Building A Freestanding Deck – Where to start?
A free standing deck is exactly as it sounds; a structure that is self-supporting rather than connected to the house by a ledger board. There are many reasons to choose a freestanding deck rather than a ground level, depending on what the main purpose of the deck will be. You may choose to have the deck standing alone in an open space or overlooking a swimming pool. Not all properties are conducive to this type of deck so be sure you know what you need it for before selecting an independently standing deck.
Make sure your building codes allow you to add any type of freestanding structures to your property before you start building. Most of all carefully read the requirements from building permits to structure height, before selecting a deck plan and starting to build.
Before you start building, make sure you have everything you need.
Do You Need A Freestanding Deck?
How do you know if this is the type of deck you need? The first question you need to ask is why do I need this deck. The most common reason an independent deck is requires is that there are no structures near the building site to which the deck could be attached. For example if your pool is a good distance away from the house, you may choose a deck like this to allow a common area near the pool.
But there is always the issue of home structure and building codes. Your home may not be stable enough or strong enough to support the weight of a deck, leaving a freestanding structure as your only option. There may also be the simple problem of your home materials not being suitable, such as stucco. Affixing a deck to certain materials may cause leaks or ruin the stability of the home.
One factor that must be considered when building a detached deck is lateral movement. Your deck may have been built for lounging, relaxing and long talks but that doesn’t mean there won’t be the occasional dance party or other activity which causes the deck to shift from one side to the other. This type of lateral movement is not something you anticipated previously but it is something for which you need to plan. The consequence of lateral movement can be twisting or collapse of the deck.
The answer to this problem is bracing. Different types of freestanding decks will require bracing in different locations, but generally you will need to brace between the outer beam and posts. This offers great support against side to side movements that can prove potentially dangerous to you and your loved ones.
Even before you start construction on your deck you should think long and hard about the types of supports you will utilize. Freestanding decks can be very unsteady if proper support isn’t a priority during construction. One of the ways experienced builders enhance support on a detached deck is by using below grade support posts.
It is common to use ‘at grade’ support because it is a bit easier, but the addition of compacted dirt and other support mechanisms will simply give the base of your deck even more support. This will protect it from the bottom against those pesky lateral movements and other unauthorized uses.
Stairs vs. Ramp
This is an important decision every deck builder will have to make at some point. Most people prefer stairs because stairs are just what we’re used to, but sometimes ramps may be needed for easy access to a freestanding deck. Whether you choose to build stairs or a ramp, safety precautions will require a guardrail, especially if the detached deck is higher than a few feet.
Whatever you decide you will have to make sure there are proper supports for the ramp or the stairs. Once you have chosen to build an independent deck you will need to find a deck plan that provides information about how to get onto and off the actual deck.
If you run into questions while you build your deck, do not hesitate to ask for help. You may just need simple advice or guidance to help you get back on track.