March 2014
Homeplace & Community

Cash Your Check and Build a Deck

With two inches of fall, rain quickly runs off this deck without standing. I ran the deck planks at a 45-degree angle just for a variation in looks. Each summer, pressure wash and treat the deck with sealant.  

Warm weather is just around the corner. The best way to celebrate the end of hay feeding season is to grill a few steaks on the deck for family and friends. What’s that you say? You don’t have a deck? Well, if you can build a fence, you can probably build a deck.

Visualize and Measure

Once you decide where you want to attach your deck to the house, determine the size of the deck by marking off imaginary corners. Then, place a table, chairs and grill in the proposed area so you can determine the size you need. Mark off the deck area keeping in mind where you will put exit steps and handrails.


Since the deck will be exposed to the elements, use treated lumber. The other hardware needed is galvanized bolts, nuts and washers for attaching the floor joists and end plates to the end posts and floor joist hangers for attaching the floor joists to the house plate. Also, make sure the deck screws used will be guaranteed against rust and corrosion, and use star head screws because the star drive will not strip the head. Bagged cement can be used to set the posts.

  Attach your two-by-eight plate to the house with galvanized lag bolts and washers.

Begin Construction

The first step is attaching a treated lumber plate against the house with lag bolts. The floor joists will be attached to this plate with joist hangers. I used two-by-eight lumber for the house plate and floor joists. Use a four-foot level to ensure the plate and all other parallel framing is level.

Next, just past the estimated end corners of the deck, drive stakes and batter boards into the ground so you can string off the deck area making sure measurements and end corners are completely in square. Plan to dig and set corner posts and middle brace posts in cement on the same day you run the strings. This will lower the chances that a running dog or curious child might run into the batter boards and strings getting them out of square.

If you are building a small deck, one set of brace posts set between the house and end posts should be sufficient. Once the postholes are dug and the posts are set in cement, you are ready to run a support across the end posts running parallel to the plate secured to the house. This end plate should be a couple of inches lower than the house plate.

Check the strings to make sure the dimensions will be perfectly square.  

This will allow rainwater to flow away from the house once the decking material is attached to the floor joists. If this plate is level with the house plate, the water will stand or run toward the house.

Attach one of the floor joist hangers on the end of the house plate where the first floor joist will rest. Set the two-by-eight floor joist into the hanger on the house end and hold the floor joist up against the end post and mark the level line. Drop down two inches and mark this line. The end plate will rest under this line, and the floor joists will rest on the endplate. This will give your floor joists the necessary two inches of fall.

Repeat the process of placing a two-by-eight floor joist in the hanger on the house side to mark and attach the other end of the endplate to the corner post. Once the floor joist on the other side is attached and the end plate is in place, you can install the remaining floor joist hangers against the house plate. Finally, put the remaining floor joists in place in the hangers and secure them on top of the end plates. Then, you can attach a final two-by-eight end plate at the end of the floor joists for extra strength.

If your deck has two end posts and two middle brace posts, there will be six brace plates in all. One plate is secured against the house for hanging floor joists. Two plates will run parallel to the house plate and secured with bolts on each side of the brace posts that will hold the floor joists at the mid-point. Finally, there will be two plates attached to the end, corner posts to hold the ends of the floor joist. The final plate covers the ends of the floor joists and rests above the end plate on the corner posts.

Left to right, mark the spot on the end post at the level mark; then drop down two inches to attach the floor joist. This creates the necessary fall. the plates attached to the brace post. The plates support the floor joists, and joist hangers are attached to the house plate.

With the posts set in cement and the floor joists secured to the posts with full-length bolts and nuts, the deck won’t sway or rock when filled with people. You can then install your decking with star head screws and a cordless drill. Treated quarter round is cheaper than composite, man-made material, but it will deteriorate over time.

You can delay the deterioration by keeping the deck treated each year with wood preservative. Deck stain is also available allowing you more color selections. The deck will darken over the years, but if you want to remove the darkened mildew and discoloration, a gas-operated pressure washer will remove much of the darkening due to age and weathering.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.