The Importance of Proper Deck Ledger Attachment

by Rich Bergman

Read This Article First...



A great place for you to start before you get into this specific article would be to read what I think is a seminal article on the topic of basic ledger techniques. Then come back and dig into all this other stuff.

A recent investigation in the Chicago area emphasizes the importance of proper deck ledger attachment. In 2009 a deck collapsed injuring a woman. She sustained a compound fracture and the builder agreed to pay $1 million dollars to the woman.

I just read this in the Journal of Light Construction November 2010 issue and thought that it would be a great thing to reiterate because it is crucial to the safety of homeowners if you are attaching to the ledger of the house - and that would apply to any deck that is over 6 feet above grade. Double check in your local area as to how high you can build a free standing deck.

This turned out to be an isolated case for the builder. Sounds like this never was standard practise - nailing deck ledger boards to the house - thank goodness. Build safely!

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Attaching Ledger Board to House

My contractor wants to nail the ledger board to the house and not use lag bolts. He recommends only nailing the header to the house as the deck is only 2 feet off the ground. What is your advice?

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Jun 02, 2008
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Attaching a ledger board to House
by: Editor - Rich Bergman

I have some concerns with your contractor's suggestion. Nailing a ledger board to the house calls into question his experience, and knowledge or lack thereof for several reasons.

Low level decks such as yours are perfect as free standing decks without any connection to the house. Free standing decks could go as high as 6 feet is built properly.

Also, free standing decks do not trigger the same building code issues as when you attach to the house. Once you attach to a house, you must attach it a certain way, with bolts that go deep into the rim joist of the house or right through and have washers and nuts on the other side.

If you have engineered joists, then you must put 2x10 blocking between the joist from the basement side.

Also, the second you connect to your house the deck must have concrete footings that are deep enough to not heave in freeze thaw situations. So why bother connecting to your house unless you have to.

I have used a product called the Oz-Deck Foundation system and it is great. I really think it is the best option going. It's fast, super strong and will never heave. Read this article at http://www.decksgo.com/deck-foundations.html.

Why don't you shop around for another quote and get other suggestions from other builders? Does your contractor have years of experience and many other happy customers? Buyer beware. Hope this helps.

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Deck Ledger Problem - Old Joists Sit on Wall Plate

by Rick
(Cincy, Ohio)

I would like to replace or repair my old deck. It's about 28' x 12', 8 ft above a concrete porch for the walk out basement.

The 2 piece solid beam (4 x 10's) is rotting, I wanted to replace it and the 4x4 posts with 6x6. The decking also needs to be replaced. I was debating on replacing the whole thing, since the joists and railing are whats left and the joists may be soft on top in some places and the railing wouldn't pass building codes of today.

The deck must have been built with the house in 1972 because the joists set on the wall plate, and the first floor joist is nailed to the ends of the deck joists. On the outside there is the plywood type siding around the joists, sealed with caulking.
If I was to replace the deck joists, how would I do that? I am assuming the deck joists are load bearing for the wall above it.

I don't know if there's blocks between the joists yet, there's insulation between them and there's only a 1/4" gap between the first floor joist and the wall plate.

Also, the posts now sit on cast metal bases on the concrete slab. Then there's metal angle brackets screwed to the posts and concrete. If I replaced them would I have to dig up the slab and put footers in first?

I don't know how thick the slab is but was thinking of using the Simpson post bases with the 1" diameter bolts drilled and glued into the concrete and post.

Any info would be greatly appreciated.

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Feb 23, 2011
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response
by: Rick

I am in the planning stage now, trying to figure the best way to do this. If I replace the whole deck, I would be doing it this summer.

The deck joists are perpendicular to the floor joists in the house. The first floor joist is nailed to the ends of the deck joists and the deck joists are toenailed to the sill plate, and also toe nailed back to the first floor joist. I have drawings of how it all looks now and will upload them shortly.

I am thinking of cutting off the siding and sheathing (theres sheathing, then t-111 siding between the deck joists and vynil siding above and below the deck) to get into the "cavitys" (cant get to those areas from inside the house). Put 2 x 8 blocks between the deck joists (2 per "cavity"), screw them to the first floor joist, cut off the deck joists flush with the wall plates, then put on new sheathing and flashing. Then I can bolt a ledger on with the bolts going through the blocks and the first joist inside the house. Thats the only way I can see doing this safely. Thats my thought so far on how to do this.

Thanks for posting a response to my question

Feb 22, 2011
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You need someone to inspect this
by: Editor - Rich Bergman

What you have described is not uncommon. There has been so much development in the area of ledger attachments that it is impossible for me to give you any really detailed answer.

Without drawings it makes it even tougher. But from what you have described, this sounds problematic. The deck joists sound like they have been "sistered" or nailed beside the floor joists and this overlap sits directly on the sill plate.

Today, that is not typically done although cantilevered decks are allowed provided the ratio of overlap to cantilever is within standards of the building code. Sounds like the best option is for a new rim joist to be installed on the sill plate, reconnect the house floor joists to it with joist anchor as per code. Then reattach the deck joists to its own rim joist and the entire assembly attached following the latest code requirements.

Bottom line, go see a structural engineer who will visit your site, examine it and give you drawings which your town will accept. You, if you are skilled enough, or a builder can build according to the drawings.

As for the rotting posts, the Simpson product is great but you may have to replace the posts entirely. I should tell you I have a new Post Base support system coming out later this year that is designed to do exactly this and save the money and material of replacing the post and give you a watertight seal and high quality appearance. But it won't be available until later in the year.

Hope this helps.

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Can I use Tapcons to Attach Ledger Board to Masonry Bearing Wall?

by Don
(Philadelphia, PA, USA)

I'm building a roof deck (approx. 11' x 13') which is to be supported along the 11' side via a 2 x 12 ledger attached to the adjacent masonry bearing wall w/ a (2) 2 x 12 rim joist along the opposite 11' side.

The rim joist will bear on an existing masonry wall below (acting as a sleeper).

The rest of the framing consists of 2 x 10 joists 12.5' long spanning between the rim joist & ledger @ 20" o.c. supporting 20" structural deck tiles.

I originally was going to use 1/2" lag bolts @ 16" but my contractor would prefer to use 1/4" x 3-3/4" Tapcons @ 12". Is this likely to work?

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Apr 29, 2011
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See 2009 IRC for ledger bolting and lateral loads
by: Editor-Rich Bergman

Wow! You have just entered one of the most active areas of discussion and development in deck building business today. The 2009 IRC adopted a bunch of new recommendations for ledger bolting and lateral load detail. It is table format and you really ought to grab a copy of the 2009 code to get the exact recommendations.

In addition you would be well advised to also get a copy of the Prescriptive Wood Deck Construction Guide put out by the American Wood Council. Its not expensive and it lays things out really simply and will probably clear up a lot of questions you may have.

You are asking specifically about using a smaller fastener but with closer spacing. You have walked right into a technical engineering question and I can't give you any authoritative guidance on the question.

Suffice it to say that within the accepted methods there is considerable range.

But I agree with the previous poster's comments. Tapcons have limitations and you best know exactly what they physical limits are before ever considering them for this kind of crucial application.

Apr 29, 2011
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Do Not Use
by: Anonymous

Tapcons are greatly favored by contractors as they are easy to install and fast. However, per the manufacturer's technical department, they are "not rated for structural use".

Therefore, unless you are prepared to perform the necessary structural calculations as proof to the building code official of their structural capacity, do not use them to support structural loads such as in a deck.

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Attaching Ledger to 4x6 flooring joists on 32 inches

by Joshua Parrish
(Shaver Lake, CA)


Hi I've done framing and some deck construction in my younger days. My parents inherited an old cabin built in the 1960's by my grandfather by hand.

Anyhow the cabin is built using 4x6 flooring joists that rest on a beam inline with the foundation and they are spaced every 32 inches. We have designed out a deck but working on how we want to attach the ledger to these 4x6 flooring joists. The cabin has no rim band on on the end of these 4x6 joists.

What would we need to do to add a 2x10 ledger to these joists. I've read about blocking but how would you block through the 4x6 joists. I'm pretty sure I cant just attach the ledger to the ends of the 4x6 joists right?

Attached is a rough drawing of the flooring joists of the cabin with all the wood depicted being a 4x6.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

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Jul 10, 2011
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Here are a couple ideas
by: Editor - Rich Bergman

Somehow you need something to be able to secure a ledger to the house. If your beam that you show is flush with the ends of the 4x6 joists would it not be possible to attach a ledger securely to the beam? You could also set it a few inches below the top side of the flooring as well.

You should try to avoid have a deck surface at the same level as the flooring in order to flash properly and reduce the risk of water entering the enevelope of the home.

But if that beam is not flush with the ends of the joists then maybe a ledger could be secured to the ends of each joist. The only issue there is that fasteners would have to be fairly long because holding power into end grain is not as strong as through cross grain.

But really before you build you should run this by a structural engineer who probably can physically inspect your home and give you professional on site advice about the right way to build this deck.

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Installing a double ledger board for deck


(Plainville, Mass)

Do i need to install a double ledger board for deck that is attached to a raised ranch where the deck is 8 ft high. This is for a house in Plainville, Mass.

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Extending Ledger Board ?

by Danny
(St Joseph, MO )

I'm building a 20 x 40 deck and at the most its going to be about a foot off the ground in most areas. My question is : 14ft of the foundation is where I'm going to put in a ledger board, but i still need to extend out another 16 ft to the remainder of the over all length .

Will i use a 20ft piece from the furthest point back to the house which would make it 4ft attached to the house, and just add another ten ft ledger to it?

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May 20, 2010
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Ledger becomes beam
by: Barnettdeck.com

At 5' from house put a pier, the ledger becomes a beam (and rim joist). Make a drawing and get your permit.

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Ledger for 2nd story deck with no rim joist

by Todd
(Shoreline, WA, USA)

I am replacing an existing 2nd story deck where the current rotting joists enter 6-8" into the house with blocking between them. The 2nd story floor joists run perpendicular to this with the first one being 16' inside and a heat duct between it and these existing joist stubs. There is no rim joist between the lower floor and upper floor, only the joist tails and blocking. To what do we attach a ledger board for the new deck which will utilize joist hangers?

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Extending Ledger Board and Deck Footing Piers

by Desperate for suggestions
(Edmonton, CANADA)

I have a new home with a deck that has a 10 foot ledger board. I want to extend the ledger board to 12 feet and don't want to cut the vinyl siding to do this.

The new deck will be 12x12. I haven't poured the footing piers for the deck yet.

How many piers will I need and where should they go?

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May 07, 2008
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Adding To An Exisiting Deck
by: Editor - Rich Bergman

Extending the ledger board or nailer board as you call it on an exisiting deck poses some challenges. The ledger board ought to be one continuous piece, not a spliced piece.

Given you do not want to cut away the vinyl siding I am going to recommend an option that is not my preferred option but will address your first concern.

Build a floating deck that is 2 feet wide and is connected to the side of your existing deck. This means you must extend the length of the underlying support beams by 2 feet.

You could add 12" to each side of the deck if you wish. But then you must increase the beam length accordingly on each end of the beam. You might also have to dig footings for concrete piers to support the beam extension. This will be a bit of labor.

Your question about the pier footing positions is a bit moot given that the existing deck is already properly supported. But for a 12 deep deck I would have 3 beams, 12" minimum from the front and back of the deck and spaced 5 feet on center. Use 2 2x8s. I would have 3 4x4 support posts evenly spaced beneath each beam.

Hope this helps.

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Deck is longer than the length of the house, should the ledger be?

by CJ
(Edmonton, Canada)

We are rebuilding our deck and increasing the size to 14' x 14'. Now, the deck will stick out at the edge of the house by about 4', which is what we want.

However, we were wondering if the ledger should stick out or how to deal with this scenario so the deck is properly built.

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Jul 10, 2011
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Thoughts on ledger board
by: Editor - Rich Bergman

This is an interesting question. And since the deck is only 4" wider than the house it may not be such a big deal to have the ledger stop at the end of the house and the rim joist of the deck extend past the extra 4".

However you may wish to flash and cover the exposed end of the ledger board at the end of the house. I really don't see this as being a structural problem if everything else about the deck is well constructed.

Maybe there are other experienced builders out there who might be able to add some helpful comments.

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