Whether you have chosen to build a deck yourself, or hire your local contractor, it is important to be up-to-date on your deck-building vocabulary to understand the roles of each of your deck’s components. Being able to clearly communicate your vision of your new deck design will make it easier for everyone involved and also ensure accuracy of what you want your final product to be.
The main components of a deck
Ledger Board – If your deck will be attached to your home, the use of a ledger board will be necessary. This is equal in size to the joists that anchor the deck to the house and supports one end of the joists. It will be bolted to the side of the house and metal flashing will be installed behind and on top of it to keep water out. The ledger board will be a treated piece of lumber that is as straight as possible avoiding any warp.
Beams – Are large horizontal boards typically made of 4x, or doubled 2x lumber. They are supportive posts that hold the weight of your decking materials and people or items that will be placed on your deck. They will be bolted to the deck beam posts. These beams provide additional support above and beyond the nails and bolts of the deck, which can weaken over time resulting in improper structure support.
Joists – Think of them as the rib cage of your skeleton. They are used to build your deck frame. Their main purpose is to maintain the shape and strength of your deck. They are usually 2x lumber that is commonly placed perpendicular to your house and across your beams. They are installed parallel to each other for ease of construction and to distribute weight evenly for the integrity of the structure.
Posts – In the past, 4×4 pressure treated posts for deck supports were commonly used, but now 6×6 pressure treated posts are ideal because they are much stronger, more stable and offer a larger surface area for supporting beams and joists.
Deck Boards –The main surface boards to your deck that you are able to walk across. The easiest way to install them is horizontally. If you choose to have more of a custom look, you can place your deck planks at a 45° angle across the joists. If you choose diagonally placed decking, it will increase your strength, but your waste of materials could also increase up to 15% and the labor is also more extensive then on horizontally placed deck boards.
Fascia Board – This board is used to cover framing and decking with a wide 2x piece of lumber. To add a more distinctive look you can add a “picture-frame” edge, which adds some visual interest by creating a shadow line.
Railings – A general rule of thumb is that a deck any higher than 18” above the ground should have a railing installed, and check your local building codes to see what their requirements are if you are thinking of going without a deck railing. There are so many different choices on the market today for your railings from metal balusters, composite, wood, glass, cable and branch deck railings. Your deck railing is where you can express your creativity for all to see so make sure to do your research on which style will compliment your deck the most.