Overhead view of an outdoor wooden cedar deck

A new deck can transform your backyard, creating an outdoor space to enjoy all year round. If you’re planning to build the deck yourself, it’s crucial to make sure it’s framed correctly. Otherwise, your deck will look uneven and could be a serious hazard for you, your friends, and your family. 

Thankfully, you’re in the right place. At Decks & Docks, we’ve put together a handy guide that covers everything you need to know about deck framing, from the necessary tools to the best installation process. 

What is Deck Framing?

Thousands of single family homes and commercial buildings in the U.S. have decks—and the frames are one of the most important parts. Your deck framing supports the main structure of your decking, acting as the foundation for your panels. Not only will the right frame help keep your deck sturdy and safe, but it will also make sure it stays strong for decades to come. 

The frame of a deck is usually made up of the following parts:

  • Posts
  • Beams
  • Ledgers
  • Joists

Together, these parts form the underlying structure of your deck, helping to raise it off the ground and provide a level surface. 

Why is Deck Framing Important?

According to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), the number of injuries caused by collapsing decks has increased over the last ten years. Statistics show that at least 30 people were killed as a result of deck collapses between 2000 and 2008.

Collapses can occur for a number of reasons, including bad weather and exceeded weight limits. While they are thankfully rare, you can’t be too careful when building a new deck for your home. Your deck framing is important—a sturdy frame makes for a sturdy deck, drastically reducing the possibility of your hard work falling apart and putting your loved ones at risk. 

A well-built deck frame can also increase the lifespan of your decking. The average deck should last around 15 years, depending on your choice of materials and the quality of your build. By making sure that your frame is strong, you can prevent damage and reduce the likelihood you’ll need to repair or replace your deck.

How to Build a Strong Deck Frame

If you’ve chosen to build your own deck frame, the first step is to create a layout for your posts. Your posts will provide the ‘footprint’ of your deck, so it’s important to make sure you’ve designed a shape, size, and location that works for you. 

Once you’re happy with your layout, it’s time to start building. Below, we’ve created a simple step-by-step guide to help you through the process of building your deck framing. 

Step 1: Dig Your Post Holes

The posts for your decking frame will need to be buried in the ground to create a strong structure. The number of posts needed depends on the size of your decking and whether it’s attached to your house. Generally, you’ll need to install a post for each corner of your deck. 

Dig a hole in the ground for each of your posts, ensuring they are evenly spaced. Your holes should be six inches deeper than your area’s frost line, the level at which the water in the earth usually freezes. This will prevent your posts from being forced out of the holes during the frosty season. 

Step 2: Install Your Posts

Fill the bottom six inches of your post holes with some all-purpose gravel or postcrete (ready-mixed concrete). Then, before it’s fully set, install your posts. 

For extra strength, you may wish to add concrete anchors and anchor bolts to secure your posts. Alternatively, you can drill your anchors directly into the concrete once it has set before attaching footers that will attach to your posts via brackets. 

Place your posts on the brackets and screw them into place. Ensure they are sitting level and, if necessary, saw your posts down to your required height. Repeat this process for your remaining posts. 

Step 3: Attach Your Beams

The beams are the main load-bearing component of your deck frame. You will need to make your beams by clamping together two boards, each measuring approximately 2 by 10 inches. 

Nail your boards together and attach them to your post using brackets, crown side up. Next, waterproof your beams by applying a sealant or waterproof tape over the crown (the upward arching curvature of the board) where the two boards meet. 

Screw your beams into position and add diagonal bracing for extra support. 

Step 4: Build the Floor

The floor of your deck is made up of joists. You will typically use three kinds of joists to build your frame:

  • Floor joists
  • Rim joists (sometimes known as band joists)
  • End joists

Start by marking the position of your floor joists, making sure that you measure from the center of your joists. Then, place each of your rim joists on your beams and carefully screw them to the end joists, using brackets and deck nails to reinforce the joints. 

Once you’ve hung the rest of your rim and end joists, you can add the floor joists. You’ll need to attach these to your beams using rafter ties, a type of tension tie that prevents the frame from moving when a force is applied (in other words, when you walk around on your deck). 

Supplies You’ll Need

As well as your joists, beams, and posts, you will need:

  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Concrete anchors
  • Anchor bolts
  • Post brackets
  • Postcrete
  • All-purpose gravel
  • Waterproof tape or sealant
  • Circular saw and blades
  • Handsaw
  • Reciprocating saw and blades
  • Drill and driver

Need a Helping Hand?

At Decks & Docks, we’re a one-stop-shop for all your deck framing needs. Check out our selection of composite and wood decking, as well as all the necessary supplies, hardware, and accessories. 

And if you need help choosing the right materials, just reach out to our team. We’ll help you find what you need to make your next project a success.