Deck Attached to House or Free Standing

by Amanda Taylor
(Fredericton NB Canada)

How long or how high can a deck be before it must be secured to the house?

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Jun 28, 2008
Height of Free Standing Deck
by: Editor - Rich Bergman

Free standing decks are not attached to the house. This saves a lot of finicky labor associated to attaching properly to the rim joist of the house and pleasing the local building inspector. The connection to the house becomes crucial to longevity and safety.

A free standing deck completely avoids this problem. But you can only go so high or you have to deal with wobble and movement. This can be addressed up to a point with trusses and bracing between each of the support posts.

But the higher your deck the more visible this bracing becomes and the more it might resemble an old style roller coaster structure - not the best for a backyard deck.

Residential Code Issues

The IRC has a statement under R403 that permits free standing decks up to a certain maximum square footage which is far greater than a common residential deck. But there is no statement on maximum height. Then in Canada, where you are from there is a statement under Chapter 9 that mentions structures that are not built on concrete footings. It sets out a maximum height of 60 cm or 24" from the underside of the joists to the grade.

Further complicating matters is many cities have over riding statements that allow free standing decks up to 5' or even 6'. So bottom line is you have to check locally.

A great product for free standing decks that is very easy to use as long as your soil is not full of rocks is the Titan Deck Foot Anchor. It makes really strong free standing decks and is rated for up to 6 feet high. No digging, no cement and no mess.

I would never build another deck without them for most projects. There are some exceptions, but not many.

So I recommend keeping it to 6 feet or lower. Judge for yourself how stable it is once all the deck boards are on and add bracing if needed.

Also, if you plan on a free standing deck try keeping all posts within 6 feet of each other because you are relying entirely on the post arrangement for so much stability that you would otherwise get from attaching to a ledger against the house.

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