DIY Deck Checklist: Guidelines to Building a Deck | ChoiceDek

Composite Decking Products

DIY Deck Checklist

Before you build, carefully consider all that goes into creating your perfect deck. To help you get started, here's a handy DIY deck checklist:


Make A Plan

Please check your building codes requirements to be sure you are in compliance in your area.
Use graph paper to sketch a rough drawing.
Determine your property lines. Hire a surveyor if needed.
How will you access your deck from your home?
Do you need stairs? Where will they be?
Will you need any electrical or gas hookups?
Check the drainage and grading and fix any problems before work begins.
What is your overall budget?

Choose a Size

A general rule of thumb is to allow for about five feet per person regularly using the deck.
Add extra space to accommodate parties and guests.
How high will your deck be from the ground?
Determine your deck's orientation with regards to sun, wind, trees and privacy.


Research deck design books and magazines.
Some deck styles to consider:
  • Tiered– Create multiple levels for eating, relaxing, swimming, etc.
  • Elevated– Enjoy great views, but allow for railings and safety concerns.
  • Ground Level – Blends in and makes your yard look larger. It’s also a great option for young children.
Consider features like built in seating, planters, etc.


What type of soil will you deck be built on?
Will the deck be anchored to the house or stand-alone?
Are you prepared to do major excavation work?
What type of foundation are you considering:
  • Concrete piers with/without sills
  • Prefabricated deck blocks
  • Foundation piles or screws (no digging required)

Additional Building Codes

Double check your local building codes requirements to be sure you are compliance in your area.
Residential minimum handrail height is generally 36-inches.
Multi-family minimum handrail height is sometimes 42-inches.
Baluster maximum spacing is generally 4-inches (clear distance between balusters**).
Maximum gap between bottom rail and deck surface is generally 4-inches.** Some codes require a 2-inch maximum gap for multi-family applications.

** Spacing note: The precise language is generally “do not allow passage of a sphere 4-inch in diameter”.

Choose Tools & Supplies

Review the ChoiceDek Installation Guide
Screw gun
Circular saw (carbide-tipped blade with fewer than 20 teeth is recommended)
Tape measure
Blue chalk line
Fasteners – Each post requires two, 1/2-inch, carriage bolts 8-inches minimum length with 1-1/4-inch flat washer on back with nut. For deck board fasteners, we recommend #7, 2-1/4-inch stainless steel trim head screws for the decking and railing.
Deck Clips
Pre-mixed concrete
Gravel or crushed stone
Cinder blocks
Joist hangers
Concrete forms
Carpenter’s square
Plumb bob
Wheelbarrow (for mixing concrete)
Safety glasses
Scrap lumber for bracing