HINTS & TIPS


Our "Hints & Tips: A Guide to Avoiding Common Deck Building Problems" is normally $9.95 if ordered separately.  However, for those ordering one or more sets of deck, screen porch or gazebo plans, we include it at no extra charge.  Our way of saying "Thank you! We appreciate your business."  The examples and questions below are taken directly from this very informative guide.  Copyright 1998-2008 by Mike French


  
 

Question:   "Should I run my decking flush with the threshold of my house door or run the decking a few inches lower so I step down onto my deck?"

Answer:   It is much better to have at least a 4" to a 6" step down from your house to the deck.  The reasons are multiple: 1) Rain can occasionally force itself underneath a threshold and consequently rot out a subfloor.  2) People expect to step down when leaving a house.  A flush deck may make folks stumble. 3) A small elevation difference at the house will tend to keep leaves, snow and debris from blowing into your house when you open the door.

Question:   "Suppose I want to build a deck now with the intention of building a screen porch on the deck at a later time.  Is there anything I should do now to make it easier then?"

Answer:   You bet.  Run screen over your floor joists in the area of your future porch.  Then attach your decking.  This will cost you a few dollars and a few minutes extra now... but will save much more money, time and aggravation later.  Another thing: You must know exactly where the walls of your future porch will go, and which walls will be "load bearing" (meaning which walls will carry the weight of the future roof).  The structure under these future load bearing walls will need to be beefed up to handle the extra loading when the porch is built.  It will be a lot easier to add the extra joists, beams and footings now rather than later.  We can offer you consulting for this aspect of your deck, or you can speak with an engineer or architect.  Your local building Plan Reviewer should also be able to help (and he's free).  Same for a future spa or hottub... though we have recently added an optional universal hottub substructure to all of our Building Plans which is designed to sustain the weight of an average fully loaded spa.  But ALWAYS OBTAIN APPROVAL FROM YOUR LOCAL PLAN REVIEW before building a deck which will hold a future screen porch or future hottub.  Plan ahead!

Question:  "Speaking of spas and hot tubs... is it generally better to recess a spa down into a deck?  It looks so "sexy" recessed down into the deck, know what I mean?  Or should I buy a portable spa and just sit it on the deck?"

Answer:  Well, I really hate to burst your spa bubbles, but it's not at all sexy to step down into a recessed spa only to miscalculate how far down the spa bench is below the surface, pitch forward and fall into the spa!  If you absolutely must recess the spa, only recess it into the deck floor enough that the spa's interior bench seat comes to approximately the same elevation as the deck floor.  This way your lady's "spa foot" will be at the same elevation as her "deck foot"... and hopefully she won't do a somersault as she enters it (spoils the mood you know).  But the best solution is to buy a portable and set it on the deck floor (properly supported).  It will be easier to build the deck under it rather than around it... and, should you ever want to get it out of there (like if you move or want to upgrade to a bigger one), you can.  Besides, if that special someone sits on the edge of the spa, swings her legs over, and then slides down into the spa... it's better for the mood than if she falls in.  Know what I mean?

Question:   "Should I space my deck boards to let the rain water through? And if so, how far apart?  The width of a 16d nail like my last deck builder did?"

Answer:   Spacing of deck boards was started when carpenters only had kiln dried, non pressure treated wood.  The boards would not shrink much at all, but they would rot if water was allowed to stand on them.  Therefore spacing was needed to allow rain water to drain between the boards.  Today the opposite is true.  The boards are pressure treated and will not rot should water stand on them... and, because they come usually quite wet from the supplier, they shrink.  Consequently you should never "gap" the boards.  Rather butt them together as tightly as possible.  They will normally dry and shink producing between 1/8" to 1/2" gaps depending upon a variety of conditions.  Too often homeowners (and even some deck builders) will "gap" pressure treated decking.  This can result in unsightly spaces which also act as "high heel catchers" which are both annoying and dangerous.

Question:   "Isn't it true that the deck boards should be laid so that the "cup" of the end grain is down?  I've heard that this prevents warping."

Answer:   This is one of the widest held ...

Question:   "What is more important, a large footing hole, or a deep footing hole?  Also, doesn't filling up the hole with concrete help to support the weight better?"

Answer:   The footing hole must be...

Question:   "Should I sink the post into the concrete? I've heard that this is good so that the post won't move side to side."

Answer:  ...

Question:   "Should I fasten the post to the concrete?"

Answer: ...

Question:   "Should I use screws to attach the deck boards to the joists?  I want to prevent those ugly, dangerous nail pops after a few years."

Answer:   You can, but you will need a special tool to install screws quickly.  They are more expensive, and normally considered overkill.  We have a much more economical solution... 

Question:   "Do galvanized nails ever rust?"

Answer: ...

Question:   "Should I install the deck boards parallel to the house or on a diagonal?"

Answer:  (The answer to this one could save you hundreds of dollars of future repair costs to your house.)

Question:   "Is there any significant difference between .4 retention pressure treatment and .6 retention pressure treatment?"

Answer:  ...

Question:   "There are so many deck stains and sealers available... can you give me some guidance on what you prefer?"

Answer:   Certainly.  We have had some experience with deck sealers... and we only suggest one brand:  ...

Question:   "Should the 2x2 pickets on my handrail run all the way to the deck floor?"

Answer: ...

Question:   "Is there any benefit to closing in the stair risers other than looks?"

Answer: ...

Question:   "Are there any benefits to using 5/4x6 decking over 2x6 decking?"

Answer: ...

Question:   "Isn't it smarter to use 6x6 posts to support my deck as opposed to 4x4s?"

Answer: ...

Question:   "Any problem attaching my deck to a cantilevered (overhang) portion of my house?"

Answer:   Don't do it.  Most local building codes prevent this practice.  The reason is because many folks will attach the deck band to the house band which has only been NAILED into the house joists.  Therefore half of the weight of their deck is supported by the shear strength of a few nails!  Be safe and run an extra beam under the deck at the area where it attaches to the house.  Or, you can remove the existing house band, and run your deck floor joists back until they rest on the house foundation wall.  (Always be sure to flash your deck to prevent water from gaining access to your house.)  Or, step your deck down and attach the deck band to the house wall (normally concrete). 

Question:   "Any problem attaching my deck band to that thin plywood house band they use today with those plywood joists?"

Answer:   Don't do it.  Be sure you attach the deck band to a SOLID house band that rests on top of a solid foundation wall.  Some localities permit attaching the deck band to a 1.5" thick plywood house band or to a typical 2x10 or 2x12 house band only.  Check with your local building plan review to be sure.  If you have a thin (less than 1.5" thick) plywood house band, you must either support the deck at the house with another beam, or you will want to install blocking of 2x8s or 2x10s behind your house band and between your house floor joists such that the blocking is resting on the house foundation wall and is securely attached to the existing house floor joists on either side.  Then carriage bolt through the deck band, through the house band, and through the 2x blocking, installing nuts and washers on the other ends.

Question:   "Should I "pitch" the deck so that water runs off?"

Answer: ...

Question:   "Which should I use... #1 or #2 decking?"

Answer:  (This one has a very interesting answer.)


 

For additional information, to place a Deck Plan order,
or to make an appointment, contact us today:

 
 

 

 


 
 

 

 
Virginia Decking & Remodeling LLC
PO Box 41157
Fredericksburg, VA 22404
 
 
 
 
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Note: If you are calling for a telephone estimate, that's great. I only ask that you first work with my extremely powerful Excel Deck, Porch and Sunroom Price Worksheet. Then call.

Thanks!

 

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Copyright 2006-2012 by Mike French
DBA Virginia Decking & Remodeling LLC
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