How to Build a Floating Deck

Knowing how to build a floating deck can allow you to add valuable outdoor living space at a fraction of the cost of hiring a contractor. And since floating decks don't require in-ground concrete piers, you'll save extra cash-and maybe a trip to the chiropractor.

How To Build A Floating Deck You Can Be Proud Of

Floating decks are named for the fact that their support posts are fixed to specially designed concrete pads that rest on the ground (or "float") rather than on in-ground concrete piers. Floating decks aren't designed to have a deck height more than 36" off the ground and may not meet local building codes-particularly in areas where frost heave is an issue. If you're in the market for a floating deck, here's how to get started.

  • Get a plan. Floating decks have some particular building considerations, so it's best to start with a deck plan. Deck plans can be obtained from the floating pier manufacturer or local home building centers.
  • Anatomy of a floating deck. Your floating deck will be built in two parts: the substructure and the decking. The substructure of a floating deck is simpler than a traditional deck, especially if it is close to the ground. A low (under 12") floating deck will use only joists for its substructure. Higher decks will add a post and beam support structure. The decking covers the surface of the substructure and includes the railing.
  • Site preparation. To begin, remove the sod from the area of the yard that will be covered by the deck. Check the grade of the soil to make sure that is slopes away from the house by at least 1" per 15'. When the deck is complete, you'll want to cover this area with weed blocking cloth or heavy black plastic.
  • Locate the deck. Following your deck plan, use a tape measure, string and stakes to layout the perimeter of your floating deck.
  • Place the piers. Following the deck plan or manufacturer's instructions, place the pre-cast, floating piers. The piers have crossed notches that will need to line up so they'll accept the joists. Use a string line to insure that the piers are properly placed, making sure all of the piers are level.
  • Install the joists. For a low floating deck, the joists are placed on edge in the slots in the piers. After the joists are placed, install rim joists at either end of the joists, making sure the substructure is level and square.
  • Add the stairs. Build stairs as directed by your deck plans, attaching them to the rim joists.
  • Add decking. Deck boards should be laid across the joists with any cupping of the wood facing down. 2" thick decking should be spaced 1/8" apart, but 5/4" thick decking pieces should be butted against each other, as they will shrink over time. For best results, decking should be attached using galvanized or stainless steel screws.
  • Add railing. Add railing as directed by your deck plans, Typically, railing posts are attached to joists by ½" hex or lag bolts.
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