Building a deck is one of the most effective ways to boost the value of your home. It also provides you and your family with a space where you can have good times and share great memories. Therefore, if you want all your effort and hard work to be rewarded in the coming years, it would be best to consider composite decking.
Composite decking is a material with everything you need—a gorgeous exterior that complements any atmosphere, unparalleled strength, and excellent performance. Although it looks like natural wood, it’s made from recycled plastic and wood.
Combining these two is why composite decks are durable, long-lasting, and almost maintenance-free. Thus, you’ll have a deck that exceeds your expectations and supports your needs.
So, do you have any idea where to begin? If not, this step-by-step guide might help. Before you start, though, gather all tools and materials necessary. These include composite decking, anchors, bolts, woodworking and carpentry tools, and concrete beams. Once you’ve rounded them up, you may proceed with the step-by-step procedure of building a composite deck as follows:
1. Determine Deck Spacing
Determining the proper spacing of your joists and deck footing is crucial. Start by identifying the size of the deck footing—concrete columns that act as a foundation of your deck. You may check your area codes for the number and size of footing you must follow.
If not, you may look at Table R507.3.1 of the ICC International Residential Code. This will help you determine the proper sizing of your deck footing based on different factors. These include load-bearing value, tributary area, and ground snow load.
Then, identify the joist spacing. Local areas may have a specific spacing, but it’s usually 16 inches. Make sure they’re all evenly spaced across the deck frame, so that compute their values accordingly.
2. Dig Footing Holes
Once you determine your spacing, it’s time to start digging footing holes. They should be six inches under the frost line to prevent the wood from warping. During the wintertime, the ground begins to freeze at the top, which may extend downwards. The point that frost may reach depends on the soil moisture, snow cover insulation, soil type, and severity of the winter.
Here are the two types of manual diggers you can use when digging footing holes:
- Auger: Auger-style diggers are like corkscrews. When you use it, ensure you keep digging in a straight manner. Once you can’t twist it, gently pull the digger upward and remove the soil. You may continue this process until you reach the required depth.
- Clamshell: Clamshell-style diggers are like two shovels combined with their scoops facing each other. To use this, squeeze the handle and drive the blades into the soil. Then, remove the soil and continue until you reach the required depth.
3. Pour Concrete Into Holes
Once you’ve dug all the holes you need, it’s time to fill them with concrete. The following are some easy steps to help you execute the process:
- Create cardboard tubes based on the required footing diameter.
- Create a wooden grid that fits over all footing holes.
- Nail the tube onto the wooden grid to secure it.
- Mix your concrete based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Fill the tubes with wet concrete and smooth them to level them perfectly.
After filling the tubes with concrete, allow it to cure for at least 24 hours or based on the package directions. Once all are dried up, remove excess cardboard exposed above the ground. Now, the primary foundation of your deck is ready.
4. Create Deck Framing
Once the foundation and footings are all up, you may start building your deck’s frame. A simple deck frame usually consists of four main parts. These include deck posts, ledger boards, support joists, and center beams. Here are some details about deck posts and ledger boards:
- Ledger Board: This beam supports the deck by linking it to the side of your house. Yet before you install them, determine where you’ll place your support joists for better results.
- Deck Posts: These are attached to the concrete footings with the help of bolts and anchors. You may use your ledger board as a guide to install these posts. Once you’ve placed them, you may start installing center beams and support joists properly.
- Center Beam: This acts as a rim joist that runs across the deck center. Together with support joists, they’ll improve the load capacity of your deck and its durability.
- Support Joists: These are the last thing you’ll need to install in your frame. To install them, attach them along the center beam and rim joist at the correct intervals. Ensure they’re at least 16 inches apart from each other.
5. Determine Your Fastening System
With a deck frame set up and ready to go, it’s time to understand the fastening systems you’ll need before installing your deck boards. Depending on your composite decking, your deck may use two types of fastening systems—hidden and non-hidden. Hidden fastening systems include T-clips and mini gaps, while non-hidden include face-fixed screws.
- T-Clips: When positioned accordingly, they’ll screw themselves into joists underneath and exude a seamless look on the surface of your deck.
- Mini Gaps: These produce smaller gaps than T-clips. They also need to be screwed before sliding any board into place, thanks to their ‘Z’ shape.
- Face-Fixed Screws: If your deck doesn’t use any of the hidden fastening solutions above, you may directly install the boards using face-fixed screws below the joists.
6. Slide Composite Boards
Before placing your boards, you’d need to determine where your starting clips are. Once found, attach them to every joist before installing a board. Then, you can continue adding boards in a consistent pattern, depending on the hidden fastening you used, such as T-clips and mini gaps.
Trim the last board if it is not suitable in the remaining space. To fix this, you may use a plunger rotator tool to cut the board, but make sure not to change the length of the board. Otherwise, you’ll only waste the entire piece.
Once you’ve placed the last board, your composite deck is complete. Now, how you want to spruce it up is up to you. You may add some colorful plant varieties, outdoor furniture, a grill station, creative lights, or a rug.
Composite decks are an effective way to increase your home’s value. Aside from their durability, they help you save from unwanted and unexpected expenses. If you need help building your first composite deck, go over the step-by-step process and understand each step carefully. Or better yet, consult a professional carpenter or builder to assist you during the process and for better results.