Building a deck?


Decks are great. You can lie in the sun or shade and dream, breathe fresh air, have a glass of wine or share a meal with friends. It also increases property value. There’s also the fact that, on nice days, the deck becomes an extra room. The house becomes bigger.

So why not build one? It looks so easy! Well, yes and no. If the deck looks more like a smaller porch, okay. But if you opt for a big, beautiful, friendly deck, roll up your sleeves and be patient.

A passionate do-it-yourselfer can build any size of deck, as long as they are serious, patient and organized. Even better if they enjoy team work.

Before you start the work, take the time to consider the following advice.

Look into deck models (see reference below). There are far more than you can imagine. A multilevel deck or with stairs? Wide or narrow staircase. With or without a bannister? Rectangular, square, round, asymmetric? Open or closed to keep children safe? Closed railing for more privacy or open to nature?

One common mistake is to determine where to build the deck without considering all the options. Which way do you want it facing? Do you like the sun or not? Do you prefer the light of the sunrise, at noon (therefore more heat) or sundown? Do you want it in the angle of two walls in an L shape for more privacy, or at the corner of the house to enjoy several points of view? Do you want a deck adjacent to the house or isolated in the back yard? Do you prefer the shade of your trees or a pergola to escape the hot sun? Do you want the pergola on the deck or adjacent to it and connected with a staircase?

Don’t underestimate the surrounding area either. Do the roots of mature trees on your land risk affecting your project? And if you build a deck ten feet from dense woods because you love trees and the ambience of a forest, the view may become monotonous over time.


Make sure you have a clear plan that is accessible to all before you start the work. If you’re not handy, ask a friend or professional for help. Otherwise, you waste time and energy. Especially if you want to include a spa, built-in or not.

Make sure you have a solid base: poles, beams and joists must be strong enough to bear furniture, people, snow, or a wood tunnel, pergola, stone counter for the kitchen.

Other questions to ask. Do you want the screws and nails in your deck to be visible? If not, look into an invisible anchoring system. If you have a large deck, wouldn’t it be better to build it in sections and then assemble it? Do you let yourself be tempted by recessed lights in the risers? Do you opt for prefabricated poles and rails?

One last word of advice that is also very important. Check your municipality’s regulation and the building code (width of steps, depth of piles, dimension of poles, etc.) if you want to do things right.

The reference below provides about ten detailed deck plans. Each step is abundantly illustrated. One of them also contains the construction of a gridded patio set up under the deck. Consulting this book is child’s play.


  • Les terrasses, Black and Decker, Guide complet du bricoleur, construire des terrasses modernes ou classiques étape par étape, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2010, 319 pages