Bob & Rodman – The importance of quality materials and building techniques.
A few hints on deck design and construction can help ensure you wind up with a safe, long-lasting deck addition. The basic principle is to construct a free-standing structure that, while attached to the home, is perfectly capable of standing on its own. A little bit of overbuilding at the time of construction will pay handsome dividends in the long run.
Start from the ground up. Set the deck posts on poured concrete footings, not in the ground. OK, if you can buy or specify “ground contact” pressure-treated material, you certainly should. But you don’t have to put it in the ground. Poured concrete footings provide a larger bearing surface to support the deck weight; They will be more durable than buried posts, and, with a slightly domed top and proper post brackets, the concrete footings will allow water to drain away from the vulnerable cut-end of the deck support posts.
About those deck posts! Design the deck to allow the primary support posts to also serve as the support posts for the deck stairs and railing system. Basically, the deck should hang on the support posts, not sit on top of the support posts. Railing systems that are bolted to the primary support posts will probably satisfy minimal code strength requirements when first installed, but the attachment system is unavoidably weakened over time by weathering at the mortises and bolt homes. Make the primary support posts long enough to carry the railings, and that kind of weak spot is removed.
Speaking of bolts. Attach the floor support joists with carriage bolts: bolts that penetrate through posts and joists and are held tight with a washer and nut. Make the same choice for the bolts that secure the deck to the rim-sill of the home. Lag bolts are often used but do not provide near the security of the through-bolt application. Lag bolts are essentially fat screws with hex heads; You are counting on the screw threads to keep you safe. Invading moisture can compromise that attachment.
Opt for a deck-board attachment that allows the deck boards to be fixed to the joists from underneath. Look at the “Deckmaster” system for an example. While you’re at it, check out some of the modern synthetic/recycled deck boards: no cupping, durable and attractive. Both approaches cut down on or eliminate splinters.
A frequent question on The Bob and RodMan Home Show is when to stain and seal a new deck. As soon as the pressure-treated material is dry to the touch, go ahead with the staining and sealing process. Remember, the more opaque the stain, the more durable the finish. The more opaque the finish, the more hidden the wood grain. You choose what is important to you.
Following these few hints will give you a deck that is a lasting beauty, not a long-term problem.
Tune in to The Bob and RodMan Home Show every Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. on 920 AM-WGKA to learn how to improve your house or apartment. RodMan is a certified home inspector, knows residential property appraisal and is a hands-on home renovator. Bob owned a roofing company, has reclaimed distressed properties for years and has Master Licenses as a plumber, electrician and HVAC mechanic. www.bobandrodman.com