Best Deck Installation Tips and Tricks
There are lots of new decking products on the market, and deck building methods continue to evolve and improve. Here are some tips and tricks the pros use. Use these simple steps when building your deck and make your friends and neighbors jealous and your family proud.
Deck Installation Tips
Use Decking Spacer Boards
These yellow boards are spacers that are used to space decking planks apart. Big spacer boards will grab and pull out, and won’t fall between the other decking planks. You should be able to find these boards at any big box hardware store in your area.
Use the Right Deck Materials
Selecting the right deck color is critical to making your deck an integral part of your home. There are endless options when it comes to decking materials but if you don’t think it through you’ll probably be sorry. Some pretty important options to consider are whether or not you are using natural wood or composite materials like Trex, the length and the width of the deck planks ( hint your deck shape will help dictate this) and the color of the deck in contract to the part of the house it will be attached. If attached at all.
Ledger Board Flashing
Here’s another great deck installation tip. Make sure your ledger boards are protected and aren’t getting water down in them. Deck ledger boards are a common source of water infiltration, and it can be years before you discover the damage caused by water finding its way behind the ledger and into your home. The process below may seem a little excessive, but the extra time spent following these steps may save you thousands of dollars in repairs.
- Install house wrap on the wall several inches higher than where the top of the ledger board will be.
- Install Z-flashing approved for pressure-treated lumber where the bottom of the ledger will be.
- Cover the top of the Z-flashing with house wrap tape.
- Fasten the ledger board over the Z-flashing.
- Install flashing approved for pressure-treated lumber on top of the ledger.
- Cover the top of the flashing with window/door flashing tape.
- Install house wrap over the flashing.
- Fasten the house wrap to the wall with house wrap tape.
- Install the siding.
Use Durable Decking
Just a few years ago, most manufactured decking was “composite,” typically a combination of wood fibers and polymers. Composite was a big improvement over wood, but today most manufacturers offer something even better: “capped” or “shelled” decking. The core of capped decking is similar to composite or made from cellular PVC, but that core is covered with a layer of denser, tougher polymer. That means better resistance to scratches, stains, and fading. Brands include Fiberon, Azek.com, TimberTech.com, and Trex.com. Paying more usually gets you a thicker or tougher cap, plus deeper texturing and blended coloring for a more natural look. The decking has shown, Trex Transcend is made from 95 percent recycled material and includes a 25-year fade and stain warranty.
Use the Right Screw for the Job
Structural screws work great for hanging a ledger board and fastening thick framing members. The main advantage of structural screws over traditional lag screws is that they don’t need a pilot hole, which cuts the installation time in half! The Strong-Drive TIMBER Screws shown here have a low-profile head and are driven in with a large Torx bit. An 18-volt impact driver or 1/2-in. the drill should be enough to get the job done.
Hide Ugly Deck Board Ends
The ends of manufactured deck boards are ugly, and you don’t want to leave them exposed. There are a couple of ways to hide them. The easiest solution is to raise the fascia board so the top is flush with the top of the decking (top). But keep in mind that most fascia/skirt boards are 11-1/4 in. wide, which means they aren’t wide enough to fully cover both the deck boards and a 2×12 joist.
Another way to hide the ends is to install a border/perimeter board around the outside edges of the deck (bottom). This method can really dress up your deck, especially if you choose an accent color for this board. The downside of a perimeter board is that it requires extra framing underneath.
Engineered Lumber for Outdoor Use
Engineered lumber has been used inside buildings for years because it’s stronger and straighter than regular lumber. And now there are versions for outdoor use. It may not be cost-effective to frame an entire deck with engineered lumber, but installing an engineered-lumber drop beam is a great way to reduce the number of posts and footings needed to support a deck. The one shown here is made by Weyerhaeuser.
Deck Board Fastening Options
Screwing through the face of the boards is by far the fastest, easiest, and most structurally sound method of fastening deck boards. Modern deck screws have reverse threads to suck the decking down tight to the joists and specially designed heads to prevent mushrooming. Some face-screwing systems, like the Cortex system from FastenMaster, allow you to countersink the screws and fill the holes with plugs made out of the same material as the decking. Installing the plugs is time-consuming, but the fastener locations are almost invisible.
Boards with grooves on the sides can be held down with hidden fasteners. Hidden fasteners are self-gapping and easy to install, and you can’t beat them if you want a nice, clean, fastener-free look. Each decking manufacturer has a recommended fastening system. Avoid the kind that requires fastening from underneath. Also, select a fastening system that doesn’t require removing half the deck in order to replace one damaged board in the middle.
Avoid Deck Rot with Flashing Tape
Pressure-treated lumber that stays wet will eventually rot. Flashing tape keeps water from getting trapped between doubled-up joists. If you’re resurfacing an existing deck frame, tape over any joists that have a lot of holes from the previous nails or screws. Buy black tape if you can find it; shiny silver and white tapes may be noticeable between the gaps in the decking. The tape shown will be covered by the perimeter deck board.
Blocking Keeps Decks Flat and Square
Manufactured decking isn’t as stiff as wood decking, so it allows joists to bow. And that leads to a wavy deck surface. To help keep joists flat, always attach blocking perpendicular to the joists. Also, install diagonal blocking to keep the entire frame from racking. Use narrower lumber (2×8 blocking on 2×10 joists) so the blocking looks less conspicuous from a distance. Once everything is secure, run a string on the top side of the joists and plane down the remaining high spots.
Maintenance-Free Deck Posts
One way to spruce up posts is to cover them with a maintenance-free material. AZEK makes a PVC Column Wrap that’s super easy to install. Simply glue together three sides, slide them over the post, glue and clamp the last side in place, and then never worry about painting or staining again. AZEK Column Wrap is available for 4×4, 6×6, and 8×8 posts. Order it at home centers and lumberyards that carry Azek products.
Maintenance-Free Deck Balusters
New metal balusters can give your existing wood deck a sleek, modern look. These two options are made by Deckorators. The Baroque Balusters are simply screwed to rails. The round Classic Balusters are held in place by hidden connectors that require no hole drilling. Deckorators balusters don’t need to be painted or stained, which is probably the most tedious deck maintenance task there is.
No-Dig Deck Footings
Some pros have given up constructing concrete deck footings. Instead, they’re using the Diamond Pier foundation system. To install a Diamond Pier footing, just drive in four pipes with a demo hammer. That eliminates a ton of digging and concrete work. The standard deck model is the DP-50. Most home centers and lumberyards that carry this product will also have breaker hammers you could borrow or rent.
Precision Deck Screw Sinker
When you’re screwing decking, this Smart-Bit Deck Screw Depth Setter is a great tool to make sure all the screws are set at a consistent depth. The type of bit can be changed to match the screws, and the depth of the screws can be adjusted. This tool also has a free-spinning collar with a rubber bumper to prevent marring.
Water-Shedding Composite Decking
Trex decking is a unique composite decking that doesn’t allow water to pass between the deck boards, keeping the area under the deck dry. A dry space under the deck is a great place to continue your deck party during a rain shower or to create some useful dry storage. In order to channel the water away, the decking needs to run perpendicular to the house, so remember to install the framing joists parallel to the house. And make sure the substructure has enough slope to carry the water away.
That sums up our tips and tricks for deck installation but if you have any other questions or want to discuss any of the items above, leave a comment below in the comment section, give us a ring at (517) 627-7999 or drop me a private message on our contact us page.