Have You Ever Built a Deck? Do You Want to in the Future?

| 10/16/2009 3:07:00 PM

Tags: question to readers, DIY,

Summer is over, so many of you may be thinking of projects that didn’t get done during nice weather: expanding the vegetable garden, repairing the front porch steps or even building a backyard deck.

But don’t lament what didn’t get done — plan how you’ll get it done when the weather warms again. 

I’m considering putting a small deck adjacent to my house’s patio, one that would dry quickly after a Midwest spring rain. First things first, I need to decide upfront how much time and energy I can put into this outdoor building project. What’s most pressing for me to figure out is the footings, which go into the ground and support the legs or posts of the deck.

I could dig 3-foot deep holes and fill them with cement, making sturdy and freeze-resistant piers. This is a good idea, as I certainly don’t want the deck to warp and weave in response to seasonal changes.

On the other hand, I could use deck blocks, which sit on top of a base of fine gravel. They’re easy to move around, require no digging and allow the project to move along more quickly. However, they are susceptible to frost heaving. But if I think it’s possible this deck wouldn’t be permanent, it would be easier to take it apart and relocate it if I used deck blocks.

Have you built a deck? What approach did you take to support the posts? Are you dreaming of building a deck? Share your experiences and plans by posting a comment below.

5/4/2011 5:40:04 AM

Check this out http://www.fiberondecking.com/blog/2011/in-deck-design-form-equals-function/

wire deck railing
5/4/2011 5:32:33 AM

If you plan to build a deck, you shouldn't miss on safety measures. Railings are good to install to prevent falling off the deck. Get http://www.bclumberstore.com to help with the best materials to use.

geoff taylor
11/10/2009 11:30:18 PM

Heidi, Having done around a hundred decks, I must agree with Pat M. about PT wood, and Terri in AK is EXACTLY right about the intelligent way to build a deck in areas where frost heave is an issue. As I live in Oregon, the only problem is drainage. Water kills decks. Maybe it makes sense to pour footings -- 3 feet deep? Oh, Thank You for reminding me why I left the Midwest, never to return -- and plop pier pads right on them. However, this should be said about decks: Whether built on the tundra of Alaska or in Ice-Planet Kansas or in This-Ain't-Hawaii Oregon, there is no such thing as a permanent outdoor deck. Houses always outlive decks. Seems to me that Troy's idea about basement shelves could be a applied to a deck system made of connectable platforms, which could be removed and dried/treated once a year, on those blistering days in July. Heidi, if you want a permanent deck, think concrete and tile. If you want a semi-permanent deck, think modular wood. And Pat's right, you're better off starting with untreated wood. That way, you can pick your methods of preserving it, most of which are toxic, and have some control over the end product.

james johnson_5
11/4/2009 12:47:48 AM

Heidi, A friend of mine, DIYhomecenter, is interested in adding Tiger Claw fasteners as an extra article on how to build decks on your website. They also sell polywood furniture for the deck (made from recycled milk jugs). Let me know what options exist to add extra content to help assist your website visitors and in exchange just allow a link back to my friends website. Look forward to hearing back from you and any other options that you may be interested in besides the ones I have mentioned. Sincerely, James Johnson "Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."

lee johnson_3
10/21/2009 12:03:19 PM

I am building a deck right now and I am putting the 4 X 4 deck supports directly into the concrete and then cutting them off as I go. Putting the wood directly into the concrete is not a good idea so I am placing the post into plastic bags and then pouring the concrete around this. I will let you know how this works out in about 50 years. There is a deck in the back that was done this way ten years ago and it seems perfect and there are 4 x 4 without the plastic that show no sign of deterioration. But if you were to remove one of these post one would wonder.

10/21/2009 11:57:58 AM

I'm in southeast Alaska, just finishing a 35X12 deck on the back of my rental as the frost begins. If we worried about frost heave up here, we'd have to put concrete piers down over 12 feet. It is just a way of life. Most uncovered decking up here is done with the idea that it will have to be redone eventually, and built on adjustable deck block piers that can be screwed up or down with the seasonal heave: down to counter the upheaval in winter, back up in summer as the heaving drops again. One of the primary reasons for frost heave is moisture content of the soil. If you can protect the area during the rains from absorbing moisture, it will minimize the extent of heaving later, so long as the water table is deep. Ours is about 50 feet below the surface so will not contribute to the heaving. A deck is a thing of beauty. Nothing lasts forever. Stop contemplating and get yours done so you can enjoy it this winter too.

whit a.
10/21/2009 11:54:00 AM

Check your local building codes first. You may not have a choice in the type of footing you use.

10/21/2009 9:30:42 AM

I also would like info on which method to use, we have been planning a deck for 2 summers now but havent done it due to not knowing which way is better, ie; digging holes or deck blocks or both. We planned to put a low deck off the back entrance (12 x 22), covering some exsisting contrete then a one step up elevation in the elcove area (24 x 12) adjancent to a sunroom..basically a "L" shaped deck not attached to the house. Therefore any information shared would be appreciated!

pat miketinac
10/18/2009 9:29:10 PM

I have built two decks, both freestanding on deck blocks. The first was built in 1980 with pressure treated wood and is still standing. The other was built of cypress from my sawmill and was dismantled after about 10 years due to rot. Cypress may be good for siding or dry areas, but not standing water. A sealer might have helped it last longer. I am not impressed with today's pressure treating methods or chemicals. Some landscape timbers I bought 5 years ago are already rotten. The green color did not fully penetrate the wood. Buy a sample first and cut it up to check penetration.

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