Friday, April 3, 2009

Deck Research

So…Spring is officially here, but it hasn’t been warm enough to actually start construction of the deck. So, for the past month or 2, I have been doing some major research on deck building. Anybody that knows me knows that when I research something, watch out because that will be the focus of my thoughts and discussion until I complete the project. This one is no exception.
We really missed our deck last year after tearing it down so we have decided to build a new one this year. We were going to do windows this spring, but since my paycut, we will wait until fall to do the windows because the deck will be less expensive. Plus, the deck will be far more useful over the summer.

The hope is to have it usable (meaning without railings) by our annual Memorial Day BBQ. But who knows. Building a deck is not usually complicated, but of course, I will make it far more complicated.

My philosophy is to build it right so you only have to build it once. This means going above and beyond “minimum code”. I also try to build things so I minimize the amount of maintenance I will need to perform in the future. This is why I am a fan of vinyl windows, vinyl siding, vinyl fences, PVC trim, composite decking and so forth.

I really dislike the idea of attaching the deck to the house through the use of a ledger board, but because of the concrete pad (only 2” thick) attached to my house, it will be more trouble and work to build it freestanding. If I cut up the concrete, then I could create a problem with water in the future which the concrete holds back. If I make a hole large enough in the concrete to put my concrete form (12” diameter), then water may get around the seam where the old concrete meets the new form; thus creating a possibility of frost heaving or other problems in the future.

That leaves only 1 choice of ledger board. After reading this article entitled “Don’t Build Decks that Rot” , it gave me a great idea of using composite decking as blocks for my ledger board. This would create a drainage point as well as keeping the ledger board away from the house by about an inch but still providing the structural strength of a ledger board. It also gave me the idea of using a roofing membrane on every joist and at the post connection to prolong the life of my wood structure.

I am still debating whether to use 5” LedgerLok® or a lag bolt with a nut on the inside of the house. I am leaning towards a nut, bolt and washer because of the extra pull strength that a nut would provide. The LedgerLoks are great and far easier to install though :) Then there are things that you can use to spread the weight of the deck to more than just your rim joist/ledger connection that I am thinking of using (probably every 4 feet). HD2ADHG but of course these small additions quickly add up.

I also have downloaded quite a bit on code for deck building. This includes span charts, joist sizing, beam sizing, etc… Can’t forget about the StrongTie handout for deck building connections that has all of the connections with pictures and uses.

AWC Code -
Multi-Level Decks -
Strong-Tie Deck Fasteners -

The Lowe’s Deck Designer is GREAT for an overview and parts list. It allows you to do some great designs for decks with multi-levels and then shows you what your deck will look like with beams and everything. It was great and saved me a lot of time. Of course I tweaked the design a little bit and played with different joist sizes to see if the Live and Dead Load changes.
Lowe's Deck Designer (Need Account) - .

I hope to start the deck this weekend with the moving of some things that are currently in the way of the ledger board (Water Spigot, Dryer Vent, Electrical Outlet). We will lay out the deck with string, paint and what not to get our actual measurements and make sure the wife can make adjustments as needed. After that, I will remove the siding, put on Ice & Water Shield, Metal Flashing, blocking and then the ledger board. If there is enough time, we will start digging the post holes (4 feet down for NH’s frost line). After that…beams, joists, decking, etc…should go up pretty quickly.

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