Free Standing Decks - Building Code Issues?

I am about to build a deck off the rear of my home but I would prefer not to attach it directly to the house using a ledger board etc...

I would prefer to build a free standing deck.

I realize I need to check local building codes but other than that does anyone see any issues with my plan?

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Apr 27, 2010
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Free Standing Deck Code Issues
by: Anonymous

You are correct that deck footings near the house [may] have to be placed at the same depth as the footings for the house itself.

I qualify the above statement because the engineering basis for this requirement is that footings must be placed on undisturbed soil. In the case of new construction, the back fill around the foundation wall is not acceptable for supporting deck footings.

However...

If you have an older home and your building inspector asserts that the back fill has been in place long enough to be regarded as undisturbed soil (may require sign off from a competent engineer), then all footings may be placed at the same depth.

This is just one of those situations where its clear that building codes are developed with a focus toward new construction.

best regards

Mar 19, 2010
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Free Standing Decks
by: Editor - Rich Bergman

There is nothing wrong with building a free standing deck but keep in mind a few issues.

You are quite right about being able to avoid the issues surrounding ledger attachment and waterproofing the connection that arise when you connect to the ledger.

But did you know that if you are going to use concrete pier and footing that supports the beam away from the house on which the deck will rest, that the building code refers to how you also have to have the inside footings - the ones close to the house that replace the ledger support - have to be the same depth as the footings for the house which means the basement?

I just read this in one of the latest building code commentaries. So I would suggest you just double check this issue to see if it applies to your situation.

If I recall correctly it referred to having to have footings the same depth as the house footings if they deck footings were within 5 feet of the house foundation.

Please don't take my word for it - go confirm this yourself but I just pass this on to you because it was something that seemed new to me and had implications for free standing decks.

Now, there are simple solutions to this and one of the things that comes immediately to mind is using one of the good ground spike anchoring systems that incorporation foundation plates.

The first that comes to mind is the Titan Deck Foot Anchor which is very user friendly.

You just use a hand held electric impact wrench and just drill it into the ground. Back it out if you hit a rock, relocate and drive back down again.

The customer feedback has been wonderful so this is really helping people out a lot.

Another system that I have used and I find to be top notch is the Oz-Deck Foundation system.

Basically you drive one of the anchors into the ground using a jack hammer along with a load plate that compresses the earth as you tamp it with a jack hammer. The plate spreads the load nicely and its not subject to uplift from freeze or thaw cycles because there is practically no surface area at the tip of the anchor for this to occur.

Both these systems do not contradict the building code and work well. And it would negate the requirement to have footings that go as deep as the house foundation footings if they are within 5 feet of the house foundation.

So I would consider these as great options for you. But as a final word of advice I would recommend you do further reading yourself through the code or speak to someone in your local building department who would have access to the most recent codes. I would also visit the American Wood Council web site for excellent up to date building information at www.awc.org.

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