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How to Build a Small Deck

In this how-to video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shows how to build a simple entry-level deck

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.


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