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Deck design-build project tips for a more interesting and more successful deck include details such as smoothed-over deck board ends, staggered decking joints, and careful location with respect to existing windows, doors, or other building and site features.
We also discuss the importance of good drainge provisions for the deck. This article series describes critical safe-construction details for decks and porches, including avoiding deck or porch collapse and unsafe deck stairs and railings.
Deck Design Ideas & Tips for a More Interesting & More Successful Deck Design-Build Project
Break the Edges of the Deck Boards
The edges of exposed boards on a deck will look nicer if you take a little extra time to smooth them over.
By doing so, you also make them less likely to develop ugly gashes and threatening splinters.
A router equipped with a round-over or a chamfer bit is the quickest way to smooth the front edges of stair treads, dress up the sides of a railing, and add a finishing touch around the perimeter of your decking . Sanding, by hand or by machine, is also effective, as is running a plane along the edge of a board to create a slight bevel.
Stagger the Deck Board Joints
Staggered joints are a cornerstone of good building, whether you’re installing sheets of plywood sheathing or constructing a brick wall. Decking, too, is stronger and looks better if you make an effort to prevent butt joints between the ends of the boards from lining up.
If possible, use the longest boards available to eliminate or minimize the number of butt joints. If you use the double joist technique for butt joints, plan to use at least two sets of them so that the joints zigzag rather than line up.
One thing is certain—your deck will get wet. To keep water from causing problems, use construction techniques that encourage it to drain away as quickly as possible. This advice is most important with a large, flat decking surface.
Plan a drainage gap between all rows of deck boards, and plan the framing so that butt joints fall over a gap in the double joists below.
Overhangs, or cantilevers, offer both visual and structural benefits. Joists and decking that extend beyond a beam partially conceal it, and also make the deck somewhat larger without additional foundation work.
Deck boards that overhang perimeter joists an inch or so create a satisfying shadow line while allowing fasteners to be installed farther from the board ends, reducing the chance of splitting. Whenever different surfaces meet, see if you can add an overhang to the juncture. Research for recommended limits on joist cantilevers; similar restrictions apply to overhanging a beam beyond a post
Consider the Effects of the Deck on the Rest of the Building
As you plan your new deck, it is understandable to focus on all the benefits it will bring. But it is also wise to consider some of the consequences of such a large project that may not be so beneficial. Here are some things to think about.
Decks can bring you closer to great views from the outside, but they can obstruct views from inside the house. You can minimize this effect by creating a multilevel deck or lowering the deck surface a bit.
A high deck can block sunlight from reaching windows and doors beneath it. Shifting the planned location of the deck or designing it with an opening for the sun are possible remedies.
Your neighbors may see the deck differently than you, as a noisy construction project (in the short term) that will bring more people and commotion outdoors (in the long term).
You may want to discuss your plans with the neighbors before you begin to offset such concerns.
Design often requires compromises. Will your deck offer a spectacular lake view from outside the house, but block some of the scenery?
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 Steve Bliss's Building Advisor at buildingadvisor.com helps homeowners & contractors plan & complete successful building & remodeling projects: buying land, site work, building design, cost estimating, materials & components, & project management through complete construction. Email: email@example.com
Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
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