After fixing up your front fence and taking care of a little landscaping, you might feel familiar enough with home repairs to build a back deck. After all, since most decks are comprised of a few beams, a little concrete, and some wood planks, how hard could it be? Although deck building might seem like a fun way to add a little value to your home, making a few errors could create serious hazards. Here are two DIY deck building mistakes that could cause a disaster, and how you can avoid problems:

1: Letting Deck Posts Sit In Soil

If the ground where you live is rocky or compacted, you might feel like it would make a fine foundation for those bulky posts. Instead of filling those holes with soil and cementing posts in place, you might be tempted to use dirt and gravel to secure your posts, and then focus on finishing up your structure. Unfortunately, letting soil come in contact with your posts can create some severe issues with your deck's stability.

First and foremost, the ground can become saturated with water. Once water penetrates the earth surrounding your posts, dirt and gravel particles can knock loose, throwing your posts off center. Water can also penetrate into the wood itself, causing wet rot and warping.  

Pest control problems are another issue you might find yourself with if you let those posts rest in soil. By securing posts directly in the ground, you are essentially giving wood-boring insects such as termites and carpenter ants easy access to the entirety of your deck. Before you know it, you might find yourself with hallow beams, damaged deck boards, and a shaky structure. 

To avoid trouble, professional contractors recommend laying concrete footings and then using metal U-brackets to connect deck posts to the concrete. Ideally, concrete footings should extend up to 12 inches above the ground. The combination of the added space and the metal brackets allows airflow around the bottom of the post so that the wood will stay dry and strong.

2: Using The Wrong Nails

After picking up a few bags of concrete, some metal brackets, and a few posts, you might look for a large box of nails or screws so that you can get started. Unfortunately, posts aren't the only component of your deck that can be damaged by a little water. If you choose the wrong nails and screws, they might rust and corrode—putting your family at risk every time they step out onto that deck.

Rusty fasteners can become brittle and break apart, which can alter the strength of your deck. For example, one family in North Carolina learned this lesson the hard way when they gathered on their deck for a group photo on the Fourth of July. The second story deck contained severely corroded nails, which made the deck collapse under the weight of the 24 people who gathered for the picture. Because so many people were hurt, the city had to call in neighboring agencies to transport people to the hospital. Five people were injured seriously enough to be hospitalized, and two were in critical condition. 

However, the entire ordeal might have been avoided if the original contractor used the right screws and nails. To avoid serious issues like this with your deck, only purchase deck screws and deck nails. These special nails are typically hot-dipped and galvanized or made from stainless steel to prevent rusting.

If you don't feel comfortable enough with construction to build your own deck, consult with a professional deck contractor, such as Kansas City Remodel and Handyman Allen, for help. In addition to building a custom deck designed to meet your specifications, deck contractors might also be able to repair problems if they occur in the future.