All hands on deck, be it front or back

Posted May 15, 2009, at 11:44 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:28 a.m.

Summertime is here by the time Memorial Day hits. Well, maybe in South Carolina, but we are getting close.

And we are ready to get out on the deck and enjoy the weather.

What’s that? You haven’t built the deck yet? Well, let’s look at some of the important bits.

I really like to build decks. They are a great do-it-yourself project. You can start out building a small deck (some people might call it a porch) or go full out for a multilevel social gathering point for the whole extended family.

Most decks have one edge anchored to the house. This helps simplify construction.

It is a simple matter to anchor half of the deck to a rock-solid building, but there are a couple areas of concern.

First, the board that anchors the deck to the house, the ledger board, needs to be well-anchored with either lag bolts or heavy-duty anchors which are now used to replace lag bolts — such as TimberLoks.

Lags are usually installed about 2 feet apart and are never installed near the edge of the ledger board. They must be at least 2 inches from any edge. Lags are usually one-quarter to three-eighths inch in diameter. It is best to have them anchor into floor joist ends or double thicknesses of solid framing.

The gist of this topic is that half of your porch or deck needs to be solidly carried by these pieces of metal fastener. They need to be strong and not pull out.

Second, we need to protect the building that is adjacent to the ledger board from water. Rain and melting snow will drain by gravity in behind the ledger board. It might leak into the house or linger in this area and rot the building. So it becomes extremely important to install flashing and-or a drip edge to keep water away from the building. Some folks use a product such as ice and water shield to help protect the wooden structure. But you will still need the flashing.

We must anticipate Murphy’s Law because Murphy rules the home improvement universe.

Third, I like to always use pressure-treated lumber for the structure of a porch or deck. It is cheap insurance. Some pressure-treated lumber can cause corrosion issues, so it is important to use stainless steel screws and nails for building the structure.

Fourth, some part of a deck will require posts to be installed. This concept can be daunting to some. A simple way to install a deck post is to use a pressure-treated, 4-by-4-inch post and use a concrete post base to support it. Frost can move these posts if the base is simply put on the ground.

Some soils can hold water and freeze in the winter and push the deck up. A simple way around this problem is to install a 2-foot square of 2-inch-thick Styrofoam underneath the post support. The foam should be covered with some soil to protect it from sunlight and wind.

Fifth, you will need some power tools. Yay! If you don’t have any, now is a fun time to go buy some toys. Get some safety glasses while you are at it. Splinters in the eyes are never a joy. And this should be a fun project.

Next week, we need to think about decking — the human interface of the deck, for all you computer geeks who have never built a deck before.

For more details, there is, of course, a Web site: www.deckfailures.com. This is a graphic reason to follow codes and build a solid deck.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at www.bangordailynews.com/thehomepage.html.

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