If you’re thinking about building your own deck, you’ve probably done quite a bit of research about the materials you’ll require. But building a deck also requires quite a lot of tools. So, what hardware do you need to build a deck?
Equipment for building a deck falls into the following categories: personal protective equipment, measuring equipment such as levels and chalk lines, deck footing tools such as a shovel, deck substructure framing tools such as a nail gun, and decking installations tools such as various saws.
There are a lot of tools that are essential for building a deck, but some are a matter of personal preference or the needs of a particular build. Let’s examine the different categories of hardware required so you can put together your own specific toolkit.
Personal Protective Equipment When Building Decks
Personal protective equipment can seem like an unnecessary nuisance, but looking after your number one asset makes great sense. Wear the following:
- Safety glasses protect your eyes against flying dust and splinters from sawing and drilling. The hassle of wearing them is much less trouble than something in your eye.
- Ear protection will stop you from going deaf. When you’re working with power tools, this should be high on your priority list.
- Gloves protect your hands against splinters, of which there will be plenty on a deck project!
- Knee pads help protect your knees when installing the deck boards, as you will be kneeling a lot.
Measuring Tools When Building Decks
You will need measuring equipment at every stage of building a deck. Ensure that you have the following:
- A tape measure that measures 25 inches or more, preferably 50 inches, with a long standout for hooking onto joists. Ensure that it is easy to read.
- A chalk line with white or blue chalk for marking measurements on the decking. Red chalk is more visible but tends to stain the decking. Manufacturers of composite decking recommend using only white chalk, as even blue is difficult to remove from composite decking.
- You can also use a pencil for marking measurements with more precision than chalk.
- A carpenter’s square (framing square) measures cross-cut lines and angles. You can also use it to guide your circular saw when cutting decking.
- Speed squares to mark the boards when cutting them smaller.
- A construction calculator for calculating measurements such as the area of your deck. These days, you can download a construction app on your cell phone.
- A plumb bob ensures that vertical lines are vertical, for example, when installing posts.
- A 2 foot or 4-foot levelensures that your deck posts and beams are level and plumb. You can also use a level to transfer out heights from the ledger to individual footings when building them. Use a torpedo level for smaller pieces.
- Strings tied across your deck allow you to maintain things on an even keel without constantly referring to your level. Tie them and check them with the level before proceeding.
- Mason string line and stakes for marking out the deck footings before you begin. Use a mallet to drive the stakes.
General Tools When Building Decks
Some tools will find use at all stages of construction, so keep them handy. We recommend the following:
- A good hickory-handled hammer with a smooth face. Waffled heads work better for driving nails, but smooth faces won’t mar the wood if you tap a board.
- A cordless impact driver with good battery life. This tool will save you a lot of effort whenever you need to drive screws.
- A utility knife for sharpening pencils, cutting vinyl siding around the ledger, or removing the packaging.
- A wood chisel for lapping boards or posts.
Deck Footing Tools
To build the deck’s footing, you will need the following tools:
- A spade shovel for digging holes in the soil.
- For deeper holes, use a clamshell post hole digger.
- Use a metal pry bar to help remove rocks.
- Mix the concrete in a wheelbarrow, using a garden hose to add water. Using a wheelbarrow rather than a bucket to mix the concrete allows you to get a more consistent mix, resulting in stronger concrete.
- Use a mixing drill to mix the concrete thoroughly.
- Smooth the top of the concrete level with a concrete trowel or a woodblock.
Deck Substructure Framing Tools
To build the substructure, you will be using your measuring tools to keep things squared up and using tools such as your hammer to drive nails and your impact driver to drive screws (if your local building code allows structural screws). You will also use the following tools:
- A circular saw for cutting the substructure material to size. A beveling capacity helps when building a deck with angles or curves.
- A reciprocating saw helps to finish off any cuts too deep for the circular saw. Alternatively, use a hand saw: it will be more work but cheaper and will give you cleaner cuts.
- If your lumber is pressure-treated, you will have to treat the ends after cutting. Use a spray bottle or a brush to apply end treatment to protect the wood from rot.
- Use a nail gun to drive nails. Galvanized nails are the fastener of choice for use on your deck’s substructure. Use a compressor with 150 PSI and 6-gallon capacity.
- Clamps are an invaluable aid for holding pieces of wood together, acting as an extra pair of hands.
Decking Installation Tools
The final phase of installing a deck involves laying the deck boards. For this stage, you need high-precision tools. We recommend the following:
- A pry bar for pulling boards into position in tight spaces.
- Use a sliding bevel square to transfer angles to your mitre saw and a folding square to create a true square to ensure that your decking is precisely trimmed.
- A mitre saw (chop saw) allows you to cut multiple angles accurately when creating mitre joints.
- A table saw or bench saw allows you to rip decking accurately. You can use a circular saw with a ripping guide in a pinch, but a table saw will be more accurate.
- Use a track saw to trim the ends of the decking, or clamp a straight edge to the decking as a guide for a circular saw. As you can see, a circular saw can perform multiple functions when installing a deck. However, it’s not always the optimal tool for the job.
- A jigsaw allows you to cut the decking around railing posts accurately. Its up-and-down action prevents over-cutting.
- A router with a round-over bit allows you to ease sharp edges.
- Use a belt sander to smooth out crowns on joists before laying the decking.
- Use a random orbit sander to sand wood decking smooth enough for bare feet to walk on.
To install a railing, you will need your impact driver and level. Aluminum railing will require wrenches for the bolts.
Building a deck from start to finish will require quite a lot of hardware. If you are getting started in DIY, you may need to save up to buy some of this equipment.
If you are looking for the top deck-building tools, click the link for recommended deck tools.
However, if you already have a well-stocked workshop, you should have most of the hardware you will need to build a deck.