Guide To Building An Outdoor Deck
Copyright © 2006 Emerson Lockwood
When you decide that you are ready to tackle the project of building a deck or a gazebo in your backyard, there are many things to keep in mind. You can build a wonderful home away from home if you follow some basic rules and carefully plan your entire project, before getting started. You can use a deck or gazebo for any purpose, such as creating the perfect shade tree spot in the outdoor wilderness of your backyard, or as a home for that hot tub you have been dreaming about buying.
The planning stage is the most critical stage when you undertake any home improvement project. You will need to determine the location for your deck before you get started. For example, do you want it to be butted up against your house, do you want to extend your back porch, or do you want to create a completely separate gazebo or a stand-alone deck for a hot tub?
Once you decide
what you want to build and where, you need to determine the feasibility of your chosen location. You probably would not want to build a deck or add-on to your back porch that prevents you from being able to access your home's crawl space. If you decide to build a separate deck for a hot tub, you need to assess how difficult it would be to hook up plumbing and electricity to it. If you decide to create a gazebo you will also need to assess the availability of electricity, that is, if you intend on having electrical hookups on your gazebo or deck.
The old saying says, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" and this is quite true with any building projects. Do not forget that you want to check all of the zoning
requirements before you start building; and you will want to find out what, if any, permits are needed before you start buying supplies.
BUT WHAT IS IT GOING TO LOOK LIKE?
Now it is time to decide on a design.
You can view literally thousands of photos on the Internet of decks, gazebos, and decks made especially for hot tubs, to give you some inspiration. With hot tubs in particular you can be as creative as your budget allows. Two places to go online, in order to find ideas for your new deck, can be found here:
If you want to build a deck or gazebo specially designed for a hot tub, you will want to decide if the hot tub will be submerged into the deck, or if it will sit on top of the deck. If it sits on top of the deck you may want to consider including stairs in your plans to create easy access to your hot tub.
GET TO WORK
Now it is time for the fun stuff.
Start clearing the area where you are going to place your deck. Remove any foliage from around the area and consider doing your best to make the area as level as possible, so that you will not have to fight with that aspect later. It may seem like a pain to level the ground as much as possible, but if you do not do this, you will add a lot of work later on trying to get your decking and your hot tub leveled.
If you are adding to an existing deck, you will need to remove the old rails, and add a new post that will anchor your new railing. You will want to run string to small stakes in the ground to give you a working outline for your new deck. Using the string as a guide, you will want to measure and then measure again, to make sure that your measurements are exactly right.
Now it is time to put your new posts in the ground for your deck. You "can" use a shovel to dig a hole and then use a post driver or sledgehammer to get the posts into the ground; or you can do yourself a huge favor and use a two-man auger. You can usually rent these tools locally, at home improvement stores or tool stores. Now you will want to mix some concrete to support your posts, place it into the holes, and place your posts into the proper position. Pay particular attention to make sure that your posts are in straight and true, before letting the concrete dry. You really do not get a do over here.
When the concrete has dried, it is time to start framing your new deck. If you are going to place a hot tub on your deck you should remember that these things are really heavy! What this means to you is that the foundation must be a uniformly firm, continuous, and it must provide a level setting. The total load requirements may be as much as 90 pounds per square foot. Remember that your hot tub weights about 700 pounds on its own, then when you add water and people, it could have a total weight of up to 4,000 pounds. It is recommended that you use a crisscross pattern of double and single joists to help support the tremendous weight.
After the framing is set up, you can start hammering down the boards and rails, which will be a fairly straightforward task. If you are going to place a hot tub on your deck, you will want to leave access for the electrical and plumbing hookups. You may also want to add additional electrical outlets, even if you do not plan on placing a hot tub on your deck. For the vast majority of people electrical work is best left to professional electricians. Wiring electricity of this magnitude is not your average do-it-yourself job.
If you do not plan to add a hot tub to your deck, you are ready to start decorating your new deck and turn it into your personal outdoor paradise.
If you do want to put a hot tub on your deck, and it is not a portable hot tub, you will likely want to call the plumber to run the plumbing for you. Again, this is not an average do-it-yourself job.
Once everything is in place, you can put your hot tub on the deck and start filling it with water.
Be sure to check out the various photos of decks, gazebos, and decks made specifically for hot tubs, to get some great ideas before you start your project.
Now get out there and enjoy your new deck, knowing that you can take pride in the results of all of your hard work.
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