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A sturdy deck begins with a sound plan and high-quality lumber. After you've sketched out the platform you'd like to build, consult the span table on page 185 to determine the dimensions and amounts of lumber and other components you will need, adding 10 percent for waste. Then refer to the descriptions of deck materials on pages 184-185 to decide what kind of wood to use for your deck.

As you select lumber at the yard or as it comes off the truck, examine each piece and reject any that are split or badly twisted. Don't worry about boards with minor warping and cupping, though; nailing these in place will straighten them out for you.

1 For a preview of how your deck will look. JL test-assemble a section on a patio, drive, or other open space. This also gives you a chance to identify your straightest lumber. Cut scraps of '/>- or -Winch plywood to serve as spacers between boards.

2l^ay out the site with slakes and string <see pages 58-59). Here we're marking the location of an intermediate post. Measure diagonals to assure that corners are square and fix them by erecting batter boards.

3 Excavate deep enough so that the deck will sit just a little above grade level. We used a marked board to check depth. 'The dotted line at the top indicates the combined height of the deck materials. The middle line shows the sod level. The bottom line indicates how high the posts will be above the ground in the excavated area.

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/. Dig postholes to below the frost line, pour a few inches of gra vel or crushed rock into the bottom, then set posts in place. Plumb and brace each post in two directions, then shovel concrete around it. Bevel the top of the concrete down Uncard the outer edges so water drains away from the post. (See page 60 for more details.)

C Let the concrete cure for a day or two. Then J mark the tops of posts and cut them off with a chain saw, making them all a level height. To help you make straight cuts, mark all four faces on each post.

9 Cut joists to length. Before installing them, sight along each and determine which edge has a hump or crown. Nail joists in place crown side up; the weight of the decking will flatten them out.

6 Saturate the excavated area with vegetation killer; then, to further inhibit vegetation growth, spread polyethylene on the area the deck will cover. Top this with crushed rocks or gravel.

Also nail decking boards to the joists crown side up. Drive at least two nails into each joist, maintaining uniform gaps between boards with plywood spacers. For strength, stagger end-to-end joints.
Level Plywood Board

7 Construct beams by nailing two 2x8s together. Lay the beams atop posts, check to be sure they are level, and attach with galvanized metal straps (shown) or special saddle brackets.

S Position joists according to the span table on page 185. Use a scrap of lumber to adjust joist hangers so the joist tops will fit flush with the beam tops. Nail hangers to the beams.

7 0 4 ■ra/Vi board covers ends and adds a J. decorative touch. We shaped the top edge oj this one with a router, and used a saw to miter joints at corners and splices. For a snug jit at splices, attach the in- milt red board first, then the out-mitered one, as shown here.

Though more formidable than a grade-level deck, constructing a raised deck is still possible for a do-it-yourselfer equipped with a hammer, circular saw, electric drill, and socket wrench set. The wrenches are for tightening lag screws and bolts, which provide more strength than nails and are used at critical junctures.

One of these critical points is the ledger that fastens the deck to your house and serves as its starting point. This board must be absolutely level and securely fastened to your home's floor framing with 572-inch lag screws spaced 24 inches apart. To attach a ledger to a masonry wall, drill holes with a masonry bit and drive lag screws into expansion shields. Check your local building code before finalizing structural details. Some require 2x8 ledgers, others 2x10s.

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