Backyard decks seemingly create square footage out of thin air for summer barbecues, family get-togethers, or just for a quiet glass of wine and a book while the sun sets. Contractor-driven decks tend to be insanely expensive, but the price tag plummets the moment you take on the job yourself. A couple of important threads run through do-it-yourself deck building: easy and inexpensive.
Emphasize Building an Easy Deck
Building a full-service deck with all of the bells and whistles may look simple when it's shown on fast-forward on a home show. Crews of workers magically transform empty backyards into multi-level decks within minutes. In reality, do-it-yourself deck building is a slow process involving hundreds of pounds of lumber and concrete. This means that the need to keep things simple and easy is all the more important.
Exceeding a certain vertical height is the condition that triggers building permits. Building codes vary from place to place, so check with your local permitting office for guidance. These decks are often called ground-level, floating or platform decks. They stay below permit level and are easier to build.
Inexpensive Deck Boards
Do-it-yourselfers love to save money. Successful deck builders know that the seriously high cost of some deck floor board materials can kill the project. So most use low-cost pressure-treated wood or pallet boards to construct their backyard paradise.
Imported hardwood like ipe is another favorite wood for decks. Much harder than that outdoor staple, California redwood, ipe uses a special fastening system so that fasteners are hidden. Ipe is a tough install for most DIYers, so it's usually best to call a deck contractor for this type of deck board.
Build an Easy, Inexpensive Pallet Wood Deck
Indianans Liz and Doug over at Hoosier Handmade pulled off a difficult feat: using pallets as deck boards. Pallet wood works best when it is not used as a contact surface. Along with the attractive cost (usually free) come unattractive elements such as protruding nails, rough surfaces, wide slats and broken pieces.
Liz and Doug solved a number of problems off the bat by purchasing wood pallets from a supplier, ensuring that they would receive only construction-quality wood and slats spaced close enough so that feet and chair legs would not slip through.
They kept the job super-simple and sane by employing only five major building materials. Most decks require a wide array of hardware, such as hanger brackets and special screws; they built a gorgeous deck by using only pallet boards, concrete blocks, sand, gravel and stain.
Watch Now: How to Build a Floating Deck
01 of 08
Easy Deck for the Big Easy
New Orleans is the town for backyard parties. Grab a po boy from the shop down the street, some Zapp's and Zatarain's and Abita, and you've got an instant party. The only thing missing is a backyard deck.
Big Easy resident Scott Allen Perry naturally wanted a deck that would be low-cost and easy. The logical conclusion was that it had to be done by himself.
Perry wisely kept the dimensions at 16 feet by 16 feet to maximize every inch of the 16-foot long four-by-four framing beams. Even better, he ran two-by-fours throughout the field as deck board supports: far cheaper and easier to work with than the big two-by-tens used in larger, higher decks.
He kept costs low again by using pressure treated lumber stained a cedar color as his deck boards. Pressure treated stock lumber is just about the most cost-effective and easy way you can top a deck.
02 of 08
Decking Out Your Budget
Laura, over at consumer finance blog My Shiny Nickels, is motivated to hold onto as many of her nickels as possible. Should frugality run contrary to life's basic luxuries? Laura said no.
She and her husband Randy decided that, yes, they did want a beautiful backyard deck but, no, they did not want to pay the estimated $8,000 for a contractor-built one.
For only $1,600, they did the deck themselves, creating a paradise out of a barren, dusty backyard. They saved so much money that they were able to add fun details like a pergola, stairs and hammock.
Laura and Randy didn't stint on the deck materials one bit. By supplying their own labor for free, they were able to use the same high-quality deck materials yet save $6,400.
03 of 08
Step Up to This Easy Deck
Because she has children, Sherrana over at the blog Needles and Nails knows that kids are constantly on the move. Why give the kids one set of stairs for the deck when stairs can form the entire perimeter of your deck?
She and her husband used over 30 stair stringers to create the base for treads and risers around their backyard deck. These 3-step stringers are found at most home improvement stores and are pre-cut and ready to be installed.
04 of 08
If there's anything a deck-building do-it-yourselfer likes, it's simplicity. Conversely, if there's any way to complicate matters, it's by laying deck floorboards on a diagonal. Yet armed with a knowledge of the Pythagorean theorem and a good compound (miter) saw, this homeowner managed to lay tight diagonal boards on his backyard deck for spectacular results.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Rightfully rejecting the idea of paying way too much for a contractor-built deck extension, Texans Jodi and Mark decided that they could do it themselves for way less money.
They purchased an entire truck load of wood pallets for $20 from their local Habitat for Humanity ReStore and constructed this multi-tier, cascading add-on for less than $300.
Whenever using pallet boards, keep in mind that this is fairly cheap, low-quality wood sourced from Southern Yellow Pine. For flooring, pallet boards will need to be checked for splinters, nails, and they'll need to be coated to help preserve them or lay down porous, non-biodegradable outdoor mats.
06 of 08
Downsizing to an Easy and Cheap Deck
All things must pass, and so too must pass that 1990s decaying, octagonal deck wasting space in your backyard. Emily, from Merry Pad, first had to deconstruct the outdated deck. Peeling paint on every square inch of it, the deck was not worth saving, though Emily did sell some of the lumber on Craigslist! She downsized to a platform deck that's proportionally better for her home and backyard.
07 of 08
No Wasted Space
Holly Prim's stroke of genius moment was when she realized that the area under her backyard stairs could be used to build a compact deck for enjoying nature and hanging out with a trusted best friend. Not only did she use room that ordinarily would have been wasted, the stairs provide instant dappled shade for anyone enjoying the deck. For solid shade or to ward off those occasional summer rainstorms, install a board under the stair stringers. Cut the board to the width of the stringers and install by screwing directly onto the bottom of the stringers.
08 of 08
Easiest Deck in the World to Build
Dagmar Bleasdale built what could arguably be called the easiest and most simple backyard pallet deck in the world. She and her husband, Don, had pallets left over from their stone driveway project. Instead of landfilling them, they re-purposed them as a quick-to-build backyard deck, by pushing four pallets together and topping them with a porous, non-biodegradable outdoor mat. Voila: instant deck.