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DIY Deck Building in Ottawa…..Should I do it Myself?

What do you need to know?

Building a deck is one of the most common DIY projects in Ottawa as we do have such a long and beautiful summer.  So why not build a deck for our families to enjoy.  In order to build a deck to the required Ontario Building Code it takes quite a bit of know how and is not just as simple as buying a few deck boards and creating something.  An improperly built deck can not only result in major structural failure but also cause damage to your home.  We are writing this article because as deck builders in Ottawa we do see major structural mistakes that were made by deck builders or by do it yourself homeowners.

How your deck could structurally fail?

A deck is very much so a structural component usually attached to the house, the most important part of your deck will be the foundation, framing and ledger board.  If either of these elements of your deck were to fail then your deck needs to be totally rebuilt, NO QUESTIONS ASKED!  If a deck fails prematurely due to improper installation of one of the elements you should just rebuild it properly.

The old step. We have the sod removed and the post saddles installed

So what could go wrong with the foundation of the deck you ask?  Well first of all the footings may not be deep enough, your deck footings have to be well below the frost line to avoid vertical shifting.  Next would be the diameter of the concrete piers (or size of the pier base), deck footings are designed so that they can hold the weight of the deck.  The load bearing capacity of the soil is a determining factor as well as the size of the deck.

The deck framing is complete, now just to install the boards

What could go wrong with the frame, it’s just a bit of framing?………..right?  The framing is another key element which the structural integrity of your deck depends on.  Using quality materials and proper fasteners will make a huge difference in the strength of your deck but most important is the way the deck is framed.  The framing is what holds all the important elements of your deck together so it’s important to build your deck strong.  Generally speaking all deck framing is built with pressure treated lumber to to long lasting and on the same note all fasteners are galvanized to pressure treated approved.

The deck posts, beams and ledger. This is the lifeline of the deck

What could go wrong with the ledger board?  Here’s where a lot of people make a wrong turn.  Attaching a deck (or anything for that matter)  has to be done in a way that you aren’t doing more damage than good.  When attaching a deck to your house it’s important that it be attached in a way that is strong an will never move, and that does NOT mean just use a few more nails.  In fact, you should use nails at all……your deck should be bolted to the house.

How could a deck damage my home?

There are a couple ways that a deck could damage your home without you ever really knowing until it’s too late.  The first reason would be because of movement.  If your deck footings weren’t properly done than your deck could be moving vertically which would be damaging your house and possibly loosening the ledger board from the house.  We have seen this happen in the past (it usually takes years to notice it) where a customer wanted their deck replaced and when we went underneath to look the deck was barely attached to the house.  Needless to say we advised them to stay off the deck until it was replaced.  The damage to your house could be severe especially if it’s attached to the foundation, extreme movement of the deck could cause the mounting bolts to shift and crack your foundation.

The second reason why your deck could damage your house could be because of water penetrating into your house.  If your ledger board is not properly installed with flashing, membrane & caulking then if will lead to water getting into your house at some level.  We have noticed when removing old decks that the flashing is not adequate (or in most cases, non-existant) and that the sheathing/studs were rotted and needed some extra work.  We have never seen improper deck flashing cause any major damage however it does happen.

Hope this helps you in your decision!  Please stay tuned as we have many Fence, Deck & Landscaping topics coming to help all Ottawa homeowners.

A view from the upper deck showing the railing and post lights