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Parts Of A Deck

Before diving into Building Codes, obtaining a building permit, plat maps, easements, and so on, it makes sense to take a minute to define the basic parts of a deck. In so doing, you can brush up on your deck building vocabulary and also get a brief exposure to some of the considerations related to deck framing.

  1. Ledger Board: Whenever the deck is attached to the house, a ledger board is used. In general, ledger boards are the same size as the floor joists. After selecting a straight piece of lumber for the  ledger board, the ledger is bolted to the house's framing. Given the potential for injury should the deck break apart from the house, it's important to select the right type of bolt, as well as, the correct size and spacing of bolts to handle expected design loads. Similarly, to avoid water damage to your home's framing, it's important to install sheet-metal flashing that prevents rainwater from getting between the ledger and the home's framing.
     
    Check Point Check Point - Most treated lumber sold is wringing wet - with a moisture content of around 65%. What most people don't know is that lumber with a moisture content above 19% does not hold nails as well, has weaker bolted connections, and isn't as strong or stiff against bending as dry lumber. When you build your deck or gazebo, make sure you understand how to compensate for "wet service" conditions. For a very modest price you can get a password and have instant access to all the wet lumber design information you'll need to make sure your deck and/or gazebo won't fail under heavy loading.
     

  2. Floor Joists: In general, "2x" (two-by) lumber with an actual thickness of 1-1/2" is used for floor joists. Probably the most common floor joist size is 2x8 lumber - actual size is 1-1/2"x7-1/4". The species of lumber, the spacing of the joists, and expected design loads all determine what size floor joist is required.
     

    Crown Joists Up
    Place Crown Up On All Joists

     
    Tip Tip: Most boards have a slight "crown" to them. To check for crowning, hold one end of the board about a foot from your nose with the other end resting on the ground. With the wide side up, sight down an edge of the board. If there is any crown, your eye will easily see the edge as being slightly curved. When you install your joists, place all the joists with the crown up. In so doing, you'll get a more consistent floor surface. Later on, when you install the decking and furniture, the extra weight will work to flatten out the crowns resulting in not only a consistent but also flat floor surface.
     

  3. Solid Blocking: Blocking keeps taller joists from twisting onto their sides when heavily loaded. In general, blocking is just short boards cut from the same size lumber as the floor joists. In fact, you should set the most warped joists off to the side and cut them up for blocking.
     
    By 2003 International Building Code (IBC), blocking is required every 8 feet for 2x10 and taller joists. In other words, the distance between any two rows of blocking, or any one row of blocking and the end of the deck, can not be more than 8 feet. It should be noted that the blocking doesn't necessarily have to be centered over the length of the joists.
     

  4. Support Beam: The beams take all the weight from the floor joists and transfer this load onto the posts and ultimately to the concrete footings in the ground. Although there are special composite lumber exterior grade beams, usually either a solid lumber beam or a built-up beam is used.
     
    A solid lumber beam is just that. It's  a single thick and wide piece of wood. For example, a 4x10 solid beam is 3-1/2" thick by 9-1/4" tall. Built-up beams are made from nailing together two or more "2x" boards. In practice, the use of one type of beam over the other is solely a function of what part of the country you live in. Both types of beams are perfectly acceptable.
     
    Check Point Check Point - Metal joist hangers are used to attach the floor joists to the side of the ledger board. The capacity of joist hangers depends on many factors such as the joist hanger design, the diameter and length of the nails, the nailing pattern, and whether the ledger board was "wet" at the time of installation. Be careful not to exceed the capacity of your hangers. Make sure you understand how to adjust the rated capacity of your hangers for the application and also know how to determine the load the joist hangers must carry. For a very modest price, get a password and have access to easy-to-read hanger tables and expert advice that'll ensure your deck hangers are strong enough.
     

  5. Band/Rim Joist: Band joists, also sometimes called rim joists, are just joists at either the side or end of the deck. There's nothing special about them. In fact, unless you've got stairs attached to one of them, band/rim joists only have to carry a fraction of the load that the regular floor joists do.

Tip Tip: In the deck above, the ends of the floor joists and beam are cantilevered. This means that instead of ends resting directly on a support part of the framing, they project out past their supporting member into thin air. When cantilevers are used, it's easier to frame a deck since the posts and beams don't have to be perfectly aligned. That is to say, if the posts aren't spaced perfectly but are at least in a straight line, it won't matter since the ends of the beam are cantilevered. Likewise, if the beam is set a bit crooked but the joists are cantilevered, it doesn't matter. When framing, let the ends of the joists run long during assembly and then snap a straight cut line after all the joists are in place. If the beam is a bit crooked underneath, no one will ever know.

The content under the "How-To" menu is a small sampling of all the material covered on BestDeckSite. For immediate access to in-depth information on easements/set-backs, evaluating the building site, creating a rough draft of your project, as well as, comprehensive coverage of all aspects of gazebo and deck building, get a password and log-in now.

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