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Ground level deck

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Forum topic by deadherring posted 07-26-2017 11:27 PM 496 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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deadherring

59 posts in 1481 days


07-26-2017 11:27 PM

Hi all,

I’m building some outdoor couches and they will go on the lawn in the backyard. I’d like to build a wooden platform (ground level deck) as a seating area for the couches and a future coffee table and maybe some chairs. It will not be near the house so it will be freestanding.

I’m planning on a 12×12 deck out of 2×8’s. I’ve never built one before and am exploring my options. I am trying to both keep my costs and required effort down and do not want something permanent with pouring concrete.

My question is if I can do something like this that has the deck sitting on some paving stones. The structure shown in the video is pretty much exactly what I am looking to build. I should add that there is a slight slope in the yard such that the back of the deck would be slightly lower than the front so I’d have to figure out a way to level it, maybe I can get a few different thicknesses of stone and level as needed? If it matters the couches are very heavy—the side supports are made from 6×6’s so there will be quite a bit of weight on the deck.

The other option I’ve seen is to use floating deck blocks

That option would add a bunch of cost and complexity, but if I really shouldn’t do it the way I described above I’ll go this route. If I go this route, how far apart do I need to use the deck blocks under the structure?

Additional details I’ve learned in my research is to use joist hangers, add blocking between the joists and use nails vs. screws. If I go the deck block route some have suggested digging down a few inches and putting some gravel and a patio stone under the deck block to avoid sinkage into the dirt (the dirt in my yard seems fairly soft.)

Open to all input and advice in terms of taking on this challenge that folks might have. Again, I’m looking for the cheapest and easiest in terms of effort route I can take, provided it is safe and sturdy. I have a full shop in my basement and am far from an expert but have built several furniture projects.

Thanks,

Nathan


12 replies so far

View TaySC's profile

TaySC

270 posts in 171 days


#1 posted 07-26-2017 11:38 PM

IMO that first deck is the easy way to go.

I would lay out the area you want to build the deck and then level it as best you can first. The blocks are good if you need that little extra to level it out or if you just don’t want the joists touching the ground, but honestly, with ground contact lumber I would level the dirt and put the frame directly on the ground.

BTW, if your ground is on too much of a slope to level out and you want to use those blocks, this video is pretty good at how to do it…. start just after the 2 minute mark.

https://youtu.be/5-HaCwkS228

View deadherring's profile

deadherring

59 posts in 1481 days


#2 posted 07-26-2017 11:53 PM

Thanks @TaySC. So I’m overthinking this a little? Is it ok to put it on the ground (stability wise) because there’s enough weight such that it won’t shift around?

View Loren's profile

Loren

9630 posts in 3485 days


#3 posted 07-27-2017 12:04 AM

If you put wood on the ground it will
be more vulnerable to termites and
wood rot.

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

5061 posts in 2103 days


#4 posted 07-27-2017 12:16 AM

Honestly you might want to reconsider and go with concrete or pavers. You can add wood benches, planters and railings. That would reduce annual maintenance a whole big yearly painful butt load.

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deadherring

59 posts in 1481 days


#5 posted 07-27-2017 12:20 AM

BurlyBob,

I think you mean instead of the wooden deck? I thought about going that route, but my research showed I’d have to dig down a whole bunch, then put down gravel, then sand. Plus I’d have to rent a compacter. Seems like a whole bunch of work that I’d rather not get into. Let me know if I have that wrong.

Also, what yearly maintenance are you referring to?

View TaySC's profile

TaySC

270 posts in 171 days


#6 posted 07-27-2017 12:43 AM

Not sure where you live and what your weather is like, which could definitely impact what is best for your situation.

Lorenzo is certainly right about the wood contacting the ground…

Honestly, it depends on what you prefer. They all have their pros and cons to deal with.

Wood directly on a level ground
Pros – cheaper initially, easy to build
Cons – can rot easier and more susceptible to termites

I’m in SC and the deck leading out of my back door is a ground level deck that has been on the ground for the 19 years that I have lived here. If you use ground contact/pressure treated lumber I would think it would take a long time to rot, but that’s just my opinion from my own deck.

The real problem and cost of any wood deck is the boards, having to treat and replace them. The sun beats down on my deck and the boards tend to cracking or curl up fairly quickly. You could combat that by treating them yearly, but that can be a pain in the butt.

Wood deck on blocks.
Pros – keep the foundation from direct contact to the ground
Cons – little more expensive initially, still doesn’t solve the issue of having to paint or treat the boards regularly (or replace them)

Paver or concrete
Pros – more solid and longterm without so much upkeep
Cons – more expensive initially, paver you have to either spray or fight grass/weeds coming up between

In the long run it just depends on a) how much you would rather spend upfront and b) how much upkeep you want to have to deal with.

Just my two cents from my own experience, but some of these guys are surely more knowledgeable than I am.

View Snipes's profile

Snipes

150 posts in 2082 days


#7 posted 07-27-2017 12:47 AM

Like Tay says use green treated rated for ground contact and you will have no issues. Depending on how your ground lays out there may be no need for 2×8’s

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

5061 posts in 2103 days


#8 posted 07-27-2017 12:57 AM

Everything has got it’s prep work wood or concrete. Yeah concrete has got a little more work but every year or every other year your going to have to wash sand and stain your deck unless you go with a composite. Pavers or concrete are a one time deal. Not knowing where your located might change the picture and totally dictate what’s best. Guess I’m just getting old and lazy. I don’t want to have to schedule my summers around deck maintenance.

View Tony1212's profile

Tony1212

146 posts in 1572 days


#9 posted 07-27-2017 03:08 PM

I did something very similar. I have a 5ft breezeway between my house and garage. For years it has been a thicket of weeds and brambles. I cleared it out and leveled it out a bit. Then I just put down a 2×4 frame (16” OC) and 5/8” decking over the top of the frame. All the wood is treated and rated for ground contact.

Turned out wonderfully, but it’s only been a few months.

I’ve never had good luck with pavers. The ground moves and they get all wavy and weeds grow in the cracks despite the landscape fabric, sand and gravel. I didn’t want to do concrete due to similar concerns.

I can replace the entire deck in a weekend when it rots out.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View deadherring's profile

deadherring

59 posts in 1481 days


#10 posted 07-27-2017 03:34 PM

Thanks all, for your input. For those who were asking, I live in NJ. I definitely hear what folks are saying re: pavers, but I’m going to lean towards the wooden deck approach on some stone pavers at the corners for support. I know my limits and I’m not up for the leveling the ground, renting a compactor etc approach. Additionally the somewhat elevated deck that makes it a real seating area seems nice. A few follow up questions, if I may:

1. What size boards should I use for the frame and joists? The deck area is 12’ x12’. 2×8? 2×6?
2. What are the guidelines on how often to add blocking?
3. Can I get screws that do not require pre-drilling and countersinking?I see spax alot at HD. Will that fit the bill?
4. From what I’ve seen, you should nail the frame/joists/joist hangers but screw down the decking board. Is that right?
5. Should I add a cloth under the deck to try to hold down weed growth?

Many thanks,

Nathan

View Snipes's profile

Snipes

150 posts in 2082 days


#11 posted 07-27-2017 04:24 PM

#1- that depends on how you build it. how much slope do you have to deal with? 2×8s 16 O.C. will span 10 to 12’ depending on species. For 12’ deck I would probably put down 2 4×4s leveled into place 8’ a part and use 2×6 16O.C. above that. Now you fasten joist to this and don’t need hangers, and you have a small step. #2 -blocking not necessary #3- Yes, except always pre drill at ends. If they don’t split now they will as lumber dries. I use torx Grk brand (smaller diameter but stronger) #4- if you use hangers then you use hanger nails, screw everything else. Just make sure you use proper fasteners approved for great treated, hangers included. ACQ approved #5- I think its a waste of time, but if it makes you feel better go ahead.

As far as maintenance you can just let it gray if you prefer.

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View CaptainSkully's profile

CaptainSkully

1521 posts in 3396 days


#12 posted 07-30-2017 09:15 PM

I actually build decks for a living. Since this is such a low structure not attached to the house, it probably doesn’t need to be permitted. I would go with the floating pre-cast concrete blocks option. Dig down so they’re just barely above grade. Put some 5/8” minus gravel beneath them so they’re ready to drop your 2×8 joists across them.

Make a 12’x11-9” box from the 2×8’s, then fill the box with 2×8’s on 16” centers across the 12’ length. Put the concrete blocks just tucked in on the corners by about 16”-24” to either side (depending on which joist you land on). Then cover the whole thing with 5×4” x 6×12’ (or 2×6’s) deck boards making sure to screw each board twice on each joist, leaving 1/4” between boards. Let the deck boards run wild over each end, then cut them flush on the ends with a chalk line. This is why the deck is 11’-9” instead of 12’ and it’ll still look square.

As a lover of Asian-inspired architecture, I love a good floating deck. If you’re going to go to the effort and expense, I think having the deck sit on pavers along the edge looks tacky. A floating deck has an almost mystical appeal to it because you can’t see any structure.

You should be able to complete this whole project in one long day with wood you can fit in the truck in one trip.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

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