Setting and Cutting Posts
Posts must be plumb for your deck to be stable and so other framing members can be accurately aligned. Setting posts is ideally a two-person job. There's a lot of precise work required her, and additional hands and eyes will help immensely. The easiest method for cutting posts to length is to do so after installing them in post anchors.
Check the Post Ends
Check the ends of each post with a layout square. If neither end is square, mark and square one end and use that end in the post base. You're going to cut the other end of the proper height later, so it doesn't matter if it's not square. The post should be as straight as possible and longer than needed so you can trim it to length after attaching it to the footing. Set the square end of the post in the post base and drive one nail halfway into the center hole of one of the post-base flanges. This will keep the post in the base and allow enough movement so you can plumb it. Drive the nail only halfway so you can reposition it if necessary.
Brace the Post
Stake 1x4 braces to the ground and tack them to the post with partially driven screws. Strap a post level on the post at a place where you can see the vials in the level while you plumb the post and fasten the braces securely. Install, brace, and plumb the remaining posts in the same way. Restring the layout lines to make sure the faces of the posts all lie in the same plane. Then drive a nail into each hole in the post-base flanges.
Mark the Post Height
Mark the posts for the cut line either level with the bottom of the ledger or below this level by the depth of the joists and beam, depending on your construction method. Measure down from this mark the width of the beam if the joists will be supported by the beam. Using a layout square, extend the cut line around the post. Make the mark with a carpenter's pencil-dark enough so you can see it when the saw kicks up the sawdust.
Saw the Post
Holding a reciprocating saw securely, position the show against one corner (angle the saw against the corner) with the blade lined up with, but not touching, the cut line. Start the saw and tilt the blade into one cut line, keeping it level throughout the cut.
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