Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford
Building a Family Friendly Wood Deck
By: Danny Lipford
We’re removing an old deck and flagstone patio from the back of homeowners Jason and Kyndall Outlaw’s house; and replacing it with a new pressure treated wood deck with a built-in sandbox that’s safe for their child to use.
Deck projects featured include:
- Setting deck foundation posts in concrete.
- Installing deck ledger strips and floor joists.
- Attaching wood decking with CAMO Edge Pro hidden deck fasteners.
- Installing pressure treated wood lattice around the deck foundation.
- Building pressure treated wood steps from the deck to the yard.
- Constructing wood handrails around the deck and down the steps.
- Adding a built-in sandbox to the deck.
Read episode article to find out more.
- How to Build a Wood Deck (video)
- Adding a Built-in Sandbox to a Wood Deck (video)
- How to Build Wooden Deck Stairs (video)
- Building Handrails for a Wood Deck (video)
- Installing Wood Lattice Around a Deck Foundation (video)
Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re helping a young couple improve their backyard with a new deck that’s friendly for the whole family.
Kyndall Outlaw: This is the hole that I drilled with the…
Danny Lipford: The auger?
Kyndall Outlaw: That’s it.
Danny Lipford: Jason and Kyndall Outlaw are the owners of this almost 70-year-old home and the parents of this beautiful 14-month-old little girl. Like most new parents, they’re learning on the job. Jason’s a high school teacher and coach, while Kyndall juggles college classes and their daughter Kennedy.
Kyndall Outlaw: Kennedy is busy. She’s on her feet. She’s all over the place. And she loves outside. She loves being outside. But we don’t get to keep her outside as much because it’s a little bit dangerous out there for her.
Danny Lipford: This area just outside the back door is what has Kyndall concerned, and that’s what we’re hoping to help with.
Jason Outlaw: When you walk out, immediately you’re standing on a concrete slab. Of course, if Kennedy falls going up or down those stairs, you know, we’re looking at a head injury or a serious break; or, you know, something that’s not going to be good.
Kyndall Outlaw: And so it’s a huge concern. I spend most of the time that I’m outside with her chasing her away from the stairs.
Danny Lipford: These two have made several improvements to their home, but they’re discovering that parenting can make diy projects a bit more challenging.
Jason Outlaw: We’ve both been trying to finish school. So we get married and throw a baby into the mix, and it’s just made things around here a little hectic.
Kyndall Outlaw: So home improvement—finishing things that we start—it tends to take a lot longer just because we get so little time together anyway. So it prevents us from getting some of the things done that we want to get done.
Danny Lipford: Like building a deck in that problem corner out back.
Kyndall Outlaw: Yeah, we’ve talked about it a lot. And having a place to just sit in the morning and have coffee, and let her down and run around while we do that. It’s just a nice somewhere for us to be in the mornings. And like he said, we just don’t have a place to be when we go outside.
And the house and the backyard, you know, we put down the concrete in the back. We got the new shed put up. So as far as it all, I think, looks so much better than it did; but there’s the eyesore in the corner. And I just feel like that’s holding it back from what it could be.
Danny Lipford: So let’s see what we can do about that.
Jason Outlaw: Yeah. So, you see here, this is what we were talking about.
Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah. I see so many little safety issues here.
Jason Outlaw: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, some of them, you can’t see. For instance, I mean, that’s a danger in itself. I’ve fallen off of that several times.
Danny Lipford: I can see Kennedy slipping right under there.
Jason Outlaw: Oh, yeah. Several of these are loose over here. You know.
Kyndall Outlaw: There she goes.
Jason Outlaw: The broken up rocks here, the whole…
Danny Lipford: Ultimately, what would you guys think? What have you thought about, dreamed about having out here?
Jason Outlaw: I’ll be honest, man, just a beautiful, nice, flat deck.
Danny Lipford: Yeah.
Jason Outlaw: That’s level with where these pads are now, you know. Just come straight across and maybe one stair system so that it’s not so dangerous for her.
Danny Lipford: I’m not sure this really needs to stay.
Jason Outlaw: And it’s unsafe. I mean, it’s a trip hazard, for sure.
Kyndall Outlaw: And another thing about this, my sister actually has been telling me for a very long time now, if we decide to do a deck or we end up getting this out of here, she would love to use it.
Danny Lipford: Oh, really?
Kyndall Outlaw: Yes.
Danny Lipford: Oh, so we might get a little free labor if we decide to.
Kyndall Outlaw: That’s right. She will come grab it herself.
Danny Lipford: We can use all the labor we can get.
So Allen and I begin taking measurements and making plans.
I’ve created this wonderful artist’s rendering.
Allen Lyle: Oh.
Danny Lipford: So door here, over there, this door here. And then if we just stop the deck right in here, and then let the steps come up right here, then we can have real handrails all around. Did you see that?
Allen Lyle: Yeah, I did.
Danny Lipford: Did you see? Like, look at that. And they have a little girl, Kennedy, and, I mean, enough said.
Allen Lyle: Yeah, really. And I say just build it independently, and not even tie it to the house.
Allen Lyle: OK. Let me ask you this. I see this sandbox over here.
Danny Lipford: Yeah.
Allen Lyle: So they don’t go back and forth. What do you think about integrating it into a deck?
Danny Lipford: Well, if we did, right in here.
Allen Lyle: Yeah.
Danny Lipford: And we could kind of do that as a surprise and not let them know about it.
Allen Lyle: Right, right.
Danny Lipford: So a few days later, Mike and Tim from our crew arrive with the materials so we can get to work.
Jason Outlaw: Kyndall says she came to work.
Danny Lipford: She came to work? OK. You put those gloves on, Kyndall, and we’ve got a special little tool for you here.
Kyndall Outlaw: Oh, swing and a miss.
Danny Lipford: Let me point again, right here.
Allen Lyle: There it is.
Danny Lipford: Up high, up high. There you go. So you could do batting practice with Jason.
Kyndall Outlaw: I could do batting practice, I just need to work on my aim.
Danny Lipford: Well, already took care of that.
Allen Lyle: We may not need this jackhammer.
Danny Lipford: I know it.
But since Kyndall seemed so eager, we let her give it a shot.
All right. There you go. OK, we only need to do that 12 more times.
The brick steps come down pretty easily, but those concrete slabs are more stubborn because they’re reinforced with wire. So we let coach Outlaw work out his frustrations on it.
Once we cut the reinforcement wire, we can move the pieces out. Let’s try that again. Why’d you do that to me? You ready?
Allen Lyle: Uh-huh.
Danny Lipford: And get to work on the other set of steps.
Joe Truini: Replacing a wooden handle on a shovel is a simple enough job, so simple you don’t think there’d be a way to do it wrong. But there actually is a wrong way to do it, and it’s done wrong all the time.
If you take a look at a handle, you’ll see that there is face grain, identified by these oval patterns. Then there’s straight grain—nice parallel lines of grain. Now, if you install the handle this way, it’s much weaker than if you install it with the straight grain facing up.
It’s similar to a two-by-four. If you imagine a two-by-four on edge, how it’s very strong, has no flex, but a two-by-four on flat will bend. That’s the same principle why these handles will last longer if you put the straight grain up.
And if you don’t, this is the result. This is a shovel I was using earlier, and the handle snapped off. And if you look closely, you’ll see why. Here’s the face grain facing up. The manufacturer should have rotated it 90 degrees so the straight grain would be facing up. This handle would have lasted a lot longer.
So the trick to remember is whenever you’re replacing a wooden handle on any tool, always put the straight grain facing up.
Danny Lipford: This week, we’re helping Jason and Kyndall demolish some old concrete stairs and a crumbling, flagstone patio to make way for a new deck that’ll be a safer place for their daughter, Kennedy, to play.
How’s that going? Oh, that doesn’t look too good.
Allen Lyle: It’s not good at all. It’s on a slab, and it was cemented to the slab, and it’s got a rock-solid bond.
Danny Lipford: I was hoping that was just like a little skim coat or something.
Allen Lyle: I was, too.
Danny Lipford: Let me see. We’ve got the jackhammer right here. Hey, Jason, come here. Come here a second. You know, the flagstone will probably come up fairly easy after we get it started. So Kyndall’s sister will be able to get those, even though a lot of it will break up.
But we’ve got a fair amount of jackhammer we’re going to have to do to get this out so we can plant this grass in here. So what do you think?
Jason Outlaw: To be honest with you, it looks like it’s about time for me to go coach some football. Kyndall seemed to be handling that thing pretty well.
Allen Lyle: Wait, are you leaving?
Jason Outlaw: Why don’t you let her have that? I’ll see you guys later.
Danny Lipford: All right. How do you like that?
Allen Lyle: Oh, boy.
Danny Lipford: Man.
Allen Lyle: Thanks, coach.
Danny Lipford: Thanks, coach.
Allen and I keep wrestling the jackhammer to give Kyndall a brief break. But soon her sister Kelly arrives, and the two of them start moving off the flagstones Kelly is saving for a project at her house.
Danny Lipford: You OK?
We’re making good progress, but the heat is taking a toll. To speed up the hole digging, we’ve rented an auger.
Allen Lyle: Got a new toy for you, Kyndall.
Kyndall Outlaw: All right.
Danny Lipford: After a quick lesson…
Allen Lyle: You want to square your feet with your shoulders…
Kyndall Outlaw: All right.
Allen Lyle: …and let it do the job for you.
Danny Lipford: …Kyndall tries her hand with an auger, and so far, nothing seems to trip this lady up. We’re supporting this deck on posts independent of the house so that we don’t have to do any flashing along the edges.
These posts are not just pressure treated, they’re treated for ground contact, so they’ll hold up under the dirt and several pounds of fast-setting concrete.
We’re pulling strings along the outer edge to be sure the posts are perfectly aligned before we set them in concrete and check them for plumb with a level.
In the middle of the deck, a two-by-eight set a few inches lower will support the deck joist mid span. So now we’re ready for those joists.
Oh, man, that looks great. I love the little ledger strip. You know, we’re almost through with this first day of work. Got a lot of work done, but let me point out a couple things that we’ve done because there’s a lot of different ways to build a deck.
First of all, we built it completely independent of the house. So it’s not attached in any way. Another thing that we’ve done here is, you see the little two-by-two here that we call a ledger strip.
Now, when you’re putting your joists up, you can just nail them straight to the piece of wood here when you have a ledger strip. Nice and level, and this is a great way to support it.
Now, you can use the metal clamps or metal straps to hold it, but they’re going to rust. Sooner or later, you’re going to have some problems with this. This is a foolproof way to make sure you’ve got a good, strong deck. Hey, we got a little time left today. We’re going to see if we can’t get some of these joists in place.
Using the ledger strip does require the extra step of notching the end of every joist so it hooks over that ledger. But it also simplifies the installation because it’s so easy to position the joist for accurate spacing and hold it in place while you’re nailing it.
We’ll wrap up day one with some small jobs, like cutting the inside post flush with the joist and driving all those dozens of lag screws we need to secure the band joist.
Early the next morning, Kyndall fills Jason in on the work we did after he left the first day. This is the hole that I drilled with the…
Jason Outlaw: The auger?
Kyndall Outlaw: That’s it.
Jason Outlaw: Yeah? Well, it looks good.
Kyndall Outlaw: We had a picture, but it’s bigger than really what was in my head. I’m so excited about it.
Jason Outlaw: Well, if you’re happy, I’m happy.
Kyndall Outlaw: That’s right.
Danny Lipford: So while Kyndall sees Jason off to work, Allen gets started laying out the sandbox location.
Danny Lipford: I’ve got this thing.
Allen Lyle: Oh!
Danny Lipford: So I’m going to hang this up on the wall and see what you think. How about the box? You think it’s going to work OK?
Allen Lyle: Yeah, the sandbox is going to work out great, so I think everything is just fine. I’m measuring it out right now to place it.
Danny Lipford: Perfect. Let me get me a nail, and I’ll go hang my thermometer.
Allen Lyle: Now, by the way, let me say this about this sandbox. This is a really simple design. I used the same two-by-sixes that the joists are, screwed some five-quarter on the bottom of it, that’s for the bottom.
It, of course, is going to be holding sand, but I’ve got all these gaps in here because we’ve got to let water go through. So that’s for the water to go through. I’ve got landscape cloth, that’s going to keep the sand in place. All we got to do, set it in place, get our joists in, and we’re ready for decking.
Jodi Marks: You know, if you’re building an outdoor living space, like a deck, you need to put some stuff on it for yourself, too. And one of those would be a great grill. And we found one, didn’t we, Shea?
Shea Pettaway: Yes, a great grill Weber Spirit has. One of my favorite components is you can use this griddle that you can put fajitas, onions, and you can do pancakes.
Jodi Marks: See, that is really cool because you’ve got a full surface here to do hamburgers, hot dogs, things that you would usually do on a grill. But like Shea did, she popped that center out, put this in. You can do fajitas, like she said, you can scramble your eggs. You can do other inserts that are sold as well. This does chicken roasting. You just slide your chicken on there. You can also do pizza, too.
Shea Pettaway: Right, pizza.
Jodi Marks: This is fantastic.
Shea Pettaway: And let me tell you another feature that this Weber grill has. It has a propane indicator.
Jodi Marks: So that tells you where you are. Usually you have to run out before you know that your propane tank needs to be refilled.
I’ll tell you what. Let’s put it in the box, let’s take it up to the register. I think I’ve found what I’m going to get myself.
Shea Pettaway: I’m ready to go.
Danny Lipford: Our deck addition for Jason and Kyndall is flying right along. Allen and I have completed installing this sunken sandbox he built for their daughter Kennedy.
Then Mike and Tim got busy on the steps. These pre-cut stair stringers they’re using from YellaWood make that easy for DIYers. Just measure the height of the deck, and divide that number by seven. Then round up to get the number of steps you’ll need.
Kyndall Outlaw: It sure is hot out here. How are you guys doing?
Danny Lipford: It is very hot, the temperature says 102.
Kyndall Outlaw: This is awesome. Jason is going to be really excited that we’ve got the water pulled out here.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, we were able to just extend it out here so that he’ll have his hose out here and so forth.
Kyndall Outlaw: What is this?
Danny Lipford: Well, we know that Kennedy loves her sandbox, and that sandbox was just way too small for her.
Kyndall Outlaw: Yes.
Danny Lipford: So this is actually going to be a sunken sandbox in the deck.
Kyndall Outlaw: Are you serious?
Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah. It’s going to be cool, huh?
Kyndall Outlaw: That is fantastic. She is going to be so excited, and this is going to be great. All right. I’m ready to get my hands dirty again. What you got for me?
Danny Lipford: Well, I’ll tell you what, lot of times, people wait to put the under skirting and the lattice, last thing. We’re going to do it right now where it’s a lot easier to get to. So you can help us with that.
Kyndall Outlaw: Awesome.
Danny Lipford: All right.
The first step for the skirting is adding blocking for it to attach to, and Allen manages to give our petite new friend the dirtiest job yet.
Allen Lyle: She’s actually doing it.
Danny Lipford: We can rip the four-by-eight sheets of lattice in half to get the pieces we need, but you have to be aware that lattice can be fragile.
Kyndall Outlaw: Is this a joke?
Danny Lipford: It’s, it’s not a joke. You’re much stronger than you look.
Once we get all the lattice in place, we mark and cut the posts to the height we’ll need for the handrails.
All right, Allen, we got all our posts cut, ready for our handrails as soon as the decking’s done. You ready for some decking?
Allen Lyle: Oh, no. I’m worn out. It’s been a long day. Can we do that tomorrow?
Danny Lipford: It has been hot, but it’s getting cooler right now. Look. We’re down to 97 degrees, a nice cool spell. But it is getting kind of late, so let’s wait on that.
But the guys just about have the slab ready to go. We can have them pour that. Me and you and Kyndall can go ahead and put the grass down, get it watered in, and we’ll be a step ahead.
Allen Lyle: I’ll go get her.
Danny Lipford: All right, man.
Mike and Tim are mixing up more of the Quikrete fast-setting mix to fill the pie-shaped void between the deck and the existing driveway.
Finally, to wrap up day two, we’ll put in some sod where the old flagstone patio used to protrude into the yard. I just don’t understand why Allen can’t be as energetic as I am about this project.
So at the start of day three, all we have left is the decking itself and the handrails. While we’re working out the kinks with that, Kennedy is patiently playing in her old sandbox until the new one is complete.
Chelsea and Kyndall are putting in two layers of landscape fabric in the sandbox, but the closer they get to completion, the less patient Kennedy seems to be.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, now you want to play with the scissors? There we go. All right, we are ready for sand.
Kyndall Outlaw: You ready for sand? Are you ready for sand?
Danny Lipford: It looks like nap time for this little trouper. So her mom and Chelsea can help out with the decking.
All right, we got some help.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Yeah, show us what these contraptions are.
Danny Lipford: Hop over here. Let me show you what we’re doing. Kyndall, you do that side. Turn the drill on first. Boom.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: And then you put your weight behind it?
Danny Lipford:That’s it.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Kind of push it in?
Danny Lipford: With all these hands working at once, the deck boards go down quickly. Jason dropped by between school and practice, so he jumps in to help Allen with the lid for Kennedy’s sandbox.
Jason Outlaw: Oh, yeah. Like a glove.
Allen Lyle: There’s your handle for reaching in, just pick that up.
Jason Outlaw: Oh, that’s awesome.
Danny Lipford: Well, I tell you what, little Kennedy is going to love that sandbox. And she’ll be safe while she’s playing in it because we’re going to build the right type of handrail. And anytime you’re doing anything in building a deck, you got to make sure those handrails are very, very safe.
Now, you saw earlier how we took our four-by-four posts, put them all the way down into concrete. So they’re not going anywhere.
Now we’re working on the actual handrail. And what’s important here is that you keep your spindles or your balusters fairly close together. Good rule of thumb about every six-inch centers, so that you have about in this case about four-and-a-half inches between it—hat’s a good, safe distance.
Preassembling these things while they’re laying flat is the way to go because gravity is working for you, not against you. Then you just need a few screws to attach them to the post. After that, a cap is made from the five-quarter deck board to finish it off.
Finally, we’re putting in a handrail for the adults and a separate one for little Kennedy.
Kennedy, I want you to decide on how high you want your handrail, OK? OK? Come here. Come here. Hold this. Yeah. Got to put your hand on it. There.
Jason Outlaw: You can hold it.
Danny Lipford: Hold that. There you go. Put the hand on it. Is that a good height? OK. Is that good? OK.
Danny Lipford: One of the things people often ask about wood decks is how long do I have to wait before I seal or stain the pressure-treated wood?
The short answer is around 30 days, but there’s a number of factors to consider, including the weather, and how long the wood sat in the lumber yard or home center. The best way to know for sure is to test the wood.
This is what the folks at YellaWood suggest. Pour a few drops of water on the deck. If it beads up, it’s still too wet to coat, and you’ll need to wait a while. If it absorbs the water easily, it’s ready for sealer or stain.
Whether you choose a clear sealer or a semi-transparent stain, look for one with a long warranty and UV stabilizers. Then apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and you’ll be giving your new deck the best protection possible.
Once we completed building Jason and Kyndall’s deck, they went to work—with Chelsea’s help—to decorate it with furniture and flowers, and to fill up the sandbox for Kennedy. In fact, Kennedy’s even been practicing with her brand-new handrail.
Hey, this is a far cry from the old crumbling steps she used to play on with the rickety handrails. The patio was full of trip hazards, and that old stump in the corner, well, it was a major eyesore.
Now this family has a large, flat deck for everyone to enjoy. It fits right into the corner of the house and adds character and charm to the whole house. The single set of steps offers safe, convenient access for both grownups and toddlers alike. And once the flush cover is removed to reveal the sandbox, there’s a great spot for Kennedy to play while mom and dad relax.
Jason Outlaw: Oh, look at that.
Danny Lipford: How do you like that? There you go.
Kyndall Outlaw: Can you do some raking?
Danny Lipford: All right. I think she’s going to have a little fun in that sandbox. And I hope we’ve been able to show you how simple building a deck in your backyard can be, whether you need a sandbox or not. But I would recommend picking a few cooler days than we chose—100 degrees is a little too hot to be building any kind of deck around your backyard.
You can find out more information at our website, TodaysHomeowner.com.
I’m Danny Lipford. Thanks so much for being with us, and I hope we’re able to see you next week right here on Today’s homeowner. All right. She’s getting into it.
She can really get an idea if you just open this up and see exactly what the little drawing shows.
Kyndall Outlaw: You tried to get me.
Danny Lipford: Dang. All that for that?
Kyndall Outlaw: I am terrified of these! I am terrified of these!