Expert Tips for DIY Projects

Check out helpful tips from our DIY home improvement experts to create your perfect outdoor space.  It is important to notify JULIE at least two business days before digging.  Every project.  Every time.

Interested in building a deck?  Decks are a great way to add value to your home, entertain, enjoy nature and spend time with family.  While outdoor living spaces are popular, they require extensive planning and preparation.  Decide if you would like to tackle the project yourself or hire a contractor.  Whatever you choose, don’t break ground just yet!  Pre-mark your project area with white paint and/or flags before notifying JULIE. Once your project area has been marked, contact JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 to have your lines located for free by our members. You can also enter your “locate request” via E-Request. For additional information please reference our Homeowner’s Guide.

If it’s your first time building a deck, there are many things that can be overlooked.  Become familiar with the most common mistakes below, so you can avoid them.

Use the tools available to you!  Most home improvement stores offer free deck building software that will allow you to digitally construct your deck.  While hand drawn plans may give Bob Vila the warm fuzzies, it can prompt panic and anxiety from the novice deck builder.  Digital deck building software is the easiest solution and will produce a plan before you dig a single hole or even lift a hammer.  An online deck calculator can also help you determine amount of material needed when you have chosen the type of material you wish to use.  When drafting construction plans for your deck, it’s important to consider size, shelter and seating.   A deck that takes up too much green space could harm resale value, so choosing the right size for the yard is key.  Consider creating some form of awning or retractable canopy to provide shelter against the elements.  Seating solutions shouldn’t be overlooked.  Plan out what type of seating you would like and what will function best for the outdoor living space. Built-in seating? Perhaps moveable patio furniture?  Get creative!  Also, consider if your deck will need stairs and where they should be located for optimum safety and functionality.

Most areas require a building permit for additions to a main house.  Obtaining a building permit from your local building or planning office is the first step in preparation for deck installation. Skipping this step could cost you money, time and other resources.  Submit a framing plan sample for the deck that includes the following: deck location, railing heights, space between railing pickets, location of foundation piers, size of joists, size of posts, size of deck boards and decking material used. A cross section sample plan that provides a “cut-through” view of your proposed deck will also be requested, along with a copy of your property survey.  The plan examiner might ask for additional information, so be sure to have all construction specifics at the ready.  Once the building permit has been issued, you can begin deck construction, but be prepared for site visits from your local building inspector. Building inspectors will show up unannounced to confirm your plans and ensure compliance of local building and safety codes.

All deck materials should be chosen according to how well they resist rust, decay and warping.  Pressure treated wood is the most popular material used when building a deck; however, there are a multitude of options available; vinyl, composite of plastic, natural untreated wood just to name a few.  Each option varies in price, durability and overall maintenance.  When choosing nails, bolts, screws and metal fasteners be sure to use galvanized, aluminum or stainless steel.  All options combat rust.  Select material that will be the most functional, durable and extend the lifetime of your deck.  A well constructed deck built with quality materials is the best way to ensure the longevity and safety of your deck.  Another tip, always read and follow manufacturer instructions. For example, using the incorrect nail size with a fastener could cause corrosion leading to equipment malfunction.

Never make dangerous assumptions.  Always contact JULIE before you begin a dig to have your utility lines located for free by our members.  Utility lines could be buried just beneath the surface of your dig site.  Hitting a utility line could disrupt service, cause   serious harm to you or result in costly repairs and fines.  It is crucial that you call JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 before breaking ground; you can also submit a “locate request,” via E-Request by visiting or contact a call center agent at anytime.  Call center agents are available 24/7 to process requests.  If you choose to begin your project over the weekend, remember to notify JULIE by Wednesday at 4 p.m. All projects must begin within 14 days from your notification to JULIE.

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