Past Project: Back deck

Living room sofa; cloudy, 46.4 F 0617

With the new well installation completed, I built a small deck for the back door. This area was an eyesore since we moved into the house. It was the main entrance and there was a large step to get in. When my friend Jay took the deck off of the back of his house, he asked if I wanted to salvage any wood from it. That was all it took to get moving.

Back entry area

Jay’s old deck lumber was pressure treated and in good shape. I saved a fair amount of money by using it. I had to remove some deck screws and clean it up a little bit. The sonotubes, rebar, hangers, ready mix concrete and the decking from one of the big box hardware stores. Truth be told, Trex composite decking would have been a better choice. The pressure treated decking lasted 13 years before it started rotting out. This was even after applying Thompson’s Water seal, which was another mistake. Live and learn.

Doing this the correct way required a building permit. No problem.

Sonotube, rebar, J bolts, etc
Sakrete ready mix concrete

Sonotubes are six inches in diameter. Digging the footings was a bit arduous. I rented an earth auger, however, there are so many rocks that I ended up digging them mostly by hand. Footing depth is four feet to get below the frost line. I put some crushed stone in the bottom of each footing for better drainage.

Sonotube, ready to be inspected

When the footing forms were in place, I called the town code enforcement officer for a pre-pour inspection. Using the chart on the side of the Sakrete bag, I calculated two and one thirds bags per footing. I mixed that by hand in a wheel barrow then dumped the concrete into the form.

Leveling the sonotube footings
Deck footings poured

Twenty four hours later and we have deck footings!

I put several inches of crushed stone and a drain pipe under the deck. This is around the side of the house were water tends to collect during heavy rain.

Gravel and drain pipe

The framing went pretty fast. I bolted a 2 x 10 header to the house. It took a few evenings to complete the frame then put the decking down.

Header bolted to the house
Basic frame
The frame is supported by 6×6’s salvaged from Jay’s house
Installing the joists, salvaged 2 x 8 lumber from Jay’s house
Framing complete, ready for inspection
Decking installed

Overall the end result came out nice.


I installed the railing because I like the look. Building code does not require a railing unless the deck is more than 21 inches above ground level. I put chicken wire around the deck, buried to about 8 inches deep to keep critters from moving in under the deck. There are a lot of skunks around and it would be unpleasant to have one underfoot by the back door.

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