Pros: Superior resistance to moisture. Doesn’t swell or shrink. Not prone to rot or termites. Easy to clean. Cons: Some products look less wood-like than others. Boards can squeak when walked on. Price: $$
Use these to create a unique railing by forming pairs of stock aluminum balusters.
Pros: Offers natural insect resistance. Weathers to a handsome shade of gray. Easy to work with. Cons: Not available everywhere. Requires frequent maintenance and waterproofing.Price: $$–$$$, depending on location.
110V or 220V 1600w Plastic Welder Gun +speed nozzle heat element Hot Air Gun Hot Air Welding Torch
Before you hit the deck, give it a little TLC with these pro tips
Get the latest This Old House news, updates and special offers every week, direct to your inbox.
Pressure-Treated WoodPros: Easy to work with. Takes stains and waterproofing easily.Cons: Will corrode unprotected metal fasteners and connectors. Boards can warp and crack. Requires frequent cleaning, resealing, and restaining.Price: $
At the very least, coat a wood deck with a penetrating sealer to fend off rot and decay—or stain it to add color and extra protection. Waterborne stains suit most types of wood, but only oil-based stains can penetrate tropical hardwoods. Stains with more pigment last longer and offer better sun protection than semitransparent or clear ones. Composite boards need a finish that suits the material; seek advice from the manufacturer.
There’s no secret to deck maintenance—repair the deck, clean it and protect it. But learning tricks the pros use can…
Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva walks host Kevin O’Connor through the types of woods available and…
IRWIN Tools STRAIT-LINE 66400 Carpenter’s Pencil, Medium Lead, 6-Piece Set (66400)
Mark the center of a post about 12 inches above the deck—high enough for the light to illuminate the decking but not so high that it will blind seated guests. Use a paddle bit to drill a inch-diameter hole through the post, as shown. Repeat for every post.
Pros: Comes in a range of colors and textures. Long-lasting if cared for properly. Won’t splinter, crack, or rot.Cons: Some products look less wood-like than others. Scuffs and scratches easily. Spills can leave stains.Price: $$
As long as the trees are healthy, you can work around them. Leave at least 3 inches around the trunk to accommodate growth, and make sure the base of the tree can get water and air.
Step Thirteen // How to Add a Little Mood Lighting to Your Deck
You can build a deck to suit any outdoor space—check out these solutions to common problems.
This premium deck stain contains a cashew-based resin that repels mold and mildew. One gallon can cover up to twice as much square footage as a standard stain. Choose from among 24 colors, or use a clear finish to let the wood’s grain and texture show through.
Our six-point inspection plan will help you spot signs of trouble
This Old House general contractor Tom Silva’s method for constructing a handsome on-grade deck
A pergola provides a shield against strong rays while still letting you enjoy some sunlight. It can be oriented according to the seasons.
Post light, $92; LED ledge and rail light, $107; up/down light, $128; all in copper, from Focus Industries
Eat Family Meals Make sure your table will fit comfortably. A good rule of thumb is to add 4 feet all the way around the table so that people can walk behind those who are seated.
The right details give each deck its individuality. Let the style of your house and the furniture you choose influence the look of the fixtures you add and the way the woodwork is trimmed.
Bring the pigtail to the box and thread it through the knockout in the bottom, as shown. Use a small flathead screwdriver to tighten the negative wire into the terminal labeled “common” and the positive wire into the 12.5-volt terminal. Plug the transformer into the 110-volt outlet, then flip the switch to test the lights. Set the timer and install the cover.
This Old House general contractor Tom Silva builds a safe and solid set of porch stairs
Step Three // How to Add a Little Mood Lighting to Your Deck
Composite deck boards made of 75 percent wood fiber and 25 percent polypropylene are surprisingly wood-like in looks and performance. You can paint, stain, or nail through them, and they can even withstand ground contact without rotting or cracking.
Don’t lift a finger without our time-tested guidance on making all the right choices for this popular outdoor project
Ipe is the gold standard, but plenty of other species stack up quite nicely on looks and longevity, often at a lower…
Let your favorite outdoor activities dictate its size, shape, and features.
Expanding your living space by adding a deck is a great American tradition. Whether you plan to do it yourself or hire a pro, the key to success is factoring in all the critical design issues, picking the right material for your budget, climate, and lifestyle, and building a structure that will stand the test of time.
Install a vertical privacy screen that creates a visual and acoustic barrier between your deck and the house next door. The screen should be braced and anchored to the deck’s structure to withstand wind.
Pros: Long-lasting if cared for properly. Offers natural resistance to rot and insects. Cons: Quickly dulls cutting blades. Installation is labor-intensive.Price: $$$
Step Eleven // How to Add a Little Mood Lighting to Your Deck
Day 1: Install the lights (Steps 2–9).Day 2: Wire the lights to the transformer (Steps 10–14).
A jig and screw kit allows fast installation of decking without pilot holes. The secret of the handy hidden fastener system is an augering screw that hogs out wood as it’s driven, along with a special tool that holds it at the proper angle and acts as a board spacer.
Most decks are designed to support 60 pounds per square foot, which includes the weight of the deck (called the “dead load”) as well as people and furniture (the “live load”). If you host huge bashes, or want to add a hot tub or heavy planters, you’ll need to beef up your deck’s supporting structure for safety’s sake.
Use energy-efficient LEDs to cast a warm glow on the deck, stairs, and trees, and you can extend the party (safely)…
Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva fixes a front porch by replacing a deck board
The stairway lights mount to the treads overhanging the risers. If your tread doesn’t have an overhang of at least 1 inch, add one with a 2×2 pressure-treated pine baluster. Measure the width of the tread and cut the piece to fit with a circular saw. Evenly space pilot holes along the front edge of the baluster for 2-inch deck screws. Attach the fixture to the middle of the baluster with supplied screws, as shown, then repeat the process on the remaining treads.
On a new front porch, Tom Silva shows Kevin O’Connor how to install mahogany decking with hidden fasteners and perfectly mitered joints
16 upgrades and add-ons to create a more attractive and usable backyard deck
A guide to the cleaners, finishes, and techniques for making your deck look new again
This can’t-fail classic hides the structure and keeps critters out but allows ventilation.
Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.
IRWIN VISE-GRIP Multi-Tool Wire Stripper/Crimper/Cutter, 2078309
How often you’ll need to reseal or stain your deck depends on its material and finish—but cleaning doesn’t. Plan to scrub your deck once a year using a power washer on a low-pressure setting, a brush, and a compatible cleaner. Use a fan tip on the wand, and keep the wand moving to minimize surface damage. Getting rid of mildew may require a specialty product. For daily upkeep, sweep away leaves and debris, and mop up spills right away so that they don’t leave stains.
This Old House general contractor Tom Silva breathes new life into a weather-beaten wood deck
Leave gaps between deck boards so that they can shed water. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for spacing man-made boards. For wood, ⅛ to ⅜ inch is safe; use a 10d or larger nail to help space the boards properly as you install them.
Riser Light Codes already mandate stairway lighting; this option sets the mood and keeps the climb safe.
For a Sloped YardA multilevel deck gives you the square footage you need without having to use extra-tall posts that require bracing. Designate each level for a different activity.
Insert the first light’s ribbed or marked negative wire into one end of the brass compression connection and tighten the set screw with a hex wrench, as shown. Slip the heat-shrink tubing over the connection, then add the ribbed 14-gauge wire to the other end of the connection and tighten it. Repeat the process on the smooth or unmarked positive wires of the same fixture.
Get the latest news, updates and offers from This Old House to your inbox
Many aspects of deck design and construction, from structural requirements to size limits, are covered by local codes. Your homeowners association may also have guidelines on aesthetic choices, such as materials, finishes, and handrail appearance. This is not the time to flout authority. Your choices will be visible for all to see, and violations can set you back a pretty penny—or worse, lead to a disaster if the deck isn’t built correctly.
Step Seven // How to Add a Little Mood Lighting to Your Deck
Create a zone for lounge chairs and a low table or two in a sunny (or shady) spot. If local codes allow it, a fire pit makes chilly nights more cozy and adds to your deck’s ambience.
A handsome way to hide imperfect cuts and give each post a more finished look.
If you’re looking to perfect your yard with a new deck, here’s information on the pros and cons of the various…
Cover the connection with the heat-shrink tubing, then pass a torch or heat gun over the wrap, holding it a few inches away, to form a watertight seal, as shown. Continue daisy chaining lights in the series until you reach the one closest to the transformer. Add enough 14-gauge wire to reach the transformer, and secure the connections with waterproof wire nuts. Now join the three 14-gauge wires (positives together and negatives together) and add another section of 14-gauge wire to serve as a pigtail. Hide the wiring under the deck or secure it out of sight with staples.
Use stakes and string to outline your deck’s footprint and visualize how much yard space it will cover. Place furniture inside the outline to see if there’s enough clearance, and walk around to see if you like the shape, circulation, and views.
Thread the wire into the hole, then press-fit the light in place.
LENOX Tools Bi-Metal Speed Slot Arbored Hole Saw with T3 Technology, 2″
This decorative piece also keeps water from seeping into the end grain.
Stanley 33-425 Powerlock 25-Foot by 1-Inch Measuring Tape – Original
Short boards form squares laid in alternating directions. Size the squares to your liking, and plan to add bridging between joists for extra support.
Drill a inch-diameter hole in the riser just below the tread to accept the fixture’s wire. Fish the loose end of the wire into the hole, as shown. Repeat the process on the remaining treads.
Locate uplights in the center of deck boards about a foot from the tree to illuminate the bark and the canopy. Use a 2-inch hole saw to cut a hole for each light.
Add a bead of polyurethane adhesive to the baluster, then screw the baluster to the tread, as shown, oriented with the LEDs facing the step below. Repeat this process on the remaining treads, then stain the balusters to match the deck.
Much about these elements is governed by code, but there’s flexibility. To make stairs easy to climb, opt for shallower steps with deeper treads. Size the treads so that you don’t need to rip boards to fit their depth. Choose handrails that are easy to grip and balusters that permit views out to your yard. For safety’s sake, avoid horizontal balusters or meshes that might be easy for children to climb.
If this weight-bearing board that connects the deck to your house isn’t installed properly, your deck could collapse. It must be bolted, not nailed, to the house’s structure, and fully flashed to keep the wood from rotting. Check out How to Build a Simple Deck to see Tom Silva demonstrate how to install and protect the ledger.
Use 14-gauge wire to daisy chain all the lights of a certain type together—post lights to post lights, for example. To start, use wire strippers to remove about an inch of insulation from the wires attached to the light farthest from the transformer. Measure the distance between this light and the next one and cut a length of 14-gauge wire to that length. Split the 14-gauge wire apart, then strip all four ends.
Here, boards with opposing miters are inlaid into the rest of the field. Lay out joists and bridging to ensure that each board spans at least two supports.
If you want easy-care decking, choose manufactured boards; if looks trump all, opt for wood. Use our cheat sheet to help pick what’s right for you.
Leave room for a prep station and serving area, as well as a grill. Add built-in perimeter seating. Opt for handrails with a wide, flat cap where guests can rest their drinks.
Embellish a deck platform with chalky matte paint, semitransparent stain, and a freehand mandala
SKIL 5280-01 15-Amp 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Single Beam Laser Guide
The bottom of the transformer must be at least 1 foot off the ground and within 2 feet of a standard 110-volt outlet. We placed ours inside the house to keep the timer easily accessible. First, use deck screws to attach the mounting bracket to the wall, checking for level with a torpedo level. Attach the transformer to the bracket.
Step Twelve // How to Add a Little Mood Lighting to Your Deck
Fish the LED wire through the housing and fresh hole. Attach the fixture to the post with supplied screws, as shown. Secure the wire to the back side of the post with low-voltage staples. Continue stapling every few inches, carrying the wire to the next fixture by tucking it under the handrail or the deck’s framing (you’ll wire it later).
Step Eight // How to Add a Little Mood Lighting to Your Deck