Raising a Deck
Material lifts, commonly used to move HVAC equipment and other heavy items, make it possible to raise a deck in a controlled, safe, and pain-free way.
We made a mistake and hired an inexperienced builder to construct a 5-ft. by 8-ft. deck, and they built it so there’s a 10-in. step down from inside the house to the deck. We need to raise it for obvious reasons, but would prefer not to take it completely apart to rebuild. The new carpenter we hired doesn’t seem to have any creative ideas for how to accomplish this. Can’t we just take the main frame off the ledger board and raise the whole thing?
Editorial advisor Mike Guertin responds: Unless there are extenuating circumstances, this should be an easy fix for any carpenter or deck builder. I’d remove two or three of the deck boards along the house to access the ledger and see how it’s fastened. There should be either lag screws or bolts, which can be removed, allowing the entire assembly to be lifted.
A deck this size usually isn’t very heavy and can be raised using pump jacks or, better yet, wall-lifting jacks positioned near the four corners of the deck. You’ll have to support the tops of the jack posts with some diagonal bracing down to the ground to ensure stability. Another option—one that may be a bit overkill—would be to rent a couple manual material lifts to raise the deck (see “Air-Sealed and On Piers,” FHB #285). These are typically rated for higher loads than you have, but the forks and wide bases of these lifts can simplify balancing the load as it’s raised and bracing it afterward. There may be some preparatory siding removal and flashing work needed, and that can be done before disengaging the deck.
With the jacks positioned, the ledger fasteners can be removed, as can the fasteners holding the metal post-to-footing connectors at the bottoms of the posts and/or the post-cap connectors from the tops of the posts where they connect to the beam. If there are lateral-load connections between the deck frame and the house framing, those will also need to be disconnected and repositioned after the deck is raised. Once the deck is lifted up to the desired height, the ledger can be fastened back to the house. New deck posts will need to be fit to the raised structure. There shouldn’t be many on a small deck, so it shouldn’t cost too much to replace them.
From Fine Homebuilding #290