There is much more to framing a deck than cutting and banging a bunch of joists together.
Yes, many inexperienced builders will do just that.
However, if you are serious about building and designing a beautiful deck that will dazzle your family,friends or clients, raise your work above the crowd and save you money then continue to read this article.
You will learn how to size up the underlying structure of a deck so that you never have to rip a single expensive composite board.
This means reducing wasted material to almost zero and a decking surface that looks like it would in the show room.
Oh yeah, and it means more profit on each job.
Richard Barnett is based in Ottawa, Illinois and has twenty years of experience building beautiful decks that make any home shine.
He is also a highly experienced general contractor specializing in custom home building and renovations of all kinds.
A true professional and a perfectionist.
Take advantage of the exact consistency of Trex or any composite material. This gives the advantage of planning and calculating the total surface area of the final deck including spacing.
I like to picture frame composite decks especially since the material is mostly a capped product now and the ends show differently.
The picture frame usually consists of 2 rows of the same color and with a combined width of 11-3/4” allows posts to fit completely within that two board picture frame.
I like to coordinate the picture frame boards with the post color.
A deck that is nominally 14’ deep (out from the house) will actually have a surface depth of 166 -1/2”. This is 1-1/2” less than a full 14’ (168”). This distance accounts for 29 boards (5.5”) and 28 spaces (1/4”) between the infield boards.
To determine the dimension of the depth of the framing underneath, you need to subtract the following:
So you would frame the deck at 164 ¾ “deep including the ledger for a 14’ deep deck.
As you saw earlier, it gets a bit tricky when you try and maximize your
efficiency with deck framing in an effort to eliminate ripping boards.
You can add one more element of complexity when trying to assess the framing dimensions with the standard 68” composite railing lengths. In a perfect world you would have zero wasted railing material and this can really add to your savings.
But here is another area of deck framing where you can really minimize the waste and cost that comes when you install composite railing sections that are less than the typical 68” length.
Imagine not thinking about this at all and wasting two feet per railing pocket or section? Ouch! So here is the take away points to remember when it comes to railings.
And there is math to calculate the framing outer dimensions so that you have zero waste. But then you usually end up ripping boards to fit that optimal dimension.
So a safe Rule of Thumb to keep in mind are multiples of 6’ when you are estimating general lengths and depths of a deck. This will at least keep you fairly close and keep your railing waste to a minimum if you are not prepared to do exact calculations.
And remember, when the deck is all finished, ripped decking tends to be more visible because of its asymmetrical appearance to all the other boards then railing spaces between posts that are slightly less then the standard 68” gap.
One final word of warning. Not all composite decking is 5.5” wide. There are some variations from one manufacturer to the next. Keep this in mind when doing your calculations.
Follow the same procedure and you will be framing a deck that looks beautiful for less money or more profit. You will also be smiling as you drive to the bank without a truck full of wasted decking! :)
Richard Barnett is an active builder and owns and operates Barnett Construction and Barnett Decks. Richard has a degree in Physics from Northern Illinois University. To contact Richard see his profile in our builder database.
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