Your Deck Build Process

By Chad Hopple


After reading this article you will have 2 options when it comes to a new deck.

With the knowledge provided, you can build your own or hire a professional. We hope you choose the latter and call us at West Shire Decks. Please note that some items may vary depending on your location and there are many resources available to you to help you build your deck.

Just like everything in life we have to start at the beginning. The birth of a deck, where does it begin?

The Permitting process with your local municipality is the number one thing. Abide by your local laws and building regulations and you will have a much better time with your build. This is different depending where you live but most will help you through the process.

Now that your permits are filed and you got the approval back, if you have an existing deteriorating deck, the first step would be to demolition that deck so that you have a clean slate. If the deck is attached to the home, be sure not to damage the exterior finish whether that is siding or some other material. Our crews will remove the bottom section of siding that meets the deck so we have room to work when installing the ledger to the home and the flashing on the ledger. This is a great time to inspect the walls of your home to make sure there is no rot or insect damage that needs to be repaired.


It is also important to note that if your previous deck has concrete footers, that they are removed. More than likely your new holes will go in the same place or somewhere near the this.

Well you did it! You now have a fresh area to install your brand new deck!


In this example we will build a basic square deck without stairs. Stairs can be a difficult feat for a first time builder.


So what’s the first step in your build? Footers.

Lay out your footer placement with string lines, a tape measure and WHITE marking paint. We tell you white because most states have a call before you dig law. In Pennsylvania, you call 811 or PAONECALL as it is known by. This will alert all of the utilities in your area (GAS, WATER, ELECTRIC, COMMUNICATIONS, and SEWER) that you are digging in the ground. They will come out and mark any PUBLIC utilities that run through your property at no cost to you.

Colors will coordinate to the following list








If you have private utilities like outdoor lighting or a water line to another area, these will not be marked by the utility locators and you should hire a locator if you do not know where they are located on your property.


Once you have a clear ticket, you can begin digging your footers. Every municipality has different rules for footing size but typically you will want to have a minimum of 36” depth and 16” around the entire depth of the hole. You can use an auger, hand tools or rent a piece of equipment to dig these. Make sure the holes are clean and all loose debris has been removed. You will then have to call your local inspector for an inspection.


Once your inspection is complete. You can add a footing at the bottom of the hole, fill the footer with concrete or set your post in the concrete. In most areas all 3 options are acceptable. At West Shire Decks, we typically set our posts on a footing and surround it with concrete. If you fill your footers with concrete, you will need to let them dry before attaching a bracket and setting your 6×6 posts. Why a 6×6 post? Because that is the minimum size you should be using to support your deck if it is more than a foot off the ground.

So your posts are set to your design. Now you can work on your ledger. The ledger is attached to the home typically into the band board of the house. You will want some sort of water proofing behind the ledger and flashing on top of the ledger to protect the fasteners from deteriorating and water from entering the home. It is recommended that the flashing be sealed in with tape. The ledger will be attached with lag bolts or ledgerloks in a pattern defined by your local authority. It is very important that a ledger be properly attached to the home as there have been many incidences of decks collapsing due to improper installation.


Next you will want to set your beam. You will need to notch your posts so the beam sits on the post. DO NOT attach your beam to the outside of the post. This is not properly supporting your deck. Your beam will be a minimum of a double two by something, sometimes a triple. For a double, you will notch the post to fit under your joists and attached with carriage bolts or Thrubolts. For a triple you will cut off the posts and use brackets to attach you beam. The beam should be fastened together with screws or nails.


Now that your beam is in place and your ledger is attached, you can install your joists. The joists will be attached to the ledger with joist hanger brackets. These can be nailed or screwed into place with the proper fasteners. At the beam, they can be attached with a 2/1 nail pattern or hurricane ties. Once all of your joists are in place, you can snap a line and cut them all off evenly to the proper length and install your rim joist.

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Now that your basic framing is up for your deck. It is important to make sure you install some kind of lateral load device. This assures you that your deck will not come off of the home. There are several different options but the easiest is the Lateral Tension Tie Kit from Simpson Strong Tie.


Depending on your spans and local codes, you may need to install some blocking between your joists to stiffen up the framing. Once these have been installed, you will want to layout where your posts are going to go for your railing. For this example, we are using 4×4 wooden posts that will be sleeved with vinyl. When installing your posts, be sure to have 3 points of contact with the joists and blocking to ensure your railing will not come loose over time. Posts can be connected with carriage bolts or with headloks. At West Shire Decks, we always mount our posts on the inside of the framing.


Once your posts are set, you are ready to start decking. In this example we are not doing anything fancy, we will just install composite decking. At West Shire Decks, we typically use Trex, Azek and Timbertech products. We start away from the house leaving a one inch overhang on 3 sides of the deck board. Typically this board will have a solid edge so that it looks nice when you are done. This can be attached with a color matching screw or plug screw. You will need to mark and cut out your posts prior to attachment. There is a little room for error here as we will be installing vinyl post sleeves with trim rings over there cuts. But as always… measure twice and cut once.


Your second board should be a grooved board. On the side that faces your first board you will use the color match screws again or plug screws. On the other side you will use a clip. There are many to choose from but use one recommended by the decking manufacturer. The remaining boards will be clipped into place until you reach the side of your home. You will need to measure and rip down your last deck board. The grooved side will be clipped and the house side will have the color match or plug screws.

Now that you have all your deck boards down, you can chalk a line on the side if you need to and clean up the edges.

You can now install trim board or Fascia around your joists to give it a clean finish.


Now you can install your post sleeves and trim rings along with your railing. There are many manufacturers and types of railing. At West Shire Decks, we typically install white vinyl kits. They look great and last forever. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for installation.


Once you have the railing on, your deck is essentially complete. You can fix up your siding with J-channel or finish the attachment at the home however you would like.


There you have it, your finished deck!!

Now that you have read through this brief instruction manual, are you ready to build it yourself or are you going to call us at West Shire Decks?

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