Our Deck Building Process (and Some Sneak Peeks!)

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Friends!! I’m so excited to be back with another deck update! A few weeks ago, I talked about the process we went through to plan out our new deck for the oh-so-bare spot in the back of our house.

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This is one of the projects I am most excited about for our new house because it will really give us a ton of extra useable space and let us enjoy the view of the gorgeous farmland and rolling hills in the distance!

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After going back and forth deciding between a deck and patio, we ultimately decided that a deck would be the best fit for our space. We couldn’t wait for the project to get underway, but we still had a few decisions to make first. I’ll let Donnie tell you all about it!


A huge thanks to AZEK for providing product for this post! My favorable opinion of beautiful, high-quality decking is 100% my own. For more information, see my disclosures here.

It wasn’t until well after we decided to use AZEK decking that I finally made the decision to use a professional installer versus DIY-ing the deck. Early on I really wanted to build the deck myself, but after weighing the pros and cons, we ultimately decided to hire a professional deck installer. Here was my thought process and the things I considered when decking to hire a deck builder versus building myself…

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

Do I have the skills to build a deck?

Though I had never built a deck on my own before, I’ve had enough experience with similar projects that I would have felt comfortable taking on the task myself. In many cases building a deck is a big project, but not necessarily a complicated process. There are a lot of high-quality tutorials online to help out. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but I feel like with a lot of preparation and planning, I could have built our deck. If you’re not confident in that ability, it definitely makes sense to hire a pro.

Am I comfortable with the permitting process?

Some municipalities have an easy, streamlined process for submitting plans and obtaining a building permit. Other places have more onerous and complicated plan requirements and inspection and permitting requirements. I knew that DIY-ing our deck would also make me responsible for submitting design plans, obtaining permits, and dealing with building inspectors, so I definitely weighed these factors when we were making the decision.

Obtaining Materials

While we were doing research at the very beginning stages of the deck process, we had to figure out if there was a local source for our decking that would deliver our order directly to our house. Fortunately, with AZEK I found a dozen or more retailers using their dealer locator tool  that carry their decking and can deliver. If there hadn’t been an easy source for obtaining the materials we needed, a DIY project may have been off the table a lot sooner.

Do I have the time?

For me, building our deck would’ve been a multi-week, full-time project. I just don’t have that much time to dedicate to a single project. My fear would’ve been starting a project that would drag on and on for months. Many times professional installers are in and out in a week’s time. They are fast!

 

After my initial enthusiasm about doing the project myself, it ended up being an easy decision to hire a professional to build our deck. I had to weigh the cost savings of doing it myself versus the time and potential stress involved. I’m glad we went with a professional installer. If you decide to go the professional route, AZEK has a helpful “find a pro” tool on their website.

If you’re on the fence about hiring a pro or building yourself, one option is to have a pro build the underlying structure, and then add the deck boards, railing, and stairs yourself. With this option the contractor does a lot of the heavy grunt work of digging holes, pouring concrete, and securing heavy timbers and posts, all while saving the fun part of actually installing the AZEK decking to you. I’ve seen a lot of homeowners use this option with great results.

 

Our Deck Building Process

Freestanding or Ledger Board?

One of the unique things we did with our deck was to make it free-standing with nothing actually attached to the house. While attaching a ledger board to the house is the by far the most common deck-building method and more often than not works great if done by a competent professional, we knew pretty early on that we wanted to go the freestanding route.

In our case, our deck is at a height that we will never have usable space underneath. So having 5 posts (with ledger board) versus 10 posts (free-standing) didn’t affect the esthetic or usability of our deck. We also just didn’t love the idea of removing siding and drilling holes into a brand new house. Going with the freestanding option cost us a bit more in terms of materials (more posts, concrete, etc..), but it really wasn’t any additional cost in terms of labor.

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Starting Construction

It was an exciting day when our builder started prep work for our deck. In a matter of days, he had installed ten posts (two rows of five) and all the beams and joists. It was at this point that we finally had a sense for the scale and dimensions of our deck. It seemed huge!

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Our builder then installed all of our beautiful AZEK deck boards using hidden fasteners. The way our deck dimensions worked out, he was able to use a single dividing deck board down the middle of the deck with uncut deck boards filling in everything in between. We love the nice clean look it created.

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It can be a bit nerve wracking picking out colors for the deck based on small samples because you never know if you’ll love the look on the full deck! Thankfully, Abby and I were thrilled with the AZEK Island Oak color we chose for the main part of the deck. It’s a different gray from our house, but it complements it perfectly. We also LOVE the look of the two-board Dark Hickory border. This takes a little more effort and planning from the perspective of the builder, but the border really makes the deck stand out and provides a nice contrast.

It was really fun to have the deck floor completed and be able to envision furniture arrangements and all the fun get-togethers we could host in the space. It finally seemed real to us!

 

Installing the Railings

After the floor was complete our builder started work on the railings…

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We chose AZEK Premier Railing with white post sleeves, white top and bottom rails, and black square aluminum balusters. We also used the AZEK island cap and skirt for our posts.

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I’ve seen so many cheap and flimsy deck railing systems over the years– wobbly railings drive me crazy– so I really love that the AZEK Premier railings are absolutely rock-solid. We chose the larger 5.5” x 5.5” post sleeves, and they are incredibly sturdy with a very substantial look.

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Finishing Up With the Stairs

After the railings were installed, the builder started working on the stairs. You can see from the pictures that there is a little ledge for the stairs, and then they go down to a landing and curve outward to match the angle of our deck.

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Originally, the builder had planned on railings on both the inside and outside of the stairs, but after seeing the sizing in person, we both knew that it would be too tight to have an inside set of railings. Instead, our builder made a little wall and finished it with our matching deck boards on the inside and railings down the outside of our stairs so that it would meet code while still giving us plenty of width on the stairs. We were really pleased with the finished product.

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We are so overjoyed with the progress on our deck and have LOVED spending time out there already! We’re currently heading into the final phase of the deck project (my personal favorite)– decorating!

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I have big plans for how we’ll use the space, and I can’t wait to share how it all plays out, so stay tuned! I will be back soon to share the final reveal with you!!

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Update: Our deck is finished! See our other deck posts (including the reveal!) here:

Planning a New Deck for Our Backyard

Our Backyard Deck Reveal

Summer Deck Decorating Ideas

DIY Truss Beam Farmhouse Style Outdoor Table and Benches

Have you ever added a deck to your home? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

Have a wonderful day!

A huge thanks to AZEK for providing product for this post! My favorable opinion of beautiful, high-quality decking is 100% my own. For more information, see my disclosures here.

18 Comments

  1. Beautiful deck! I love the size and the colors that you chose. It looks great with your house color. We haven’t built a deck, but we did have to replace the wood railing. It was cedar wood that was rotting, after a few years of being initially installed. We were the second owners of the house, and we were told the original owner painted the deck posts and railing, too soon, sealing in moisture, causing the rotting. We aren’t sure if this is what happened, but we replaced it with a decking material made from recycled plastic bottles. At the time, it was one of the best options. We have been very pleased with it. No more painting the railing slats! All we have to do is power wash it or hose it down now and then.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Oh man… What a bummer! So glad you guys found a great solution!

      ~Abby =)

  2. Ashley- At Home with Ashley says:

    Abby- it turned out so beautifully! I loved watching it come together on Instagram stories! With that view, you might as well have an amazing deck ;). Have you decided what you’re going to do underneath the deck?

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thank you so much, Ashley! I think we’re going to talk to landscapers next summer and see what their suggestions would be for “camouflaging” the underside with plants. After we have the landscaping in, if it still needs something else, we may paint or think about another solution. Have a great day!

      ~Abby =)

  3. Christene Holder says:

    It looks amazing Abby! Props to Donnie for doing all that research too. I can’t wait to see how you decorate it! Those stairs are going to be perfect for cute decor like plants or lanterns. So excited for you!

    >> Christene
    Keys to Inspiration

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much, sweet friend! He is a great researcher! 🙂 And so true about the stairs… maybe lanterns would be best so I don’t have to worry about keeping plants alive! LOL! Hope you’re having a great week! <3

      ~Abby =)

  4. looks beautiful!! have you thought about adding some sort of pergola for added shade and hang up some lights? that will be fantastic for sitting, ambience and enjoy the PA rolling hills behind you! ohh, and a open fire pit with seating around to roast marshmallows when the weather cools off. Ohh, the posibilities!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      SO many possibilities! Love those suggestions, Lilly! Thank you! <3

      ~Abby =)

  5. Michelle Johnson says:

    I love it! So pretty! I love how you did the grey/white/black!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much, Michelle! We are loving it, too! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  6. Stephanie says:

    The deck is amazing, I really like the black and white contrast, but that view is to die for! 🙂

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much! The view is definitely the best part! 🙂 Happy Friday!

      ~Abby =)

  7. Beautiful deck Abby! It’s so inviting! I really enjoyed this post as we’re working right now on our front and back decks — hoping we can just repair/power wash and stain to bring them back to life. But this was just the inspo I needed! .. and I totally hear you about having more outdoor living space. Hubby and I have a house of 6 pets so that outdoor space is VERY much appreciated 😉

    Enjoy your new space! Can’t wait to see it all put together!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much, Steffani! We are loving it! Oh, wow! Yes, I’m sure outdoor space would be SO necessary with 6 pets! 🙂 Hope you’re having a great week!

      ~Abby =)

  8. Your deck looks so good! I love to colors you chose. It will be a great place for entertaining.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Aw, thanks so much, Crystal! We are loving it! Hope you’re having a great week! <3

      ~Abby =)

  9. Barry Lory says:

    Love the deck and will be installing Island Oak myself soon. Now that it’s been a while since completing your deck I would like to ask if you’re experiencing a slight ‘bounce’ to the deck boards? It appeared as though you used 16″ OC for your joists placement. Although that is the recommended spacing they do suggest a 12″ OC for a more ‘stable’ feel. I’m resurfacing an existing deck with 16″ OC joists and want to keep what I have and not replace with 12″ OC joists. So looking to get someone else’s take on the feel of walking on AZEK with 16″ OC. Thank you.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      I don’t feel any bounce with the 16″ spacing.

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