How To Build A Deck Using Lowe’s Free Deck Designer Online Software

How to Build a Deck by Third Coast Craftsman

How to Build a Deck by Third Coast Craftsman

Video to Text Transcription For The Hearing Impaired

Lowe’s Free Easy-To-Use Deck Designer Software

“My first step is to head to Lowe’s Deck Designer so that I can design exactly the deck that I want. It’s free, easy-to-use software you don’t need to download. You simply just use it straight off of their website and you can pick from either pre-design templates or start from scratch as I will do. I’ll also leave a link down in the description so you can check it out as well.

I’m going to go for a nice, simple single-level deck with a railing and a single set of stairs. But you can make your deck any size, shape, or height, and with as many levels and stairs as you want. You can also customize the type of the decking material such as wood or any of the man-made materials, as well as the color of the deck and the styles of the railing, and lets you do whatever you want.

Build a Deck - Deck Designer at Lowe’s
Build a Deck Designer

It will then give you a real-time estimate of material costs so that you can check to see if you’re within budget or not and make any adjustments. Then you can print the full plans, which will include the materials list, including all the hardware you will need, as well as the layouts, the deck parts, nomenclature, and all sorts of other good information to help you build a deck.

Now, before you order your materials, go to your building assessor and make sure that the plans will meet all the local codes. If they do not, you can easily go back and make adjustments. And if everything is good to go, you can get your building permit and order your materials. Then you can take the printouts to Lowe’s and they will pull all the materials for you and for just a few extra bucks, they’ll deliver it right to your door.

Considerations and Planning Your Deck

The most important part of your deck build is laying it out properly. If you don’t have a good square layout to start, you’re going to run into a lot of problems. So what I did is I staked a staked near the house down there and then I build these steaks with batons on them so that I can move my strings around. I’ll measure out from the house to the outside edge of what my farthest pulse is going to be. I do that on both sides.

Then I measure the distance between my outside posts this way, and then I repeat that measurement out here. And then now what I’ll have is a parallelogram. Now, to get that parallelogram square, you measure from corner to corner. So if I’m two inches longer on this corner than that corner, what I’ll do is I’ll shift this string one inch this way and that string one inch that way to meet in the middle. Check it again, make sure I’m square, and then we can move on to laying out where the posts need to get drilled and take those out.

Dig Holes for Posts

The plans will tell me the spacing of my post, so I’ll use a tape measure and some flags to Mark out where the post holes need to be. The ground here was really nice and soft, so we were able to just use a post-hole digger rather than a gas engine Auger, which you can always buy or rent. Where I live, the code requires us to dig holes at least 42 inches down to get past the Frost line.

Pour Concrete and Place Post Anchors

We’re going to pour our concrete into twelve-inch forms and then set our post on top using post anchors. There are several ways of setting posts, which include burying the post in the concrete, and this is one of those crucial things that you should ask your Inspector about. The forms are usually 48 inches tall, so I will Mark and cut a level line across all my forms so that they’re sitting just a couple of inches above the ground, which will allow for water runoff.

Then I will backfill dirt in between the whole wall and the forms and then tamp them down tight. Next, I will begin mixing and pouring all of my concrete. I rented a concrete mixer for this step, as trying to mix all that concrete by hand in a wheelbarrow is really back-breaking work.

Just follow the directions on the concrete mixer and the concrete and then pour it into the forms, tamping it periodically until they are cold. You also want to be careful not to breathe in that concrete dust. It’s best to use a respirator, but I just held my breath while I emptied the bags and made sure I wasn’t bringing it in.

Then I’ll smooth the top to give it a very slight convex top to help with water runoff. Then I’ll insert my post anchor Bolt until it’s about one inch above the concrete and in line with my layout lines. Then I’m going to lay down some landscape fabric and then put down some rocks. This is going to help with water runoff and also prevent weeds from growing under the deck.

All right, so now that my footings are poured and the post anchors are attached, I need to figure out the distance of my post. To do that, I make a Mark on the house, which will be the height of the deck, and then I subtract the deck board thickness, the beam thickness, and the joist thickness, for this deck, we’re using two X eight beams and joist is 15 and a half inches. Make a Mark on the house. I come down and put a line at 15 and a half inches on a stake. Then I run that line all the way across, making sure that it’s level. So once I know my line is level, I’ll move the outside down half of an inch to give the deck.

Once the line is where I want it, I can measure from the post anchor to that line and get the height of my post. I use a miter saw to cut the post, and I only have a ten-inch miter saw, so I have to rotate that six X six post In order to cut it all the way through. Code in your area might not require you to use a six X six, but I like to have the extra-wide post because it’ll give me some wiggle room to make sure that my beams are square when I mount them.

Making and Installing Support Beams

These pieces are called beams, and I made these by nailing them two by eight together. I’ll use 4 10 Penny galvanized nails, and I’ll space that every 16 inches to make the beams. These brackets hold the beams to the post, and once I secure the post to the post anchors, I’ll make sure that the beams are square and then secure those to the post using those brackets. This is where I’m double-checking that the beams are square before I secure those to the post. It’s important to add nails to every hole on all of those brackets.

Laying Out Joist

Next, I’ll begin laying out my joists every 16 inches. I put the first joist next to the house and make sure that it’s nice and straight. Then I measure out from that in increments of 16 inches, and then I’ll make a line and put an X on the side closest to the house. Then, when I put my board next to the line, I know that the center of the board needs to be where that X is.

Installing Joist

Now I can start putting down my joists. I usually toenail them into place with a nail, which makes adding the Hurricane brackets a lot easier.

Because my deck is 20ft wide and they don’t make boards that are 20ft long, I have to support two separate joists on that center beam. Then, to give the joist some extra rigidity, I add some blocking along the center beam between the joists. This will prevent the joist from wanting to ever roll over. Then I strike a nice straight line with my chalk line and trim the joists so that they are all nice and straight.

Attach Rim Joists

Before I add what is called a rim joist, I make a little temporary support block that I nailed to the underside of the joists to help support the rim joist while I nail it and level it into place. Then all the joists are attached to the rim joist using joist hangers. Once I secure the rim joist, I’ll knock those support blocks back off. Now I’m only adding the rim joists to this side right now. I have a little trick that I’m going to use later on to make sure my full deck board at the other side of the deck matches up perfectly with the other rim joists and I’ll show you that a little bit later on.

Installing The Decking

Now it’s time to add the decking. I’ll take a drill bit and countersink all the holes near the edges of the bores to prevent splitting. Then without pre-drilling, I put two screws every 16 inches into those joists that are underneath. As we add the boards we’re going to stop about every fourth board and take a measurement near the house and at the far end of the deck to make sure that our deck boards are remaining nice and square as we go along.

Now, these deck boards are super wet still and so we will be pushing them snug against each other than screwing them down. As they dry they’ll shrink a little bit and gaps will form between the boards that will allow for rain and dirt to escape. Now if you’re working with dry boards you’ll probably want to add an 8th of an inch gap between the boards as you go.

Now before I screw down my last four deck boards I’m going to lay them into place and make a mark along my joist. Then I’ll move my Mark one and a half inches which is the width of the rim joist then strike a line with my chalk line and cut the joists there.

Now when I add the rim joists that last deck board is going to land perfectly flush with the outside rim joist. As each deck board is slightly different in width it would be nearly impossible to measure this out beforehand. Way back when you add that first rim joists and have that last deck board land perfectly flush with that outside rim joist. Most likely you’d have to rip down that last deck board and it just wouldn’t look quite as nice as having a full deck board right out to the very end.

So now I add my outside rim joists and all the brackets for it and then I can finish adding my decking boards out to the end. Then I’ll put a nice two X twelve skirt around the deck. Now I’m going to start working on the post for the railings.

Cutting and Installing The Railings

Railings are another one of those critical areas that you need to make sure that you’re up to code. So ask your Inspector what the minimums are for railing heights, the way the railings are secured to the deck, and the gaps between the balusters.

I took my circular saw with the blade set to one and a half inches deep and I made several relief cuts that allow me to break out all that waste with the hammer. Then I’ll clean up the notch with a chisel and a block plane. Now there are other ways to make these notches as well but this is just how I like to do it. Then I’ll add a little 45 deg Bevel to the post to make it look nice.

I lay out the post locations, making sure I’m meeting the minimum spacing required by code, and I make sure they’re plumb and square before drilling my first hole for the carriage bolt. After adding the carriage bolt. I’ll recheck that it’s plumb and square before drilling my second hole. Then I’ll add the second carriage bolt, add the washer and nut, and tighten those down with a wrench.

Next, I measure between the railings and cut a 2×4 for the top and bottom that will support the balusters. We use some cut-offs and our speed squares to space these nice and evenly, just like with the posts. I wanted to add a nice Bevel to all the balusters, but instead of doing those a few at a time on the miter saw, I decided to just line them all up, strike a line, and cut the Bevel all at once using my circular saw.

Laying Out The Baluster Spacing

So I want to show real quick how to layout the baluster spacing. They have to be a minimum of four inches, and it’s a little bit tricky.

So what I did is I measured the inside width between the railings, which is 60 and 7/8 here, and then you add the thickness of one of the balusters, and I converted them to decimals down here because the calculator doesn’t work infractions like that.

So what I do is I divide the sum of these two numbers, the width plus a baluster, and then I divided by that four-inch minimum requirement. That gives me 15.5. Then you round up to 16, so that’s the number of balances I’ll end up using. Divide that original width by 16, and that’s going to give me three-point 887 inches.

Then I’ll take a fraction converter chart and find what fraction is going to be closest. And I’m just proud of seven-eight is I’ll essentially make a spacer that is three and seven-eight inches wide, and that way I can get a perfect width all the way across. And I’ll cut this just proud of seven-eight. And then I’ll have my perfect layout.

You will have to do this for each span between railings, as they’re all going to be different measurements. We just countersink a hole and add a screw to both the top and the bottom of the baluster.

Creating Foundation For The Stairs

Now we’re going to dig a spot and make a foundation for our stairs. We add a few inches of gravel, pack it, make it level, and put concrete footage down to support the stair stringers. You can also pour a nice concrete landing pad here as well.

Installing Stair Stringers

Next, I cut my stair stringers off camera. Those are one of the more tricky parts of the build and require a little more explanation than I have time for in this video. So rather than making the video that much longer. I decided to just add some links down below to some other good videos that explain how to layout and cut those stair stringers.

Then I add my kicker boards, deck boards, and railings just like I did on the rest of the deck and I can move on to the last part which is adding the railing cap. I use regular deck boards for my railing cap and cut 45-degree miter for the corners.

We’re going to let the deck dry and season over the winter and into next spring before we put the stain on the deck and then we’re going to add some lattice and do some landscaping around it. It’ll look nice and last for years to come. I hope you enjoyed watching this video and learned some things. Thanks so much for watching. We’ll see you next time.”

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