A decent deck can add lots of extra living space to your house, as Justin Newcombe discovers.

When daylight saving rolled around I had an amazing day. It was sunny and clear and blue and it was Sunday. I was doing odd jobs at home but it didn't really matter because the door to summer had been flung open. No matter what happens, I know it's going to be a massive summer including heaps of surfing, fishing and swimming with the kids. Because I live in the greatest country in the whole wide world and we're about to have the best summer of the millennium (so far at least), I feel patriotically obliged to be doing as much as possible outside, pretty much everything except sleeping. That's the primary reason for making a deck.

A few weeks ago I put a fence up to screen the deck and last week I spent some time getting the profiles right. Making the deck was something I've wanted to complete for ages. With a set of French doors about to go in, this deck is going to add a whole lot of extra space to my little house this summer: a veritable outside room.

I've gone for pine decking primarily because I plan to give it a stain. But there are a few great-looking hardwood options available at Bunnings and in wider widths too, which on a big deck especially, can look amazing. It's easy to get complacent when you live in New Zealand, but you don't have to travel far to know how good we've got it.

Every night that I hang out on my new deck this summer, I'll be thanking my lucky stars. That'd be the Southern Cross.


Step 1

Check council regulations regarding decks in your area. You need to watch out for deck height, site coverage and the relationship of your deck to any building.

Step 2

Install posts. The hole size, depth and post diameter depend on the height of the deck. As we discovered last week, my deck is very low off the ground (only 400mm), so I'm not even using posts. Instead I'm using Bowmac galvanised brackets which are bolted directly on to the bearer and are then concreted directly into the post holes (which are around 500mm deep). The holes should be at least 200mm into the subsoil if possible but in some situations it's not possible.

Step 3

Using pegs and long screws erect the 200x50mm bearer using a string line as a guide. Use sturdy pegs to hold it in place. Attach the Bowmac brackets to the bottom of the bearer, over the hole. Check and recheck that the bearer is level. Make any necessary adjustments then mix and pour concrete into the holes. Bunnings have self-reinforcing concrete.

Step 4

I've attached the second bearer directly to the house using galvanised concrete anchor bolts. I've set my bearers 1700mm apart, but a set of 150x50mm joists can span 2.2m which means the bearers can be set at 2.2m apart. There needs to be a gap of 12mm between the house and the bearer. To achieve this, a series of 12mm plates are attached to the house side of the bearer. I've used 12mm h4 tanalised ply to do this. I've also stapled bitumen tape on to the plates to stop any moisture transfer between the building and the deck. The bearer needs to be secured firmly to the piles of the building. If this is not possible then erect an independent bearer, like the first one, using posts or Bowmac brackets, within 300mm of the building.

Step 5

Measure and cut the 150x50mm joists to go over the top and perpendicular to the bearers starting with the two end ones then set the joists at approximately 450mm apart but no more (as measured from the middle of each joist).

Step 6

Attach to the bearer using 100mm exterior nails or a set of galvanised straps. Use a level string line to check each joist is level. If there are any variations in the joists use strips of bitumen tape to pack the joist up before you attach the joist.

Step 7

Using a string line as a guide, line the decking up across the joists before measuring and cutting the lengths. Make sure the deck planks are staggered so that all the decking joins don't happen on the same joists. Nail each piece of decking into place without driving the nail right through the surface of the timber. Tidy each end with a small plane, file or sanding block.

Step 8

Once the decking is installed, use a piece of dressed timber to cover the ends. This header plate sits flush with the decking and finishes the ends off.

Step 9

Wash and stain the deck following the manufacturer's instructions.