Specifications for Building a Wooden Deck

Building a wooden deck is a task best reserved for professional contractors. However, do-it-yourselfers with woodworking or construction experience may also be able to handle the job. While some people might think constructing a wooden deck is a simple, straightforward process, there are several specifications that you need to be aware of. Also, before starting work on a wooden deck, it is important to check local building codes and obtain any necessary permits.

Wood Type

The type of wood used to build a wooden deck will play a significant role in determining the deck's overall resistance to moisture and weather. Some of the best wood options for building decks include redwood, red cedar and pressure-treated lumber. Redwood and red cedar are both strong wood types that are naturally resistant to moisture-induced warping, cracking and rot. In comparison, pressure-treated lumber refers to wood that manufacturers infuse -- using high pressures -- with preservative chemicals, artificially increasing the wood's moisture-resistance. Douglas fir and southern yellow pine are the most common types of wood that manufacturers pressure-treat.


The typical deck has a rectangular design, which mimics the linear elements of the adjacent home and allows for an expansive deck surface. However, more eccentric or stylistic design options include creating a round, semi-circular wood deck or using a hexagonal shape. And while standard decks consist of single elevated platforms, you can also build wood decks with multiple floors.

Multi-level wood decks can help connect sloping or hilly backyards and also allow for the creation of distinctive deck spaces. For example, one floor of a wood deck could be for dining while another could be a hot tub area.


Joists are horizontal lengths of wood that serve as the substructure for wooden flooring planks. They extend from the ledger board, on the side of a home, to a support beam, which rests on pillars or other foundation structures in the yard. According to BestDeckSite.com, the most common floor joists consist of 2-by-8-inch lengths of lumber. However, these measurements are deceiving, as "2-by-8" are actually 1.5 inches thick and 7.25 inches wide. The maximum distance that you can safely span joists between a ledger board and a beam will depend on several factors, including wood type. However, as a general rule, the less space you leave between consecutive joists, the longer you can span them.

Flooring Pattern

Once your joists are in place, you can arrange and nail down the wood flooring planks of your deck in the pattern of your choosing. The standard wooden deck flooring pattern features linear planks all flowing in the same direction. As alternatives, you can have planks flow diagonally across the deck's joists or use more complex basket-weave and herringbone flooring patterns.

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