First person: Our DIY $16,000 dream deck

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First person: Our DIY $16,000 dream deck
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We decided to go big and build almost the entire span of the back of the house

The house my wife and I bought was constructed with the intention of having a deck built on the second level over a walk-out basement. We wanted a large, minimal-maintenance deck. In order to accomplish this without breaking the bank, I researched deck building and decided it would be best to do this project myself with the help of a friend and a contractor.

1. The first part of the project entailed getting a permit from our local code department. I drew up the plans myself after reading up on the most up-to-date requirements. The cost of the permit was $125, which included the necessary inspections.

2. The next step was to dig the holes for the footings. This was probably the most labor-intensive part of the job. It took me and a friend all day to dig eight holes 36-inches deep using a two-man auger that we rented from a local home improvement store ($50 for a one day rental). Be prepared for a major workout! After the inspector made sure the holes were up to code, the cement truck came in and filled the holes for about $150.

3. When the cement cured after about two days, it was time to build the structure ($2,500 for wood, nails, etc.). This was when I enlisted the help of a contractor since I wanted to make sure the support of this deck was done by a professional. It took about three days to build the structure of the deck, and since our agreement was for him to work for four days, he helped with the start of the decking boards.

4. The decking boards and railing was where we really splurged, and I think the final product shows it was worth the added cost. We went with composite decking, which was more expensive but also requires little to no maintenance -- a must with a deck this size. We also upgraded to the hidden fastener boards, which really makes the deck look sleek. The cost of the boards and railing was about $10,000.

I believe that building a deck from start to finish yourself with the help of a contractor is a great way to create a custom deck that is both safe and cost-effective. Like us, you'll know it was built the right way, and you will be left with a great sense of accomplishment.

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