This month: Ground deck
This month’s project falls into the category of “cover it up” work. It’s not restoration in any sense, but sometimes I work on projects like this, and I hope my experiences are still valuable to you.
At this home, there was an ugly area by the door which consisted of broken concrete, some stones, some bricks, and a general mish-mash of ground cover. One solution, of course, would be to tear it all up and place a new concrete pad there. This homeowner chose a different direction, and wanted me to build a ground-level deck there. Here’s what it looked like when the house was first bought from the previous owner:
A few years ago, I helped remove the derelict brick flower planter. The back hillside support wall was also built at that time (go back and read my “Ideas” column entitled “The Small Wall.”) Since then, the homeowner has made a lot of other improvements, including some painting.
Here’s how the area looked just prior to this latest work:
I didn’t take a lot of pictures during construction, so you’ll have to study the pictures below to fully understand my mad methods. First of all, the substructure was built from pressure-treated wood. All treated wood is not the same! I rarely use any treated wood that is not “rated for ground contact” since anything less is simply inferior and won’t last as long. Of course, all fasteners need to be compatible with that wood, meaning hot-dipped galvanized, stainless steel, ceramic-coated, or something else that won’t corrode from the wood chemicals. I used the standard 16” joist spacing, with blocking at several locations. What really doesn’t show up well is that the original ground there has a slope from back to front, and slightly from right to left. I chose the maximum and minimum heights, and did a lot of old-fashioned “ciphering” to plan things out. The joists would need to be cut to different widths to offset the slope and make all the tops level. However, the length of the area was too much to do that in “one run,” simply because the height (thickness) of the joists would run out, down to nothing. The ground rose up too much. Therefore, a step was needed in the middle of the run. With a 2x8 at the front edge, joists cut to fit the slope to a minimum thickness of about 2”, then a 2x8 step again, and so forth to the final joist at about 2”, it would work. This was not a matter of the joists being strong enough to support weight, as they would be sitting directly on the old concrete. This would be a floating structure and not anchored except by its weight. Where needed, shims were installed below the joists if my cuts weren’t perfect.
Look at these next 2 pictures to try to interpret what I just said.
I left the ends uncut until I was sure where the outer decking boards would end up. I then trimmed each end to the proper overhang. The front joist and the joist at the step were spaced out so that a finish deck board could be installed in the other direction to cover all the cut ends. Composite material was used for the decking boards. I’ve never used this type of hold-down before. As you can see, there are black anchor straps that are nailed to the tops of each joist, and the deck boards simply snap into those straps. That spaces the boards out evenly, and permits the removal and replacement of individual boards if any become damaged. Further, no fasteners are visible. The straps take a bit of time to install, but once there, the decking snaps on incredibly quickly.
In this next picture, all of the decking is done. You can see the pronounced taper of the side joist as it tied all of the variable thickness main joists together.
Here’s a view of the completed job, with band joists painted to match the house.
I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!
If you’d like to download a PDF of this “Ideas” column, click here: