Five strategies for DIY deck-building

As the snow melts, our thoughts turn to decks, docks and patios. In anticipation of the upcoming CHW Deck Issue (April), here are some tips and techniques from CHW technical editor Steve Maxwell.

By Steve Maxwell

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5. Routed-Edge Details

If you have a router, you can improve the quality of your deck with tasteful details and transform it from something ordinary into something that makes people take notice. The secret is three different router bits that you may already have in your workshop.

If you can only afford to add one large deck-building router bit to your collection, let it be a 3/4″ roundover. One pass along the top and bottom corners of the edge of standard 2-by construction lumber yields a perfect semicircular profile. This bullnose shape looks gorgeous along the front of stair treads or wherever deck boards overhang the sides of a deck. The operation takes just a few minutes, with results that are out of proportion to the effort invested.

Want even more style for your deck? Get yourself a 2 1/4″ chamfering bit. You’ll need at least a 12-amp router to spin this bit, but the results make big posts and railing parts look like a million bucks. Aim for a chamfer that’s 1/2″ to 3/4″ across, started and stopped several inches from the ends of the deck components involved.

A tiny chamfer bit in a one-handed router transforms ordinary deck boards into something special. Cut a deck board to length, then route a 3/16″ chamfer on all the upper edges of the wood before fastening it down. Repeat the process with each deck board as you complete the surface. The results look better than square-edge boards, and later they’re also easier to coat properly with finish because of the chamfer.

Building your own deck offers advantages that go beyond just saving money. As a diligent DIY builder, you also enjoy the chance to incorporate high-quality details and features that few professionals can afford. Take your time, learn what good deck design is really all about, then put it into practice in your yard. The biggest problem you’ll have is how to say “no” to all those neighbours who will want you to build a top-notch deck for them too.

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