Framing a Grade-Level Deck
Building close to the ground demands tighter tolerances.
Synopsis: Installing a ledger-attached grade-level deck leaves less fudge factor for footing heights, and means attaching the ledger to the foundation rather than the rim. Justin Fink teams up with carpenter Chris Ahrens to tackle the three most crucial structural deck components—the ledger, concrete piers, and beam—showing how to tackle the challenges of working so close to the ground.
Video Extras: Ultimate Deck Build 2015
The traditional raised deck frame is a beautiful balance of structural function and adjustability. A ledger attaches through the wall sheathing and into the floor frame of the house, joists extend out from the ledger across the top of a built-up beam, and weight is transferred down support posts to footings below. The height of the deck is usually driven by the elevation of the house’s floor framing, and then a set of stairs runs from the deck to the ground.
It’s an easy template for any intermediate builder because it includes lots of flexibility when it comes to footing heights, post lengths, and beam leveling. It also offers plenty of underdeck access for grading and moisture management. Many builders assume that constructing a grade-level deck means shifting to a different technique—ditching the ledger and going to a freestanding structure, or swapping a carrying beam for a flush beam—but in fact, all of the traditional methods can still be used. You don’t need to make drastic changes to the way the deck is assembled; you just need to modify how you tackle three of the structural components: the ledger, piers, and beam.
Working within a foot or so of ground level means that you have less room for adjustment. On the deck shown here, for instance, there wasn’t enough space for posts, so the beam sits right on the…