Note: West Coast Decks, referenced in this article, closed in 2022.
Dunn Lumber partnered with professional deck builder Ron Spillers from West Coast Decks to create a video series covering a wide range of decking questions.
In this post, Ron covers when it's suitable to DIY your deck, and when to enlist the experts.
When to DIY your deck
If your deck is going to be ground-level (less than 30” off the ground), construction methods will likely be pretty straightforward. In these situations, most of the time you will not need a permit, but it's important to still “build to code.” Building to code helps you construct a stronger, more durable deck. The Basic Deck Tip Sheet at mybuildingpermit.com contains useful charts that help you figure out spans for beams and joists and footing sizes and locations. It also provides prescriptive methods for critical connection points like the ledger board and guardrail posts. If you are looking for deck plans, it can be helpful to use an online resource like decks.com.
You'll also need to ensure you gather the correct permits based on your project and geographic location. This handy permitting tip sheet lists permit requirements for a range of Seattle-area jurisdictions and project types.
When to hire a contractor
Decks can get complicated pretty quickly. If the deck you're planning meets any of the following criteria, we recommend that you consider hiring a qualified contractor:
- The deck is one or two stories in the air
- The footprint where the deck will be built has sloping ground
- You want to put a hot tub or swim spa on your deck
- Your deck will be free-standing (not attached to the home)
- The design requires a building permit (check out local permitting regulations here)