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HOW TO BUILD A DECK

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With spring near, homeowners’ thoughts turn to their backyards. Few projects enhance a backyard more than a deck. But builder beware: It is a big project that requires careful planning and some carpentry skills. This primer on deck-building is by no means complete. First-timers should consult complete deck-building manuals, available at mopst home centers and libraries.

PLANNING

A little planning will save you time, frustration and money. Here are some items to consider:

* Purpose: Play are for the kids? Area for entertaining? The site for your deck will depend on how it’s to be used.

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* Follow the sun: How much heat you prefer will influence how you position the deck. Will it get morning or evening sun?

* Legal considerations: Your local building department should be contacted for information on restrictions, building permits and codes. Getting plans OK’d by the building office will prevent future dismantling or even fines.

ZONING

* Restrictions: Ordinances limit deck heights, specify setbacks (distances between property lines and deck), restrict lot coverage and sometimes set design standards.

* Design: Plans allow you to determine style as well as dimension and amounts of materials required. Most designs have plan views (from above) and elevation views (from side).

* Scale drawing: Reduce each foot to 1/4 or 1/2 inch with scale ruler or graph paper.

THE BASIC ELEMENTS

* Passage width: 4 feet for one person and 5 feet for two.

1) THE LEDGER

A ledger is a plank (usually 2 x 6 or 2 x 8) connecting the deck to the house to support deck joists.

* Ledger mounting tips: Bolts or lag screws need to penetrate into the rim joist for propoer support. Also, keep decking thickness in mind before attaching ledger so the deck does not end up higher than interior floor level.

2) THE FOUNDATION

The foundation is a series of concrete footings and piers that support beams. Measurements from the design can now be transferred to deck site. The technique below will help to create square corners.

* Creating a true square: Any multiple of the 3-4-5 rule, such as 6-8-10, will help create 90-degree angels. Pound one nail at the end of the ledger and another 6’ away. Pull one tape measure out from each nail until they intersect at 8 and 10 feet. At this point, pound stake.

* Flashing: Alumninum or galvanized metal bent in a Z pattern to keep moisture out.

* Treads and risers: The shorter the rise, the wider the tread. Seven inches is the ideal riser height.

3) LAYING OUT FOOTINGS

Footings are the first step in buildibng a solid foundation. Having created a 90o angle, measure for corner footing.

* Pier location: From ledger, measure out for your corner pier, keeping in line with stake. Plumb down and mark point.

* Footing holes: Set up batter boards about 18 inches from corner stakes and run string from ledger to batterboard. Dig holes.

4) POURING FOOTINGS

Ready-mix concrete, which requires the addition of water, is more convenient than making your own. Mix concrete with hoe or with a power mixer.

* Simple foundation: Pre-dug hole with precast pier set into poured concrete footing.

Footings

* Pour footing: Pour concrete and wait until it can support precaste pier. Soak pier with water.

* Level pier: Position pier on footing. Level in both directions as footing hardens.

5) ERECTING POSTS & BEAMS

The height of a free standing deck is determined by post heights while a ledger determines the height of a deck attached to a house.

Measuring and cutting

* Measure: Stretch string from ledger to post. Using a carpenter’s level, plumb post and mark where string meets.

* Subtract: Measure thickness of beam and subtract from post. Mark post.

* Cut: Temporarily remove post and cut at mark. Add connector before reattaching post to pier.

6) JOIST FASTENING

Joists support decking materials. Commonly used joists are 2 by 6s and 2 by 8s.

Marking joist locations

* Measure: Mark off every 16” to center your joist brackets.

* Transfer: Use a piece of scrap lumber and transfer joist locations with combination square from ledger to opposite supporting beams.

* Attach hanger: When nailing the joist hanger to ledger or beam, make sure the top of the joist sits flush with the top of the ledger.

7) LAYING THE DECK

Deck surfaces using 2 by 6s or 2 by 4s running the full length or width are the simplest and most economical.

Wood decking

Joints should be staggered and must occur over joists.

Stagger blocking between joists for easier nailing.

* Spacing: Leave space between deck lengths for drainage and any resulting expansion or contraction. Place spacers of nails or cut pieces of wood 3/16 to 3/8 inch between decking strips.


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