Laying the Decking

This story covers laying the decking for a deck on a sloped site with helpful fastener and transition tips.

Laying the Decking

Buy decking boards long enough to span the entire deck so you won't need to make butt joints. If that is not possible, plan the location of the joints. Either place them in an alternating pattern or aim for randomness to hide them. Never place joints side by side. Wherever there will be a butt joint, double the nailing surface by fastening a 2x4 cleat alongside the joist. To avoid joints consider using a divider strip.

Install the decking with its lengths running wild, but allow enough at the ends for a 1-1/2-inch overhang, 2-1/2 inches if you plan to attach lattice skirting framed by 1x.

These pages show installation of cedar decking using nailed spacers. Wet pressure-treated decking will shrink, so install the pieces without spacing.

Prestart Checklist

Time
A day to install decking for a 300- to 400-square-foot deck

Tools
Tape measure, circular saw, chalk line, hammer, nail set, drill, chisel, flat pry bar

Skills
Cutting with a circular saw, fastening with screws or nails, straightening boards

Prep
Check that the framing is completely fastened and that there will be a nailing surface for all decking boards

Materials
Decking boards, screws or nails

Step 1

Sort seven or eight decking boards and place them good side up on the framing. Orient each board with its crown facing the house. Choose a straight board for the first one, which in this plan goes up against the house.

Step 2

Snap a chalk line that is the width of a decking board plus 1/2 inch on the joists. The siding may be a little wavy, so check that the line is at no point closer to the house than the width of a decking board.

Step 3

Cut the first decking board to length; you cannot cut it when you trim the edges (Step 8). Align the board with the chalk line and attach it with only as many fasteners as it takes to keep the board straight; you'll drive the rest later (Step 7). Drive the fasteners into the centers of the joists.

Step 4

Allow succeeding boards to run wild -- install them longer than they need to be so you can cut them off later. Use spacers between the boards. Install only as many fasteners as it takes to keep the boards straight; the fewer, the better. Drive the fasteners into the centers of the joists.

Step 5

To bend a warped board, drive a fastener partway into the decking (but not into the joist). Have a helper push the bent board into position and finish driving the fastener. Every seven boards or so, sight along a board or use a line to make sure the decking is straight. Make adjustments if necessary.

Step 6

When you are within five or six boards of the edge, measure to see whether the last piece will overhang the header an acceptable amount -- 3/4 inch to 2-1/2 inches. If not, you may need to rip-cut the last piece or gradually increase or decrease the spacing to make up the difference.

Step 7

Once all the boards have been installed with the minimum number of fasteners, snap chalk lines over the centers of joists. Drive the rest of the fasteners along the lines. This will produce lines of fastener heads that are straight, with only a few exceptions -- a crisp finishing touch.

Step 8

Snap chalk lines 1-1/2 inches outside the framing. Cut the lines with a circular saw. If any waste piece is longer than 16 inches, have a helper support it as you cut. Otherwise it could splinter near the end of the cut. Cut freehand or use a guide.


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