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How To Frame a Deck

After you’ve planned out your deck and set your footings, it’s now time to frame your deck. Deck framing is where you’ll really start to see it take shape. We’ll show you how to frame a deck, how to place and secure your beams and joists and give you tips and tricks to maximize the strength of your supports to create the foundation for a sturdy, long-lasting deck. 

Skill Level: Intermediate

Before starting any building project check with your municipal office for local building codes, regulations and zoning restrictions.    

  1. Step 1 Construct the Deck Beam

    Man placing a wood beam

    The first step to building a deck frame is to construct the beam that will support the floor joists that will be attached to the ledger. The beam will consist of two 2” x 10” boards screwed together. Our deck beam will be cantilevered, which means the joists will extend past the beam. This results in a more visually pleasing look. To support the beam, use a metal post saddle to attach the beams to 4” x 4” posts.    

  2. Step 2 Select the Boards for Joists

    Wood beams on the ground

    To build the deck structure, use 2” x 8” boards. Most structural lumber has a natural bend, or crown. When selecting the boards for your joists, hold the board in front so you can look down the edge. You’ll be able to notice any warping or curves easier that way. The up side or “hill” of the curve is the crown. Setting joists with the crowns up builds extra strength into the deck. Our joists will be installed 16” on center, meaning it is 16 inches from the center of one joist to the center of the next.

  3. Step 3 Install Joist Hangers

    Person installing joist hangers on wooden beam.

    Mark your joist locations on the ledger and then install joist hangers. The joists will sit in these hangers for extra weight support. Be sure to use a nail in each of the joist hanger holes – don’t skip any – the strength of the hanger connection depends on proper nailing.    

  4. Step 4 Install and Cut Joists

    Person drilling into wooden beam.

    Place the joists into the hangers; the other end of the joist sits on top of the beam where it is screwed in place. Install the joists full length and then cut them off in place once they’re secured. By using this method you’re ensured of a straight front edge of the deck, even if the house itself is not quite straight.    

  5. Step 5 Install the Header

    Person drilling into wooden beam.

    On the front of the deck, another 2” x 8” board is attached to the ends of the joists. This is called the header. Cut and screw the header to the rim joist. To add strength to the deck, you can add one or two more layers of 2” x 8” boards to the header. With that, your deck frame should be complete. You’ll now need to lay your deck boards.   

Continue to Build your Deck: How to Install Deck Boards

What You Need for This Project

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