A deck is high on the list of must-haves for homeowners who enjoy the great outdoors. It expands your usable living space and provides a great place to relax or entertain. It's little wonder that so many folks opt to extend their decks or build a new one from scratch.

But if you decide to take on this big-time home improvement project alone, you need to do it right. Any mistakes can be a waste of time and money, especially if you end up needing to calling in someone to fix your errors.

What can you do to prevent a major building misstep? Avoid the following flubs.

1. Ignoring codes and permits

Your home is your castle, and you have the right to build any type of deckyou want, right? Sort of.

“You need to have a copy of your local codes for decking and railing, and build your deck plan accordingly,” says Geoff Case, senior merchant for pressure-treated wood products at the Home Depot.

The building code is often derived from the International Residential Code, and amendments are made at the local level.

"While you need to be aware of IRC requirements, it's often the local changes that do-it-yourself builders forget about,” Case explains.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to find the information you need to stay in compliance—you can find many of the municipality-specific requirements on your city or county website.

But the deck will likely be in your backyard, hidden from the public, so do you need a building permit?

Doug Fritsch, director of web and package sales at 84 Lumber, warns against taking the chance.

“If your project is flagged by a building inspector, you may have to rebuild significant portions, or maybe even tear the deck down,” he says.

2. Choosing the wrong materials

There are a variety of woods and treatments to choose from, so you’ll need to know which one is best for your project.

“A popular treated deck board is 5/4-by-6 inches, which has a rounded edge and a great finished look,” Fritsch says. However, composite decking is also popular because it’s mostly maintenance-free.

The type of treatment you use is also important.

“Using the incorrect treatment type for your decking can cause it to deteriorate at a faster rate,” Case warns. “Make sure deck joists, beams, and ledgers are installed using wood treated for ground contact use.”

3. Waiting too long to make changes

It’s understandable to change your mind when building a new deck, but try to make any modifications as early in the process as possible.

“Make your mistakes and changes in the design phase, not when construction has started,” says Fritsch. He recommends using the free design service offered by most lumberyards.

“This will help you visualize your deck in 3D and collaborate efficiently with everyone involved in the construction,” he says.

4. Forgetting to seal the deck

To extend the life of the wood, you must seal the deck.

"Wood that is unsealed can get weathered and deteriorate much faster than sealed decks,” says Case.

5. Using the wrong type of hardware and fasteners

Your deck’s strength depends on more than just the decking boards.

“Homeowners should buy and use products like joist hangers, railing mounting brackets, post-to-beam hardware, and correct-length deck screws that are approved specifically for deck building,” says Case. “Usually, these are stainless-steel, polymer-coated, or hot-dipped galvanized materials.”

Why can't you just use the nails and screws you have on hand? They might not stay in place.

“When wood expands and contracts, nails have a tendency to pop out above the surface,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman. He recommends exterior-grade screws instead, since they’re less likely to come loose in the future, but can be taken out if you need to replace a board.

6. Skimping on handrails

For specific types of decks, handrails are required, so make sure you don't forget them.

“Any stairs over four steps in length must have a continuous handrail on at least one side, and it must be graspable for the full run of the stairs,” Case says.

7. Ignoring aesthetic details

Don't get so obsessed with sturdiness that you lose sight of making the deck look good, too. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting aesthetic details.

“I recommend adding a band detail around the edge to conceal the end of the joists,” says Patti Wynkoop, vice president of product development and purchasing at Miller & Smith, a home building company in McLean, VA.

She also recommends wrapping the structural posts and trimming the cap and bases. “This gives a sense of proportion and finish,” she says.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Teri Williams