This is the step-by-step guide you’ve all been waiting for. The BuildTuff team have crafted this how-to-guide to assist you with your next deck build and/or decking project. Whether you’re a DIYer or home contractor, this guide will walk you through:
- The fundamental steps to building a deck,
- The correct application and technique when using TuffBlocks as the foundation system to your decking project,
- The recommended materials for each stage of your build and;
- How to decorate your deck so that you can enjoy your new, outdoor living space.
If you haven’t done so already check in with your local building authority to seek approval for your build and to ensure your site is clear of any tree/tree root systems as well as underground cables and services. Once you’ve received approval we recommend drawing up some deck design ideas and/plans so that you can get building! Once you’ve calculated your deck dimensions, we recommend using our free decking calculator to ensure you have enough TuffBlocks to complete your build.
Want a sneak peak at the list of materials we used for our deck build?
We hired the sod cutter and compactor from our local hardware store - we recommend you do this if a shovel is not sufficient.
Now that you have your deck plans drawn up, you’ve received approval from your local building authority and you have a list of materials for the build, it's time to get started.
Step 1. Site Preparation
First let’s mark out the dimensions of the deck. Grab a bottle of spray paint and a straightedge to mark out the dimensions for the build. We highly recommend marking out the dimensions so you have a reference point throughout the build.
For our project we hired a sod cutter from a local hardware store to help loosen up the topsoil. If you’re unable to hire or obtain access to a sod cutter, we recommend using a shovel for this step.
Remove the topsoil before progressing to step 2.
Step 2. Level and Compact
To ensure our TuffBlocks sit nice and level, we need to compact the ground. Due to the dimensions of our deck, we dug out 4 terraces on our site. The first terrace sat 1ft from the top edge of the build with the remaining terraces sitting 5ft apart.
When digging the trench for your terraces, ensure there is sufficient width to fit both the TuffBlock and the compactor. Once you’ve dug up all your terraces, lay out the paver base and use the compactor to compact the ground.
Step 3. Level TuffBlocks
Before placing the TuffBlocks down, we need to ensure the ground is level. Scoop out some road base (we recommend enough to cover the base of the TuffBlock), level it out with your rectangular trowel and tamp it down, place the TuffBlock on the ground and ensure it sits level.
Our recommendation is to complete this step in each corner of your deck build - that way you can get started on building the outer deck frame.
Once the first, 4 TuffBlocks are level, it’s time to cut your joists to your deck length. After measuring and cutting your joists, we suggest treating the cut ends of your lumber with sealant to enhance the longevity of your lumber. Before adding on the joist hangers, measure your first joist and ensure it’s level.
With our most recent deck build, we built on sloping ground - which meant that we needed posts for our build. To measure our post height we measure from the base of the TuffBlock up to the joist. The BuildTuff team used a technique known as notching to secure the post to the joist, which required taking the measurement from the top of the joist down to the base of the post - note down this measurement and proceed to step 4 to learn what comes next.
For those that are not building on a slope or using posts in a deck build, we recommend ensuring your first joist sits level. You can then proceed to step 5.
*NB: It’s important to note that once you have measured, cut and ensured your first joist is level that you can add on your joist hangers for a more efficient build.
Step 4. Cutting Posts
If building with posts, we recommend the notching technique introduced in Step 3. Note the measurement of your joist and post, make sure your joist is level and then mark up the lumber.
Using your miter saw we are going to cut the first post.
Adjust the width on your circular saw and create close cuts for the notching technique.
Once you have completed your close cuts, use a hammer and tap from the top end of the post. The lumber should come loose. Even out the lumber with a chisel. As this is a fresh cut, we recommend treating the lumber with sealant - again to enhance the longevity of your lumber. From here place your post into the TuffBlock, connect the joist and post with screws and continue building the outer frame of your deck.
NB: Check the first joist and post is the exact height measured in step 3 before proceeding with the remainder of the outer frame.
Step 5. Check Measurements
Now that the outer frame of the deck is up, it is important we ensure the structure is level and square before adding in the center joists. To ensure the structure is level, simply lay your level on all 4 sides of the deck frame. To ensure the structure is square, we recommend two methods. The first is the 3,4,5, method - this is best explained in our YouTube video. The second method we suggest is to measure the hypotenuse of your square, measure the diagonals and if they’re equivalent, your deck is square.
If you’re eager to build your deck, head over to our YouTube channel, subscribe and check out our videos.