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  1. #1
    Dirt Bomb sknhgy's Avatar
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    Building a deck question.

    I am building a porch on my house. It will fit in to the "L" shaped area as seen in the pics. The size is 6 x 14 feet. I'm in Illinois, so we get hard freezes.
    My question is, would it be better for me to bolt 2 x 6 boards to the foundation walls using anchor bolts and build out from there, or should I build it on 6 posts like a 6-legged table, unattached to the house? If I bolt the boards to the house the outer edges of the porch would be supported on posts. I've already poured two footings, as you can see in the pictures.
    It seems to me that drilling into the foundation could cause cracks or some other problems. OTOH building it on 6 legs would be more work and expense.
    Any words of wisdom?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Nota's Avatar
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    Well I'm no expert, but conventional deck-building wisdom (construction technique) is to bolt a horizontal ledger board to the foundation, and build off that. It looks to be a very solid concrete foundation.

    I would drill it with a masonry bit, and bolt it in using expansion anchors. If you're worrried about "leaks or cracks", I suppose you could use some silicon caulk around the bolt holes.

    The fact that you experiece "hard freezes", should have no bearing. *no pun intended*

    You MUST post pics of your completed deck here when you're done. It could even be a Foo-Law, who knows?
    When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.” Mark Twain (apocryphal)

  3. #3
    Dirt Bomb sknhgy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nota View Post
    Well I'm no expert, but conventional deck-building wisdom (construction technique) is to bolt a horizontal ledger board to the foundation, and build off that. It looks to be a very solid concrete foundation.
    It is a solid foundation. Everything I've read talks about attaching the deck to the wooden frame of the house. I haven't found anything about bolting it to the foundation. That's why I'm asking. I haven't done many projects like this.
    I will post a picture, but it may be covered with snow by then!

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    Bolt to the house and use posts as needed to support the outside. It'll be much more solid that way.

    Incidentally, there's a good chance that you'll need a permit and go through the inspection process. Look up a copy of your county/state code. The requirements should be there and those will help you with the design.

    I had to go through this when I built a deck on the house we used to live at in MD. 18 x 24 foot deck. Pretty big. Bolted to the house and posts secured to concrete footers for support. The county code gave me the info needed to locate the posts, etc.
    -------

    Some sort of pithy irrelevant one-liner should go here.

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    You would normally remove siding and attach a ledger board to the house, but obviously that isn't going to work since your door goes to the bottom of the siding.

    I vote for attaching a ledger board to the foundation and work off that, just as Nota said.
    Last edited by SonataInFSharp; 08-04-09 at 10:49 AM.

  6. #6
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    Be sure to use pressure-treated lumber for the ledger, same for the posts.

    Wood against concrete will have rot issues due to condensation.

    It also appears you'll need to work out a set of stairs and a railing.
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    I think the only reason you may want to avoid it attached to the house is if your foundation is weak or the ground is unstable. It looks pretty straightforward though, just make sure to use spacers behind the ledger you're going to attach to the foundation and as it looks like the deck will be level with the door be sure to give it a slight drop away from the house.

    If you do get a permit though, and you probably should, the inspector can advise on if it should be free standing or not.

    -spence

  8. #8
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    You get much snow there?

    Another issue you'll have: It appears there's a roof valley right above that door. Any moisture is going to dump right in front of that outward-swinging screen door, potentially trapping you in. Even if it doesn't, you'll have an icing issue right in front of a door. Bad scenario.

    After building many, many uncovered decks in Colorado and California....then rebuilding them years later, the answer is: there's no real answer other than never build an uncovered deck.

    Building a stout deck of 4X materials gives a place for water to collect on top, eventually rotting. Using 2X material doesn't allow as much water to sit there, but it's less material and rots just as quickly. Decking is exposed to the elements and only lasts for so long. Redwood is good, Sunwood lasts a bit longer, Trex turns gray and sags in all the joist bays and anything else is hella expensive.

    I'm not saying not to do it, just warning that it will have a limited lifespan no matter what materials and techniques are used. Also, I make great money fixing the mistakes other "carpenters" make, but it's frustrating since it would've cost less to hire me in the first place.
    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
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    When doing a deck, use screws to minimize squeaks. Also, because Philips head screws have a tendency to slip and cam out, if you can find them, use square head deck screws with your cordless drill. They make life a lot easier.

  10. #10
    Mrs. DataJunkie Luddite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sknhgy View Post
    I am building a porch on my house. It will fit in to the "L" shaped area as seen in the pics. The size is 6 x 14 feet. I'm in Illinois, so we get hard freezes.
    My question is, would it be better for me to bolt 2 x 6 boards to the foundation walls using anchor bolts and build out from there, or should I build it on 6 posts like a 6-legged table, unattached to the house? If I bolt the boards to the house the outer edges of the porch would be supported on posts. I've already poured two footings, as you can see in the pictures.
    It seems to me that drilling into the foundation could cause cracks or some other problems. OTOH building it on 6 legs would be more work and expense.
    Any words of wisdom?
    Yep. Pay someone to do it for you!

  11. #11
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaotikgrl View Post
    Be sure to check the code to see what spacing you need for the expansion anchors and what type of expansion anchors you can use. To attach a ledger a threaded rod and two part hilti material will work extremely well too. Have you thought about doing a stone, brick or concrete patio instead ?


    Wordbiker….there are a number of composite decking brands that are excellent and very good green alternatives.
    How many of them have you installed, maintained or repaired?

    I do agree with your masonry or concrete suggestion. Much less maintenance issues.

    Quote Originally Posted by mlts22 View Post
    When doing a deck, use screws to minimize squeaks. Also, because Philips head screws have a tendency to slip and cam out, if you can find them, use torx head deck screws with your cordless drill. They make life a lot easier.
    Fixed that for ya.
    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Nota's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post
    Originally Posted by mlts22 When doing a deck, use screws to minimize squeaks. Also, because Philips head screws have a tendency to slip and cam out, if you can find them, use torx head deck screws with your cordless drill. They make life a lot easier.


    Fixed that for ya.
    Where on earth do you find torx headed screws, of the type that would be suitable for deck installations?
    Sure, I suppose somebody must make them, but you probably have to special or them, or get them through a fastener supply co., no?
    When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.” Mark Twain (apocryphal)

  13. #13
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaotikgrl View Post
    I’m sure I’ve used it in many more designs than you’ve installed, repaired or maintained on. The firm I worked for in California has used it in both commercial and residential designs for a long time with no long term problems. It’s also used extensively here in Japan.....with no problems.

    Which brands have you worked with?
    For board-type decking, Timbertech, Trex, Sunwood, Ameradeck, and many others. I've also installed natural wood decks of redwood, douglas fir, southern yellow pine, ipe (brazilian ironwood) and other lesser materials. Out of all of them, by far the ipe was the most durable. The last deck I installed 7 years ago still looked brand new this year, no maintenance issues at all.

    I still stand by my statement that exposed decking is always a limited lifespan application. Durable materials like concrete and other masonry products are vastly superior and if performed correctly, with little to no maintenance. In the case of applications that do not allow masonry, natural wood, although debatably "inferior" to composite lifespans, break down naturally at the end of their respective useful lifetimes in a landfill, or can even be burned as fuel. You may want to check out this article.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nota View Post
    Where on earth do you find torx headed screws, of the type that would be suitable for deck installations?
    Sure, I suppose somebody must make them, but you probably have to special or them, or get them through a fastener supply co., no?
    They're actually quite common at any builder's supply, even way out here in the sticks.

    I've converted over to them completely other than old stock I'll be using up and replacing with torx fasteners. There's also more to them than just the torx drive. GRK is one popular manufacturer and their screws have a drillpoint tip for easier starting and less splitting of materials, a reverse threaded section to prevent backing out, and a self-countersinking head design. In harder materials they're a huge timesaver versus drilling pilot holes for every screw, and since labor costs often exceed materials costs, they save my customers money as well.

    One more tip for potential deckbuilders: impact drivers are the new standard and outperform regular cordless drills by leaps and bounds, again saving labor and frustration. I used to struggle with driving the 12" or longer torx fasteners required for log handrail work, fighting the torque of the drill with both hands to overcome the resistance of the fastener. With an impact driver, driving them is a one-handed operation, even overhead. Oh, the tool is also lighter and lasts longer on a charge than a drill-driver.
    Last edited by Wordbiker; 08-04-09 at 04:36 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
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  14. #14
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Golly gee folks, you all missed a big one. If you attach it to the house (footings) you might just need a Building Permit. All sorts of legal and practical problems come with that along with delays for the inspector to show up at various stages of the process. A close friend saw that storm cloud approaching when he wanted to build a deck by his home in Mill Valley, CA. He left a small gap between the house and the new deck. No connections? No permit needed there.

    I helped build the big deck on my home. Yes, anchor bolts into the foundation walls. Said walls had rebar down all the cells, wire mats in the layers, and solid back-fill with concrete. Heavy 6"-8"screw bolts with square holes in the heads recessed into the decking; the holes back-filled with epoxy. The decking is 3" x 4" old growth redwood. yes. I am in a seismic zone.
    This space open

  15. #15
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaotikgrl View Post
    Perhaps someone who has a business with a vested interest in wood construction isn’t the best source for info on composites. The fact that he talks about composites in landfills tells me he doesn’t know or wants to admit how easily the recycling industry is now working with composites.

    There are a lot of non biased landscape design journal articles on composite use. A good library (or if you’re close to a university design program) should be able to easily get them for you if you want to learn more about it.
    Oh, I know plenty about them already. Funny that you might think I wouldn't, it being my trade and all.

    That article was just the first one I grabbed. Rather than reading books marketing composite design, perhaps you should read some feedback from the folks that actually install these products...then later deal with their particular issues. Experience is a wonderful teacher.

    Quote Originally Posted by kaotikgrl View Post
    just so you know I have also done a lot of work on restoring Temple gardens and structures here in Japan and have a great respect for woodworking techniques that go back centuries and the beauty of wood.
    As do I. I'm a fifth generation contractor and was apprenticed starting at age ten. Believe me, even though I have 25 years of professional carpentry experience, I am far from knowing it all, no matter how many years of studying and hands-on work may make me think so. I'd love to know more about the specific product is that you've had no issues with...I and my customers could really use something like that, provided the cost does not outweigh the benefits/drawbacks.
    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
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  16. #16
    Senior Member Nota's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post
    For board-type decking, Timbertech, Trex, Sunwood, Ameradeck, and many others. I've also installed natural wood decks of redwood, douglas fir, southern yellow pine, ipe (brazilian ironwood) and other lesser materials. Out of all of them, by far the ipe was the most durable. The last deck I installed 7 years ago still looked brand new this year, no maintenance issues at all.

    I still stand by my statement that exposed decking is always a limited lifespan application. Durable materials like concrete and other masonry products are vastly superior and if performed correctly, with little to no maintenance. In the case of applications that do not allow masonry, natural wood, although debatably "inferior" to composite lifespans, break down naturally at the end of their respective useful lifetimes in a landfill, or can even be burned as fuel. You may want to check out this article.


    They're actually quite common at any builder's supply, even way out here in the sticks.

    I've converted over to them completely other than old stock I'll be using up and replacing with torx fasteners. There's also more to them than just the torx drive. GRK is one popular manufacturer and their screws have a drillpoint tip for easier starting and less splitting of materials, a reverse threaded section to prevent backing out, and a self-countersinking head design. In harder materials they're a huge timesaver versus drilling pilot holes for every screw, and since labor costs often exceed materials costs, they save my customers money as well.

    One more tip for potential deckbuilders: impact drivers are the new standard and outperform regular cordless drills by leaps and bounds, again saving labor and frustration. I used to struggle with driving the 12" or longer torx fasteners required for log handrail work, fighting the torque of the drill with both hands to overcome the resistance of the fastener. With an driver, driving them is a one-handed operation, even overhead. Oh, the tool is also lighter and lasts longer on a charge than a drill-driver.
    Well, since you appear to have a wealth of knowledge and first hand experience with deck building, it just so happens that I have about 1200sqft or so of decking that is in serious need of replacement; at least the deck surface boards and railings, anyway, and I'd like to get your opinion of which, if any, of the composite decking brands you would reccomend?

    I have noticed that the composite deck boards, at least the Trex and brands I see in Lowe's & Home Depot, though slightly thicker than typical 5/4 treated lumber, does appear to be a bit flimsy. I can well imagine that it would be susceptible to sagging over time.

    That would absolutely kill me, if I spent all the thousands of dollars to replace all my decking with, what I'd hope to be virtually maintenance free, and the last decking I'd need to shell out for in my lifetime, only to find a few years down the road, that all the boards are sagging between the joists. Are there any brands that are less prone to that than others? If not, what joist spacing would you reccomend, in order to guarantee no sagging problems down the road?

    Also, are you familiar with that hidden cleat system for installing certain brands of composite deck boards? It looks like a nifty idea, but I'm a bit leary of it. I'm not sure who makes it or what it's called. I saw Norm install it once on This Old House.
    When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.” Mark Twain (apocryphal)

  17. #17
    Dirt Bomb sknhgy's Avatar
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    I didn't think this question would get so much response. Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences.
    Building permits are not an issue where I live.
    I am still seriously considering making a patio. Build up a retaining wall out of the stones they sell everywhere, then backfill it with a porous material and then put down bricks. I know someone who recent did this and it turned out well. I've already built one retaining wall in the yard and this one could match it.
    One reason I wanted to build a porch was for the experience, but I like the no-maintenance factor of a patio.

  18. #18
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nota View Post
    I'd like to get your opinion of which, if any, of the composite decking brands you would reccomend?

    I have noticed that the composite deck boards, at least the Trex and brands I see in Lowe's & Home Depot, though slightly thicker than typical 5/4 treated lumber, does appear to be a bit flimsy. I can well imagine that it would be susceptible to sagging over time.
    That would be a correct assessment.

    The issue with Trex and other similar composites is that they are in essence compressed sawdust and plastic. Any grain structure that formerly allowed the wood to span joists is now gone, traded for stability in all directions, much like particle board. Even after the class action suits against Trex, I have yet to see much improvement in this structural concern. They continue to deny any issues and just pay their lawyers more to defend an inferior product.

    I must admit to one bias: Manufactured products have a corporation behind them...with all that entails. I can also tell you this: There has yet to be a single class-action suit against trees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nota View Post
    That would absolutely kill me, if I spent all the thousands of dollars to replace all my decking with, what I'd hope to be virtually maintenance free, and the last decking I'd need to shell out for in my lifetime, only to find a few years down the road, that all the boards are sagging between the joists. Are there any brands that are less prone to that than others? If not, what joist spacing would you reccomend, in order to guarantee no sagging problems down the road?
    I must also admit...I avoid jobs installing composites. Yes, I've worked with them, but since I offer a warranty on work performed, I only choose materials I know will hold up, typically meaning natural wood of premium quality grade. From the experience I do have, I can suggest that anything less than 12" center-to-center joist spacing will show sagging, often negating any cost savings in longevity with the cost of additional framing materials. I said show sagging because it is unavoidable with Trex: it always sags, it just shows less with 12" spacing. Also, no matter what color it is when it's installed, it all turns gray. If you're fine with gray, definitely choose that to start with and you'll be happy for a long time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nota View Post
    Also, are you familiar with that hidden cleat system for installing certain brands of composite deck boards? It looks like a nifty idea, but I'm a bit leary of it. I'm not sure who makes it or what it's called. I saw Norm install it once on This Old House.
    In my opinion, cleat systems are a tradeoff. Sure, there's no fasteners exposed and it lends a very clean look, but due to the installation procedure that buries the cleats as each board goes on, if you ever do have an issue with a damaged plank, you'll have to pull every board installed after the one with an issue...or run screws into the surface...which defeats the intended purpose. Screws in the surface may be exposed, but that also means they're accessible for maintenance.

    I'll couch everything I've said in the fact that Colorado is one of the worst environments for exposed decks anywhere...and ironically, one of the most popular. We have a very harsh UV issue, amazing differences in temperature and moisture even within the space of a single day, and it is not just me looking for solutions. This last few weeks...guess what my jobs have been? I've been fixing decks and rails with peeling finishes, dryrot, mold issues, splitting and twisting boards, rotten posts, broken fasteners...most all of it caused by poor construction techniques, inferior materials, lack of regular maintenance or poor architecture that causes ice and snow buildup. I have been consulting with my peers regarding how to best address these specific issues, and they're as much at a loss as I am. If you're in a more temperate zone with less harsh conditions, any material will hold up at least as long as the manufacturer warrantees it for, but if it's even partly as harsh as ours...expect a continuous battle with maintenance costs.

    Edit: I do apologize to sknghy if I was threadjacking. Looking at the situation objectively and professionally, your specific scenario lends itself well to a masonry patio. I also did not intend to get into an argument with you kaotikgirl regarding composites. I have always highly regarded your talent, intelligence and artistry, but as a person that is in the trenches dealing with these products in more than just a technical engineering aspect, I'd just respectfully ask you to filter the content and see that not every product is all that is promised. Many fall very, very short under harsh field conditions.
    Last edited by Wordbiker; 08-04-09 at 09:13 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
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  19. #19
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    This has been really interesting to read. I have long been looking at decks made of the composites such as Trex, since the weather resistance is so appealing up here in the Seattle area. I have not seen sagging; perhaps I have not seen enough Trex decks that are old enough yet.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nota View Post
    Where on earth do you find torx headed screws, of the type that would be suitable for deck installations?
    Sure, I suppose somebody must make them, but you probably have to special or them, or get them through a fastener supply co., no?
    I was wondering that myself. I know that square headed screws are getting hard to find, but Home Depot likely may have them. I have yet to see Torx screws that are for decks, but I'd love to find them because they would make things easy driving them in.

    Loctite also used to sell a special threadlocker just for wood (Loctite 242 and other threadlockers are for metal to metal), but I'm unable to find it. Something like this would be great for inclement weather to ensure that screws stay down (although I've yet to see a screw pop up or work loose in a deck.)

  21. #21
    Senior Member Ted Danson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sknhgy View Post
    I am building a porch on my house. It will fit in to the "L" shaped area as seen in the pics. The size is 6 x 14 feet. I'm in Illinois, so we get hard freezes.
    My question is, would it be better for me to bolt 2 x 6 boards to the foundation walls using anchor bolts and build out from there, or should I build it on 6 posts like a 6-legged table, unattached to the house? If I bolt the boards to the house the outer edges of the porch would be supported on posts. I've already poured two footings, as you can see in the pictures.
    It seems to me that drilling into the foundation could cause cracks or some other problems. OTOH building it on 6 legs would be more work and expense.
    Any words of wisdom?
    Merton Enthusiast

  22. #22
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlts22 View Post
    I was wondering that myself. I know that square headed screws are getting hard to find, but Home Depot likely may have them.
    Search for "Robertson drive" screws.

    Just like "Phillips" screws, they have a name.
    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
    Ski, bike and wish I was gay.

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