Decked Out: How to Build a Pool Deck for Your Backyard

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As much as you may love your pool, a great pool deck turns it into the perfect relaxing outdoor space. Learn how to build your own pool deck.

There’s nothing that refreshes you more on a hot day than your above-ground pool. It’s cool even when the AC can’t keep up, and it’s an excuse to be outside and spend time with friends.

Yet, logistically, it can be difficult to get in and out of the pool if you don’t have a deck. Ladders work well enough, but it’s nicer to be together when you’re more on the same level, and that’s where a pool deck comes in.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to DIY a deck for your backyard pool. Here’s how to do it.

Building a Pool Deck: First Things First

Your pool and spa deck shouldn’t actually attach to the pool. Make sure it’s just aligned with the pool, rather than fastened to it, for safety reasons. Most people build the deck just under the lip of the edge of the pool.

Measure the distance as you’re making plans and cutting wood to make sure the deck will align where you want it to against the pool. Some free plans for pool decks are available online, too, if you don’t want to design your own. Check with local ordinances to make sure your deck complies with building codes.

Some decks go all the way around the pool, and some only cover one or two “sides” (circles don’t have sides, but imagine a square around your pool to visualize the sides). Plan ahead and make sure you’ll be able to access the screws in the pool’s frame to make replacing the pool liner easy. You don’t want to have to rip the deck out.

Sink the Posts

For the curved edge of the deck around the pool, set 4×4 beams about 2 feet away from the edge of the pool. These will be either a semi-circle if your deck doesn’t go all the way around, or a full circle. Dig a hole for the post about 2 feet deep and add a few inches of pea gravel.

Insert the post and secure with braces, mix your concrete, and pour it in around the post. Use a trowel to slope the concrete upwards and finish it off.

One alternative is to use concrete pier blocks to set the posts into. This saves time and effort because you avoid having to dig holes for the posts and pour concrete. Then set the rest of the beams to span the entire deck area.

Install Joists and Braces

You’ll want to install joists to make sure everything is stable. Use joist hangers around the pool to connect to the piers and posts. Then connect them with 2×6 treated boards.

For the braces, join the piers together with each other using diagonal braces. These can be 2x4s. Braces will keep the supports stable and solid.

Use one brace between each pier. Remember to connect piers in both directions: perpendicular and parallel to each other.

Install Decking

Choose whether your deck boards will run perpendicular to the pool or parallel. Either way, you’ll have to do a lot of angle cuts, but each one will look different. It just depends on how you want the final result to look.

Install 2×6 boards with 2 1/2 inch screws to the joists. Because the pool is round, you’ll have to taper each board. To save time, you can install them long (hanging over the edge of the deck).

When you have installed all of them, snap a chalk line. Then trim them all at once. If you don’t feel confident with your ability to follow a chalk line with a circular saw, then you can trim them ahead with a table saw or chop saw.

But that method takes more time and precision, not to mention extra measuring. If you don’t mind the timeline, then the extra hours can help ensure your deck looks the way you want it.

Add Guardrail

The next step is to add the guardrail. Use 4x4s for railing posts. Install them above where the deck piers are for a uniform, seamless look. You can also get posts with a decorative top, if that’s the aesthetic you like.

Use 4 1/2 inch lag screws (3/8 inch thick) to secure the railing posts to the supports. Then use 2x6s to connect the posts. Next use 2x4s perpendicular to top of the 2x6s and install them as a cap for the railing.

Next, install 2×2 balusters every 4 inches under the railing for support and a nice decorative look. You can buy these pre-cut and more decorative if you prefer.

Build the Stairs

The last step is to build the stairs. You’ll need three stringers, two for the outside and one for the middle. You can buy them pre-cut.

Set the bottom ends of the stringers on concrete patio blocks, and screw the top ends into the joists, just like you did for the joists at the beginning. Then use 2x12s to make the stair steps, screwing them into the stringers.

Ready to Swim

Your pool deck is all finished! You can still stain or paint the deck if you want. Otherwise, you’re ready to use your new deck to enjoy the rest of the summer. 

When you invite your friends over for a backyard pool party or barbecue bash, you’ll be able to explain how you did the whole project yourself. When you DIY building projects like this, you feel really good about your skills, along with saving money. Check back soon for more useful posts.

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