HOUSE: Newburgh

Building an “instant” deck with Concrete Deck Blocks.

Concrete Deck Blocks -

Well, almost instant. It took Evan and me about 8 hours to build the flat deck in my garden plan yesterday. Neither one of us have ever done this kind of thing before, so we’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves right now!

We used a deck block pier system from Lowe’s, and it was really simple. Pretty amazing. The hardest part was getting everything level since our garden slopes from side to side, but even that wasn’t so bad once we had a system going. The total cost was just around $300 for an 8×8 deck, including the screws and the stain. (FYI, here’s an online calculator that can help you figure out how many deck blocks you need!)

Actually, now that I think about it, the hardest part is TODAY—my arms feel like they’re going to detach themselves from my body. I had a difficult time getting out of bed this morning. Strong and in shape I am decidedly NOT.

Concrete Deck Blocks -

Concrete Deck Blocks -

We have îpe tastes but a tiny budget, so we had to go with standard pressure-treated lumber (sorry, planet). Over time both the deck and the fence with age to nicer colors, regardless.

Today I’m going to be planting a bunch of pachysandra graciously donated by a friend working on her own garden makeover. Next week, we’re hoping to start setting up the dog run!

*UPDATE: This post still gets a lot of traffic many years later, presumably from people looking for information about Dek-Blocks/instant decks. It appears that the Dek-Block company no longer exists, but Lowe’s sells a very similar (if not identical) product called Concrete Deck Block. I saw them in person last weekend, and they look exactly the same to me. Home Depot also carries Concrete Deck Blocks.

I no longer own this home, but as of 2015, the deck was still going strong and looking great.

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  • Reply Jessica April 26, 2009 at 9:57 am

    It looks great! Your productivity always amazes me. You say you want to do something, then you come up with a plan, then you do it without much delay. Seems so simple but most people just can’t seem to do that! I can’t wait it to see it stained, I bet it’s going to be fantastic!

  • Reply attygreen13 April 26, 2009 at 10:23 am

    we just built a dual-level deck with the same blocks! they were so easy to use (except, like you, our yard slopes a lot and the leveling took quite a while). we used PT lumber too, and i’ve been back and forth about whether to stain it black or seal it its natural color. but we read that you should let it dry out for a month or so before doing anything – do you know if this is necessary??

    • Amber June 16, 2016 at 9:43 pm

      We have been trying to find plans or pics of a dual level deck and have been unsuccessful. Any chance you can share pics, plans or ideas? Thanks.

    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      This post is more than 9 years old, Amber, so I’m afraid it’s unlikely your request will be seen…

  • Reply Ottawa Emptor April 26, 2009 at 10:28 am


    Looks so great, and your post settles an argument between myself and my boyfriend Mark re: how to anchor our deck. 🙂 He won: you used his suggested way of building the deck.

    My question is: does this kind of work require a permit?

  • Reply Kate April 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I think you should both be very proud of yourselves,The hard work (and aching arms) will be SO worth it when you can sit out on the deck with a cocktail! (or whatever beverage of your choosing!!!) GREAT job!

  • Reply my trampoline April 26, 2009 at 11:17 am

    how you both keep going, weekend after weekend, i’ll never know.

    nice work! and thanks for the link to the deck system.

  • Reply paisleypenguin April 26, 2009 at 11:48 am

    The hubs and I were planning on building a similar deck in our backyard. I will have to check out that site cause 8×8 and $300 is pretty much in our plans/budget. Great job!

  • Reply Karrey April 26, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Oh god, that’s going to look so fabulous! I’m jealous, since we won’t be able to do any major work in the yard until we get our basement anchors done this summer. I can’t wait to see the deck in charcoal!

  • Reply amyoliver April 26, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Blimey, you don’t mess around, do you? Looks fantastic. Can’t wait to see the rest. Well done.

  • Reply mommy April 26, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    This is amazing! Instead of diving into projects like you do, we tend to discuss projects for years and then we change our minds and feel relieved we no longer have to do it. You must have a backyard-warming party.

  • Reply Lonnie April 26, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    It looks so good!
    Can’t wait to see more.
    Just curious… does Evan have the same kind of “do-it” drive that you do? Does he initiate a lot of these projects that you two do, or does he just help you carry out the plans?

  • Reply DiP April 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Very nice job you two!!!

    Ain’t hot weather, a weekend and a goal an AMAZING thing?
    (I just came in for a yard work break and thought I’d see what you and Evan were up to.)

    Treat yourselves to a tall half-and-half on me!

  • Reply Lori April 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Wow! Looks great and I can’t wait to see it stained! Fantastic job and good luck with your arms… Take an Advil and take a break- you deserve it!

  • Reply kelly w April 26, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    What everyone else said. Your productivity is astonishing!

  • Reply lisa April 26, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Nice Deck! Reminds me of an episode of “This Old House”.
    Thought I would share a basic, vital tip. When placing the planks – make certain all the 1/2 moons; the C (the grain direction) are facing the earth. Less water absorbtion, less warp…

  • Reply lau April 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    it looks great! we actually just finished getting our little plot of dirt looking nice, its such a good feeling. can’t wait to see the final result of yours. 😀

  • Reply read me... April 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Wow, looks great & a good price. I dread to think what that would cost in the UK!

  • Reply amanda April 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    whoot! keep it up, looks great!

  • Reply leslie burka April 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    It makes my day when you have a new post. We were in a garden center in Cambridge yesterday and it was sweltering–88 degrees. Today in N.Y. city it’s 88 and we are staying cool in the hotel. I don’t know how you do it. I hope you will write a book. I will still want to own it even though I follow you on line.

  • Reply Anne (in Reno) April 26, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Congrats, you did a beautiful job! And that is definitely a reasonably priced solution, so rare it’s great to see it done so well!

  • Reply kristy April 26, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    wow anna – this looks amazing! and a super easy system too. i haven’t ever seen that before. not sure if we have it in australia.

    also we had some pretty wild weather over the weekend and two massive trees fell down at my house. so i had to cut them up and move them all on my lonesome. so i feel your pain girl… literally!

  • Reply Erin April 26, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Anna – I am so impressed and inspired that you literally created your garden plan a few days ago, and now you have an instant deck. Wow. You are proving that you just have to get the plans together and then go do it, already!I think the charcoal color will look fantastic..can’t wait to see it! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Sarah April 26, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    wow amazing job! im much impressed! love your blog

  • Reply Anna at D16 April 26, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    attygreen13: Whether or not you have to wait before staining/sealing depends on the product you use. I’m using Cabot Semi-Solid Decking Stain, which can go on right away. Read the labels! 🙂

    Ottawa Emptor: You need to check your local building codes — whether a permit is required depends on where you live. Generally speaking, though, a permit is usually not required for structure that isn’t attached to the house and is under 200 SF. Definitely check your local codes, though!

    Lonnie: We definitely try to encourage each other, and it it depends on the day when it comes to who has more get-up-and-go (sometimes neither of us!). I will say, though, that neither Evan or I are much in love with the work itself, we just want to see projects get DONE!

  • Reply Down Comforter April 26, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Looks really good – great job 🙂

  • Reply yvette April 27, 2009 at 1:30 am

    you are such an inspiration! our two dogs never had the experience of playing in our backyard and we’ve been feeling pretty guilty for it. we’ve actually been talking about maybe borrowing some books from the library and just try to learn as we go so. seeing your backyard is the jumpstart that we needed. thanks!

  • Reply Sam April 27, 2009 at 6:07 am

    It looks fabulous, and doesn’t it feel satisfying working in the garden for a day. I bet you slept soooo soundly.

  • Reply Kelly April 27, 2009 at 10:26 am

    your deck looks great! can’t wait to see the stain. i’m in the process of landscaping my front AND backyard and this helps to give me the kick that i need to get going with it already!


  • Reply Virginia @ Where You Hang Your Hat April 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

    So fun to watch the whole thing come together! What I love about your blog.

  • Reply anne April 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Wow – that looks great! And sounds pretty easy (of course, a lot of hard work went into it but you guys make it look easy)! You are inspiring me! Can’t wait to see the work in progress. I like your plant choices as well, I always have such a hard time figuring out what will work…have fun!

  • Reply theresa April 27, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Love this! We are just deciding if we should put in a wood deck or do concrete – there is already a concrete patio, we’d just be raising it up. We had a wood deck in our old house and it was a pain to maintain, so concrete is looking better. This deck system looks pretty easy though – can’t wait to see the stain!

  • Reply DiP April 27, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I do need to ask if you contemplated and fretted which board went where in terms of knots and grain even though in the end it doesn’t matter in any way, shape or form to anything or anybody.

    (I know you realize I am asking just to see how we compare on the obsessive-o-meter…
    Every so often I need to feel normal!!! )

  • Reply unha April 27, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    wow. anna, could you possibly “wow” button on the posts from now on. i keep saying it everytime i visit.

  • Reply from the right bank April 27, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    And once again, I am totally amazed at how much you get done and how well you do it! It looks great already – can’t wait to see the charcoal stain!

  • Reply Anna at D16 April 27, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    DiP: The wood we used is so ugly that it really didn’t matter too much which way we placed it. The funny thing is that we needed exactly 27 boards to build the deck, and Lowes (where we had a 10% off coupon) had 29 in stock — and 2 of them were badly damaged! Believe me, we would have been doing a lot of picking and choosing if they’d had extras. 🙂 We super-knotty pieces underneath the deck for the supports. The boards are all stamped on one side, so that side went down. All that was left to decide on was which end looked better — and the worse end went toward the fence. Not a lot of room for obsessiveness with this project. 😉

    And yeah, as soon as it’s stained, nobody will notice anyway!!

  • Reply Ryan April 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I’m impressed that you got started on your garden plan so quickly. I feel like I’m going at a snail’s pace in my back yard. It’s like I spend so much time out there, and it’s not going anywhere. But then I’ve spent hours (really, hours) pulling those baby maple seedling from the front and sides. Currently I’m on the one hole-a-day plan for the fence. I promised myself I’d dig one hole a day (minimum). With all the rocks in our area that is sadly a reasonable goal.

  • Reply The Brick House April 27, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve never seen that pier system – looks like it works great and can be pretty easy DIY. I’ve got an area in the backyard that could really benefit from a small raised deck. We were going to just use cement squares and gravel but this might work a lot better.

    Damn you Anna. I now NEED to spend more money and more time because of your awesome project and better solution.

  • Reply Rose April 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I just found out my son has a bee allergy and have all this beautiful red Monarda (beebalm) I need to remove from my garden. Let me know if you want any.
    Rose (in Cornwall)

  • Reply belinda April 27, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    i’ll be over for a picnic in your garden if this weather continues!.

  • Reply PhillyLass April 27, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Fantastic!! You guys continually amaze me!

  • Reply Vicki at Piccolo Takes All April 28, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I just KNOW you mentioned something in a comment about trying to find a (nice!) fire pit for under $200… But I can’t find which post it was under, so I’m mentioning here.

    I’ve been doing some fire-pit window shopping myself, and found a few that we’d be content with for under 200 bucks. Check around, prices vary at different online stores, and some even offer free shipping. Check out my latest post with the rundown.

  • Reply kristin April 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    wow- that’s amazing! I am working on a townhouse with a similar floating deck in the backyard (though at the back of the garden) in manhattan and I am totally suggesting this to the contractor and my boss. We had wanted to do stone initially but can’t compact the earth with stone if we want to save the huge old tree in the back (which we do).

  • Reply DiP April 28, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    So you’re telling me it only takes a 10% coupon for you to split with we the obsessive mental cases???

    Gosh, I wish I had your kind of willpower!!!

  • Reply trey April 29, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    88 degrees is hot? Here in South Texas that is a cool front!

    To the person who asked about a black deck, that will be extremely hot in the sunlight. I’ve heard about a kid getting burned on a garage door painted a dark color. Just something to consider.

  • Reply Sherry April 30, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    The deck looks fabulous now. I am sure with paint it will look even better. It’s nice to see such wonderful results on a budget.

    I notice you planted black lace elderberries. I live in NY too and was wondering how big yours got? I’d love to plant one but I heard they can get pretty large and I am afraid it will dwarf my other shrubs.

  • Reply Boston Booze Cruise May 4, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Looks amazing. I would love to do the same some day.

  • Reply Kimberly May 13, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Anna, I am TRULY loving your blog!! I too bought an old house (Baltimore) and am trying to make it my own. Question for you about the deck…I have an old (probably original) cement patio that I want to replace with a deck. Do you think this system would work ON TOP of it? Or would I need to demo the cement? (YIKES).

  • Reply Anna at D16 May 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Kimberly: You can do it right on top of the cement. The only difference is that you’d have to do the leveling using 4×4 posts on top of the blocks (as opposed to leveling the ground underneath the blocks). Does that make sense? I’m sure if you take a look at the Dek-Block site you’ll understand.

    Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply daily decorator May 19, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Can’t wait to see more. I’ve been putting off doing our yard but seeing your plans is getting me motivated again.

  • Reply lyn March 16, 2010 at 2:48 am

    can you buy blocks in australia

  • Reply theresa April 19, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Anna did you ever stain the deck or install the gravel and pavers? Would love to see some photos! What did you edge the gravel with?

  • Reply Anna at D16 April 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    @theresa: Um. Unfortunately, the garden still looks pretty much the same as in the pictures up there. Only with more weeds. :

    Here’s a post showing how we made the path:

    Hmm. I guess we’re on the one-project-a-year schedule when it comes to the garden!!

  • Reply theresa April 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Completely understandable – I say our garden is on the 10-yr plan, although I wish it was 1-yr. Did you just use the exterior cabot solid stain in black for the gravel edge? How has the stain held up over the year? We are planning on edging our gravel area and lawn in 4×4 timbers, and after seeing yours, am thinking about staining it. Our gravel area though is going to be 12’x37, so perhaps I’ll just do it the lazy way without stain. Thanks so much!

  • Reply Anna at D16 April 21, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    @theresa: Yup, I used the Cabot stain. It’s great stuff!! I’ve painted many things with it, and they’ve all been outdoors through two years of intense summers and winters with nary a flake. The stain is REALLY easy to use — goes on very fast and dries quickly. No mess. I didn’t even sand or anything, I just brushed it on quickly. I think I did two coats.

  • Reply Sergio Lopez April 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been wrecking my brain on a way not to build a deck without digging any holes. Found this site inwhich it directed me to Dek-Block pier site.. It was easy. I just put in the diminishins and it gave me the deck plan with all the materials that I needed. You are a God sent.. thank you again.. We should be starting the project sometime next week.

    • rebecca May 1, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      I tried clicking the link and even going to the sight via google etc…it keeps timing out and wont pull up! Has the dek-block sightclosed….do uknow how i can access it?

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