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This deck features an extremely versatile and widely used construction system.

”Dave and I were having a backyard wedding and realized that our trecherous stairs needed a railing. The guys at Art Metal promised to have it made and installed in time and they delivered. It’s beautiful (and I normally don’t like wrought iron) and looks like it has been there always. Many thanks for helping me have a stress free wedding! “

Construction notes

This design is appropriate for flat sites as well as slopes. Because the posts are easily cut, the piers don’t have to be absolutely level. The deck featured here is freestanding— that is, it doesn’t rely on another structure for support, although you could easily adapt it to do so. Building a freestanding deck is often easier, because you don’t have to tie it to an existing building. The built-in bench featured in this plan is very sturdy and gives a simple, clean look to the deck.

Adapting for slopes

Railings are required along any side of the deck that is more than 30 inches above the ground (check your local building code for the exact requirements). For gentle slopes, a bench may be sufficient protection.

Layout and Footings

You’ll need four mason’s lines to lay out this deck—one to mark one end of the deck and the others to represent an edge of each beam. The steeper the slope, the more difficult the layout will be because all measurements have to be made along a horizontal plane rather than along the slope.

  • Set batter boards and stretch mason’s line between them to make the layout.
  • Measure along the beam lines to locate the footings.
  • Drive stakes to mark the holes, then temporarily remove the lines so you can excavate. When excavating for footings on a slope, measure the depth of the hole from the downhill edge.
  • Place the forms in the holes and pour the footings and piers.
  • As you set the forms, make sure that all the forms are level and that the metal post brackets are in line. Restring your layout lines and use them to position the anchors in the wet concrete.

Posts, beams, and joists

If the posts are not made of pressure-treated lumber, you should soak their ends in a preservative first.

  • Cut the posts about 6 inches longer than necessary and bolt them to the top of the piers. Plumb them and brace them with diagonal 2x4s.
  • Mark the top of the uppermost posts and cut them to length.
  • Use these posts as a reference to mark the remaining posts and cut them.
  • Bolt the beams to the posts, aligning the beam ends with the layout line that marks the end of the deck.
  • Toenail the 2×6 joists to the beams and nail blocking between the joists along the center beam.
  • Snap chalk lines along both ends of the joists to mark the long edges of the deck.

Decking and fascia

When you install the uprights, be sure they’re level and equidistant from the joists.

  • Mark each upright exactly 18 inches from the top end, and align this mark along the top edge of the joist when bolting it.
  • Clamp the uprights to the joists to hold them in place as you drill the bolt holes.
  • Provide support for the decking under the bench by nailing a wood cleat onto the side of each upright opposite the joist.
  • Screw the deck boards to the joists using two screws at the end of each board.
  • When you reach the 2×8 bench uprights, either notch a long deck board to fit around them or cut short lengths of decking to fit in between.
  • Once the decking is in place, nail the fascia around the outside edge of the deck, keeping the fascia’s top edge flush with the deck surface. Miter the corners for a more finished look.

Bench Details

After the decking is in place, assemble the rest of the bench.

  • Cut off the corners of the cleats so the ends will be hidden behind the 2×4 trim.
  • Bolt the cleats in place so they are centered on the 2×8 upright and level.
  • Nail the 2x2s to the cleats to make the seats.
  • Toenail the pieces in place so the nails don’t show. You may find it necessary to predrill the holes to keep the pieces from splitting.
  • When all the 2x2s are in place, trim their ends.
  • Install the 2×4 trim boards around the bench’s perimeter, mitering the corners for a more finished look.

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