Creative Concept Decks

Simple Steps to Building Freestanding Decks

Are you dreaming of an outdoor oasis that complements your home and provides a comfortable space to relax or entertain? Look no further than freestanding decks. This versatile structure can be tailored to your needs and preferences, offering endless design possibilities. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of building a freestanding deck, exploring the key features, advantages, and design ideas to help you create the perfect outdoor retreat.

Understanding Freestanding Decks

A freestanding deck is a structure that stands independently of the house, supported by its own freestanding deck posts. This self-supporting design differs from an attached deck, which is connected to the house wall. A popular example of a freestanding deck is an above-ground pool deck, which offers a distinct contrast to the more common attached decks.

As freestanding decks lack the support of house walls, considerations like uplift resistance and racking become significant during construction. The support posts for a freestanding deck adjacent to a house are usually located in the over-dig next to the house, with footers reaching the same depth as the original house footer.

Key Features of Freestanding Decks

Freestanding decks offer a unique set of features compared to attached decks. They are completely separate from the house structure, providing versatility in design and positioning. This independence allows for the inclusion of various elements, such as:

  • Stairs
  • Railings
  • Posts
  • Planters
  • Additional floor joists

If you’re planning to build a freestanding deck higher than 4 feet above the ground, it’s recommended to consult a certified residential structural engineer to ensure a safe and sturdy design.

Submerging support posts in wet concrete contributes to deck bracing, helping resist wind uplift forces and preventing potential toppling. Structural hardware is essential in deck construction. It should be used to firmly secure deck posts to concrete footings at a sufficient height above the ground. Additionally, diagonal bracing plays a crucial role in mitigating movement on the deck parallel to the house and diminishing racking forces, particularly when the house has a brick veneer. Installing composite decking can enhance the safety and durability of the deck.

Advantages of Freestanding Decks

Freestanding decks offer numerous advantages over attached decks. One of the primary benefits is the avoidance of potential damage to the house, as constructing a freestanding deck can be more viable for houses with masonry veneer or stucco. Attaching a deck to these types of houses may be a code violation or present other challenges, making a freestanding structure more practical. Post placement in a freestanding deck is crucial to ensure they don’t obstruct windows, doors, or walkways and must be spaced to effectively support the floor beams.

Another advantage of freestanding decks is their flexibility in design and adaptability to various house types. For instance, they can be easily constructed on uneven terrain or challenging sites where an attached deck may not be feasible. Gapping butt joints when using composite decking materials allows for expansion and contraction due to temperature variation, ensuring a long-lasting and stable structure.

Factors to Consider Before Building a Freestanding Deck

Before embarking on your freestanding deck construction, several factors should be evaluated for a successful project. Site selection, building codes, and material choices all play a crucial role in the planning and execution of your deck. Taking the time to research and plan these aspects can save you time, money, and potential headaches down the road.

Site Selection and Preparation

A well-chosen location for your freestanding deck impacts the overall design, functionality, and enjoyment of your outdoor space. Ensuring proper leveling and drainage is also crucial to prevent issues such as water damage and structural instability. When selecting the optimal site for your freestanding deck, consider factors such as:

  • The deck’s purpose
  • Location
  • Material
  • Design
  • Size and shape
  • Any other deck structures that may be incorporated

Once you’ve selected the perfect site for your freestanding deck, it’s time to prepare the area. This includes:

  • Clearing any unwanted vegetation and debris
  • Leveling the ground
  • Ensuring proper drainage
  • Compacting the soil (if installing frost footings) to prevent sinking

Following these steps will provide a solid foundation for your deck and help ensure a successful construction process.

Building Codes and Permits

Compliance with local building codes and obtaining requisite permits prior to freestanding deck construction is necessary for safety and regulation adherence. Building codes provide guidelines for aspects such as:

  • Structural integrity
  • Load-bearing capacity
  • Railing height and spacing
  • Stair design
  • Proper fasteners

By following these codes, you can ensure that your deck is safe, sturdy, and compliant with local regulations.

If you’re renting your property or live in a community with strict building guidelines, it’s important to consult with your landlord or homeowners association and obtain their agreement and authorization in writing before starting your deck project. Failure to do so could result in fines, legal disputes, or even the need to remove your deck after construction. Taking the time to research and comply with building codes and permits will save you time, money, and potential headaches later on.

Material Choices

The durability, aesthetics, and easy maintenance of your freestanding deck depend on the selection of appropriate materials. Common materials include pressure-treated wood, composite decking, and grade 1 pressure-treated lumber. These materials are highly durable and can withstand outdoor elements, making them an excellent choice for your deck construction. Additionally, using landscaping fabric and deck footings can help ensure stability and inhibit plant growth underneath the deck.

When choosing materials for your freestanding deck, it’s important to consider factors such as climate, maintenance requirements, and budget. Wood, composite, and metal materials all offer unique advantages and drawbacks, so take the time to research and select the materials that best suit your needs and preferences.

Design Ideas for Freestanding Decks

Freestanding decks offer a blank canvas for creativity and design, allowing you to create a unique and functional outdoor space that suits your needs and preferences. From multi-level decks to built-in seating and pergolas, the possibilities are endless.

This section presents various design ideas for inspiration as you plan your ideal freestanding deck.

Multi-Level Decks

Multi-level decks are an excellent way to add visual interest and functionality to your outdoor space. By creating different levels, you can accommodate various activities and elevations, making the most of your available space. Some examples of multi-level deck designs include:

  • Curved decks
  • Double-decker decks
  • Small multi-level decks
  • Luxurious multi-level decks with sweeping views and multiple seating areas

Considerations such as the deck’s purpose, flow between levels, and integration of features like stairs, railings, and planters are important when planning a multi-level deck. With careful planning and design, a multi-level deck can provide an attractive and functional addition to your home, enhancing your outdoor living experience.

Built-In Seating and Storage

Integrating built-in seating and storage into your freestanding deck design enhances convenience and optimizes space. Built-in seating offers a comfortable and practical alternative to traditional outdoor furniture, saving space and providing a cohesive design element. Additionally, integrating storage solutions like hidden compartments or under-deck storage areas can help keep your deck organized and clutter-free.

Popular built-in seating designs include:

  • Backless benches
  • Benches with backrests
  • Curved benches
  • L-shaped benches

Built-in storage solutions can range from simple under-deck storage areas to custom-designed benches with hidden compartments. By incorporating these elements into your freestanding deck design, you can maximize space and functionality while maintaining an attractive and cohesive aesthetic.

Pergolas and Shade Structures

A pergola or shade structure addition to your freestanding deck boosts comfort and aesthetic appeal. Pergolas provide shade and protection from the elements, creating a comfortable and inviting space for relaxation and entertainment. In addition to offering practical benefits, pergolas and shade structures can also add architectural interest and visual appeal to your deck design.

There are several types of pergolas and shade structures available, including:

  • Attached pergolas
  • Arched pergolas
  • Louvered pergolas
  • Awning pergolas

When selecting a pergola or shade structure for your freestanding deck, consider factors such as the deck’s size, location, and desired aesthetic. By incorporating a pergola or shade structure into your deck design, you can create a comfortable and visually appealing outdoor space that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Freestanding Deck

With a firm grasp of freestanding decks and potential design ideas, you can now commence the construction process. Building a freestanding deck requires careful planning, attention to detail, and the right tools and materials. In this section, we’ll guide you through the step-by-step process of building your dream freestanding deck, including:

  1. Planning and design
  2. Constructing the foundation
  3. Assembling the frame
  4. Installing decking and railings

Planning and Design

The first step in building a freestanding deck is planning and design. This involves measuring the site, creating a detailed plan, and considering factors such as time and budget constraints. Start by measuring the dimensions of your desired deck, taking into account factors such as the deck’s purpose, location, and any other structures that may need to be incorporated. Tools like the Calculated Industries Digiroller Plus III 6575 can help simplify this process.

Next, create a scaled drawing of your deck, incorporating elements such as joists, beams, posts, and their spacing. Be sure to consider any obstacles, such as trees, shrubs, electrical lines, outlets, vents, and valves, when creating your site plan. With a comprehensive plan in place, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle the construction process with confidence and efficiency.

Constructing the Foundation

The stability and longevity of your freestanding deck rely on a solid foundation. To construct the foundation, follow these steps:

  1. Begin by digging footing holes to a depth and width of at least 12 inches.
  2. Pour concrete into the footing holes, ensuring that the top of the concrete footing is at least 4 inches above the soil or finished grade at each location.
  3. While the concrete is still wet, install anchor bolts in the center of each footing hole to secure the deck posts.

Before pouring the concrete, ensure that the concrete footing holes are properly dug and prepared. After the concrete has cured, secure the posts to the footings using structural hardware, such as Simpson Strong-Tie post bases. Be sure to raise the wood post an inch off the concrete to ensure that it remains dry. By constructing a solid foundation, you’re laying the groundwork for a stable and long-lasting freestanding deck.

Assembling the Frame

With the foundation established, you can proceed to assemble your freestanding deck’s frame. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Start by installing the beams on either side of the middle row of joist posts.
  2. Firmly clamp the beams together and attach them to each of the three posts using screws.
  3. Be sure to use #1-grade lumber for beams and joists to ensure fewer knots and enhanced strength.

Next, install the floor joists, ensuring that they are straight and have nearly the same crown for a successful installation of the decking. If any joists have a crown, they should be cut to ensure a level surface. By assembling a sturdy frame, you’re providing the necessary support and stability for your deck’s surface and railings.

Installing Decking and Railings

Installing the decking boards and railings marks the final step in constructing your freestanding deck. This process involves securing the decking boards to the joists using screws or nails, ensuring proper spacing between boards for expansion and contraction. For traditional treated wood decking, leaving a 1/8-inch space between planks, and for composite decking, maintain a 1/4-inch gap after shrinkage has occurred.

When installing railings, follow these steps:

  1. Check local building code regulations for height and spacing requirements.
  2. Consult a professional or licensed contractor for guidance if necessary.
  3. Properly install railings to provide safety and stability for your deck.
  4. Enjoy a comfortable and enjoyable outdoor space for years to come.

Freestanding Deck Maintenance Tips

Regular maintenance is key to maintaining the appearance and performance of your freestanding deck. In this section, we’ll share some tips for cleaning and sealing, inspecting for damage, and replacing damaged boards to help prolong the lifespan of your deck and maintain its beauty and functionality.

Cleaning and Sealing

Routine cleaning and sealing safeguard the materials of your freestanding deck, ensuring its durability. To clean your deck, follow these steps:

  1. Mix water, dish soap, rubbing alcohol, and oxygen bleach for wood decks or a vinegar and water solution for composite decks.
  2. Apply the cleaning solution to the deck and scrub with a brush or broom.
  3. Rinse the cleaning solution thoroughly with water.
  4. Allow the deck to dry completely before sealing or staining.

When selecting a sealant for your deck, consider options such as wood preservatives, deck sealers, and deck stains that offer UV protection and are suitable for outdoor use. Apply the sealant using a brush, roller, or spray paint equipment, following the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

Regular cleaning and sealing will help protect your new deck from the elements and keep it looking its best.

Inspecting for Damage

Regular inspections of your freestanding deck for damage, wear, and possible safety risks are important. Look for indicators such as:

  • Rotting wood
  • Sagging or uneven deck surfaces
  • Cracked or splintered deck boards
  • Unsteady railings
  • Loose floorboards

If you notice any signs of damage, address the issues promptly to maintain the structural integrity and safety of your deck.

In addition to regular visual inspections, consider scheduling a professional inspection by a licensed contractor or engineer to ensure your deck’s structural integrity and compliance with local building codes. By staying proactive with maintenance and inspections, you can enjoy your freestanding deck for many years to come.

Replacing Damaged Boards

Replacing any damaged or worn decking boards found during inspection is crucial for preserving your deck’s structural integrity and aesthetics. To replace a damaged board, use the following tools:

  • Circular saw
  • Screw gun
  • Speed square
  • Wood chisel
  • Claw hammer
  • Pry bar

Use these tools to remove the old board and install a new one in its place.

By promptly addressing damaged boards, including ledger boards, you can keep your deck looking and performing its best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Freestanding decks are a great option if you don’t plan on installing a patio underneath and have brick or stucco exterior walls. They’re self-supported and built to last for decades with the help of an experienced deck builder.

Yes, you can build a freestanding deck. It’s not much different from building a standard one and just requires making sure the support legs don’t wobble. With some basic knowledge and proper guidance, you can construct an enjoyable outdoor space that stands alone.

The main benefit of a freestanding deck is that it can be placed anywhere in your yard, providing additional flexibility and design possibilities. However, these decks require extra legs and footings, as well as bracing to ensure stability, meaning there may be extra cost involved.

Yes, a freestanding deck does not need footings or a ledger as they are not attached to any structure.

A freestanding deck is independent and not connected to the house wall, whereas an attached deck is attached directly to the structure of the home.

Contact Us!

Ready to transform your outdoor space into a haven of relaxation and entertainment? Delve into Creative Concepts Decks. Our expertise in Freestanding Decks ensures that your vision becomes a reality. Don’t just dream about it; let us craft the perfect deck for your needs. Contact us today!