Build A Freestanding Deck

Basic DIY skills are important for every homeowner,’ says Jake Tyson. ‘It’s a way to spread those hard earned dollars, allowing small renovations to go further than expected.’

Jake and Shannon joined forces and completed the build in a day. As resident handyman on Network Ten’s The CircleJake helped his mate Shannan Ponton knock up a deck in his yard in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Before becoming one of Australia’s best-known personal trainers Shannan was a builder and carpenter but admits to being a bit out of practice.

He says, ‘I like the satisfaction of taking a step back and enjoying something that’s been built with my own hands.’

Building the deck

Jake teamed up with Shannan at his place to build a low 2400 x 1500mm deck positioned in front of the water tank and adjacent to the paved area for barbecuing and entertaining. The area was prone to becoming soggy with rain and hard to walk on.

TIP To ensure the deck ends up perfectly flat and level, plane off any high spots on the joists and bearers once the framework is assembled.

Decking materials 

This small decking platform is made using 90 x 90mm H3 treated pine for the posts, with the H3 rating meaning it can be concreted directly into the ground.
Eight bags of quick-set concrete were used for the footings.
The framing is made from H4 treated pine, consisting of two bearers and seven joists, all cut from 140 x 45mm timber.
The frame is clad with 90 x 19mm merbau decking. On a small deck  like this uncut lengths of timber can be used. The boards were finished with decking oil for weatherproofing.


Galvanised fasteners are used for the frame, with the joists attached using 75 x 3.75mm nails and framing anchors then reinforced with 100mm x 14g bugle head screws into the posts.
Bearers secure to the posts with M12 x 150mm cuphead bolts. Decking boards are attached with 65mm x 8g stainless steel decking screws.

DIY decking guide

When building a deck consider these basic DIY pointers.

Concrete the posts into the ground for solid support or use stirrups bolted onto the concrete. Seal the bases, add a 100mm layer of gravel then check the posts are plumb.  

Attach parallel bearers onto the posts with framing anchors or secure in housings with 12mm diameter bolts.

Position the joists perpendicular to the bearers, on top of the bearers or in line with them, securing with framing anchors no more than 450mm apart.

Secure the decking boards to the joists parallel with the bearers, spacing hardwood boards 3mm apart and staggering the joints so adjacent boards don’t finish on the same joist.

For all fasteners use galvanised or stainless steel to prevent rusting.

Step 1. Excavate the site

Mark out the deck site by knocking in pegs at the corners and checking the diagonals for square. Use a shovel to remove grass and topsoil to 75mm deep, chipping away at hardened areas with a mattock.


Step 2. Build the frame

On a flat surface position the end joists between the bearers and the joists at 780mm and 1580mm, securing temporarily with galvanised flathead ails through the outside of the bearers and skewed through the top of the joist into the bearer.

Step 3. Position the frame

Position the frame against any existing landscape features and support it on packing blocks then use a spirit level to check it’s level.
TIP The base of this frame is level with the tank slab and 20mm below the paved area.

Step 4. Secure to the posts

Dig 200 x 200 x 400mm deep post holes and position a 600mm post hard against each joist and bearer 20mm from the top. Drill 3.5mm pilot holes, securing the joists with bugle head screws and the bearers with galvanised cuphead bolts.

Step 5. Concrete the posts

Check the frame for level then pour a 20 kilo bag of dry quick-set concrete in each hole, adding water, mixing well and leaving it to set.
TIP Use a steel float to angle the concrete away from the post for water runoff.

Step 6. Level the frame

Position the last three joists centred between the others, securing all the joists with framing anchors. Use a straightedge to mark high and low spots along the bearers and across the joists, removing high spots with a power planer to create a level surface.

Step 7. Secure the boards

Position a decking board to overlap the front and sides of the frame by 25mm all round. Run a stringline between nails at the ends to align the boards then use a screw as a spacer for even 3mm gaps, drilling 2mm pilot holes and securing with decking screws.

Step 8. Finish the deck

Position five boards at a time, using a straightedge to mark the centre of each joist to drill pilot holes and secure with decking screws. Attach the fascia boards to the front bearer and outside joists with decking screws.

Click on the diagram

Follow the labelled diagram to build the freestanding deck. It has the name of all the parts and the measurements to help you cut the components and assemble the deck.

Click on the cutting list

Follow the cutting list to build the freestanding deck. It has the name of all the parts and the measurements to help you cut the components and assemble the deck.  

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