Deck Building
Made Simple

Deck building does not have to be that hard. We wanted a large deck in our backyard so we got a few estimates from building contractors. You can go to the Building Contractor Page to find qualified building contractors to bid on your project. Then come back here and we will have a look at building a great deck that anyone can build.

Deck Building 5 Deck Building 4

After we searched for deck building contractors and got a couple of bids, I was convinced that I could do it cheaper, and still have a beautiful deck.

Now mind you I am not that great of a carpenter, but the way I built my deck anybody can do it and save 40 to 70%.

First let’s start out by talking about why I built my deck in this fashion:

  • The land that I built on is fairly level
  • I wanted to build a deck that fit in with the natural surroundings, including trees and landscaping.

  • It was considerably cheaper.

  • Relatively simple to build.

Obviously this type of deck building will only work for some of you, but I hope it gives you some good ideas.

Let’s get started!

Shopping List for Deck Building

First let’s go shopping. I bought all my materials at Home Depot for my deck building. As you will notice in the picture I used a block called an elephant foot for supports on my deck.

Elephant Foot

The elephant foot offers a preformed top that fit a 2x4,6,8,10,12 board. The boards fit in sideways and make a great stable footing. The bottom of the elephant foot is flared out to spread the weight load over a larger surface.

I got a little carried away with the number of elephant feet that I used for a couple of reason (in other words I added a bunch of them).

  • The ground that I put the deck on often stays wet for long durations

  • I used 2x4 instead of 2x6 or 8’s to save money on lumber, and make the deck lower to the ground, so I needed more support

  • My deck was large and I wanted to make sure it remained stable. I hate the thought of a deck that is springy or soft in spots.

  • It is better to have too much support than not enough.


You will need 2 x 4, 6, 8 for your Joists (support boards that go sideways in the elephant feet).

Facial Board

You will also need to install a 2x6, 8, 12 as a facial board around the whole deck to finish it off. You can use a thinner board, but I do not recommend it because you most likely will use the facial board to attach your railings. We will discuss Deck Railings on a different page.


The primary fastener that I used was a 3 ¼” 16D Galvanized nail. I used a pneumatic nail gun to do most of the nailing. I strongly suggest this for your deck building. Especially if your deck is going to be large.

I bought 2 cases of nails and used almost all of them. If I had not used a nail gun my right arm would have fallen off. Rent one, buy one. or borrow one, it will save you a lot of time and pain.

One last thing on lumber before we build. I used treated lumber for everything. I suggest this strongly. Decks are a special favorite of our friend the termite.

Deck Building Layout

If you notice in the pic below you will see string lines running over the deck.

Deck Building Stringline 1

I used stakes and string lines to lay the deck out and get it level. Believe me you cannot follow the contour of the ground or you will wind up with a deck that rolls up and down like the ocean.

Since I had trees to build my deck around I essentially built three decks. I staked out each section separately and ran string lines to insure I got it level. I would strongly suggest you get a copy of Outdoor Projects from Home Depot. They do a good job explaining how to run string lines for leveling.

I then placed my elephant feet in a straight line two feet apart for my Joists to fit in. After I got all this lined up I then leveled the joist by shimming underneath them where they fit into the elephant foot. I used short 4x4” piece of treated wood that fit into the elephant feet standing on end in different lengths to make the deck level.

Leveling the joist takes a lot of time and patience. You must make sure all your Shims (4x4 pieces) are snug so you support the deck evenly.

Deck Building / Put it all Together

At this point I laid out my boards across the joists and nailed them down. I let the boards run wild (run over a little) over the ends, and cut them off with a Skill Saw in a straight line. I popped a chalk line to achieve a nice clean cut. This is also explained very well with good illustrations in the Outdoor Projects Book.

Deck Building Clean Cut Edge

Deck Building / Finishing

After all the deck boards were down and trimmed out evenly on the edges I attached a 2x6 facial board to finish it out prior to putting up Deck Railings.

On the edges that had no joist end to attach to I installed a 2x4 block and attached it to the joist for support. This looks a little flimsy but once the decking is in place and everything is tied together it is very strong.

Deck Building Finished Edge
When it was all complete I sprayed it with an acrylic stain. The stain protects the wood and gives it a nice woodtone look.
Deck Building Sprayed Deck
After the main deck was complete I built the Deck Stairs.

After I completed the Deck and the Deck Stairs. I built the Deck Railing.

Back to Top of Deck Building Page.

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