materials used to construct the deck. The gap shouldn’t be too big, however, as this can cause problems when walking on the deck. Plan to leave at least 1/8th an inch gap, or what is specified for the material being used.

Stairs will be needed to get from the deck to the ground, but the number of stairs can vary depending on how high the deck is. No matter how many stairs are needed, make sure they’re done right to avoid tripping or other issues. Commonly the treat should be between 10 and 16 inches deep and the rise should be between 6 and 7.5 inches. Taller steps are more difficult to climb, especially for kids or the elderly, and longer ones may be more awkward to use because of the distance between the steps. If there’s more than one step, there should be a handrail that’s easy to grip to help prevent falls.

If wood will be used, it needs to be sealed. It is possible to stain or paint before sealing. Use a sealant that’s designed for decking to ensure it lasts as long as possible. The sealant will help protect the wood from rain, which enables the wood to last a lot longer before it will need repairs or replacement. The sealant may need to be reapplied regularly to continue working as expected. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions to learn how many coats to apply, how to apply the coats, and how often to reseal the wood to keep it protected.

Once the construction of the deck is complete, it’s time to add the finishing touches. Along with furniture, this can include lights to help illuminate the area at night, lights on the stairs so they’re easy to see when it’s dark and trim around the railings. It may also be a good idea to install a lattice skirt around the bottom of the deck. This can enhance the look of the deck and will also help keep pests from getting underneath. If smaller pests are a concern, screens can be used behind the lattice to protect under the deck further, yet still allow ventilation.

After the deck is built, proper maintenance is crucial. Without this, the deck isn’t going to last long and could become dangerous as wood rots or other issues become apparent. Resealing may need to be done every few years to keep the wood protected. Between that, plan to wash the deck with a pressure washer at least once per year. Use low pressure to avoid damaging the surface. Daily or weekly, sweep the porch to remove any leaves or debris. If anything spills on the porch, clean it quickly to prevent staining or other issues.

Creating a deck can be a rewarding experience, but it does need to be done right. If you’re planning on building a deck, use the tips here to make sure it turns out exactly how you expect, that it looks stunning, and that it’s going to last as long as possible. With the right preparation and care during the construction, you can build a deck you’ll love showing off.