Building a Freestanding Deck

woman measuring deck dimensions

The upper rectangular platform of this deck overlaps the lower one by 2 feet. Planters and benches help define two distinct areas. Because it sits low to the ground, no railing is required.

Projects in Freestanding

Footings and beams
The soil near the foundation of a new home -- soil that was backfilled after the concrete basement was poured -- is unstable. Local codes usually require that concrete footings within 3 feet of the foundation must be 8 feet deep. To avoid the time, effort, and expense of such deep footings, this plan makes use of heavy-duty beams that rest on footings placed farther away from the house. The beams, made of three 2x10s, run perpendicular to the house and are strong enough to cantilever 3 feet past the footings. The middle beam supports both deck levels.

The decking is pressure-treated 5/4x6 laid at a 45-degree angle to the house. For proper support the joists must be spaced no more than 12 inches apart. If thicker 2x decking is used, or if the 5/4 decking is run perpendicular to the joists then the joists could be placed 16 inches apart.

Framing for the upper level rests on top of the lower-level framing and overlaps by 2 feet.

Using pressure-treated wood
Inexpensive pressure-treated lumber is used for the visible parts -- the decking, benches, and planter -- and the structural members. Many decks made of pressure-treated lumber lose their looks: The wood warps, splits, and turns an ugly gray. But with a little extra care a treated-wood deck can look great for many years.

Choose boards that are straight, dry, and free of large knots. Pressure-treated wood may twist and warp as it dries, so stack it tightly until you install it and fasten it securely. After a month or so, check to see whether any fasteners are working loose. If so, remove them and install longer fasteners.

One Hour or Less

Three simple projects to cross off of your to-do list -- just print these instructions and begin!