Building a Deck

Parts Of A Deck

Before diving into Building Codes, obtaining a building permit, plat maps, easements, and so on, it makes sense to take a minute to define the basic parts of a deck. In so doing, you can brush up on your deck building vocabulary and also get a brief exposure to some of the considerations related to deck framing.

  • Ledger Board: Whenever the deck is attached to the house, a ledger board is used. In general, ledger boards are the same size as the floor joists. After selecting a straight piece of lumber for the  ledger board, the ledger is bolted to the house's framing. Given the potential for injury should the deck break apart from the house, it's important to select the right type of bolt, as well as, the correct size and spacing of bolts to handle expected design loads. Similarly, to avoid water damage to your home's framing, it's important to install sheet-metal flashing that prevents rainwater from getting between the ledger and the home's framing.
     
    Check Point - Most treated lumber sold is wringing wet - with a moisture content of around 65%. What most people don't know is that lumber with a moisture content above 19% does not hold nails as well, has weaker bolted connections, and isn't as strong or stiff against bending as dry lumber. When you build your deck or gazebo, make sure you understand how to compensate for "wet service" conditions. For a very modest price you can get a password and have instant access to all the wet lumber design information you'll need to make sure your deck and/or gazebo won't fail under heavy loading.

  • Floor Joists: In general, "2x" (two-by) lumber with an actual thickness of 1-1/2" is used for floor joists. Probably the most common floor joist size is 2x8 lumber - actual size is 1-1/2"x7-1/4". The species of lumber, the spacing of the joists, and expected design loads all determine what size floor joist is required.
  •   Tip: Most boards have a slight "crown" to them. To check for crowning, hold one end of the board about a foot from your nose with the other end resting on the ground. With the wide side up, sight down an edge of the board. If there is any crown, your eye will easily see the edge as being slightly curved. When you install your joists, place all the joists with the crown up. In so doing, you'll get a more consistent floor surface. Later on, when you install the decking and furniture, the extra weight will work to flatten out the crowns resulting in not only a consistent but also flat floor surface.
     
  • Solid Blocking: Blocking keeps taller joists from twisting onto their sides when heavily loaded. In general, blocking is just short boards cut from the same size lumber as the floor joists. In fact, you should set the most warped joists off to the side and cut them up for blocking.
     
    By 2003 International Building Code (IBC), blocking is required every 8 feet for 2x10 and taller joists. In other words, the distance between any two rows of blocking, or any one row of blocking and the end of the deck, can not be more than 8 feet. It should be noted that the blocking doesn't necessarily have to be centered over the length of the joists.
  • Support Beam: The beams take all the weight from the floor joists and transfer this load onto the posts and ultimately to the concrete footings in the ground. Although there are special composite lumber exterior grade beams, usually either a solid lumber beam or a built-up beam is used.
     
    A solid lumber beam is just that. It's  a single thick and wide piece of wood. For example, a 4x10 solid beam is 3-1/2" thick by 9-1/4" tall. Built-up beams are made from nailing together two or more "2x" boards. In practice, the use of one type of beam over the other is solely a function of what part of the country you live in. Both types of beams are perfectly acceptable.
     
    Check Point - Metal joist hangers are used to attach the floor joists to the side of the ledger board. The capacity of joist hangers depends on many factors such as the joist hanger design, the diameter and length of the nails, the nailing pattern, and whether the ledger board was "wet" at the time of installation. Be careful not to exceed the capacity of your hangers. Make sure you understand how to adjust the rated capacity of your hangers for the application and also know how to determine the load the joist hangers must carry.

  •   Band/Rim Joist: Band joists, also sometimes called rim joists, are just joists at either the side or end of the deck. There's nothing special about them. In fact, unless you've got stairs attached to one of them, band/rim joists only have to carry a fraction of the load that the regular floor joists do.

Tip: In the deck above, the ends of the floor joists and beam are cantilevered. This means that instead of ends resting directly on a support part of the framing, they project out past their supporting member into thin air. When cantilevers are used, it's easier to frame a deck since the posts and beams don't have to be perfectly aligned. That is to say, if the posts aren't spaced perfectly but are at least in a straight line, it won't matter since the ends of the beam are cantilevered. Likewise, if the beam is set a bit crooked but the joists are cantilevered, it doesn't matter. When framing, let the ends of the joists run long during assembly and then snap a straight cut line after all the joists are in place. If the beam is a bit crooked underneath, no one will ever know.

Deck Repellents & Sealer:

Water repellants and sealers are considered to be virtually the same thing. They both work to protect wood from all forms of water.

Be careful to select a product that is made specifically for wood and not masonry or brick; as a wood-only product will provide you will the best results. Look for products that also contain mildew and algae protection unless you live in a desert climate where these are not an issue.

Choose a product that says on the label that it meets or exceeds “TT-W-572B, p. 3.7,” a federal water repellency specification.

With both your cleaner and sealer, follow the directions on the label to ensure that you are applying them appropriately. Careless maintenance can be just as bad as no maintenance, so double check your labels and begin using these deck products to improve the longevity of your new space.

Deck Cleaner:

Before sealing you deck, you must ensure that its surface is clean. Ultraviolet light from the sun breaks down wood fibers that are on the surface of wood and causes them to discolor and decay. This creates a grey color on the wood.

There are several kinds of cleaners on the market, containing such products as chlorine bleach, sodium percarbonate, trisodium phosphate and oxalic acid. With all of them the general process for cleaning is the same – you apply the cleaner, let it soak for the required time on the label, scrub the surface with a stiff brush, and rinse.

Check at your local home improvement store for the cleaner that is right for your deck. Depending on your deck’s wood, you have plenty of options for a good cleaner that will brighten your wood easily.

Deck Styles:

Rooftop Deck:

Rooftop decks can offer dramatic views, such as a skyline or mountain range, but it's important to have an engineer check your roof to make sure it can support the extra weight of decking and foot traffic.

Multi-Level Deck:

Having seating areas at different elevations expands outdoor living spaces into different rooms that complement the style of the home and create important visual breaks.

Pergola:

Glass doors create a smooth transition between indoor and outdoor spaces. A pergola offers shade and privacy, and columns give classic formality to the space while complementing the brick exterior of the home. Creating an outdoor room is a great way to expand your home.

Asian Style Outside:

The simplicity of this space brings Zen style outdoors with a stone lantern, clean-lined furniture, and Asian-style planters. The deck follows the gentle contours of the land and connects several different spaces including a dining area and a meditation platform for yoga.

Multi-Level Terraces:

This terraced deck is a great example of how to deal with a backyard slope. Not only do the stepped levels accommodate the drop in terrain, but they also create a more interesting series of spaces that can be used for different functions. The spaces are separated by deck railings.

Small Deck Solution:

Despite its small size, this deck serves multiple functions. It works as a passageway from inside the home to the outdoors. It wraps around the home and offers several stairways to the lawn and landscape, and a shaded seating area features a cozy spot for entertaining.

Mirror the House's Style:

An interesting home deserves an interesting deck. By repeating elements such as lines and color from the home, the deck becomes an eye-popping part of the landscape.

Regardless of which style you choose, make it your own both in design taste and in conjunction with the personality of your home. Try to bring the outdoors into the space so that it’s entirely cohesive. That way, when you go outside to your deck, you can feel the transition from inside to outside.

Deck Lumber/Wood Usage:

When building a deck, the deck lumber is the most important element. Not only will everyone see it, it must be functional for your lifestyle and expectations. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Appearance:

The appearance of your deck will not only affect its value, but can affect the overall value of your home. If you are planning to only stain the deck, not paint it, you should consider a higher-grade lumber. The lower grades tend to have more unsightly spots and knots that will not be masked by staining.
Treatments

The lumber you pick will come with a variety of different wood treatments available. Some treatments can cause the lumber to take on a greasy look. Better treatments are barely noticeable. Most treatments used on decks though will carry warranties that can last for decades.

Preserved:

Since your deck is going to be exposed to weather elements at all times, find a wood that has been preserved. You can find rot resistant-wood, lumber that has already been treated for waterproofing, and pressure-treated wood. Be sure to ask your lumber supplier lots of questions regarding the climate and conditions around your home. This will ensure that you leave with the best possible lumber for your deck.

 Deck Roofing:

Unless you are a roofing pro and have large roofing budget, the best type of deck roofing is an asphalt shingle system. Aside from being inexpensive, they are long lasting, fire resistant, and attractive to look at.

There are few things you need to know from the start to avoid hangups later on.

1. New Roofs vs. Old Roofs

There are important differences between installing a new roof and re-installing over an older roof that already has a roofing system in place.

2. Insurance

Some insurance companies won't insure a roof if it has more than 3 layers of shingles. If the roof you intend to shingle already has three layers, you may want to remove them before installing your new shingles.

3. Roof Waves

On a re-roof, you need to pay attention to how you start the shingles at the lower edge of the roof. If you copy the exact pattern of the previous layer, the new roof could develop waves.

4.  Felt Paper

Felt that lies underneath the shingles is required on a new roof, whereas it is not required on a re-roof. If your roof is new and you're planning to use felt it is better to lay it as you go, rather than cover the entire roof before beginning to install your shingles. Also, in the lay-as-you-go method of installing the felt, you can use a minimum number to nails to attach it to the roof, because the nails you use to attach your shingles will keep the felt it in place.

5. Drip Edges

Install drip edges on the bottom of the roof before felt paper is applied. The drip edge on the side of the roof should be installed after the felt has been applied.

6. First Shingle Row

You need a row of shingles beneath the first regular row. Cut off the first 5 inches of a regular shingle and use the 7 remaining inches of the shingle for this layer.  

7. Loose Shingles

Be sure to nail down any lose shingles before placing new shingles over them, and hammer down the new shingle nails very well. Keeping everything secure is the key to creating a long-lasting roof.When beginning to nail down your new shingles, start from the lower left corner, and work to the right and uphill, leaving an overhang of 1/8 inch. This allows water running down the roof to drip away from the fascia (the vertical board at the edge of the roof) and helps reduce deterioration of the fascia.

In nailing the shingles, you can use manual nailing with a hammer, or pneumatic roofing nailers which are faster but more likely to leave nail heads sticking up. These protruding nails have a tendency to tear the new shingle lapping over them.

To make your shingle rows more even and uniform, use an "L"-shaped piece of wood as a positioning guide. Just set the guide against the lower edge of the previous row's shingles.

At the top of the roof, lap the shingles over the peak, and attach roof cap shingles with two nails in each. Install the plastic ridge vent with 3 inch roofing nails, applying cap shingles over the ridge vent.

Following these simple rules will ensure that your roof is not only weatherproof but also attractive.

Deck Drainage:

The Under Deck Drainage system is designed to turn the space under your deck into an all weather retreat. You will be able to enjoy the space under your deck in rain because the collection of rainwater will prevent you from getting wet. Installation is designed for the homeowner to be able to do themselves.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Waterproof caulk
  • Step ladder
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hammer or screw gun
  • Water diverters
  • Vinyl flashing
  • 1 inch or 1 ½ inch hot-dipped galvanized roofing nails or pan head screws

Step 1 – Creating a Pitch Line

In order for you to be able to use the space under the deck, you need for your deck drainage system to be able to drain water away. To do this, you need to set the correct pitch line. The best way to do this is to make a mark on the joist near the house. This mark should be measured by 1 inch for every 10 feet of the length of the joist. Pull the chalk line so that it is at the bottom of the joist where the deck ends and at the mark near the home. Snap the line to establish the correct pitch line.

Step 2 – Attaching The Water Diverters

In order to get all water to drain through the deck drainage, you need to attach water diverters between every joist. Attach the diverter at the ledger board. Once in place, seal the diverter to the joist with a bead of waterproof caulking.

Step 3 – Installing The Joist Rails

Using the pitch line, install the first joist rail 1 inch from the home. Continue this process until you get to the end of the joist. Make sure you leave no more than 2 inches in between each joist rail. This needs to be done on both sides of every joist.

Step 4 – Installing Collector Panels

Installing the collector panels is as easy as pushing them into place. Simply start at the end of the home and work your way to the end of the joist. Make sure the collector panel never is able to go flat as you will collect water instead of drain water.

Step 5 – Attaching Gutters

Installing the gutter rails is another very simple process. Simply pull the gutter apart slightly as you push it over the joist. It will firmly  snap into place when it attaches to the joist rail. Remember to cut the gutter ¼ inch shorter than the length of the joist to accommodate for expansion. Once the joist gutter is in place, install the boundary gutters which will be used on the two outside joists. These will also snap into place. Make sure you attach the flashing along the edge joist in order to divert water away from you. You will now be able to enjoy the space under your deck any time you want to.

Deck Maintenance:

The composite deck, or vinyl deck, has become a popular choice for homeowners, instead of the more traditional wooden decks. Although wooden decks are attractive, vinyl decks have proven to be much easier to maintain, slower to deteriorate, and are nearly maintenance free. Nonetheless, being exposed to the elements, children and pets, means that they are not completely maintenance free. Still, by setting a simple routine to clean your vinyl deck each spring and fall, and by following the 6 steps below, you can keep your vinyl deck looking attractive and be able to enjoy it for years to come.

Things you will need:

  • Commercial deck cleaning solution
  • Bucket
  • Sturdy Sponge
  • Sturdy Brush
  • Broom
  • Dust Pan
  • Commercial rust remover

Step 1 – Sweep the Deck

Before beginning cleanup of your vinyl deck, sweep it thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris such as weeds, grass, mud and dirt that have been caught in the board cracks. If the debris you're removing includes loose material such as leaves, using a leaf blower can help reduce the time it takes to remove this debris from your deck.

Step 2 – Rinse the Deck

If there is good drainage for you deck, use a garden hose to rinse off remaining debris that could not be loosened by sweeping or blowing with a leaf blower. It is important to be sure you don't leave pools or standing water that over time can cause staining and damage to your deck surface.

Step 3 – Check for Stains, Rust or Mold

Before scrubbing the deck, look for stains, rust, and mold on your decking. Although these stains may have penetrated the decking and have been baked into it by the sun’s rays, you will be able to remove most of them if you check the deck periodically throughout the year and catch them early. You will find them much more difficult to remove if you allow them to remain on the deck for a longer period of time.

Step 4 – Prevent Grease Splatters

If you use a barbecue grill on the deck, use a protective splatter guard under your grill to prevent spills and grease from staining.

Step 5 – Remove Stains

Remove stains by adding a commercial cleaner to a bucket of hot water and scrubbing the stain with a stiff brush. Remove mold the same way. You can remove rust stains easier if you use a commercial cleaner that contains oxalic acid. Do not use bleach on your deck to remove stains until it is at least two years old.

Step 6 – Remove Grease Spots

A commercial degreaser purchased at your local hardware store is the best option for removing grease spots. Scrub your deck with this type of cleaner after you have scrubbed the deck with a regular cleaner and have still found grease spots remaining.  

If you use power washing equipment, limit its use to wetting and rinsing the deck. Use the wide fan spray, and spray slowly and steadily in the direction of the deck grain.

Deck Restoration:
An outdoor deck can be a relaxing retreat for a homeowner and his or her family. However, a brand new deck can be expensive to build, and a deck that has been neglected for several years will not look pleasant. If you want to return to an outdoor life, your life deck can be restored in just a few steps.

Making Repairs:
Begin by inspecting every inch of your deck for decay or rot. Pay particular attention to any part of the deck that is in direct contact with the ground. Use a screwdriver to test the portion of the deck that is underground. If you can sink your screwdriver into the wood, then you have significant decay and you will probably need major repairs. Also inspect any places where the deck connects to the house. Remove any rusted screws or bolts and ensure that all the screws are tight and secure. Finally, look for cosmetic damage. Tap down any nails that have popped and secure any railings that are loose.

Cleaning the Surface:
Every deck should have an annual cleaning, but many homeowners disregard this necessity. Sometimes the deck can be revived with just this cleaning. Some deck cleaners are mixed in a bucket then applied to the deck; others are purchased in containers with integral hose applicators. Once on the deck, most of these applicators still require a stiff-bristle brush and a lot of elbow grease. Always wear eye protection and gloves when working with concentrated chemicals. You will also need to protect nearby plants from any strong chemicals.

Applying the Stain:
For new decks, a clear finish or transparent stain is sufficient, but for older decks you will probably prefer a semitransparent stain. The wood's grain will still show through, but the pigment will create a uniform color between the old wood and any planks that were replaced with new wood. The pigment will also provide protection from the damaging effects of the sun and will last longer than clear finishes. Old wood usually takes longer to stain than new wood, and may also require three or more coats to achieve a uniform color.

Replacing the Railing:
On many decks, an old railing can be the weakest part of the deck. A sturdy railing is important for safety reasons. If you need to replace the entire railing on your deck, this is a good time to do so. Maintenance-free prefabricated railings can be found at home repair warehouse stores. To conceal any minor gaps that may exist in a new railing, you can use a mildew-resistant caulk.

Wood vs Vinyl Decks:
Deciding between vinyl decking and wood decking can be a difficult process. Vinyl is a fairly new product that has some advantages and disadvantages. Wood decking also has pros and cons. It's important to examine the benefits and drawbacks of both materials before making a final purchase decision.

Maintenance:

Although you only have to clean a vinyl deck periodically, the cleaning products required leave a powdery film on the deck. Because the cleaners are acidic, they strip the finish. Another drawback about the cleaners is that they are harsh chemicals, which end up in your yard afterwards. The job is not easy either - you have to get down on your hands and knees to scrub the deck.

Wood is much easier to maintain. Once the deck is installed and sealed, you only have to oil it once a year, and reseal every few years. You can quickly clean the wood itself by washing the surface with water from a garden hose.

Durability:

Wood decks are far superior in terms of durability. A wood like mahogany can last up to 40 years if oiled yearly. You can refinish a wood deck every few years to make it look like new again.

You can’t refinish a composite deck, but you will have to replace it every five years. In addition, old vinyl decks are unattractive as they are covered with scratches and stains.

Vinyl decking doesn't last forever in an acceptable condition, even though it’s constructed out of plastic. The deck is harmful to the environment as well. Vinyl decking is made to mimic the look of wood, and the designs are quickly becoming more convincing. Of course, this "wood" is really made of plastic with wood grains and color added to mimic the look of real wood. Be warned that over time the "wood" color fades significantly.

Another problem with vinyl decking is that it is susceptible to mold growth. In fact, there have been several lawsuits against companies involved in selling and manufacturing vinyl decks. Mold is a serious issue because it can cause health problems.

Vinyl decking contains "pulp" wood that is made from small wood particles of tree species that don't have a good reputation for outdoor durability such as pine, spruce, and bark. Any wood scraps that are not good enough to make paper are added to the mix. Because the wood scraps absorb moisture and ejects it, the vinyl grows pockets that absorb more and more moisture each year. As time goes on, black mold grows on the deck that cannot be removed with cleaners. Stay away from vinyl decking that contains wood particles of any kind.

Cost:

Vinyl decking is less expensive up front than wood decking, although it doesn't last as long as a deck constructed out of wood. In addition, the cost of the cleaners you have to buy to maintain a vinyl deck can add up. Virgin vinyl decking that doesn’t contain wood pulp is the only type of composite decking that may be save you money in the long run.

Wood decks require little maintenance and are strong enough to last for decades. In this sense, they are less expensive than vinyl decking.


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