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Decks 1-2-3

Home Depot's Decks 1-2-3 is a good resource for anybody who is interested in building a deck from scratch without paying the big bucks for a contractor. Decks 1-2-3 is a hardback book just under 200 pages and comes in at $24.95. Considering the amount of information inside, that's not a bad deal. There are a lot of books that talk about decks and deck designs, but very few that walk you through step by step.

Decks 1-2-3 tells you everything from how much wood you will need, to how to go about doing the actual building. Specifics like post cutting, post notching, installing beams on top of posts, and installing blocking to name a few are accompanied by numbered steps, each thoroughly explained and accompanied by a picture. 

Each task has a "skill scale" which tells what skills you will need for what project and how long it should take you. For example, Pouring Pad Footings (a cement area under the deck to support heavy items such as hot tubs or brick barbecues) requires these skills: measuring, digging, cutting and fastening lumber, mixing, pouring, screeding, and finishing concrete. (If you don't know how to do all these things, don't worry, as they are explained in the book.) Estimated time for the project is five hours for an experienced person, seven hours for a "handy" person, and eight hours for a novice. A list of "stuff you'll need" is included beneath the skill scale.

Decks 1-2-3 is divided into the following chapters:

Designing and Planning a Deck Project

This introduction discusses the designing and planning of the deck including decking patterns, calculating the stairs, calculating the railings, drawing building plans, and estimating materials. It also discusses the materials and tools you will need along with some tips for working "like a pro".

Four Deck Projects

The four deck projects discussed in this chapter are: building a single-level raised deck, building a multilevel deck, building a low-level deck, and building a ground-level deck. Pictures and descriptions are included so you can get an idea of which deck is right for your house.

Laying out a Deck

This is the chapter where things get started. It discusses installing ledger boards, laying out footing locations, and laying out a freestanding deck.

Digging and Pouring Footings

Here, you learn how to mix and pour the concrete for post anchor fasteners, footings, and pads. By the time you get to that chapter, you'll even know what those things are.


Attaching post anchors, setting posts, post cutting, post notching, building and installing beams, basically everything you need to know before you can get to the actual laying of the deck.


This chapter covers installing the deck, including a separate section on working with 45 degree angle decking if you've chosen that as part of your design.

Building Stairs and Ramps

Pretty self-explanatory -- in this section, you learn how to install the stairs. Covers extras like installing a toe kick, wrapping stairs around a corner, or building an access ramp.


This chapter includes railing post installation tips, installing railings, railings for stairs at a 45 degree angle to the deck, and railings with coated metal Balusters. 

Building Deck Accessories

If you're interested in adding onto your deck with things like skirting (to hide storage area below), benches, privacy screens, an arbor, or lighting, this chapter will tell you how.

Deck Finishing, Maintenance, and Repairs

This last chapter describes how to choose and apply a finish, clean your deck, to periodically examine your deck, to repair it when it gets worn down, and how to tear down an old deck.

Decks 1-2-3 is a good resource for anybody planning to build a deck from scratch. If you're thinking of installing an exotic deck and are looking for ideas, Design Ideas for Decks is a sound creative resource.

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