One very common upgrade you can do to your home is to replace an old rotting deck. You will probably have a basic wood deck like the one to the left. The boards are getting soft. If it’s painted, the paint is flaking off. The handrail is loose. It’s an eyesore and a safety issue.
This is a project you may want to tackle yourself and if that’s the case, there are some specific things to keep in mind when it comes to the framing of your new deck.
First, you want to demo the old deck. Make sure you take safety precautions when demoing your old deck, especially if it’s a second story deck. You want to be careful to demo the deck from top to bottom. Remove the old handrail, then the decking, and the framing comes out last. Be careful of nails and loose boards. Also, you will want to put some caution tape across any door that opens on to the deck, especially if it’s a second story deck. Depending on your area, you might have a wood recycler that will take the old wood for a lot less than a dump will charge you. Call around first, some wood recyclers won’t take pressure treated or painted wood. Sometimes you can have a dumpster dropped off that you can just fill up on site and then have picked up.
You might not be able to rebuild your deck exactly the same as it was. Even if you liked the size and shape of the old deck, it might not have been built to code. You’ll want to check the spans of the joists and beams and make sure you are using appropriately sized material. You might need to add a few extra posts to support the beam. You might need to increase your joists from 2×6 up to 2×8. There is a chart that will tell you the maximum span of different sizes of lumber. You can see that chart here.
Once you have determined the proper size and spans of your new deck framing, you will want to consider how you want to install the decking. If your deck is over 20′ long, you won’t be able to get deck boards long enough to span the entire deck. If that’s the case, most commonly the decking will have staggered joints throughout the surface (like the picture of the old deck above). Personally, I think staggered joints not only look ugly, but the boards can shrink causing a gap between boards which then gets filled with debris and is hard to clean.
If you are using wood decking, these areas are also susceptible to rot. I like to do a picture frame boarder around the edge of the deck and then one down the middle on longer decks so I can use full length boards on each side. This method calls for some extra framing in order to support the picture frame decking board though. You can add ladder blocking on the ends of the deck to support those boards by blocking across your two outside joists every 16″.
The other thing to consider is if you might want to install your deck boards at an angle. This is a good looking option and will usually take care of the problem with your deck being too long for a single deck board. The issue with installing deck boards at an angle is that the span between joists becomes longer which will make the deck bouncy. You will need to frame your deck joists 12″ on center instead of 16″ on center. This will give the needed support to the deck boards and take away the bounce.
Once you have demoed out your old deck and thoroughly planned out your new deck, it’s time to start framing. You want to start with the ledger. The ledger is the piece of framing material that attaches directly to your house. If your deck material is 1″ thick, then you want to install your ledger 1 1/4″ – 1 1/2″ below the threshold of your door. You then want to use some 1/4″ x 4″ lag screws to secure the ledger to the house. You will want to make sure that water doesn’t get down between the ledger and the house though, so you’ll want to install flashing over the ledger which will tuck under the siding. All of your framing will be leveled off of this ledger.
The most difficult part of any deck build is the stairs. If you are building a first floor deck, you can probably just box out the one or two stairs you will need. A second story deck will probably need 12-14 stairs which is going to be trickier. First, you will need to get a measurement from the top of the framing to the ground where your stairs will land. Then you need to divide up the height to make the right amount of stairs, all equal rises. You’ll want to check your local building codes to see what the maximum rise for a stair is and make sure you don’t exceed that. Once you get that measurement, say 7 1/2″, you can use the framing square to mark out notches in a piece of 2×12 material. Use a set of stair buttons, which are small metal studs that screw onto the framing square. Set one at 7 1/2″ (thats the stair “rise”) and one at 10 1/2″ (thats the stair “run”). 10 1/2″ works out to be a good stair run because you can install fascia and two deck boards onto it and have a little bit of nosing overhang.
Once you have all your stairs marked out, you’ll want to make all the cuts. You can start with a circular saw, but you don’t want to over cut the line as it will weaken the stair framing. You have to stop at the line and come back with a jig saw to cut the wood that the circular saw blade didn’t reach.
The last bit of advice I can give you is to set your handrail posts during framing. Having the posts set in the framing and then notching around them with the decking makes for a sturdier rail in the long run. It also gives you the option to use a composite post wrap if you want to really dress the handrail up.
Tools you will need for deck framing:
4′ Level – You will need a good 4′ level for ensuring your ledger is ledger, beam and joists are level and that your posts are plumb. If you want to get fancy, you could snag a laser level to use to get all of your heights.
Speed Square – This is a carpenters best friend. You use the speed square to draw straight lines for your cuts and you can also use it mark a quick 45 degree angle or find any other angle between 0 and 90 degrees.
Cordless Drill / Impact Driver – You will be doing a lot of drilling holes and driving screws. You can use a standard cordless drill by itself for both tasks, but an impact driver really makes the job so much easier. You can buy both together in a kit with a couple batteries and a charger for a relatively good price.
Circular Saw – You won’t get too far on your decking project before you will need cut some material. You can get direct drive saw for $40 at your local big box store, but I usually recommend a worm drive circular saw. These are easier to use and last longer.
Jig Saw – If you need to notch your framing around anything, you will need a jig saw. Unlike a circular saw, which only cuts in a straight line, a jig saw will let you make turns so you can cut out smaller notches.
Framing Hammer – You won’t get much done without a framing hammer.
Flat Bar – This is going to be a handy tool. Pulling nails, prying lumber and doing demo. You will need something flat to pry with.
Framing Square – This is most important for laying out stairs, but you can also use it to square up your framing. If you are framing stairs, don’t forget to grab some stair buttons to use to make the process go more smoothly.