Building a deck may seem like a rather simple home improvement project. But if you don’t build your deck correctly, it could become very dangerous. Here are five deck design ideas to make sure your deck is safe:
Multi-level decks can be very attractive, however keep in mind this deck design creates less, not more, usable deck space. Since the area around the step down can’t be used for furniture, you lose use at least two or three feet on each side of a step-down. To visualize the useable deck space and tryout efficient layouts, use a rope to outline the actual shape and size of the deck on the ground before construction. This can give you a good idea of how your furniture might fit inside the finished space.
Deck Attachment to House
Structurally speaking, attaching the deck to the house is one of the most critical connections. Done wrong, you can invite rot, wood destroying insect infestations and even a deck collapse, like this:
Make sure your connection is solid and properly flashed to keep out water and avoid disaster. Never use lag bolts to connect a deck to the house as they can easy loosen and pull out. Through bolts, which go all the way through the box beam and are bolted on the inside of the house, are a far more secure connection.
To Nail or Not to Nail
Once you’ve made your choice on the deck design, deciding how to fasten the deck board to the frame involves a few trade-offs. If you are working with composite decking, the fasteners are usually a hidden feature not visible to the eye. But if you are working with wood, you might want to think through the options. Nailing may be easy but even galvanized nails can leave stains and “rust bleeds” on the wood. For a more permanent solution, choose stainless steel screws driven just below the deck’s surface where they are difficult to spot.
To make sure the decks won’t ride up and down as the ground freezes and thaws, deck footings must be dug below the frost line (usually about 3 feet deep). An easy way to create a footing is to use a round tube-style concrete form. Dig your hole, insert the form, dump in two bags of quick-set concrete, add water and mix in place. Repeat the process until the tube is filled with concrete and never let one layer set before the next is added.
Deck Lighting and Electricity
When designing your deck, don’t forget to consider lighting and electrical needs for safety and convenience. This is the best time to consider adding a circuit for perimeter lighting or an extra outlet for a mini-fridge to keep drinks cool.
The only thing better than enjoying your deck with friends and family in beautiful weather is doing so with the peace of mind that the structure is truly safe and sound. Following these tips for a well-designed deck will ensure a proper construction that will stand the test of time.