September 16, 2021

Avoid these 10 Common Deck-Building Mistakes in 2021

Harmony Van Kuyl

Harmony Van Kuyl


Building the perfect deck can be tricky! Yes, many people may say that it is not rocket science, but most people make mistakes while building their decks. Some of them are so subtle to notice, until they face the…

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Building the perfect deck can be tricky! Yes, many people may say that it is not rocket science, but most people make mistakes while building their decks. Some of them are so subtle to notice, until they face the after-effects in the long run. It is better to stay aware of all such mistakes and make sure that you do not make them.

In case if you still have the notion that deck building is easy, then you just Google deck building fails! You will come across multiple images, videos and interviews of people who have committed such mistakes without knowing! You might get inspiration from multiple home improvement renovation shows, but these shows do not mention the planning, designing and safety measures involved. There are a lot of pitfalls involved during the whole process of deck building.

As professionals, we consider this is our utmost responsibility to educate our readers about deck building. You can refer to this article as the complete guide to avoid all mistakes of deck building in 2021.

1.) Improper attachment of the house to the ledger board (Also called as ribbon strip)

A ledger board gives support to the deck and takes the weight of the entire structure on a single board. In an ideal scenario, the entire weight of the house must be divided among its structural components for support and rigidity. It should be attached properly to remove all chances of it pulling away leading to a complete collapse and failure.

Here are some of the deck and ledger(ribbon strip) related attachment mistakes:

  • Fixing the ribbon strip with the house.
  • Adding lag bolts to ribbon strip anchors.
  • Adding fasteners without any corrosion resistance. 

When it comes to fasteners, using nails is the worst choice because they cannot handle the weight and provide support to the structure. Also, they recede from the house easily with force!

The lag bolt is also considered a good ledger fastener, but it is not the right choice as well. You won’t be able to see through the sides of the bricks of your house, but you might see them biting into the solid wood underneath the exterior of your home. The installer becomes assertive and puts extra force to tighten the lag bolt, it can strip the wood and reduce the bolt’s capability to keep the structure together.

What you should do:

You must use bolts to affix the ledger board to your house. When you use fasteners, it will penetrate through the ledger board and go through the end of the wood i.e., horizontal joist inside the house. The washer and the nut go through the machine threads towards the other end of the bolt. The ledger board detaches only when it pulls the structural joist along with it.

To secure the ledger board, you must use the hold-down anchors attached to the side of the deck. All these anchors connect with a matching anchor that is bolted across the end of the joist. The galvanized road should pass through the ledger board connecting the two anchors. This method is recommended by most structural engineers to make sure that the deck never breaks from the house.

2.) Not Attaching the Joists Along With The Support Posts

You might be having a deck without any support posts, where all the joists would rest on the concrete beam. This is one of the safest practices. Most of the decks have a height of about 4-5 feet above the surface level. Towards the end of the deck, you will see a beam, where the deck ledger board would rest. The joists in turn would require support extended towards the ground. You can consider the posts similar to the legs of the table and chair. Also, if the ledger board/joists are not attached properly, then it would shake and fall from the posts. As a result, there is a big collapse incoming!

What you should do:

Most of the beams used are around the dimensions of 2X10 or 2X12. The width here is about 3 ¼ inches, and you can use 6×6 posts to cut them in the L-shape towards the top end of the post.

The beam needs to rest on the ledge with 2 inches leftover post towards the top of the beam. Attach the beam to the longer side of the wood using bolts, and it is a proven technique!

You can purchase structural metal frame connectors specially designed to connect beams. It comes with multiple designs and types. Make sure that the connectors are suitable for the size of the deck lumber you will use. Also, make sure that the connectors are corrosion resistant as well.

3.) Not Using the right deck fasteners

The next common mistake is not using the right deck fasteners. Using the nails and using the nail gun is not the wrong idea, but you should also consider its corrosion resistance

No matter what you choose while securing the deck, make sure that you use non-corrosive resistant deck fasteners. Most of them come with inferior electroplated galvanized coatings.

What you should do:

Firstly, you have to decide whether the nails tend overtime to start the work from the joists. Screws always perform better than nails and screws rarely pull out.

Before deciding on the fastener, you must check with your manufacturer of the deck for its recommendation. Keep in mind that a specific nail or screw type is required and using the wrong fastener will void the warranty of the decking material.

Also, most nails used in the nail guns come with a superficial galvanized coating, and these nails rust shortly. Also, the electroplated galvanized nails are subjected to this rapid failure. 

Most fasteners come with stainless steel, and the second-best come with double dipped, hot-dipped galvanized.

You can cover the top of the joists with special joist tape minimizing the amount of water-soaked via the top of the floor joist through the fastener hole. It is easy to apply and preserves joists to ensure that decking would be firm across the tight of the joists.

4.) Inappropriate spacing between the deck joists.

The deck joists space is crucial, especially in the case of composite decking, the spacing is critical and ensures that the deck board will not sag over time.

What you should do:

Before you put your plans into action, you must stop and read the installation instructions for the deck. If you are planning to install the decks diagonally, then you would be shocked to discover the joist spacing required as 12 inches around the centre. The main reason behind this is that the diagonal measurements across the joists are greater than the distance than the perpendicular distance across the joists.

You have to pay close attention to the decking requirements when it comes to the bearing surface across the ends of each deck. Composite decks have about 1.5 inches of bearing surface towards the end of the board. Normally, you would require ¾ inch bearing while putting the two pieces of the deck on the top of the single joist.

5.) Putting restrictions to the access

A deck is like a room that is built outdoors, as now required to have access to each room of your house, the same goes with the deck. You would not use a deck with closed walls. But, the point here is that the entrance and exit of the deck should be easy without any discomfort! nothing blocking your way.

What you should do:

Accessing the deck is important, the pathway to the entrance should be clear without any blockage in between. It should be clear without any problems associated with the entry of the decks. This is something related to common sense but has great significance! If you have unnecessary blockage towards the entrance of the pathway then you might face difficulty in case of an emergency.

6.) Missing out on the handrails!

The handrails also referred to as the guardrails are necessary safety features. There are clear guidelines that mention when the handrails must be installed and how strong they have to be! This is something concerned with floating decks as they are high above the ground, but not common with the ground decks. Also, if you have elderly in your house, then installing handrails is best for their safety.

What you should do:

Installing handrails on the deck requires a lot of skill. Stay away from the lag bolts. The handrails and their posts act as levers when a person pushes or leaps against the top of the handrail. It has to be strong because if more than one person pushes against handrails, then the lag outs will pull out instantly.

The bolts are approved fasteners that secure the handrails and their posts towards the deck undercarriage. Better than this, you can use special hold-down anchors that have bolts attached to the sides of deck joists through-bolted posts.

It will create a strong foundation!

One straight piece of advice would be that you should stay away from nails included in the handrail installation. Over a long period of usage, the nails will lose their holding power and as result, certain parts of the handrails from the posts with little to no warning!

Make sure that you adhere to the building codes and meet all the requirements about building deck handrails. The building code is a set of standards, but you can build better than the handrails. Think about the long term, and consider how the handrails hold up in the next 10-15 years of usage. Will the handrails stay strong the same way? Once you have the answer, then you can go ahead and install handrails as per your plans.

7.) Not building the right deck post footers

The deck post footer is where the weight of the deck is evenly distributed across the ground. The weight is distributed to the ground across the deck. One more thing that you should consider is that different types of soil will distribute the weight differently. Each surface will have its strength and flaws, where the base will go down with ease. Whereas, other soils are as hard as a rock!

What you should do:

If you do not know about the soils and soil’s strengths! It would be a very good idea for you to consult with your local building inspector before you start digging for the deck footers. Here are some of the questions:

  • How deep will the hole become?
  • What would be the diameter or size of the hole?
  • What would be the thickness of the deck footing?
  • Will you put reinforced steel in the footing?
  • Is it best to put the footing extended upwards? What would be the height?

While putting a deck footer, you have to put it through the bottom below the local frost line. The frost heave will lift your entire deck to 4 or more inches! However, the diameter and size of the footer bottom are the most important. You should distribute the concentrated load of deck posts across the widest footprint on the soil possible.

Most of the deck footers have to be at least 8 inches thick and poured across a concrete column towards the top of the footing where the footing is less than 6 inches in diameter. Also, if you can go up to 8-10 inches!

Reinforcing steel is very inexpensive and it adds a lot of strength to footers & columns. Therefore, you should always use it! Keep in mind that you should never bury a treated lumber deck post directly in the soil because it will rot and be eaten by insects. You can extend the deck footing out from the soil about 6 inches so that the wood post goes away from moist soil or standing water.

8.) Not picking the right Deck Material

This mistake happens during the early stages of deck planning! Many people choose the wrong decking material between wood and composite decks. You should not lag in this phase and do extensive research before selecting the final deck material. The way you frame the deck depends on the actual decking process. Also, keep in mind that not all deck materials are created equal!

What you should do:

There are two different categories of decking materials:

  • Wooden decking
  • Composite decking

Both of these decking materials come with their advantages and disadvantages. You need to consider both to decide the best for you, one thing that you can do is to prepare a written list that helps you to decide the right choice!

The wooden decks are easy to install and a cost-effective option. There are some wooden deck materials made using rainforest wood that is so hard for you to drill a hole into each fastener. Wooden decks require more maintenance than composite decks. It requires sealing and cleaning at fixed intervals. The certified organic oxygen bleach is the best for cleaning wooden decks. You should never put chlorine bleach on wooden decks, as it might scatter the wooden fibres. Also, chlorine bleach removes the natural colour of the wood.

The cleaning and sealing require a lot of work, where the sealing lasts for 3 years. The wood also splinters, and the fibres might hurt the feet of your loved ones.

On the other side, composite decks require less maintenance. You have to scrub it lightly using a regular dishwashing soap every year to remove the dirt, debris and algae formation. 

The installation process is almost the same. The best part here is that boards have consistency and you do not have to work for the warps, splits and knots.

The best of the composite deck materials come with a special fastener system ensuring that the deck is spaced appropriately, and looks good for years to come. All these fasteners do not install similar nails via a nail gun, but all efforts are worth it! 

You can choose any of these two based on your personal preference and requirement. But, make sure that you install the protection tape on the wooden beams and joists of the structure. All these tapes prevent the water from creeping into the boards around the holes created by fasteners. On the other side, water creates cracks in the wood and fasteners might become loose.

 9.) Not going through the deck flashing!

Deck flashing refers to the material required to capture water and redirect it back to the outer skin of the house. Flashing is done using a wide variety of materials including copper, zinc-coated steel, rubberized synthetic membranes, etc.

What you should do:

You need to have an adequate understanding of physics to install flashings. You will notice that soldering is required to construct a joint, where the flashing connects. Out of all the materials, copper is the easiest flashing material to solder.

Stay away from using caulk as a flashing material, because it is not a permanent solution and the UV rays will destroy the caulk in a short period.

Also, the synthetic membranes should not be exposed to direct sunlight for a long period. You can refer to the manufacturer’s instructions before you proceed with the process of deck flashing. Use kick out tabs on your metal flashings. A kick-out bend on the edge of flashing prevents the attraction of water and you should keep the water from the flashing, and be sucked back with a capillary attraction.

10.) Not adhering to the rules and regulations!

Most people do not give a brief thought about the building codes or getting the right permit. Every region has their own set of building codes for the construction of decks, and if you do not follow them then you might end up paying fines or further legal trouble!

What you should do:

Getting the right permit and adhering to the local deck building codes will protect you from having legal troubles. It would be very frustrating for you to know that your favourite deck violates the zonal codes. Then all your investment and efforts might go in vain.

This is something that happens with a lot of people, taking up DIY for decking because most of them are not aware of the rules and regulations. Do not let this happen to you! Consult with a professional decking expert to make sure that your investment is safe and you can start building your dream deck today!

That’s it! This was our list of the top 10 common deck-building mistakes. If you are planning to build your deck then keep a note of all these points and make sure that you follow them properly.

Remember, building a deck is an investment and you should take it seriously. It is a structure that you and your family are going to use for years to come. Make sure that you do it the right way! When done right, it will add value to your home, and decking can appraise your property value by 76% of installation cost. For example, if you build a deck for $10,000, then a deck will add $7,600 to your house’s value at the time of selling!

You can refer to our blog: Deck vs Patio – Which one is the better investment! [ Link to the respective blog]. In this blog we have mentioned everything that you need to know about decking and how it appraises your property!

Still, have any inquires? Contact JVK & Sons Today!

We at JVK and Sons Construction look forward to helping our clients. We care and value your time and investment. We serve across the suburbs of Brisbane, chapel hill, Fairfield, Wavell heights, Carindale, and the neighbourhoods of Donnybrook Moggill.

 Our decking experts are ready to work, and we provide services for:

●       Timber Decking

●       Composite Decking

●       Merbau Decking

In case if you have any inquiries then you can get in touch with us and get a free assessment today.

Start building your dream deck today!

rethinking the renovation experience

With incomparable precision and perfection their primary aim, JVK & Sons believe their work should be done efficiently and purposefully, the first time. Their friendly, respectful team of tradespeople are a reflection of their own empirical values and each tradesperson operates as an extension of Jason and Harmony’s values and in turn, their reputation. Within an industry high on waste, Jason and Harmony are continually monitoring and forecasting their working practices to move toward minimal waste, more circular building economies and the use of the most sustainable materials.


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