Or BOOD. Built Our Own Deck. Nah, BYOD sounds better.
Ever since we’ve moved into our home in Savage over two years ago we knew we had to get a deck. This wasn’t a wish list item for us: the dining room sliding door opened up into 4 and half feet of thin air. Quite a bit of work went into planning, designing and actually erecting the structure.
With this post I hope to bring some clarity to the whole process and maybe help someone who’s thinking about building their own deck. I’ve put down 7 steps which took me from the conceptualizing stage to the final end product.
Step 1: Start off with some idea of what the deck will look like
The size of the deck, the decking material, the brand, the colour. Don’t worry this will be just the first iteration, just to get the ball rolling.
The two sizes I was considering were 16’x16′ or 20’x14′. We knew that we didn’t want a deck that would require regular maintenance so wood (pressure treated wood) was out. Composite was the the way forward for us. Trex, Azek, TimberTech and Fiberon are the main players in the composite market, where “composite” is a mix of wood and plastic. The type of plastic and their percentage obviously vary by the respective proprietary formula used by each company, but the basic premise is this: since these aren’t wood products, yearly power wash and staining is not required. As for the colour, we wanted a lighter colour, which looks close to wood.
Step 2: Do lots of research
Learn (if you don’t already know; I didn’t) what the basic components of decks are: footings, posts, beams, joists, deck boards, ledger boards and so.
Look up videos on YouTube on how to build decks. This series of videos are perhaps the most comprehensive ones out there.
Try to narrow down the decking material you want to use. What separates an Azek from a TimberTech (incidentally both of these are now owned by the same parent company, CPG Building Products). Are there other options out there? I came across BamDeck from CaliBamboo which uses a bamboo based composite, NyloBoard which uses 100% recycled carpet fiber – no wood, no PVC (but when I called them to inquire where their closest dealership is, they informed they were going out of business), Natural Composites which uses plastic and wheat (yeah, wheat). Got a couple of free samples of BamDeck decking delivered from California!
Read reviews, among others, at sites such as Houzz.
Step 3: Get quotes
Lots of them. Fine tune your requirements each time you meet with contractor, talk to them, get their opinion, receive their quote. I got quotes from 6 different places, ranging from established and referred-to local deck building stores, individual contractors and big box stores. This step will give you the best idea of what your dream deck is going to cost.
I’ve attached 3 quotes below just to give an idea of the range we were looking at. From almost $19K to $12K.
Quote from uglydeck.com
Quote from individual contractor – not including the permit
Quote from D.S. Bahr Construction
By the end of this step, I knew I wanted a 20’x14′, TimberTech Legacy Tigerwood decking, with a “picture frame” (border), stairs, risers and fascia of TimberTech Tropical Caribbean Redwood, with Westbury aluminum railings.
Step 4: Get hold of someone who will undertake the project on an hourly rate basis
Now, for most people the previous step will culminate with them signing a contract for one of the quotes, probably the lowest one, and then sitting back and enjoying while someone builds the deck for them.
I, on the other hand, wanted to build it myself. Let me take that back. I wanted to build the deck with my hands, with someone along with me who knows what he was doing. Besides, when I sourced the materials myself the overall cost of the project was bound to be significantly lower.
Struck gold on Craiglist. Came across this individual who showcased his work (decks) with something along the lines of “I am willing to help homeowners how much or little they want me to”.
Once Pat came over and we talked, I knew that he would be the one helping me in building the deck.
Step 5: Get the permit
Once I got my rough drawing to Pat, he used a software to create detailed drawings that would need to be submitted to the city to get the building permit. We also went through a few iterations to create the list of materials, down to the nail.
Drawings – 1, 2, 3, 4
Once you submit plan to city they will, in most cases, come come back with some questions. While some questions might be innocuous ones such as “what exact product from TimberTech will you be using?” to more arcane ones such as “are the stair handrails compliant to the IRC- R311.7.8 code?”
Step 6: Source the material
From TimberTech’s website I found the “Silver dealership” (no “Gold” ones in my area!). All the dealerships were big lumber yards. Went down to the two closest to my place and with the material list, got quotes.
Scherer Bros quote Lamperts quote
I was a little disappointed as the cost of the material was actually a bit higher than I had accounted for. When I had almost made up my mind to go with Lamperts, I decided to check out Dakota County Lumber, another Silver TimberTech dealership. DCL is a locally owned lumber yard based in Farmington, about 20 miles from my place, with no branches. But boy, glad that I made the trip! The sales guy Eric was a huge help, assisting in modifying – trimming down actually – the material list based on his experience. And when their quote came in, it was a no-brainer.
Make sure to have the materials delivered at least 2 days before your intended start build date.
Step 7: Start building!
The plan was to have Pat and me take 2 full weekends (32 to 40 hours) with a third weekend as back-up. The first weekend we ended up having my father-in-law and my sister-in-law’s husband helping out on both days. Also Pat brought over his almost-adult son. The five of us put in 10 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday. The next weekend, my father-in-law came down to help again. Pat, he and I put in 9 hours on Saturday, and we were done. Complete.
The first Saturday when we started working at 8 am, the air temperature was 32 deg F (0 deg C), with windchill of 27 deg F. We started off with 3 layers of clothing and stripped down as the day wore on. The next Saturday was a balmy 60 deg F at 8 am going up to 80 deg F (27 deg C) in the afternoon!
Monetary cost of the entire project: $10,763
Non-monetary costs: Sweat, sun burn, pain in arms
Would I do it again: Absolutely
Here are some in-progress and finished pictures.
ledger board on
Diamond pier footings in place, steel rods waiting to be pounded in
Working a 35-lb demolition hammer is fun!
deck boards going over the joists
Brinda loves the deck
Note1: Diamond pier footings blows away traditional poured-concrete footings. Check out videos here. I had to rent the electrical breaker hammer. DCL supplied the 1-1/8″ hex bit required with the hammer.
Note 2: If anyone in the Twin Cities area is interested to get Pat’s contact details, let me know. Most highly recommend him. His work ethic, love of the job, collaborative spirit and his honest & open persona makes him a joy to work with.