Essential Tools to Build A Deck
Once you’ve completed the design phase and purchased all your materials, it’s about time to start on your dream deck project! However, before you start, you should always make sure you have all the right tools. If you’re handy enough, you might already have everything you need.
And if you don’t, not to worry! We’ve got you covered with a list of all the deck-building tools you’ll need from start to finish. Because hand tools are relatively inexpensive, we recommend that you buy them, even if you’ll only use them for your deck! On the other hand, power tools can be pricey for this type of project, so you might want to opt for some rentals.
Separate Deck construction tools into five categories:
- layout and measuring
- general carpentry and digging
- smoothing and shaping
Is it Possible to Build a Deck Yourself?
If you are wondering, “Can I build a deck myself?”, here are a few important don’ts when it comes to new deck building.
Tools for Planning Layout and Measuring
One of the most critical parts of building a deck is ensuring that everything is even and level. Take care of this early on by measuring and planning. It will make the job a lot easier when you reach the assembly stage.
Long Measuring Tape
Like any carpentry project, a tape measure is essential. You’ll be working with different sizes of wood that you’ll need to make fit your design, so accuracy is key. The most common wood deck construction issues are caused by boards not fitting properly, so be sure you accurately mark them before you start cutting. A 25-foot tape measure should cover most jobs, but you can always go longer for a large deck.
Remember: Measure twice, cut once!
Chalk Boxes or Chalk Lines
The chalk lines, or chalk boxes, are another key tool for building a deck. When working with hand tools or making cuts, you want your lines to be as straight as possible to avoid any unevenness. The chalk liner uses a chalk-coated string that snaps into place to make a straight line marking. Keep in mind that you’ll want to use blue-colored chalk, which will wash off easily, and not red chalk, which is fairly permanent.
Like the chalk line, the carpenter’s level is a guide that helps you set your flat surfaces to be perfectly level. This goes for the deck framing, the deck boards, and the finished product. Having a level is an essential tool because, after all your measurements, cuts, and the building process, the last thing you want to end up with is a sloped surface.
Tools for Excavation
Hand tools can typically handle the task of excavation, but you might want to hire a landscaper or rent an earth-moving or post-hole-digging machine for very large jobs.
You’ll be digging out space for the deck’s foundation so some digging tools will be required. You can use a spade shovel to get into the earth and remove soil. You can also mark the areas for excavation using a mason’s line. A drain spade has a narrow blade that helps dig shallow post holes. For deeper post holes, use a clamshell post hole digger.
Pipe and Squeeze Clamps
Use clamps to hold specific pieces in alignment while driving in the fasteners. A pipe clamp is as long as the pipe you attach the two parts to. A squeeze clamp will grab quickly, but sliding clamps have a firmer grip.
Wrenches and Pry Bars
A flat pry bar slips into narrow spaces and pulls boards into position with minimal damage to the wood. A pry bar/nail puller does those jobs as advertised but will likely mar the wood. For tightening bolts and nuts, use a crescent wrench, also called an adjustable wrench, while you may need a pair of locking pliers to hold the other end of the fastener. Hand sledges are sometimes required to persuade tight boards into position.
Tools for Construction
While deck construction doesn’t require that your cuts be as precise as those for cabinetry, they should still be very accurate.
Circular Saw or Miter Saw
The circular saw will likely be the one you use most for this project. It helps to choose one that comes with or can attach a carbide-tipped combination blade, as this will generally last longer than steel and make cleaner cuts.
Another great choice is the miter saw. With deck construction, you’ll find that in addition to straight cuts to size the pieces of wood correctly, angle cuts (usually 45 degrees) are common as well. The miter saw’s pivoting blade allows you to cut at an angle more precisely than a circular or table saw. A miter saw lets you make more creative patterns with your wood rather than being stuck with standard straight planks.
The jigsaw (also known as the saber saw) is excellent for cutting in tight spots and making curved cuts and an oscillating saw for even tighter spots.
Power Drill or Cordless Drill
Using screws to secure your decking boards will keep your deck sturdy down the road, so you’ll need a good power drill! You’ll need to pre-drill all your holes for hardwoods like Ipe, so it would be good to invest in a carbide-tipped drill bit.
For flexibility, 18- or 20-volt cordless drills are also very popular for fastening. An impact driver makes it easier to drive screws and bolts very firmly, and if you plan to install decking with face screws, consider using a speed driver. It uses a clip you can preemptively load with screws, allowing you to fasten a lot more quickly.
In securing your decking boards, it isn’t one-size screw fits all. Your decking material will determine what screw type or fastening system you’ll use, whether face screws, hidden fasteners, or a hybrid. Composite decking requires you to use specific fasteners and methods to maintain the warranty, and different dimensions will require different hardware.
Nail Gun with Air Compressor
Nails can be a great, quick way to hold together the many parts it takes to construct your deck. Using a compressed-air-powered nail gun, you can secure brackets, joist hangers, anchors, and more into place for the framing. You can also use it to secure the decking if you prefer to use nails over screws.
Functional and versatile, the framing hammer is a great all-around tool to have, especially for a decking project. The framing hammer gets the job done, whether you’re hammering in posts, securing the framing, or wedging boards together. It can also replace the nail gun to secure framing or joists or places the nail gun can’t reach.
Once your boards are in place, it’s time to finish up! You can use a belt sander, though be careful not to dig into the wood. Random orbit sanders effectively smooth the surface, remove any stains, and are easier to use. You can also always sand it down by hand if you’d prefer.
Tools for Increasing the Life of Your Deck
Before you start any construction, however, you need to know a few more things. First, because we’ll be working with outdoor wood, there is always the possibility that the wood will start to rot down the road. Over time, even pressure-treated and the densest lumber will be exposed to the seasons and begin to break down.
However, you can get out in front of the decay by protecting your joists, beams, and ledger boards with butyl flashing tape. Deck flashing tape will not only help you save on future maintenance and upkeep costs, but it’ll extend your deck’s overall lifetime and improve its integrity. It’s super easy to apply, and it’ll keep moisture out of the wood for years to come.
Tips to Find Free Deck Building Plans
The Trex Deck Design Program allows you to envision your deck from the start by playing around with materials, colors and creating a shopping list that has everything you need for your project. Check all your local ordinances and building codes before committing to a project. Take a look today and start planning out the deck of your dreams!