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How to Build a PVC or Composite Deck

How to Build a PVC or Composite Deck

Kapil Tyagi |

Choosing composite decking over natural wood for your outdoor space comes with a ton of great benefits.

One of our favorites: how much easier it is to install.

However, even though the process is much simpler, there’s still plenty of important things to keep in mind before getting started.  

That’s why we created this how-to guide. Keep reading to learn how to safely and efficiently build your dream deck.

What to Know Before Building Your Deck:

1. Follow the Official Installation Instructions

This guide is designed to give you an overview of the deck building process. However, when you’re ready to build, be sure to follow the official installation instructions from the manufacturer. 

Failing to follow the official installation instructions could cause you to void your warranty. 

Here are the official installation instructions for each decking product:

  1. DIY vs. Hiring a Contractor

Next thing to consider: who is building your deck? 

We don’t blame eager homeowners for wanting to take things on themselves. After all, building it yourself helps you save money, stay in control of the design process, and lets you spend plenty of time outdoors.

However, building a deck can be a big undertaking. Hiring a professional to handle things for you adds additional cost but can save you a lot of hassle. If you’re unsure about which is right for your project, check out our DIY vs. Contractor comparison.

3. Time and Money

One of the biggest considerations when building your deck is your budget. That includes not only the money — but also time — that you’ll be spending on your project.

Depending on your project’s complexity, an average-sized deck will take about 3 weeks to complete if you’re doing things yourself. A professional can typically finish the job within a week if you’re looking to have it finished quicker.

While it tends to cost a bit more upfront, composite decking actually saves you money over the lifetime of your deck: an average of 2-4x compared to natural wood. Our cost-calculator helps you save even more money by ensuring you only pay for the materials and accessories you need. 

4. Use a Carbide Saw to Cut

Cutting composite boards is similar to cutting wood. We recommend using a miter, circular, table, or jigsaw blade to get the right shape and size for your boards. 

You’ll need to make sure the blade you use is carbide-tipped. These blades retain their sharpness over time, allowing you to make clean cuts. Normal blades can create jagged and uneven edges that will compromise the look and integrity of your boards.

5. Tools Needed

Fortunately, installing composite decking doesn’t require the expensive tools needed for natural wood planks. Just make sure you have these essentials on hand before getting started:

  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Jigsaw/Table Saw
  • Handsaw
  • Drill
  • Chalk Line
  • Square
  • Tape Measure

6. Accounting For Wastage

Mistakes happen (especially if you’re doing things yourself). Whether that happens during cutting, or miscalculating how much you need, you’ll want to account for this waste when ordering materials to avoid interruptions.

We recommend always ordering an additional 10% when purchasing boards to ensure you have enough to complete your project.

7. Check for Permits

The last thing you want is to run into trouble after completing your project. Make sure you pull all necessary building permits before things get underway. 

A contractor will usually take care of this for you, but you can do it yourself by filling out an application with your local municipal office.

Building Your Composite Deck

1. Sub-Structure

Composite boards aren’t designed to be used as structural materials. That means you’ll need to build the substructure of your deck with pressure-treated wood.

Make sure to space your joints of 12” or 16” apart to properly support your composite boards. The use of staggered blocks of wood near the center of each joist is recommended to prevent them from warping. If you’re installing decking boards diagonally, make sure the joists are 12” on centre.

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2. Using the Slide & Go system

TruNorth composite boards are designed to work with a hidden fastener system that consists of a:

  • Clip 
  • Screw 
  • And Driver Bit

This unique system allows for the expansion and contraction of your composite decking. See the full installation instructions here

3. Using Pro Plugs

For PVC boards, the Pro Plug system presents a simple and easy-to-use way to fasten your boards. 

The system’s unique tool has an independent collar on the outside that is designed to stop once it hits the board — making it virtually impossible to strip your screws. 

The system ensures the screws are set at the perfect depth every time. And since the plugs are made of the same materials as the boards, they’re guaranteed to present an ultra-sleek finished product. 

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4. Installing Your Composite Boards

Position a Slide & Go fastener on the first joist. Tighten the screw halfway to secure the fastener. Continue to add fasteners to each joist, ensuring they’re tight against the deck board. 

Once each fastener is in place, add the next deck board and align it with the first. Press the board firmly against each faster, ensuring it slides under the lip. With each board added, make sure to go back and completely tighten the screws on the previous board’s fasteners. 

You have two options when it comes to installing your boards: Parallel or Perpendicular. The choice is purely aesthetic. 

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5. Leaving Gaps Between Boards

All composite decking expands and shrinks to a certain degree when temperatures fluctuate. 

Allow a minimum of 1/16” gap at board ends for every 20°F of difference between installation temperature and the hottest temperature expected. You’ll also want to allow 1/4” distance between all material and any permanent structure or post. 

For exact spacing requirements, check the official installation instructions linked in Step 1. 

  1. Installing Fascia Boards

Fascia boards help give your deck that finished look. However, when they’re installed with traditional screws, they have a tendency to bow and warp off the joist.

The Deckfast Fascia system helps you avoid this by pre-drilling holes that are bigger than the shank of the screw. This allows each fascia board to freely expand and contract. 

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7. Railings

To install railings, the post must first be properly secured to the deck. The structure underneath the post must be built to provide a solid base for the post to be secured to. The composite boards then need to be cut to separate the boards from this piece that the post is secured to.

Install the post onto a separate block of composite material, leaving a ½” gap on each side to allow for the expansion and contraction of the material.

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8. Stairs

Stair support joists must be installed at a maximum of 12” apart. Cutting the tread boards 3” longer than the substructure will create a 1 ½’ overhang on each side —  allowing you to use fascia boards to finish each side.

Make sure to fasten each stair board directly to the structure. Pre-drill and secure each board using #8 deck screws 2 ½” in length. Each board should then be secured with at least 2 screws in each support riser.

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Need More Help? We’re Here to Answer All of Your Decking Questions!

Building a deck can be intimidating — but that shouldn’t stop you from tackling your outdoor project.

At CDD, we’re here to help you through each step in your deck-building journey. That’s why we provide comprehensive resources for DIY builders interested in taking things on themselves. We’ll also connect you with top-rated contractors to handle things for you!

Still have questions? We’re here 7 days a week to help you with anything you need. Contact us today.