How to lay straight decking boards

decking boards, timber wedges, installing decking boards, spotted gum decking
Installing decking boards

The setting out of the decking boards will make or break any deck. We all have seen decks where the decking boards are not running in straight lines.

If you use the conventional method of using a spacer in between each decking board, eventually the decking boards look like they are starting to bend and curve. This is because most decking boards vary slightly in size. The more boards you install, the more the board’s variation in width becomes apparent.

So why do most building professionals and reality TV shows teach the spacer method? Simply because using a spacer is an easier method to teach and demonstrate.

There is another method that most builders and carpenters use. That is the set out what is known as your grid boards. Grid boards are every fifth decking board that is nailed down first, and then we fill in the spaces afterwards. This way we can space the boards in-between each grid board evenly. Using this method takes a little longer, however, it will result in a much neater result.

Keep reading for the step by step process on how to set out the grid boards. Alternatively, you can purchase the complete guide “Installing decking boards” for the complete process from set out to the installation of decking boards. On that note, let’s get started.

1- Measure the width of a few decking boards to work out how wide the average of the decking boards are, this is very important. Multiple the average width of the decking boards by 5 and then add 15mm. The 15mm allows for a 3mm gap between each decking board. The gap is required to allow the decking boards to expand in various weather conditions.

Formula
Average width of decking x 5 + 15mm (3mm gap between each board) = “Grid board spacing”

2- Start from the front of your deck and mark down the sides of your deck in multiples of the “Grid board spacing” measurement. This is so you can use a chalk line (a chalk line is a string line coated in chalk that when you flick it leaves a straight line of chalk) to mark all the joists that are in between and keep them straight. (Refer to “15 Most Common Deck Construction Mistakes” from howtodecks.com.au for an example of decking that is not straight).

As you cannot mark the very front board as it will be overhanging the front of your fascia in mid-air (normally between 10mm to 20mm), and as you may have posts that the decking needs to be cut around. Make your first mark at, “2 x average width of decking + 6mm (6mm is the gap between two decking boards, this is so you can come back later to install these boards)”. Note: if you have rebates cut into your posts for the decking boards you will need to leave the front three boards off so you can get the decking boards that are cut around the posts without having to remove a row of decking boards later on.

3- Use a chalk line (a chalk line is a string line coated in chalk that when you flick it leaves a straight line of chalk) to mark a straight line on the top of your joists. As you go along flicking your chalk line, mark a big X on the opposite side of the line from the direction that you started marking from. The X is so you know which side of the line you are to nail your grid decking boards too.

DIY deck builders run through

There are many different styles, construction methods, building materials and construction processes that can be used to deliver a satisfying DIY deck building project. Before you get started there are a few questions and points to consider and you will find these questions similar if you were going to use a building contractor.

Working out what you want.

    • How big do you want your deck (an average deck that has an outdoor table and chairs is usually the equivalent of a master bedroom with a queen size bed in it, this will give you an idea of space on your deck)?
    • What type/style of deck are you looking for? It is always good to have sample photos of what you want as you will need these when you go to see your building designer or architect.
    • What is your budget? You need to know your budget as the different types of building products and construction methods vary greatly in price. When you see your building designer they will be able to point you in the right direction if they know what your budget is.

Once you have made your decision on what style and type of deck you want to build, you will need to do a material take off. A material take off is where you or your building designer calculate you how much of every construction material you will need, right down to how many nails you need to nail your decking boards down with. If you have never completed a material take off before I highly recommend you have your designer do this for you.

For the full process on DIY timber deck building you can purchase our task specific guides from the resource shop.

deck buildingNow that you have completed your material take off its time to purchase your materials and get the construction work under way. The first step is to clear your site and do a site set out. When you clear your site you will need to remove all kids toys, outdoor furniture and anything else that is in the way. Oh, and don’t forget to mow the lawn.

After you have cleared the site you will need to do what is called a site set out. The set out is where you set up string lines that identify the edge of your deck and where to dig all your holes for the foundations or footings. For the full details on completing a site set out you will need to purchase the “Site preparation and set out” guide from our resource shop.

Once your footing holes have been dug it is time to install concrete into your footings and stand your timber posts. You will require a hand from a friend at this point, as it may be potentially dangerous to try and attempt this on your own. After standing your posts you can go ahead and install the bearers and floor joists according to our task specific guides from our resource shop. When you mark out for your floor joists try to keep them evenly spaced no larger than your building designers plans.

When install your decking boards try to stagger all your joints and keep them a minimum of two floor joists and decking boards apart as outlined in our “Installing Decking Boards” guide.

There are few more steps to building your timber deck and that is why I have developed these task specific guides. These guide have been developed from all the information, tricks and techniques I have developed over the many years of contracting. These guide have one intention at heart, to give you all the most up to date and relevant information on building your deck so you can have that amazing deck you have always wanted.

Succeeding with contractors

contractorHiring a contractor is a game unto itself. Do you go with the guy that was unshaven and come straight from the site to meet with you, or maybe the company that has been around for years?

Is it really up to chance when choosing a contractor, if you have never used them before and no one that you know has used them either, you are in the dark about them as a contractor.

So how to do you go about selecting a contractor? Before you can select a contractor you need to first sit down and work out what you require from your contractor. Are you after someone to give you a hand on the weekends while you build it? Are you after a local guy? Do you want reputable company building your deck? There are many more questions that you need to answer for yourself before you make calls to your local building contractors.

contractorSTEP 1: Before calling your contractor

    • How big do you want your deck (an average deck that has an outdoor table and chairs is usually the equivalent of a master bedroom with a queen size bed in it, this gives you an idea of space on your deck)?
    • What type/style of deck are you looking for? It is always great if you have sample photos of decks you like to show the contractors to give them an idea of what you are looking for.
    • What is your budget? You don’t need to tell contractors and it is best if you keep this to yourself on the first consultation and wait until you shortlist your contractors to the last three.

For the full process on selecting a building contractor, purchase your copy of the “Contractor Selection Guide” for $3.50 AUD by clicking the buy now button.




$3.50 AUD (Purchase made securely with Pay Pal)

Once you have answered all the questions for yourself you now need to call local contractors for quotes. Always ask your friends, family and work colleges for their recommendations on who to use, this way you can get an insight about that contractor first hand.

STEP 2: Information all contractors need to be able to answer

    • Does the contractor have a valid building license? If they don’t have the appropriate building license for your state now is the time to show them the door. You will not be covered by insurance or your local building authority should problems arise later on if the contractor has no license.
    • Are they able to give you testimonials or previous client references? They should be able to have two reference of a similar project to yours.
    • Do they have any previous building disputes that are unresolved? It is not always a bad thing if a contractor has had one or two previous disputes if they have been resolved, its when they are unresolved is where you need to steer clear.

For the full process on selecting a building contractor purchase your copy of the “Contractor Selection Guide” for $3.50 AUD by clicking the buy now button.




$3.50 AUD (Purchase made securely with Pay Pal)

There are few more steps to selecting the right contractor for you, and that is why I have developed the contractor selection guide. This guide has been developed from all the information and feedback from previous clients of mine over the many years of contracting. This guide has one intention at heart, to give you all the most up to date and relevant information on selecting your building contractor.

If you find this guide is not of value to you I will refund 200% of the purchase price.

Measuring and taking photos of your footings

footingsOnce you have finished digging your footings you need to measure their depth. When measuring the depth of your hole always hold your tape measure straight up and down or plumb as it is called in the industry, and measure to the top of the hole just below the grass level.

Always take a photo of each footing with a tape measure in the hole, ensuring you can clearly see the bottom of the hole. As you can see in the photo the tape measure is plumb, you can see the bottom of the hole and you can see the numbers on the tape measure. You will also need to take a photo of the width of the hole and it is good practice to make sure that your photos have a date stamp on them.

Why take a photo of your footings? Once you have poured concrete into your footings you are no longer able to see the shape or depth of them. Later on if there is ever a problem with your deck, you have the photos to show what was done with the footings. Also instead of visiting your project, many building certifiers or building inspectors are happy for you to supply photos of your footing holes where you have a tape measure to show the depth and width of the hole. You should always confirm with your building inspector that they are happy to use photos instead of visiting your project

To find out more about installing deck footings, you can purchase your own copy of our “Digging and Installing Footings” guide from the Resource Shop.

Cutting your decking boards neatly around posts.

cutting your decking boardsWhen cutting your decking boards to fit around your deck posts, the first thing you will notice is that your deck posts are almost never square to your decking boards.

How do you overcome this? You need to use a sliding bevel rather than using a square. A sliding bevel is tool similar to a square, except the blade/ruler on the bevel is adjustable to whatever angle you require. The point of having an adjustable blade/ruler is so that you can precisely mark the angle on which your decking board needs to be cut, to fit neatly around the posts.

As you can see in the photo, the decking boards are not square to the posts and by using the sliding bevel you are able to mark the decking boards to exactly fit to the post. To use the sliding bevel correctly, ensure that the tightening nut is tightened and the handle of the bevel is firm against the decking board. Now push the blade into the post and ensure that the handle remains against the decking board and the blade is touching the whole edge of the post. Now tighten the nut firmly and mark your decking board. That is it – one of the tricks that builders use to ensure joins look amazing.

To find out how to cut your decking boards around your posts in more detail, you can purchase your own copy of the “Installing Decking Boards” guide from the Resource Shop.