Tips for Building a Safe and Stable Deck

May is ‘Deck Safety Month’, and with warmer weather finally here, you may be thinking about adding that great spring/summer addition to your home—a deck. If you’re the do-it-yourselfer type, here’s some tips for building a safe and stable deck.


  • Permits: before you begin, ensure you obtain the appropriate building permits from your municipality before constructing anything.
  • Call before you dig: ensure you’ve contacted all utility companies (cable, phone, etc.) to ensure your property does not sit over any lines or pipes that could be damaged during your build.


  • Get rid of obstructions: ensure you remove all shrubs or obstructions from the area you plan to build the deck on.
  • Level the soil: grade the soil in the deck area so that it slopes away from the house. To suppress unwanted growth under the deck, cover the area with some kind of material (rocks, landscaping fabric, etc.).


  • Mark the area: mark the location of the ledger on the side of the house. With this reference point, outline the deck with a system of strings pulled over batter boards. These lines will establish the edge of the deck and reference any corners.
  • Dig holes: where footing locations are marked, holes must be dug.
  • Put posts up: insert posts into the holes and pour concrete into the holes to allow the posts to set.


  • Install: girders and joists are installed and braced where needed. The substructure is fastened together with galvanized metal connectors in most cases, though there’s other options.
  • Fasten: Use nails or screws to fasten the decking, and check thoroughly all parts of the deck that they are stable and secure.
  • Add the rest: the final steps are to install any stairs, railings and other structures you would like on your deck, though railings are strongly urged to keep things safe.

Besides keeping the structure safe, you also have a lot of choices to consider when building a deck, such as what materials to use and what finishing to opt for. Better Homes and Gardens has great guides online for all things deck building.