Planning a Deck
July 21, 2004 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I would like to build a deck in the space between my home and garage. A buddy of mine is a rough carpenter who could do all of the physical labor, but he's really poor at design and organization. How should I go about getting a set of plans/drawings/materials list for him to follow? Are their architects that do this sort of thing? Any idea on cost?
posted by sharksandwich to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
 
Providing this isn't an elevated covered kind of deal I think an architect is overkill. His/her fees are likely to be more than the cost of materials and beer for your buddy combined. The trickiest part is likely going to be creating the access from the house, if it's a load bearing gable end you will definately want an expierienced contractor to frame the opening, but that can be handled separately from the deck.

Your best would probably be Home Depot or a similar home improvement megastore. They often sell complete kits with materials, plans and instructions included (some even with video). They also offer little mini-classes that can give the inexpierienced a nice overview of what's involved.
posted by cedar at 2:41 PM on July 21, 2004


Providing this isn't an elevated covered kind of deal I think an architect is overkill. His/her fees are likely to be more than the cost of materials and beer for your buddy combined.

Pfft. Depending on what's involved, I'd do it pretty cheap, and many architects might not take a job like that in the first place. The entire job would probably take about an hour, and might not even require measured drawings. The big distinction would be whether you have to get the deck permitted with the Building Department, in which case you'll need a bunch of hardline drawings and fees and spare time. Expecting an architect to handle that for you would raise the cost considerably. Otherwise it's something you could hire an intern from an architect's office to do on the side for $30, and all s/he'd need for the job is a tape measure, a pencil, a legal pad, and a meeting with your friend who's going to build it.

Whether the deck needs to be permitted or not is up to your jurisdiction. Give 'em a call. Expect to wait on hold for a while.
posted by LionIndex at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2004


My dad used to build decks on the side when he was a young architect just out of school, and I used to help him out a little when I got old enough. I can't imagine he ever did only the design portion of the job though. It seems like that part pretty much does itself. The customer says "I want a deck out to here," and maybe, "I want this funny feature over here," and you just build it that way. I'd say find an architecture student, or otherwise ask your carpenter buddy if he has any buddies who are more into the design and organization aspect. I'm sure he could just ask around on jobs.
posted by donkeymon at 4:16 PM on July 21, 2004


LionIndex, I guess.

It's just that has someone who has spent the better part of two decades banging nails I find it inconcievable that someone would hire an architect to build a deck (as I said, providing it wasn't elevated).

It's a box. You dig some holes, pour some Sakrete in them and stick a post in (repeat as needed). You lag bolt a box to the posts. You screw some joist hangers on, crown your joists and get to decking. This ain't rocket science.

I didn't mean to demean your chosen profession and there are many jobs I wouldn't even consider taking on without an architects guidance -- a deck isn't one of them. We tend to make them up as we go along :)
posted by cedar at 5:30 PM on July 21, 2004


cedar, I wasn't really disagreeing with you, and I think it would be silly to hire a full-fledged architect myself. But if someone asked me to do it, I'd do it for $30. Maybe less, if all I had to do was show up on site and chat with the builder about what he was going to build, and maybe do a quick notepad sketch. Even an elevated one (which might then require permits and the whole shebang) wouldn't really need an architect's services--most contractors/builders I know are fairly experienced with running permits. The only thing I objected to in your post was a connotation of "architects are only out to screw you", which may just be a result of my own prejudices I've picked up from dealing with builders thinking of architects as prima donnas (which is not an entirely underserved reputation).

Anyway, if shark's really concerned about his/her friend's flakey qualities, it might not hurt to have someone come out and sketch it up before they start building, but I would completely expect it to be an on-the-fly type thing.
posted by LionIndex at 5:56 PM on July 21, 2004


"The only thing I objected to in your post was a connotation of "architects are only out to screw you", which may just be a result of my own prejudices I've picked up from dealing with builders thinking of architects as prima donnas (which is not an entirely underserved reputation)."

This wasn't an entirely mistaken impression of my attitude.

Admittedly, it's colored by several unfortunate encounters over the years and I shouldn't have cast aspersions on an entire profession based on anecdotal expierience. My apologies.
posted by cedar at 6:44 PM on July 21, 2004


I'm not in either field, but I'm amazed that there's a builder out there that wouldn't just build a deck for you after a conversation in which you point at the space, show a picture of the kind of deck you'd like and offer money.

What kind of "rough carpentry" does this friend do? Just framing walls for condos? Chopping firewood?

This is what builders are for -- not just the hammering and stacking, but to be able to visualize this sort of thing.

In other words, your friend may not be qualified for the job. It might be worth it to find a builder who can do the work from his own plans.

If you can't afford that, I think Taunton has some videos on building decks, with companion books. They're usually good.
posted by argybarg at 11:18 PM on July 21, 2004


I did this a few years ago on my own. Go to your local big-box hardware store (Home Depot etc..) with a rough drawing of what you are looking for. Make sure you've measured everything and can provide the dimensions you want. They'll spit out a set of drawings, material list and basic instructoins from the software program they have on-site. Order the materials and get ready to sweat.

One thing though: Check your local building code. In my case, as my deck was over 2 feet off grade I had to have a building permit. I also had to dig some pretty serious post holes to deal with the frost line (9 postholes, 5 feet deep, tapered out at the bottom. Gah, my shoulders ache thinking about it!). Having the permit is also good when you sell the house, as the buyer can't use an un-approved deck as a leveraging point.
posted by smcniven at 4:33 AM on July 22, 2004


Thanks for all of the advice. My buddy is a rough carpenter by trade (building walls, framing windows, constructing roofs--anything done before finishers come in). He's a hard worker and seems to do a quality job. He did some work on a bathroom for me recently and that's where I got a little nervous. When he doesn't have a plan to follow he just sort of "wings it" and his consistency goes out the window. His overindulgence in marijuana seems to defeat his good intentions at saving me money. I figure with some sort of drawing that lays out the project in detail, he'll do a great job.

The project is in Wisconsin, so I'm sure I'll need to dig posts. I also want to attach the deck to both the house and the garage, with a sliding door opening leading to the deck from the house.
posted by sharksandwich at 7:26 AM on July 22, 2004


Admittedly, it's colored by several unfortunate encounters over the years and I shouldn't have cast aspersions on an entire profession based on anecdotal expierience. My apologies.

Haha!! You've worked with my former employers? No problem, though. It's understandable.
posted by LionIndex at 7:34 AM on July 22, 2004


sharksandwich: Another thing I just remembered (as you mentioned that attaching it to both the house and garage): My local code required a permit if the deck was to be attached to the building (which it was).

The plans that I got from my hardware store included the placement of post holes, support beams(?), number and length of joists and other such info. As a non-builder (but somewhat handy) I was able to build it in about 1 week.
posted by smcniven at 9:46 AM on July 22, 2004


BTW, there are architects and designers who do specialize in this sort of thing: landscape architects - here is the wisconsin chapter of landscape architects.

Or, if you're more interested in doing it on the cheap, I've found the array of landscape architecture books on ebay to be a great resource. My particular favorite is the Sunset Books series.

Good luck!
posted by jazzkat11 at 10:19 AM on July 22, 2004


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