• In this video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva explains how to build a small deck.


    1. Remove siding and inspect plywood sheathing for rot; patch sheathing, if necessary.
    2. Cover sheathing with two layers of adhesive-backed flashing.
    3. Use galvanized nails to assemble pressure-treated deck frame.
    4. Fasten galvanized-metal L-brackets to end of 2x8 rim joists with special hanger screws.
    5. Set ends of rim joists against house and screw L-brackets to plywood sheathing.
    6. Install 2x8 ledger between rim joists; fasten to house wall with 3-in. decking screws.
    7. Secure ledger to sill with ½-inch-diameter lag screws; drive the long screws with an impact wrench.
    8. Fasten 2x6 deck joists between the rim joists using galvanized-metal joist hangers.
    9. Install 4x4 posts in outer corners of deck.
    10. Cut half-lap joint in each post to notch around deck frame.
    11. Secure posts to a 2x8 sleeper with metal L-brackets; fasten posts to deck frame with 3-inch decking screws.
    12. Determine the width of each stair tread.
    13 Use 4-foot level and tape measure to find the total rise of the staircase.
    14. Divide total rise by number of steps to find height of each riser.
    15. Set framing square and straightedge to height of riser and width of stair tread.
    16. Use framing square to mark saw-tooth pattern of steps onto a pressure-treated 2x12.
    17. Notch the stringer with a circular saw, being careful not to saw beyond the cut lines.
    18. Finish cutting the stringer with a handsaw.
    19. Use first stringer as a template to mark the remaining stringers.
    20. Trim upper, rear edge of each stringer the thickness of the risers.
    21. Trim bottom end of each stringer the thickness of the treads.
    22. Fasten the first and last stringers to the deck frame with L-brackets.
    23. Fasten the intermediate stringers with 3-inch decking screws driven through the deck frame and into the rear of the stringers.
    24. Attach risers to stringers with 3-inch decking screws.
    25. Install 4x4 posts at the bottom corners of the stringers.
    26. Use jigsaw to notch treads to fit around railing posts.
    27. Fasten treads to stringers with 2 ½-inch composite decking screws.
    28. Attach the composite decking to the deck landing with decking screws; leave a small space between each board.
    29. Mark and cut 2x4s for the handrail that spans between the posts, and around the sides of the deck.
    30. Screw the top and bottom rails in place, then install the 2x2 balusters.
    31. Apply a coat of clear wood preservative or exterior stain to all pressure-treated wood parts.
    • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
      depending on the overall size and height of deck
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      Selected Topic/Section

      Tools List

      • 30-foot tape measure
        Tape measure
      • pneumatic finish nailer
        Pneumatic nail gun and air compressor,
        provides quick way to nail together deck frame
      • four-foot level
        4-foot level,
        used to check deck frame, and to determine the total rise of the staircase
      • circular saw
        Circular saw,
        used to cut lumber to size
      • impact wrench
        Electric impact wrench,
        used to drive lag screws
      • drill
        for driving decking screws
      • framing square
        Framing square,
        used to mark notches in stringer
      • straightedge guide
        is clamped to framing square to accurately mark stringers
      • bar clamps
        used to secure straightedge to framing square
      • hand saw
        to make finishing cuts in stringers
      • jigsaw
        used to notch treads around railing posts
      • hammer
      • chisel
        for smoothing half-lap joints cut in railing posts
      • miter saw
        Power miter saw,
        used to cut decking and handrail parts

      Shopping List

      1. Adhesive-backed flashing,
      forms weather-tight seal between ledger and house sheathing

      2. Pressure-treated lumber,
      for building deck frame, stairs and railings

      3. Galvanized-metal L-brackets and joist hangers and screws,
      used to fortify wood joints

      4. ½-inch-diameter x 8-inch-long galvanized lag screws and washers,
      used to fasten ledger to house 5. 9/16-inch-diameter spade bit,
      used to bore clearance holes through ledger for lag screws

      6. 3-in. decking screws

      7. 2x6 composite lumber,
      used for decking and stair treads

      8. 2 ½-inch composite decking screws