Introduction: Building a Cedar Deck
There is a certain beauty to a cedar deck and it has the added advantage that cedar is slow to rot.
Step 1: Deck Blocks
There are a lot of regulations in building decks so check with your local authorities.
You can use sonotubes, screwpiles or other substances for the foundation of your supports. Because this area is dry and the bedrock is close to the surface, I just used deck blocks. Normally, I would put two foot by two foot patio slabs beneath the deck blocks but again, because this area is dry and I don't have to worry about the deck blocks sinking into the ground, I just put crusher dust underneath them to level them off.
The support beams will be one foot inside the edge of the deck so with this size deck, I needed two rows of three deck blocks positioned so that the support beams and posts would be one foot from the edge of the deck.
Step 2: Support Beams
This area required 6 x 6 pressure treated wood for the posts. Calculate the height of the support beam and deck board and subtract that from the level you want your deck to be at on your house. Cut one post to that length and then level all the other posts from this height and cut them to the right height. Plumb the posts and put in cross bracing so the posts will stay plumb as you work.
Place the first support beam on the first row of posts and attach two brackets to each post to hold the beam in place. This area required two ply 2 x 10's for support beams. Place the second support beam on and square it to the house. Attach two brackets to each of these posts.
Step 3: Joists
This area required 2 x 6's for the joists. Attach the joists at 16 inch centers to the ledger board (the one against the house) with joist hangers. Most areas do not allow you to attach the ledger board to the house because the deck and the house may shift or heave differently resulting in damage to your deck. All the wood so far doesn't have to be cedar as it won't be visible when the project is done.
Attach 2 x 6 cedar to the outside edges with three inch deck screws and joist hangers. Attach the joists to the support beams with hurricane ties.
Step 4: Deck Boards and Railing
Start at one side of the deck and lay your first deck board flush with the outside edge of the joist. Screw it in with deck screws. Leave a half inch and screw in the next deck board. Continue until you are four feet from the other side. Measure the distance left. Most deck boards are actually 5 1/2 inches wide so, with a half inch gap, each deck board adds another six inches to the decking. If the distance left is not an exact multiple of six inches, make the gap between the boards slightly larger or smaller so your last board will end up flush with the outside of the last joist.
Cut 4 x 4 cedar posts 42 inches long. You will need a post for each edge, each corner, at each side of the stairs and in the middle of each side that is more than 10 feet long. Notch out a piece that is 1 1/2 inch deep by the height of your joist plus deck board. Plumb each post and bolt it in place to the joist.
Attach a piece of 2 x 4 cedar in between each post so that it is flush with the top and flush with the inside edge of the posts. Attach a piece of deck board flat on top of this so that it is even with the inside edge of the posts and the 2 x 4.
In our area, there cannot be more than a four inch gap between spindles. Check with your local authorities. Every four inches attach a spindle and make sure that it is plumb with the posts. Use two screws to attach it to the joist and two screws to attach it to the 2 x 4 because cedar is soft and so the screws pull out more easily than other wood.
Step 5: Stairs
Measure the distance from the deck to the ground and buy three (for typical width stairs) ready-made stringers from your supply store. If they do not have cedar stringers, you can make your own or buy one stringer and trace it onto your cedar stock.
Screw a 2 x 8 between your support beams to rest your stringers against. Attach the stringers to the 2 x 8 and use patio slabs to sit the stringers on at the ground. Attach your treads and make the hand rail the same as the deck railing except put angles on the posts, 2 x 4 and top deck board.
Step 6: Finishing
Finishing is a conundrum for outside decks. If you do not finish the wood, it will eventually turn grey. Paint will cover the grain of the wood and you will have to scrape and paint it again every few years. Stain also fades and will have to be refinished every few years. Waterproofing also needs to be redone every few years. I prefer a high quality very lightly tinted stain so that the grain shows and at least you don't have to scrape it when you redo it.