Deck Framing

Deck Framing is part 2 (of 7) steps describing how to build your own deck (a 10' x 10' deck example).

Deck Framing

myCarpentry Deck Building Links
Design  Framing Footings Decking Stairs  Railing Stair Railing

Framing is perhaps the most important phase of deck building.  If the structure is not designed to carry the required load, or if the framing is unlevel or not square, building the remaining deck features like railing and stairs will be frustrating and difficult.  It is much easier to build a deck  correctly from the start.  Use the diagram below as reference while reading through the framing phase of deck building.

Deck Cutaway Detail
Deck Framing Detail

  a. concrete anchor
  b. ledger board
  c. joist
  d. decking
  e. 4x4 structural post
  f. concrete footing
  g. 4x4 rail post
  h. hand rail cap
  i. upper rail framing
  j. 2x2 pickets
  k. lower rail framing
  l. stringers
  m. concrete stair footing
  n. treads
  o. stair stringer framing
  p. concrete foundation

Building the 10 x 10 Deck Frame

Finished Deck Frame
The 10 x 10 Deck Frame

The following tutorial explains the tools, materials and procedures required to build the 10 x 10 deck frame shown above.

Deck Framing Tools you will need:

The tools that you will need to frame your deck are listed below.  The list is broken down into the tools that are absolutely necessary, and the "nice to have" or optional tools.

Required tools: Optional tools:

The materials that you will need for the 10 x 10 deck framing:

The materials required to frame the 10' x 10' deck are listed in the table below (all wood should be pressure treated pine #2 grade or better):

Material Quantity Usage
2"x8" @ 10' 8 Deck frame
2"x4" @ 8' 2 Misc framing wood
2"x6" @ 10' 1 Used to create the concrete forms
4"x4" @ 8' 1 Posts for the two outer corners
Nails 10 Pounds Used for nailing the deck framing members together
5/8"x6" Anchor Bolts 5 Used to secure ledger board to the concrete foundation

Note: The above material list only includes the materials needed to build the basic deck frame, not the complete deck.

Lumber and Materials Delivery

If you don't have a vehicle to transport the materials, most lumber yards will deliver your materials for a fee.  If you want to use this service, be sure to order an extra joist  - the nice folks at the lumber yard won't cull the material the way you would.

If you have a truck or small trailer, you have the luxury of picking the lumber that you want - you can make sure that each board is straight and is not full of large knots.  It is important to pick out the best lumber that is available.  Working with crooked lumber is very difficult.

When you buy a 10' board, it will not be exactly 10' long. The rough lengths of lumber that you buy from a lumber yard can vary, but are usually about 1/4" to 3/4" longer.

Design Considerations:

To maximize the use of the deck material (10') and to minimize waste on the 10 x 10 deck project, the finished deck width will be 9' 9".  This allows for about 1.5 inches to be trimmed off of each end of the deck boards (See the diagram below (A)).  The reason for this is because lumber doesn't come in exact lengths, and often the ends of the boards are discolored, split, or banged up from shipping. 

Wood Decking Plan
Top view of the 10 x 10 deck frame (A)

This project specifies that the finished deck boards should overhang the deck frame by 1.5 inches.  For this reason, the deck frame should be built 9' 6" wide.  Diagram (B) shows how the deck boards will be placed.  This is explained in more detail on step 4 (Wood Decking).

Wood Decking Detail
Right Front corner of Deck (plan view)

Installing the Ledger Board:

The first board to be cut for the deck frame, and probably the most important, is the ledger board.  In order to build a deck to the exact height and position that you want, the installation of the ledger board must be perfectly placed and level. 

From the lumber package, select a 2x8 that is straight and not twisted or cupped (hopefully, all of your lumber is straight and perfect).  Using a speed square, close to the end of the 2" x 8" ledger, make a square mark and cut it with a circular saw to square up one end. 

Measure 9' 6" from that end, to the other end of the ledger.  Make a crows foot mark with your pencil.  Square the mark with your speed square and cut it.  This is the ledger board and it is ready for joist layout. 

Since the joists will be spaced 24" apart, measure from one end of the ledger and make a crow's foot mark every two feet.  Use your speed square to square each mark.  Mark an "X" on the left side of each line (this marks the side of the line where the 2" x 8" joists will be attached). 

From the same end of the ledger board, measure over 12" and make a mark in the center of the board.  This will be the location of the concrete anchor bolts.  Make a mark every two feet from that mark so that you have an anchor bolt mark between each joist.  Using the Ledger Board Detail diagram (below) for reference, note that the location of the concrete anchors(a) on the ledger board(b) are positioned between joists(c).

Ledger Board Detail
Ledger board (shown attached to the concrete foundation)

In this example, the finished deck will be at the same level as the threshold of the door.  The ledger should be attached approximately 1 3/4" inches below the bottom of the lowest part of the threshold (this is to that your 1 1/2" decking will easily slide underneath the threshold).  If you choose to use decking that is not 1 1/2" thick, adjust the height of the ledger board accordingly.

Side-to-side placement of the ledger board is up to your best judgment, but consider some of the following before making your final decision:

Once the height and position of the deck has been determined, make a pencil mark on the concrete foundation where the top of the ledger board will be placed.  Using your level as a straight edge, draw a level line across the concrete slab the full length of where the ledger board will be attached. 

Using a 5/8" paddle bit, drill holes through the ledger board where you marked them for anchor bolts.  Once the holes have been drilled, use a ram set to temporarily attach the ledger to the slab.

** Note: You may need an extra hand to do this.  A 9' 6" - pressure treated 2x8 can be a little heavy and awkward to handle by yourself. 

After the ledger board has been firmly attached with nails (applied by using the ram set), use a hammer drill to drill 5/8" holes in the slab through each of the holes previously drilled in the ledger board..

The holes in the concrete need to be deep enough so that no more the 3/4" of the concrete anchor sticks out once it has been hammered into the hole.

** Note: You can't take the anchor out once you drive it in - they are meant to only go one direction (in, not out).  To ensure that your holes will be deep enough, you can measure the length of the anchor bolt and wrap a piece of tape around your hammer drill bit (that same length) to be used as a gauge to ensure that you have drilled a deep enough hole.  It is better to drill the holes a little deeper than what you need, just to be certain that the hole is deep enough.

** Tip: Thread the nut on the anchor bolt before you start pounding it in the hole with your hammer.  If you don't, getting the nut threaded onto the bolt will be more difficult if the threads on the bolt are damaged by the hammering.

Anchor Bolt
Concrete Anchor Bolt

Once the holes are drilled, tap each of the anchors in each hole with a hammer until they are all the way in, then tighten them with a wrench.

Whew!!  I think installing the ledger board is the most difficult part of deck framing.  If you have it installed and it is good and snug, and all of your anchor bolts tightened up nicely, you have done a good job!  The rest of the deck framing phase is down-hill from here.

Framing the Perimeter:

Pick out three of the straightest 2" x 8"s in the lumber package to build the perimeter of the deck. Even though they may be almost perfectly straight, there's always a little bit of a crown or bow in any piece of lumber. The crown or bow should be positioned upwards to compensate for future sagging.

Make a mark on the end of the 2x8s about 1/2" from one end. Use a speed square to mark it square and cut it with a circular saw.  Measure 9' 9" from the squared end and make a crow's foot mark with a carpenter's pencil.  Mark it square and cut it.

Drive a 16d nail in the top of one end of the joist about 1/3 of the way in.  Bend the nail over so that you can use it as a hook to hang the end of the joist on the ledger.

** Note: the 16d nail takes the place of a person holding that end of the board up. 

Use a temporary support to hold up the other end (use one of the 2x4s that you got from the lumber yard). Before attaching the temporary 2x4 support, use a level to level the board so that it is close to being level. Nail the end of the joist to ledger with 16d nails (see the diagram below).

Deck Framing Elevation
Ledger board with first joist attached supported by temporary brace

Attach another perimeter joist on the other side of the ledger using the same technique as described above. Remember to position the crown up on all framing members (ledgers, joists, etc.). Using the remaining "straight" 2x8, cut it to the same length as the ledger, and nail it to both ends of the previous two joists.  This is called the band board (d).

The perimeter of the deck frame is now complete.  The parts are described below:

  1. Anchor bolts
  2. Ledger board
  3. Joists (typical)
  4. Band board
  5. Temporary support
  6. Leveling shim
  7. Temporary footing
Deck Frame Perimeter
Deck frame perimeter

Lay out the band board (d) (@ 24" centers) mirroring the ledger board (b) layout. Cut, crown and nail each of the remaining intermediate joists (4 of them) using the same technique as the other joists that attach to the ledger. The frame is now complete.

Completed Deck Frame
Completed deck frame

Square the Frame:

Using your tape measure, make a mark on the outer band at 36". Make another mark on the attached outer joist at 48". If the deck framing is square, the length between the two marks should be 60" (visit Carpentry Math for more detail).

If the deck frame isn't square, shift it from side to side until the points line up perfectly.

Level the frame and install the corner posts and footings as indicated in the deck footings section.

For deck design and structural information, check out the Prescriptive Residential Wood Deck Construction Guide, by the American Wood Council.

What next?

Continue to step 3 (of 7): (Deck Footings)

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