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Decks
Deck building Q's & A's

Design Software | Trex/Dek-Blocks | Ledgers | Cantilevers | Moisture Problems | Flooring | Stairs | Railings | Other Issues
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Deck Software

Can you tell me where to find and purchase deck software that will let us design a deck that is multilevel and that can be built in stages. Preferably something I can purchase on the internet. Thank you so much for any help. We can't seem to find what we need.

Try this

http//www.sierra.com/sierrahome/titles/3dd/

I haven't used the software, but it may work.

 

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Deck design program

I am planning on constructing a deck for the back of my house soon, and I am trying to find a computer program that will aid me in designing the deck. I realize that some home improvement store use such software, but I have been unable to actually utilize the service (long lines, no help around, etc.)

Can someone direct me to a website that would provide (hopefully free) me with such software?

I paid $15 for deck design software at Costco. The software is by Sierra.

Trex Decking

Could someone comment on their experience with Trex decking? It's a bit pricey so I want to make sure that it performs as advertised?

I built two decks 12x36 and 12x56, I do like it, you really need to be careful, it is a lengthy story, so contact me for more info. I am not a factory rep.

I use to work at a company that sold Trex. While I never worked with it myself, I got a lot of feedback from those who did.

Good Points

Solid, stable, don't have to worry about color fade

Bad Points

Can be difficult to work with-because of density it can be tough to drill and cut.

Because of weight it also can sag..need to have close joist supports.

Mainly I heard that it's a trade off--price vs. durability.

 

Trex Decking: Fading

Can anyone tell me just how badly the "natural" colored trex will fade off due to exposure to weather. I am in the middle of a contract for a deck, was going to use the dark brown trex, however, we cannot get the dark brown color for 6-8 weeks. I am now considering using the "natural" colored trex, but I am concerned about how much it will fade to the "grey" color. If anyone could shed some light on this fading, I would appreciate it.

Hi, I just finished a natural deck(s) it will fade to a grey, it will be a lot lighter than the brown. Much lighter. Suggest you stay with one color. I am real happy with mine.


More Info about Trex Decking

Any thoughts or tips on TREX decking?

I'd look at a few weathered projects first. Some people have complained to me about uneven weathering. If you plan to stain this won't be a problem.

choicedeck (made by weyerhauser) contains only cedar and weathers quite evenly.

I've used it to build two decks, and I am a big fan. It is easy to work, and weathers nicely. It's a good idea to buy all your stock from one bundle, so that the material is consistently aged. After a year, it makes no difference. Best of all, laying the deck goes quickly as you don't need to check for best side, no checks, waning, bows or cupping. Good stuff.

 

Dek-Blocks: How Are They?

I am interested in using these deck blocks myself but can not find them anywhere. is there a web site specifically for this product? I am going to build a free standing deck at ground level (12") in front of my house. 12x10 I came across a product called Dek-Block and was curios how well these footings work. Please let me know your experiences.

I checked out their web site and had a look at their blocks. I am sure they would work ok. The deck will float, that is move with the ground if the frost moves the ground, and for a small 12x10 deck that should not structurally be a problem.

I am thinking you don't need to spend the extra money on them though. With a free standing deck made of pressure treated lumber, you could rest the frame on any concrete block. The fact that they hold your joist does not add much. They are only $5 a piece so the cost is not much.

 

No Flashing Originally Placed on Ledger Board

We have a home that is 15 years old with siding. When the deck was originally installed by the builder they nailed the ledger board to the siding (no bolts used) and did not place flashing over the siding or ledger board. I found this out when I was removing the old deck to remodel.

There is one place where water has been hitting over the years where one of the 2X10 joists has rotted through. It was about 3 feet long. The remaining 2X10 joist appears to only be rotted 1/4 of the way through.

Will the rot on the remaining joist continue or will it stop. Looking at this remaining joist from underneath the house reveals no rot. i.e. if I just replace the 3 foot section will this be enough? Any thoughts on other potential problems.

While the partly rotten board may well last just fine once it is properly flashed and protected, it would be wise to replace it, if nothing more than to give you piece of mind. Is the board you are referring to a joist (running into the house) or the header running along the perimeter of the house.

The header board would be easy enough to replace. If it is a joist, then you can nail one along side the bad one.

In any case, yes, make sure you install the flashing. it goes up under the siding and then over top of the ledger board. That way no water can get trapped between the ledger and the house.

 

Attaching ledger boards to masonry

I designed a 14x50 ft ground level deck to run along the back of my house. The county said if I install a post against my house I have to dig to the original footer (about 7 ft) due to the amount of overdig by my builder. My rim joist on the house is 3 different levels and I want a 1 level deck.My concrete foundation extends about 24 inches above grade. Any ideas about attaching the ledger board to the concrete. I am skeptical about drilling so many holes in the foundation and installing expanding anchors.

I suggest to anyone with a question like yours to visit Powers fastener web site. You can find the site by typing in Powers Fasteners they have the formulas for finding the shear and load range needed for most purposes and their Tapper style anchor works very well without drilling all the way through the foundation this the structural damage is held to a minimum.

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Why not build the deck free standing from the house? Set the posts for the beam running closest to the house three inches out from the foundation. Allow the deck plating to extend the three inches over if the plating runs perpendicular to the house, if it runs parallel lag bolt a 2x6 to the beam to give yourself something to screw the last piece of deck plating to. Then you don't have to drill into the foundation or dig seven foot post holes.

Attaching Ledger to Block Foundation


I plan on building a low level deck that is attached to my home. If I attach the ledger to the sill plate, the deck will be too high. Can I safely attach a ledger to a block foundation?

Yes you can. You will need to dill holes through the ledger board at every foot. Hold or temporarily support the ledger board on the foundation and mark with a pencil on the block where each hole is.
Then drill clean through the block into basement or crawl space with a hammer drill and masonry bit. (Can be rented for a few bucks if you don't have one)
You will then bolt the ledger board to the foundation with either long lag bolts or using a threaded rod. Washers must be used on the inside of the foundation as well as with the bolt or rod on the outside of the ledger board.
To avoid water from leaking in through the bolt holes into basement, run a bead of silicone caulk on top of the ledger board before adding the deck.


Attaching Ledger to Vinyl Siding

Is it necessary to cut vinyl siding away to install a ledger or can I just "squash" it and caulk around it?


You don't really want to do that do you? Cutting the vinyl and reinstalling the bottom edging above the deck board is not really to hard and it lets you put some good flashing up under the vinyl and over the ledger.
Also.. it is best to eliminate any gap between the board and the wall that isn't supporting the board.
BUT.. if you insist.. you can get away with it.. I have seen it done.... don't like. it.. but I have seen it. And it worked..


Installing Flashing and Ledger to Vinyl Siding

I'm building a deck about 8' off the ground, and where my ledger board needs to be fastened to the house wall there is vinyl siding. Do I have to remove the siding to attach to the plate, or can I go right over it? What about and how do I install the "Z" flashing? (I know the starter strip and at least one sheet of siding cover the plate I need to fasten to). If I do need to remove the siding in my way, how do I fasten the remaining siding to the wall above the deck, which will stay?

You "should" remove the siding. I have seen it left on and sort of crushed... It neither looks good or I think does a good job of fastening/sealing the ledger. So, remove the siding. Install the ledger board, then the flashing. The flashing should go up the wall, down over the top of the ledger and then down the front face of the ledger. It only needs to go a little down the ledger, and about 6" up the wall.

Buy a bottom edge strip for the vinyl siding, or maybe you can use the one from below. Unless you still, need that one. But that strip gets nailed in just above the decking (if you are installing it before you put the deck boards on. allow for their thickness) and the siding's bottom edge is tucked into it.

Deck Ledger Flashing: Proper Method?

Is there a proper or recommended method for flashing a deck ledger? I've seen them where the flashing goes up under the siding and then angle out over the top of ledger and ends (an L shape) and also where the flashing goes up under the siding, angles out on top of the ledger, and then bends down over the face of the ledger. Which is better and is either way "improper"?

I prefer the second method. There is less chance of any water getting back behind the ledger board.

Free-Standing Deck or Attached w/Ledger?


I recently added an enclosed porch onto the back of my house. It's on posts about 8' off the ground. I'm planning on adding a 16x12 deck, about 4' off the ground and butting up to the outside support posts of the porch. Should the deck be free-standing, or should I attach a ledger board spanning the posts and attached the deck to the ledger?


When you say freestanding you only mean whether or not to attach it to the posts, right? Because in either case if it abutts the other, you want to make sure it is supported well by footings that go below the frost line. You don't want it to move laterally in the posts of the upper deck.

So, since you will be going below the frost line, I would say mount your ledger board if the posts are 6x6's. If the posts on the upper deck are only 4x4's (at that height they ought to be 6x6) then just make it freestanding and dig those few more holes.


Attaching Deck to House

I am replacing my deck which was attached directly to the house with each joist inserted into an 8" cutout in the brick; so that instead of being supported by a ledger attached to the house, the deck is supported by the house itself. The deck is 12x10 with 3 brick pillars supporting the side of the deck opposite the house. My question should I rebuild the deck by attaching a new ledger to the house or is the deck more solid as is, resting on the house.

I think either will work, but since the cutouts in the brick are there... use them. It is easier and provides better support than a ledger added to the wall would.

Cantilever Deck Joists

How far can I cantilever treated 2"x10" ; 16"oc joists for a deck? The span is 13 feet.  I will be attaching to the house and spanning 13' to the supports and wondering if I can cantilever another 5' over the supports using 18 foot 2x10s.

Generally you can go a third of the distance cantilevered.  I your case, with an 18 ft board, that would be 6 feet.    But when you start getting way out there, I am not sure I like that rule. While 5 ft is probably do-able there may  be more bounce than you would like. I wouldn't go the whole 5 feet unless you absolutely needed to.

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If I were building the deck, I would place supports at the 9 ft position as well as the 18ft position and get as rock hard deck as possible with 2x10s.

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The one third, two thirds rule does not take in consideration of the up lift which is caused by weight out on the cantilever. If the joist are under the house wall is one thing but if there attached with joist hanger there is nothing holding the joist down. Joist hangers are designed for downward pressure not to hold them down. If you can handle the upward lift at the than I would double up each joist and have solid blocking on the outer beam. Because when joists bend they want to twist.


Cantilevers & Circular Deck Design

We are thinking of building a deck on that would be a part of a 25 foot radius semicircle attached to the rear of our home. I've looked in a few books with no luck for design tips. I get all wobbly when I think of the structural design of a deck out by the edge. I have a few ?s.  Anyone seen a design like this, how to address the edge of the structure? Published?

How far could I cantilever (sp?) the decking beyond the rim?

You can cantilever out on a joist, about 1/3 the total length of the joist. But don't get carried away. 3 ft should be max on 2x6 joists. But what you can do, is use beams along the perimeter. With a main beam 12 ft out from the house and a smaller one 22-24 ft out, you can connect the house to the main beam and the main beam to the outer beam with beams. Then the joists will have something to rest on at about their outer edges.

Family Handyman magazine ran a how-to about 11/2 years ago with some good diagrams. Maybe you can find an old copy at your library.


Deck Flooring/Moisture Problem

My husband and I recently bought a home where the roof of our garage also serves as our deck. (It's a split level home.) The deck was constructed with sheets of plywood and then covered with outdoor carpeting. Well, the carpeting is shrinking and pulling apart at the seams and the garage below gets soaked when it rains or snows. Our question is: Is there something we can lay over the plywood (i.e., plastic) that we can then attach fresh carpet too, or is there an entirely different process we should follow to alleviate the moisture problem? Any suggestion would be appreciated before the roof caves in!

Did the builder really believe this would work? Yes, there are roof top bladders you can buy to cover the roof. Some allow you to build a wooden deck upon them, some I believe you can lay the carpet on (but I am not familiar with them) Ask at your local building supply what they carry.
Don't just use plastic or a tarp..

Turning Deck Floor into Water Shedding Roof

We have a 2nd story deck, which has good space underneath that we want to turn into a laundry and bathroom area and a sunroom. My question is how do we handle the deck floor to turn it into a roof for these rooms and yet to be still used as a deck?

I am considering the same thing; we want to screen in a porch below our deck. So far, the only good idea is to use that plastic corrugated sheeting that some people have over carports. It's inexpensive. I was going to install it at a slight angle under the deck so any water running through the deck boards would flow down away from the house and out into the garden. This would also keep any insects out from above my screen room if I properly installed it under the span of the whole deck.

Floor for Patio

I have a deck on the back part of my house that is mostly under the roof of the house. Two sides are exterior walls of the house, and two are open. I have enclosed this area by screening it in. I want to put a floor down with indoor/outdoor carpet. My deck boards are approximately 1/2 inch apart. With this amount of space, I cannot just lay indoor/outdoor carpet over the top. The deck is approximately 2 ft. above the ground, with rock covering the crawl space. It seems to stay dry under there. My intention is to secure 1/4-inch plywood to the deck portion that is enclosed, then place my indoor/outdoor carpet over that. My question is should I do anything to the plywood to waterproof it before I lay my carpet, such as painting, placing a sheathing first, or any other treatment? In addition, I am still debating on whether to glue the indoor/outdoor carpet down or just nail it on the edges, and cover with quarter-round. Do you have any suggestions on this matter? Just in case you need to know, the area enclosed is approx. 13.5 ft x 9.5 ft.

The roof doesn't cover the whole deck/patio area right? So part will get wet. I think pressure treated plywood is the choice, and paint isn't necessary, though it might help. In addition, I think I would go with just nailing it down rather than gluing it.

Ripping Up Sloped Floor

The floor in my front porch is sloped,its over 40 years old. I am thinking of ripping off the floor down to the joists so that I can level the floor. Is this the best way to do it? What can I expect to find when I take up the floor?

Is the slope bad? By that I mean, it is not the slope designed into the porch to make the water drain off? One thing also to consider, is, did it slope due to rotting and decaying supports underneath? If you rip up the boards, to level it, you may well want to replace the joists underneath. You would need to raise all these up to make the floor level and can replace them with pressure treated wood. If you rip up the floor and find the joist in perfect condition, consider some ideas such as ripping wedge shaped boards to nail to the top of each joist to level them, or.. jacking up the low end of the porch and shimming on top of the supports.


Support for Sagging Porch

We have a enclosed porch on the front of our house. We noticed that it is beginning to sag and the floor is beginning to slant away from house. There is a crawl space below the porch that would enable us to install teleposts to add support to the porch. How would we go about installing them?

If you are in a cold climate. telepost will do nothing for you. Seems to me the porch has not enough support posts for the span and the existing posts are not set below frost level (if applicable).
If you use a telepost, you need to install a concrete footer under each to your recommended frost depth by local building code or you are throwing you $$ away.


Building Stairs for a Deck

I am a novice builder, I just finished building my first freestanding deck that butts up to my round pool. What a task it was and quite a learning experience. Anyway, all I have left to do is the stairs so me and the rest of my family can get on the deck. I have the material, but I just don't know where to start. I think I read somewhere that you have to measure the vertical rise first. PLEASE HELP!!!

Well.. you can buy stretchers already cut.. but since you already have the material....
Use your carpenters square to measure the rise and run together ... and mark them on the stretcher. A good rise/run is a 7" rise and a 11" tread. Hold your square so the 7 and the 11 are on the edge of the board.... If you draw the lines on the board marked by the square.. you have you start. Now... move the square down and mark it again.. same way. with the 11 where the 7 was. If you sit with your board and your square.. this may make sense. you will do this all the way down. By the way.. you can fudge a little... if your total height is not a multiple of 7.. just use something close.. but make sure ALL rises are the same. You would not believe how easy you'll trip when the rise heights vary.
Finally.. on the bottom square it off, cutting across the piece at a 90 degree angle to the last rise.... Once you cut one. Use it to mark you other. You can cut most of the way on each cut with your circular saw.. then finish the cuts with a hand saw.

Your directions did make sense and the stairs turned out beautifully. Just have to add the handrails and I'm all set.


Attaching Deck Railing Posts

Most deck plans I see call for attaching the railing posts to the inside or outside rim joists. I've already laid the decking, but have been thinking that handling the odd angles would be easier if the posts were attached directly to the decking (I don't want to cut out complex notches, and don't like doubled up posts). Can I run a lag screw through the decking and up into the 4X4 railing posts? This way, I could move the posts in an inch or two, add base moldings, and angle them to fit the deck countours. Or is this not stable enough or not up to most codes? If I cut out a 3.5" square in the decking to put the post through, I could attach it to a field joist set in a few inches, but that won't work on the railing side parallel to the field joists (nearest joist is 16" in).

A post that people are going to lean on is difficult to keep sturdy by just attaching it to the decking. I wouldn't go that route. Since it sounds like you can still get under your deck (since you can get a lag screw up from the bottom) why don't you build between the joists the framework to hold your posts. As you suggested, attaching it to the joists in from the edge will work well. Where you are 16" away.. run perpendicular boards (blocking) between the two joists where you want the posts. In fact running two, to sandwich the post would be ideal. Know what I mean?


Joist Hangers

I am erecting a 12X14' deck and would like to know; if using 2X6 joist hangers spaced 16" on center with approx. a 5' span will it be strong enough to support the decking without too much bounce?

2x6 joists can adequately span 9 ft 9 inches without much bounce on 16 inch centers.  Take a look at the article on beck building on this site (Just click on articles and it is first in the article directory)

 

Beams on posts or attached

Can someone tell me which is structurally stronger, a) placing beams on top of posts or b) attaching beams to side of posts using bolts.  Any insight to each method would be appreciated.

Placing beams on top of posts is stronger.

Although for all intents and purposes, through bolts properly sized can carry the load placed on the posts with no problem. The weight bearing capacity of a bolted post is limited to the shear capacity (the point were the weight will 'shear' the bolt clean off) of the bolts.

Simpson makes special metal brackets for attaching posts to the underside of deck framing.

 

Deck pitch

How much pitch should a 10 x 15 deck have so the rain will run away from the house

Typically we don't put any pitch on a deck, since there are gaps between the deck boards to keep it from holding any water.

If you are building one with porch style, tongue and groove decking, then I think something on the order of 1/8" per feet is plenty.


Extending a deck


There is an existing free standing deck on the second floor of my house measuring five feet in width by 14 feet in length. I want to extend the deck by adding length to the existing joists (they are continuations from the interior floor set at 16"). Can 2x12 joists 16" on center be used to extend the deck another two feet in width without the need to add vertical supporting posts? What do you recommend to accomplish this goal?


I am not quite sure what you described. Is there any overhang now? If not, using 2x12's to extend two feet would be no problem. If you tie them in to the existing joists back about 4 ft, with the 2 ft extended out, you should have no trouble at all.

Freestanding deck


I'm going to help a friend construct a deck that needs to be removable. (It's a mobile home on a rented lot....)What the safest, most structurally sound way to do that??

How large do you intend to make it. Obviously you can't make it too large or it will be too heavy to be movable.Or you can make it in sections and bolt them together.
I would make it a freestanding deck supported on blocks. If you make individual sections of a manageable size(say 4x8 sections) and bolt them together underneath, you could make it moveable...


Building a deck over an existing concrete slab


Our house has a 8x20 ft. patio at the back. I would like to build a 16 in high deck over the slab, the same size as the patio. The patio is 4 in. thick floating slab. Can I anchor my support posts directly to the slab, or do I have to dig footings to below the frost line? If I can set the posts on the slab, should I build a completely free-standing deck, or can I build the deck attached to a ledger on the house If I do the latter, will frost heave pull the deck away from the ledger? Lastly, if I can set the posts on the slab, how deep into the 4 in. concrete slab should I drill to accommodate the anchor bolts?

If your patio is relatively stable, just rest the deck on the patio. No anchor bolts are necessary. But don't attach it to the house then. If you attach to the house, then you would want it on posts extended below the frostline. So assuming your patio is stable, build it as a free standing deck. Minor movement of the patio will not affect the deck.
Thanks, I suspected that was the way to go. I would feel better though if 1)the posts were anchored & 2)the posts were raised above the concrete to prevent rot. There are anchors available to do just that. If there is no reason I definitely should not anchor them, I would prefer to do so. That leaves the question of how deep to sink my expansion bolts into the 4 in. thick slab to get maximum hold without causing cracks in the slab.
If you use pressure treated wood, it won't rot.
If you intend to sink fasteners in the cement anyway.. I am thinking 3 inches is plenty. My thinking being.. the only thing you need to do is stop lateral movement.. 4 inches is too much since that is the total thickness.

footings for deck


I am building a 17x18 foot deck and the current plans call for footings to be placed along the 14 foot line of the deck. Since the deck is extending out 18 feet from the house, is it safe to have a 4 foot cantilever overhang past the 14 foot line of the deck without using additional footings at the end of the deck? What is the maximum cantilever you would recommend without using additional footings? I will be using pressure treated 2"x8" beams connected to a double 2"x12" crossbeam on top of the footings at the 14 foot line.

Spanning 14 feet, I would use 2x10's not 2x8's.
The maximum span for 2x8's is just under 13 feet and you are going over that. A four foot overhang using 2x10's would be fine. As a rule of thumb don't cantilever more than a third of the total length... so 4 feet on an 18 foot span is fine. You can figure the price using two beams one at the 9 foot point and one at the 18 foot point (or just in to give you an overhang). Spanning 9 feet you can use 2x6 joists. The savings might outweigh the cost of the additional beam and posts. One other thing.. on your design... I figure the posts should be every four feet (no more!) on your 2x12 beam if you are only using one beam.
Using two beams with 9 ft spans on the joists, you can use posts ever 6 ft.




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Click here for our How To Build A Deck-Part One Article
Click here for our Deck Tips Article
Click here for our Wood Movement Article
Click here for our Deck Supports Article
Click here for our Deck Building- Part Two Article
Click here for our Deck Tables Article



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