Decking Basics

If you are planning on building or remodeling your deck it is important to know the logistics, even if you are going to hire a professional. Arm yourself with information regarding materials, construction, and design so that you are sure to end up with the deck that fits your needs.

Deck Piers

Although rarely seen piers are vital to your deck – dug into the ground and attached to footing pads, piers stabilize your deck. Without deck piers your deck is likely to be uneven, unsteady and sink into the ground over time.

Deck Ledgers

If your deck will attach to the house a deck ledger is crucial – this is what prevents the deck from pulling at the exterior wall. Given the amount of precipitation that is likely to hit your deck it is also a good idea to have a flasher installed against the ledger. This prevents moisture from seeping into the house causing rotting.


The planks that serve as the foundation of the deck’s floorboards are called joists. Joists generally run perpendicular to your house between the beams and ledger. Be sure to check joists for faults – knots, cracks and other defects will decrease the stability and strength of joists and ultimately of your deck.

Deck Beams and Posts

Together beams and posts support the weight of the deck, thus proper installation and construction is vital. Loose beams or posts can leave your deck unsteady. It is important to assemble your deck, especially beams and posts, with screws rather than nails. Screws are stronger and less likely to rust over time, plus the wider head of the screw helps to hold everything in place.


Do your homework when you buy your lumber or material – consider the weather in your area, how much sun, wind, moisture and heat you are likely to expose your deck to. What works best for one situation and home may not be the best option for another.

  • Wood: If you are going with wood, be sure to choose a pre-treated, water resistant option to prevent deterioration and rotting. Cedar, Redwood and Pine are popular options – but remember that while wood decks offer durability and enhanced visual appearance they do require annual maintenance.
  • Composite and Stone: Stone and composite material, such as recycled plastic, resin, polyester or glass fiber, is generally one and a half to three times more costly than wood. However, these materials require less maintenance and will not shrink, splinter, or fade.


Railings provide security for decks with height. It is important to make sure your railing meets building codes; code information is often posted on state, city, and county government websites (this is a good idea for all aspects of your project).