Deck Basics

by Matt Myers

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If you are currently researching into the world of decks, this article can help you to better understand what goes into current deck building. Decks are basically frames with decking and rails attached. While any deck can have extra items like benches, privacy screens, and pergolas added, the deck basics remain the same.

The Deck Frame
In some cases, footers are poured to ensure that the deck will never move. This is a bit extreme unless there are some circumstances that call for it, like when you are building on a slope, when the soil composition will cause slippage, or when you are planning on having continuous weight on your deck. Footers are bell-shaped concrete forms that serve as anchors for the deck.

The posts that support the weight of the deck. Some contractors choose to have these posts sitting on top of the poured concrete piers, whereas others choose to sink the posts into the concrete. Either method works, but there is a school of thought that claims that the first method keeps the posts from rotting.

Once the concrete is dry and the posts are solid, the frame is built. Ledger boards are first attached to the house so that the house acts as part of the anchor. The joists are built out from there and attached to the ledger boards with joist hangers. Once this is completed, it's time for the decking.

Attaching the decking is both the best and worst part of the deck building process. At one time it is great to slowly see the deck come together piece by piece, but on the other side it is long, arduous work on your knees attaching all the screws. Decking has traditionally been made of wood, but composite decking is creeping into popularity.

Take that deck out further and make it into a custom

Outdoor Kitchen

Rails & Spindles
Rails are then built up not only to provide barriers so that people don't fall off, but also as a place to lean on and sit drinks. The small, vertical slats that run from the top of the rails to the decking are called spindles, just as with staircases. Spindles not only provide a design element, but also provide a safety component in keeping people from falling through to the ground.

Deck Building Basics
As mentioned, there are many extras you can add to your deck. What is here is just the deck basics so that you understand the process a little better.

Deck Installation Project Guide
If you enjoyed this article, check out our free Deck Installation Guide, which features expert advice, design & material comparisons, and custom price estimates for your remodeling project.
Matt Myers is a freelance writer for the home maintenance and remodeling industry. Formerly a contractor specializing in deck building and casework, Matt has written over 500 articles for both homeowners and contractors.