Monday, May 11, 2009

Deck Building!!! Part 3!!

The hope is by now you're ready to begin work. First and foremost, you must secure the main box plate to the existing structure. If it is wood, locate the beam centers or the main box plate that your walls rest upon. Secure this plate using lag bolts, or through-bolts if your home is built of block. There are many of them out there that I passed through solid cement, sometimes twelve inches in depth, and then used threaded rods to secure this plate. Remember, the deck will be secured to your home only as well as you secure this vital plate!!

A good tip to remember is that every board has a crown to it; this is a raised section that can be seen when the board is held on edge and you look straight down the length of the timber. Crowns are always up when placing floor joists; mark them clearly so you don't face any timbers with the crown facing down. I always liked to use a colored keel, which is like a big crayon, but is unmistakably identified. Remember to place your floor joists 16" on center. Use a framing square to square up your frame and take your time placing all your beams, making sure you're square and level, and that you have parallel spacing between each floor joist. Now determine where your support members will go. These will reduce span and keep your dimensioned lumber within the codes. Don't cheat or stretch the spacing of these support members; they are what will be holding up your deck and its bearing load.

Once you have placed these members, you can determine where your support posts will be located. Again, don't cheat or stretch the span. More is better here. You may be asking yourself, how is all this lumber staying up while I get my support members and support post in place? By now you will have realized that you must temporarily support your entire framework until this process is in place. Once again, don't skimp on temporary supports; they will be keeping your deck square and level till you get your permanent support posts placed. You will want to keep them in place until the cement dries on your footings, so take care to place them where they will do the most good, yet not be in the way of the building process. During this time you will learn to appreciate the convenience of using screws for assembly.

Once you get all these components in place, you're ready for decking the top surface of your floor joists. These timbers are very important, as they will be highly visible. When I was building decks years ago, I would go to the lumber yard and pick each and every board to be used. Although some were not fond of this practice, I explained to them that I didn't mind at all paying full price for the lumber to be used; my goal was to ensure it was usable. So, I found it much more effective to select each piece. Although it took time to do this, in the long run it saved time and headaches. Till this day when I build a deck, I employ this practice. It also would be wise to use #1 lumber, as it has very few knots, if any.

When placing the decking down, you will find that most wood has either a cup or a crown, a cup being a curve inward, a crown being upward. Always face the best side up, whether cupped or crowned. Industry standards have found this to be the best application, despite years of theory to place the bark side up. When you take a photo of someone, you may hear them say, "Shoot my good side." That's because, for whatever reason, they appear more attractive on this side. This is the same with your decking. Let the best side prevail.

You will need to construct your railing system; that is, the supports for the railing system, before you place down your decking. The reason is that they will go down below your deck surface into the box plates, which will provide additional and necessary support. I like to through-bolt these supports, as this provides excellent strength for safety and stability. There are many styles of railings to choose from. Pick one that complements the existing architecture of your home, as this will make your deck appear as though it belongs to the home, and not as an added-on eye sore. Many people don't respect this part. Don't fall into that snare. Take time to consider, look at photos of sample railings, or simply try some real live samples and see what works. Now install them.

Just when you thought the fun was over, there's more. Do you need stairs? Where should you place the steps? How should they be constructed? We will learn more about how to build a deck that will last in the next blog. To be continued...

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