For those who enjoy the fresh air, but don't want to stray too far from the house, adding a deck to your home is a great option. In many cases, the type of deck will serve you best is a raised one. They are simple to build and with a helper, depending on the size of your deck, you can do it in a weekend.
The first thing you will want to do, when building a raised deck, is to plan out your new deck. Decide the size, the height, whether or not there will be stairs. Decide the shape and the height of the handrails. A good plan will take into account all of the boards you need to build your deck. Remember that, while lengths of boards are typically exact, you will lose ¼ inch on height and depth. So, for example, a 2x6 board is typically 1 ¾ * 5 ¾. Figure for a gap between your decking boards of about 1/8 inch.
Develop your parts list and buy your materials. You can use nails, but it is better to use ceramic coated decking screws. This will keep the colour of the screws from damaging the finish on your deck over the years.
Connect your flashing to all parts of the house that will abut the deck. Flashing is a must when connecting your deck to a structure. It serves to deflect water away from the house rather than puddling it in a way that will result in water damage.
Place your vertical posts. These should be long enough to reach beyond the floor of the deck to about 1 ¾ inches from the top, as you will be finishing the deck with a handrail. It is recommended that you cut them long and make your finishing cuts when completing the handrails.
For the purposes of this article, we will guide you through a rectangular deck. Measure and cut your first joist board. This board will connect directly to the house, over the top of the flashing. Install your 90-degree joist hangers on both ends of the board so that when the perpendicular board is added, the joist hanger will be in the inside of the joint.
Measure and cut your first perpendicular joist. Attach the board to the joist hanger to create an "L." Level the board and then, at the connection point to the far post (which should be to the outside of the joist,) drop the board to ½ inch below level. This will help ensure that water flows away from the house. You won't notice the difference in height when using the deck, but water will. Repeat on the other side.
Connect your joist boards to the posts going down the side. Your joists should be on the inside of your posts, as this provides stronger strapping. Use 90-degree joist hangers on both sides of the post on the inside in order to secure your joists.
Add the end cap joist. Also, using U-shaped joist hangers, hang your joists no more than 24 inches apart, so that the tops of all joists are even, for attaching flooring. This also serve to stabilise your structure for when you attach your decking.
Starting with a board parallel to the house, lay a board across the joists and screw them down to the joists, with two screws per joist. Do not skip joists.
Using a pencil or other sort of shim to evenly space your boards apart, attach the rest of your flooring. When the floor is completely laid, it's possible that you will have board ends of differing lengths. If so, snap a chalk line and saw off the excess. You are ready for your handrails.
Install safety rails. You will need to have some sort of separator between the top of the rail and the floor, for safety reasons. You can use horizontal boards attached to the outside of the posts, or you can use some other sort of blocking material as you see fit.
Form the rail with two boards. One board will hang with the wide side down. The other will be wide side up. At the top of your posts (measured and cut for height from the deck floor) attach the vertical faced board to the inside of the posts. Then, lay the top board across. Typically, this is wide enough to cover the posts and the vertically faced board.
While there are various ways to finish off your deck, to add stairs, and so on, these are the basic principles of building a raised deck that will serve you and your family for decades to come. Enjoy!
Check with your local municipality for codes when planning your deck.