Patrick’s Barn: Framing a Deck
Helping my dad build a deck in the late 1980s was one of my first exposures to carpentry, and it might have been the starting point for my career and my lifelong love of building. It seems appropriate, then, that building a covered deck is the final large carpentry project on our new outbuilding.
The project started about three weeks ago when I laid out and dug the post footings. (Deciding whether to dig the four 2-ft. dia. holes by hand or by machine had helped me to delay the project by months.) I ended up digging the holes by hand over three evenings after work. With help from Fine Homebuilding senior editor Andy Engel, we poured the footings at the end of the week. After another week of letting the concrete cure, I started the deck framing the following weekend.
Knowing the barn would eventually have a porch on the back, I cast a series of 3/4-in. rods into the slab for attaching the ledger. I thought this would make attaching the ledger really easy, but I didn’t anticipate the joists being lower than the top of the slab because of the decking thickness. After mulling over several fixes, I decided on a deeper ledger attached to the 2×6. This whole experience reinforced to me why wood-framed decks are a rarity in places where slab-on-grade construction is the norm.
Even with the obstacles and resultant backache, framing this deck was a lot of fun. I just wish my dad was still around to see what I’m up to and to offer his opinions. At least I can share my love of building with my own son. When he wanted to help, I turned him loose on the joist hangers with a palm nailer. I’m betting he’ll at least have a lifelong love of nail guns, if not carpentry.
You can read more about my barn here.
I thought that casting the 3/4-in. rods into the slab for attaching the ledger would make this process a snap, but I didn't realize that the 2x6 I planned on wouldn't hang low enough for attaching the joist hangers. I solved the problem by adding a 2x8 on top secured with many structural screws.
Here's how the ledger-joist connection worked out. The large holes in the 2x8, which I drilled with a 2-in. hole saw, provide clearance for the 3/4-in. bolts that fasten the 2x6 behind the 2x8. Even though I'm sure they took longer to make, I thought the holes would look and work better than notches cut with a jigsaw.
My wife and son were visiting family for most of the weekend, but when they returned, my son wanted to help. I turned him loose with a palm nailer, and he drove the 10d shear nails that help to secure the joist hangers. A palm nailer is the perfect tool for that job.
I wasn't sure of a fastening schedule for my unconventional two-ply ledger, so I "screwed the heck out of it," as they say. I always cringe at the price of structural screws like the ones shown, but when they're combined with an impact driver, they are so worth it for jobs like this.
This photo was taken late Sunday afternoon. Starting with the piers in place, I spent about 18 hours on the project over the weekend. I plan to leave the bracing on the posts while they dry out. I'm hoping it will prevent the posts from bowing and twisting.