Deck Construction 101: Building the Deck Frame
Building a deck is sometimes pictured as a do-it-yourself backyard project. In American beer commercials, you’ll see a group of friends framing out a deck, and then relaxing at the end of the day on the finished product, enjoying a cold one.
If you’re handy with power tools, have some construction experience, and are good with math, then building a deck is something you and your friends might want to tackle yourselves. If you are ready to bring in the pros who have crafted hundreds of decks of varying types across the area, then give us a call at Dupont Construction and Remodeling. Over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about deck construction. Take these tips from the professionals before you dive in too deep.
Determine the Type of Deck You Are Building
Are you attaching the deck to your home or is it free standing? Is it a floating deck? What are the regulations in your area for pouring post holes and using foundation piers? What is the depth of the frost line in your region? The type of deck you choose to build affects both the materials and the process for framing.
Determine the Material You are Using
If you choose to build a wood deck, there are guidelines for load bearing and placement of joists for support. These guidelines differ for composite and PVC decking. Sawdust, reclaimed wood, plastic and other recycled materials make up composite decking options. The type of material will determine the number and spacing of your joists as well as the type of fasteners you need.
Make sure you know the precise type of wood you are using so you can determine its approved span for joists. This handy chart will help you.
Are You Ready to Begin Framing?
You must be sure your footers and posts are installed correctly before you begin framing, if necessary. Also, be sure that you have properly attached the deck’s ledger board to your home’s rim joists. The ledger board must be secured to the joists using lag bolts and needs to be level and secure for your framing to go well.
Gather Your Tools
Framing a deck requires some essential tools to do the job right. You’ll be making frequent checks that the boards are level and straight and also verifying that your corners are square. Make sure you have the following tools:
- Torpedo Level
- 2-foot level and 4-foot level
- Speed square
- Framing square
- 25’ heavy-duty measuring tape
- Chalk line or chalk box to draw straight lines. Blue chalk washes off more easily than red
- Carpenter’s square to check for square corners and mark extended cutlines
- Construction pencil or Sharpie to mark where your joists go
- Clamps of varying sizes to temporarily hold pieces together
- Lag bolts to attach the deck to the home
- Decking screws (1 ½ lb and 2 lb) and galvanized screws – use galvanized if the screws will be underground or in a high-moisture area
- Galvanized joist hangers
- Crescent (adjustable) wrench for tightening bolts
- Utility knife, as needed to modify cuts
- Circular saw for straight cuts
- Flashing (if attaching to the home)
- Tin snips (aviator shears) to cut flashing
- Small planer to shave down boards, as needed
- 18 or 20-volt cordless drill with nail/screw attachment or compressed-air nail gun
- Sander and sandpaper or orbit sander
- Safety goggles
- Work gloves
Making the Deck Frame
A deck frame is composed of joists and beams. To do this job, you’ll need to know the difference between the two. Joists are the boards that are repeated across the length of the deck at intervals to support the flooring. These typically come in 2” x 6”, 2” x 8”, and 2” x 10” sizes. The size you need depends on the number of footings and beams you will install, as well as how high the deck is off the ground. Local building codes may also dictate the size of joists you must use.
A beam is the primary load-bearing portion of the deck. Appropriately sized and placed beams determines your deck’s structural soundness. Beams support the weight of the joists, as well as the railings, banister, decking, and, of course, the furniture and people who will be on the deck. Beams are often Double or Triple 2” x 10” or 2” x 12” treated pine lumber.
Building the Deck Frame
- Measure the pieces of wood that will make the sides of your completed deck, and attach them to each other using butt joints, galvanized fasteners, and decking screws.
- Measure your sides for joist placement, using the guidelines for how far apart they should be spaced, typically 16”. Next, mark the sides with your Sharpie or construction pencil.
- Toenail a joist onto the rim joist, making sure your corners are square. If you are in a high-wind area, reinforce with hurricane clips.
- Install the joist hangers and ensure the board is level, flush, and square.
- Repeat with other joists along the length of your frame. If you end up with one joist that is higher than the others, notch it or plane it to make it level over the beam.
Building a deck frame can be complicated, but once you get the hang of the measure, cut, level, square, reinforce process, it will go fairly quickly. You’ll love seeing the deck take shape under your hands.
Contact Dupont Construction For Help
There are expert deck installers right here in the Twin Cities area. To ensure the job is done right, give us a call. We’ll be happy to provide a free estimate and to work within your budget to design and build a deck you will love. We will construct your deck up to code so that it is safe and long-lasting. We’ll handle the permitting process as well as any regulations or communication with utilities. In the end, you’ll have a beautifully constructed and framed deck that you can enjoy with your friends, family, and pets.
Whether you did DIY construction or picked up the phone to call the pros at Dupont, it’s time to crack open a cold one and enjoy the fruits of your labor on your new deck.