Ive just recently finished building my first deck and wanted to share the results. Im not a tradie and this would be my first major building project. I had a lot to learn but thanks to this site and the many who contribute the project was a success. In the beginning I did a lot of reading, a lot of planning and took a lot from this site. Its great that people can ask their problems in the forum and get answers from those that have solved that same problem as well and even get some insight from the experts.
There were a lot of things that I hadnít considered, right ways and wrong ways to do things. Once you know what youíre doing, as with anything, its easy. When youíre starting out, it can be daunting.
So this is my first house and I have a spot already for a deck. Itís an L shape, undercover so really there is just the deck. Because its a new house it has been fitted with termite protection that comes with a warranty. There are rules that come with the warranty and one of them is about decking to the house. You can bolt your deck to the house, but the deck must be about one brick depth below the doorway. I can go into more detail if anyone is interested Ė just contact me. This would mean there is a step down as you walk out onto the deck. My deck is ground level Ė I have about 300mm to work worth and I wasnít too keen on the step idea. That would give me about 200mm to work with which is getting a bit close to the soil.
The other way you can do it is to leave a 20mm gap between the house and the deck. This leaves enough for the termite people to do their inspections and keeps the warranty valid. In this case the deck is the same level as the floor in the house, so there is no step. My builder used this method in the display homes and I was happy with that.
I was keen on doing it once and doing it right. Thatís just something that I always try to do. As some of the other guys on the site were saying, I would rather over-engineer than under-engineer. I would hate to spend all that money and time only to see even part of the deck start falling apart in a year or two Ė might as well put in the extra effort to be sure, even if that meant a little more time or money now. The other thing I donít want is any movement or creaking as you walk on the deck. It has to be solid. That being said, I realise that there is a lot of work that I have done that wasnít necessary. It was just myself doing it on the weekends that I had free so this ended up taking about 8 months in between other smaller projects.
I know some members recommend the decking book ďThe Australian Decks & Pergolas Construction ManualĒ by Allan Staines. My girlfriend did purchase this for me early on trying to encourage me to start the deck. I read most of it but didnít find it as useful as the forums. It is covering a lot of different types of deck Ė multilevel etc but I wanted more in depth information on low level decks. Itís a good book and isnít that expensive, but if youíre just doing a basic low level deck like myself, all the information you need is covered in the forums. One in particular: http://www.renovateforum.com/f196/raffs-low-deck-73294/
Unfortunately the pictures are now gone, but the information there got me started.
So to start. Photos are great and Iíve tried to take as many as I can throughout the process. You could almost look at the pictures on their own and build a deck without reading a single word. Because I was doing bits here and there on the weekends I had plenty of time to take photos at each stage. I will include the best photos but if you want more just ask.
After thinking about it for a long time I finally started by roughly levelling the area. I liked Raffís idea (in the post above) of digging a hole at every meter. So you imagine a grid 1mx1m, there is a hole in each corner of that 1m grid. I started digging by hand but quickly realised that this wouldnít work. The ground is a solid dry clay and I was going nowhere fast. I would either have to reduce the number of holes that I was digging or find an easier way. (Supervisor checking the depth)
I ended up hiring a dingo. They are great. For $240 (plus delivery? I cant remember) the guy dropped it to me in the morning and picked it up at the end of the day. I got the bucket and the 300mm (wide) auger bit. I have never used one before but within 15 minutes I was zooming around. You can dig quite deep with them and even attach extensions to get deeper but the standard was fine for me to get down to my target of about about 600mm. I got my brother and Dad to help me out. One person would measure and point to the next hole, one would dig it out in a matter of minutes on the dingo and the other was just removing the loose dirt from the hole and moving it to stop it falling back in. We did about 47 holes plus some levelling in the one day. The dingo had to work in the clay, but made it look easy. The holes didnít need to be dead straight which is good because the auger does move as it first digs in.
I was going to build my deck out in line with the bricks, when my Dad suggested we instead build further out in line with the eves on the house. I wasnít sure but all I had to do was point and drill and the holes were there. If I changed my mind I could easily fill them in. Better to do it while I had the dingo there. I got mine from this guy - DIG-IN HIRE - DINGO HIRE, KANGA HIRE, MINI DIGGER HIRE, BRISBANE
- if youíre in the Brisbane area I would highly recommend. There are even rates on the website which I always give bonus points for. I even did a few post holes for a fence and still got all the work done easily in less than a full day.
Once that was done I had to get metal stirrups and bearers. I liked the way others did a floating stirrup, where the stirrup was attached to the bearer and was dangling in the hole, everything lined up and then concrete poured. Talking to people about the deck, most hadnít heard of this, but it made life so much easier. I put a metal stirrup in each hole then sat the timber near the stirrup. Im using 2x 140x45mm treated pine bolted to each other for bearers. I then pulled each stirrup onto the timber. The good thing about using two bearers was that they would pull together, so if one was warped or twisted, it would be pulled together to make it straighter. The stirrups are 90mm wide so two 45mm bearers squeeze in just nicely. If the bearers were a little wide in one spot, say 92mm whereas the stirrup was only 90mm, I used a clamp to pull them on. It was really easy. The small ridges on the treated pine mean that when they are in the stirrup, they will lock together. If one was sitting higher than the other, I would just hit it with a hammer or clamp and it would move and lock because of the grooves.
I did consider hardwood, as one seller convinced me that they I could get the solid deck with them where I couldnít with pine. He told me after building a pine frame for a deck, he would never do it again because it just wasn't solid. Fortunately for me, he was a bit lazy and took forever getting back to me with prices etc and so I went with pine. The deck is rock solid, the pine is easier to work with and I saved some $ too. Iím totally happy with the treated pine frame.
Here are the stirrups pulled onto the bearers, not yet bolted. Before drilling and putting the bolts through, I made sure both bearers were sitting even. I used 120mm M12 bolts with nut and washer that I purchased from Australias Biggest Online Fastener and Tool Store
. These guys killed Bunningís for price even with delivery and they were delivered really quickly. Couldnít be happier with them.
This is a bit hard to explain and I didnít get a photo, but being an L shape I had a long run about 10m. The 140x45 bearers come in 6m lengths. Rather than bolting two 6m lengths together then two 4m lengths together and have the join in one place I staggered it. So if you imagine one length at 6m joining to a 4m length bolted to a 4m joining to a 6m. This way the joins were at different areas. This kept them straighter and gave more strength. The join was then made inside a stirrup. Two bolts mean that there is a bolt through each bit. I hope this diagram of the timber helps.