Proper Deck Building
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Proper Deck Building
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A well-designed and professionally built deck increases the value of a home providing an outdoor living space.  A safe and attractive deck can add to the quality of life for a family, by providing a place for relaxing and entertaining.


Every year people are injured and killed in accidents involving collapsing decks or railing failures.  Many decks are built by persons with little or no knowledge of building code requirements. Deck safety requires attention to static and live loads of the deck.  Particular attention must be given to the support foundation and attachment to the house.  Our contractors take deck building seriously and go the extra mile to assure the safety of your family.

Railings must be able to provide a safety barrier for all persons using a deck.  Railings are required on decks 30” or higher above the ground.  Many decks built without consideration of building codes have railings that are accidents waiting to happen.  Railing posts must be bolted to the deck structure and withstand a 200 lb. lateral force.  Railing height must be at least 36” and baluster spacing should not exceed 4”.  Children and pets can easily be injured if railings are not built to code specifications.  Avoidance of ladder-type railings that can be climbed by children is particularly important. 


Everything of value has a solid foundation.  Decks are no different; they must be placed on a foundation that is not affected by freeze/thaw and can support the static and live load.

The frost line in the Charleston area is 24”.  A proper foundation begins with a concrete pier placed below the frost line and rises to grade level.  A support post, usually a 6”x6” pressure treated timber, is attached to the top of the concrete pier with a bolt and a Simpson Strong-Tie post bracket.


The structure or framework of a deck is built of pressure treated timbers.  The building code provides minimum standards for the size of these timbers.  Exceeding the code requirements will result in a stronger, safer, and more valuable deck.  Casey’s Building and Remodeling typically uses timbers that are larger than code requirements.

Most decks are built with 2”x10” joists on 16” centers, which cantilever over and are attached to double 2”x10” girders.  Cantilever cannot exceed 25% of a joist’s length.

Girders are attached with ½” galvanized bolts to posts.  Post spacing is typically 8’ or less.  Depending on the height of the deck, cross bracing between posts may be installed to provide moment support.

Particular attention is given to attaching the ledger board to the house, as it supports approximately half of the weight of the deck.  Depending upon the material, the ledger board is attached with either lag bolts, wedge anchors, or carriage bolts.

Because pressure treated wood is corrosive to metal, fasteners must be galvanized.  Simpson Strong-Tie fasteners, such as joist hangers and hurricane ties, are used at critical connections.


Decking can be either pressure treated or composite boards.  The choice will be guided by price and the useful life of a deck.  Pressure treated boards may have an expected structural life of 40 years, however decking boards receive the brunt of nature’s punishment.  Snow, rain, and sun will, in about 15 years, weather decking boards to the point that they look as if they need to be replaced.  They still are usually structurally sound but are not attractive or pleasant to walk on in bare feet.

Composite decking has much longer useful life.  It is warranted for at least 25 years.  A homeowner can expect a composite deck to have much less maintenance and still be in excellent condition when a typically pressure treated deck needs replacing.

The attachment of pressure treated decking is typically done with a nail gun using galvanized nails.  Composite deck typically is attached with hidden fasteners or screws.


Proper railings are required when a deck is higher than 30”.  Railings must be at least 34” high with balusters spaced no more than 4”.  Posts are usually spaced less than 8’ and bolted to the deck’s structure. 

Railing can be in pressure treated wood or composite material.


        Minimum stair width is 32”, however wider stairs are more comfortable.  A 36” stair should be the basic stair, 40” is even better.  Stairs usually have a rise of between 7” and 8” and a tread of 10” to 12”.  The rule of thumb is to have rise and run (tread) equal 18” (7” rise + 11” run = 18”).  Less of a rise, greater run.  Stairs with an overall rise of greater than 96” you may want to consider including a landing.

Call us today for a free consultation!  (304) 549-3419

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