Better Ways to Frame a Deck
Smart details for ledgers, posts, and joists create a solid, attractive frame that should last as long as the house.
Synopsis: A good deck should be safe, attractive, and as long-lasting as the house it’s hanging from. John Spier has worked in Rhode Island’s coastal environment for 20 years, and in this article, he shares his strategy for erecting the posts and joists for a deck. Anchoring and flashing the ledger board are key details explained in drawings and photos. Also highlighted are some specialized tools that speed the process, such as a pneumatic impact wrench.
The wood frame of a deck leads a hard life. Without the protection of roof or walls, a deck frame is completely exposed to the weather. Though subjected to heavy loads, a wood deck is supported by just a few posts or piers instead of a solid foundation. And it’s a rare homeowner who gives a second thought to maintaining a deck once it has been built. In spite of all this, a deck is expected to be safe and attractive, and to last as long as the house that it’s hanging from.
These goals aren’t unreasonable if you pay attention to the details and materials that I explain in this article. Although the deck featured here is framed against a new addition, these details work equally well when a new deck is added to an existing house.
Off to a good start
I’ve been building houses on Block Island, R.I., for almost 20 years, and unless otherwise requested, I frame decks with pressure-treated lumber, which stands up well to the rigors of weather. I use straight material free of major defects. For fasteners, I prefer hot-dipped galvanized nails driven by hand. The deck ledgers attach with galvanized bolts and lags. I use gun-driven nails only to tack framing in place until permanent fasteners are installed, such as when nailing…