Outdoor Surfaces: Adding a Deck or Patio

By: Danny Lipford
Completed wood deck on back of home.

Completed pressure treated wood deck on back of home.

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Decks and patios can really add to the enjoyment of your home. Here’s what you need to know about adding one.

Deck Foundation

Since a wood sun deck can carry a lot of weight, it’s important to start with a solid foundation. Begin by laying out the location of the deck, making sure it’s square with the house.

After the holes have been dug for the concrete footings, rebar is cut and wired together into a grid and supported by wire a few inches above the bottom of the hole. Another piece of rebar is driven into each hole to mark the top of the concrete.

Steel straps are embedded in the concrete when the footings are poured to attach to the framing for added stability. Once the footings have dried, concrete blocks are laid to form the piers supporting the deck.

Deck Framing

Pressure treated 2” x 6” blocks are cut to cap the top of each pier, followed by 6” x 6” sills. Treated 2” x 10” floor joints are placed on top of the sills and toenailed to them.

Laying Decking

After the framework is in place, 5/4” x 6” pressure treated decking is nailed to it. Since pressure treated wood is usually delivered still saturated with preservative, the boards are installed without a gap between them. As the wood dries, it shrinks, leaving a 1/4” gap between the boards. If the lumber that is used has been dried before installation, leave a gap between the boards to allow for expansion.

To keep the boards from splitting when nailed near the end, turn the nail over and blunt the point with a hammer before driving it.


The concrete block columns are faced with brick to match the house, and the exposed edges of the floor joists covered with fiber cement planking. Checkerboard style lattice, backed by landscaping fabric, is installed around the perimeter of the deck to hide the area underneath while still allowing air to circulate.

A roof constructed over part of the deck will provide much needed shade during the hot summer months. The columns supporting the roof are faced with fiber cement boards while the ceiling was covered in vinyl soffit.

Wide steps are built from the yard up to the deck and railings installed around the perimeter. To speed up the railing process, spindles are laid out and nailed to the top and bottom rails before the sections are installed.

When constructing handrails, be sure to follow local building codes as to the height of the railing and the distance between the spindles.

Dressing up a Patio

To liven up a bland concrete patio, start by thoroughly cleaning the surface with a pressure washer, then give it character by cutting a series of shallow lines into it. After laying out the pattern for the lines, cut them into the concrete using a circular saw equipped with a masonry blade and using a board a guide.

Since this generates a lot of dust, wear a respirator while cutting.

A concrete stain or paint can then be applied to seal the surface and add a touch of color. While paints work better for covering blemishes, stains are a more durable alternative.

If you want to create an attractive patio from scratch without the time and trouble of pouring concrete, consider laying patio pavers instead.

Installing a Retractable Awnings

A retractable awning is a great way to provide your deck or patio with sun when want it and shade when you don’t. SunSetter motorized awnings extend out 10’ without the need for vertical supports and can be installed in just a few hours.

Start by popping a level caulk line where the awning will be attached to the house, and mark off the locations for the support brackets. Align the brackets with the chalk line and screw them on, using a torpedo level to make sure they’re plumb.

When everything is ready, the awning is lifted into place and bolted to the brackets. Once the awning has been plugged into an electrical outlet, it can be operated at the push of a button from a remote control.

The seamless fabric on SunSetter awnings is coated on both sides to make it waterproof and block out 99% of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Other Tips From This Episode

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Wrinkle Free Screening

Wrinkle Free Screening

The hardest part of replacing screen on a screen door is making sure it’s tight and wrinkle free. An easy way to accomplish this is by laying two 8’ long 2x4s on top of sawhorses and placing the screen door on top with 2” thick pieces of wood supporting it at each end. Clamp the door and 2x4s together on each side in the middle, causing it to bow. Attach the screen at the bottom of the door, pull it tight, and attach it at the top. When the clamps are removed, the door will spring back straight, pulling the screen taught. Finish by attaching the screen to the sides of the door while pulling out any remaining wrinkles as you go.

Best New Products with Emilie Barta:
Orion Charcoal Cooker

Orion Charcoal Cooker

The Orion Cooker uses convection, steam, and smoke to cook meats to perfection much faster than traditional smokers. Since the cooking chamber is separate from the charcoal fire, there are no flame-ups or constant maintenance to worry about while cooking. Orion’s innovative design allows a 20 lb. turkey to be cooked in just over two hours.

The Orion Cooker is available at The Home Depot.

Ask Danny:
Reducing Water Usage

What can I do to cut down on water usage and waste without sacrificing comfort? -Marcie from Merrit Island

The best way to begin saving water around the house is to monitor your water meter to see if you have any leaks, then repair any leaks you find in pipes, faucets, or toilets. You might also want to consider installing one of the new dual-flush toilets that can use less than one gallon of water per flush. Water-saving showerheads are another way to save, with some new models using much less water while still providing plenty of water pressure.

Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® are provided by Ryobi.



Please Leave a Comment

5 Comments on “Outdoor Surfaces: Adding a Deck or Patio”

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  • Patrick Says:
    March 4th, 2009 at 8:15 am

    I would like to know if you have any references for building a outdoor fireplace- I want to build it with block,stone faced with artificial stone and fire brick inside the fire box.
    Thank You!

  • Valerie Says:
    February 25th, 2009 at 9:29 am

    As a personal advice: Sunsetter awnings probably are not the best awnings you can find nowadays. In the past I chose Arquati USA awnings and I can say that they are still in good conditions after years and years.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    May 22nd, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Hi Fidelis,
    Sorry, but we don’t have a building training program. You might can find one in your area through a Jr. College or vocational school.

  • Fidelis Says:
    May 4th, 2008 at 11:52 am

    I wish to no if you have a building training program or canter were one could come for some training on a weekend

  • Ray Says:
    May 1st, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    By the way. Never nail deck boards down. As the years go by with rain and sun, the nails will slowly rise up and hurt your feet, or give you a creaky deck when walked on.
    Screwing is the best way, with deck screws.
    And don’t even consider being cheap by using 2″ by 6″‘s , as regular treated dimensional wood does have more of a tendency to create slivers over time , as compared to the 5/4 boards.

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