Introduction: Build a Floating Deck

Here is how I built a deck in my backyard.

It's a "floating deck," which means it simply rests on blocks at ground level.

By comparison, a raised deck is supported by a framework that requires sufficient anchoring to keep it from falling over. Since ground-level decks can't fall over, they simply "float" on the ground.

Building a deck is a lot of work, and it isn't cheap. But it is do-able and you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself rather than hiring it out. The total cost for this was almost exactly $1600 USD. The footings and framing totaled $600 and the decking itself was $1000. Total time spent was over 100 hours during a period of a couple months.

If you're looking to build a deck, this Instructable will give you some ideas for starters but I strongly recommend taking a couple weeks and studying everything you can find before making a plan.

The internet is overflowing with information on how to build a deck.

This is simply how I made mine. Enjoy!

PS: I wrote an instructable on my shed too, if you're interested.

Step 1: Tools

You don't need a shop full of tools to build a deck. Here's a list of what I'd say is essential:

  • saw horses (build some of these!)
  • circular saw
  • measuring tape
  • speed square
  • corded drill - I prefer corded rather than cordless for drilling holes
  • cordless drill/drivers (I have these and LOVE them)
  • level (at least a 4-footer)
  • yard tools: shovel, wheelbarrow, mattock
  • rubber mallet or a tamper

Other things I used, but you may not need:

  • electric planer (I just got this specifically for this project - seems good so far)
  • jig saw
  • table saw

Step 2: Foundation Blocks Layout

The main area of my deck is just a little bigger than a 12-foot by 8-foot rectangle. This worked out well for material usage and produced very little waste.

I began by laying out cement blocks in a 4-foot grid, and spray painted around them to indicate their locations. The blocks I used are "Old Manor" landscaping blocks that I got at Home Depot. Other hefty paver-type blocks would also work.

Each block location was dug about 6 inches deep. I used a pick mattock (like this or this) to remove the earth in a mostly horizontal fashion, just a couple inches or so at a time. The goal is to excavate as much earth as needed while leaving the ground beneath as compacted and undisturbed as possible.

Step 3: Set Blocks

The area where I was laying out the blocks was mostly level, which was nice.

However, it's not critical to place all the blocks completely level with each other.

Just pick the highest looking spot and set that block first. As long as all other blocks are set either level with this one or lower, things work out very well.

I just tried to keep the level of all the blocks within an inch or so, but there's no need to fuss over the precise height of the blocks. Any differences will be made up with shims later on when the deck frame is in place.

To set the blocks, I made sure each hole had all loose earth removed and only hard-packed earth was at the bottom of the hole.

I added a few inches of paver base (basically a mix of jagged rocks, gravel, and sand), and compacted this layer by placing a block on it and pounding it with larger rubber mallet.

The block was removed and a layer of leveling sand was added, and compacted again as described. If I needed to raise or lower the block, more leveling sand was either added or removed. When I was happy with the height, the block got another good compacting with the mallet, and more sand was added around the block to lock it in place.

This was repeated over and over until all the foundation blocks were in place. This step alone took several evenings to complete.

My yard has been well-settled and hard-packed for at least 15 years or more. Since I followed the same procedure for placing each block, any further settling of the foundation blocks should be uniform. Because the blocks are basically resting on the ground surface, they aren't susceptible to the upheaval that occurs in some locations that have a deep winter frost (which we don't have where I live, anyway).

Step 4: Build Frame

The area where my main deck frame was going to be was a pretty tight fit, so I built the frame out in my yard and moved it into place once it was complete.

The frame was built with pressure treated 2x6 lumber. The outer frame was fastened together with 2 1/2" exterior decking screws (these).

Joists were hung every 16" on joist hangers (these).

When the frame was built, it weighed several hundred pounds and required a handful of strong people move it into place.

Step 5: Level the Frame

With the frame in place, I used composite shims (these) on all of the foundation blocks as needed to bring the frame into level position.

If you want to add a very slight pitch to the deck frame, say, to direct rainwater away from your home's foundation, now's the time to do it.

To do this, just add additional shims in equal numbers to points along one side to raise it up. Once this high side is at the height you want, add shims to the mid sections as needed to regain the direct support onto the blocks.

I went an extra step and added pieces of 4x4 to the location of each foundation block. These were screwed to the frame with lag screws, and glued to the blocks beneath with landscape adhesive. Probably overkill, but I wanted this frame to be rock-solid.

Step 6: Additional Framing

Along the back of the main deck area next to the fence I framed some extensions to fill in the gap.

These little wings are tied to the fence posts for support, so technically, one could point out that these portions are not actually "floating." (But nobody would do that; this is the internet, where people never nitpick!)

The landing in front of the shed is anchored to it with a ledger board using long lag screws. The shed itself was built on blocks, floating in the same exact manner as the deck.

When the frame was completed I used an electric hand planer to remove any high spots to ensure that the decking boards would lay uniformly flat.

Step 7: Lay Decking

This is where everything starts to pay off.

For decking material I decided to go with one of the slightly lower-end Trex composites. It's still pricey, don't get me wrong, but the cost wasn't very far off current prices for redwood or cedar decking, and I wasn't interested in other alternatives.

There are pros and cons to every option in decking material. Be sure to do your research and decide which trade-offs you prefer.

The decking boards are screwed in place with special composite decking screws that don't require pre-drilling.

If you don't have an impact driver, well . . . it's time to get one! Mine was a huge asset throughout this entire build.

I love my Makita drill/drivers and prefer them over several others I have used.

I chose to not lay landscape fabric on the ground under the deck, and some people may question why I didn't do that. I went without to save a few bucks and a day or so's work.

I sprayed herbicide to kill the small amount of stuff that was growing, and am happy to respray around the edges as needed in the future.

Step 8: Mitered Corners

To make the deck look nice and tidy, I placed cap boards around the perimeter with mitered corners.

This was planned out ahead of time, and necessary framing was added to support these various pieces.

Step 9: Plan Your Cuts!

For the main deck area I was using full 12' boards, so there wasn't a lot of thought required to complete that section.

However, for the smaller sections I had to break the full boards down.

Prior to building anything, I made a very detailed plan and purchased all my materials accordingly.

You'll be paying a high price for whatever decking material you choose, so it's wise to think through all the cuts and carefully decide when to cut what pieces from the boards, and in what order.

Otherwise, you'll likely end up with 9 linear feet of material remaining in three-foot sections, when all you need to finish your project is two 48" boards . . .

I learned this lesson many years ago, and very happily did not make the same mistake while building this deck.

Step 10: Decking

Here's a closer look at the completed decking.

Step 11: Decking

And a few more.

Step 12: Removable Ramp

When I was completed with the deck I had one full 16' composite board remaining.

I used this to build a removable ramp so our bikes, mower, and wheelbarrow can get in and out of the shed without chewing up the edge of the deck in front of the door.

This was framed up with pressure treated boards. It's not fastened to the deck at all, so I can just drag it in place when needed. The rest of the time it just leans on the backside of the shed.

Step 13: Enjoy the Sunset

This was a lot of work, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

Thanks for taking a look!

Comments

author
HollyMann (author)2016-09-15

This turned out so nice. :)

author
Fabeulous (author)2016-08-07

Great Work! looks fabulous.
P.S. Im curious: What are these big tanks/holes next to your deck?

author
dcampbell13 (author)Fabeulous2016-08-09

To Fabeulous: To me it looks to be the emergency egress from his basement the black solid frame plastic is there for safety so no one falls in the window well.

author
Fabeulous (author)dcampbell132016-08-10

Jep. seamster answered before(dont know why his comment is missing) and said that this is for his windows of his basement. We have these "Holes" here in germany to but they look different. So at first i thought it is some kind of entrance to a mysterious underground shelter. :D

author
seamster (author)Fabeulous2016-08-10

My comments disappeared for some reason!

I kind of wish our window wells were actually entrances to a secret underground shelter. That would be cool!

But nope, they're just windows to a messy basement full of LEGO toys ;)

author
guidess (author)2016-08-10

Ooooo! I love your edges so much I am going to rip off my sides to do them that way! They make it look so finished and classy.

author
seamster (author)guidess 2016-08-10

Thank you!

It's a little more time+cost, but I'm happy every time I look at it. No post-project regrets whatsoever :)

author
JahFyahh (author)2016-08-07

Looks great. How much did it cost if you dont mind me asking. Im looking to build a deck aswell so im trying the get a general idea of prices.

author
seamster (author)JahFyahh2016-08-09

Thanks!

I added some info to the introduction regarding the cost. It's certainly not cheap, but you can save a lot by doing it yourself. Good luck :)

author
shambuda2000 (author)JahFyahh2016-08-07

I built mine using pressure treated wood and the total cost came to approximately 650 USD. I also built mine in stages to stagger the cost and labor involved (as I built it alone). If you built it out of the synthetic lumber the author used, it would have been significantly more costly.

author
mbellows (author)2016-08-07

Thanks for the information! We are considering putting in deck like this and this helps us a lot!

author
seamster (author)mbellows2016-08-09

You're very welcome. Thanks for checking it out!

author
chilihook (author)2016-08-08

Your deck came out great! I very much like the border around the edge, gives it a very high-end, finished feel. I'm curious about he blocks you used for footings and how deep they are in the ground. Are you concerned at all with them coming out of level due to freezing or water run off? I'd very much like to do an addition like this to my existing deck, but I have always been put off by the thought of having to dig - at least three feet down - through the ledge (my gosh - the LEDGE I have) and pour footings (to prevent movement due to freezing) when planning something like this. Your method would make it so much easier!

Thanks and great work!

author
seamster (author)chilihook2016-08-09

Thanks!

My blocks are buried only about 2 inches or so. I'm not terribly concerned with them coming out of level, as the ground the deck is on is very well settled and we don't actually see much rain where I live.

If further settling is a concern, you can make a deeper layer of paver base. The deeper you go, the more compacted the earth will be that you're starting on, and paver base doesn't really settle after being compacted. That's one option, or just use deep concrete anchors (non floating).

author
jeanneambro (author)2016-08-09

Very nice job! I'm planning on a floating deck to cover most of my patio and extend into what's still lawn. This will definitely provide me some direction. Just curious why you didn't use concrete blocks intended to hold the joists in place rather than just place them on top of pavers.

author
seamster (author)jeanneambro2016-08-09

Thank you!

Deck blocks would have required deeper holes to get them to the level I needed.

Also, the preformed slots require near-perfect placement of each block prior to building the frame, so for a ground-level deck like mine they are not necessary and actually create more work than needed.

Thank you for checking this out, and for the great question! :)

author
NYT1 (author)2016-08-09

Very nice work... I am right with you on the OCD thing. I have one question that wasn't brought up, even though you mentioned you are not in an area where frost causes upheaval issues: Why a floating deck vs. anchoring it to the ground? My guess was cost, but thought I'd ask. Thanks!

author
seamster (author)NYT12016-08-09

Great question! I updated the introduction to include the answer. Thanks for checking this out :)

author
immaculatelation (author)2016-08-09

Great attention to detail!

author
mickeypop (author)2016-08-09

A trick;

DON'T ATTACH IT TO THE HOUSE. leave a few inches and make it free standing.

when the assessors do updates they will try to make the deck added value and increase the realastate tax.

Almost all states in their legal jargon asses "attached".

I beat the assessment on a challenge and got the tax removed.

author
handmadewithashley (author)2016-08-08

Excellent work! If I had the yard space, I'd love to build something like this.

author
baecker03 (author)2016-08-07

next project, privacy fence so that you don't have to see the sand pit over the fence.

author
KittyLover16 (author)2016-08-07

It looks really nice......The shed makes it look super cute! Perfect for kids to play house.

author
shambuda2000 made it! (author)2016-08-07

Excellent work! This is, excluding your use of Trex decking, exactly the way that I constructed mine. Makes me wish I had documented mine for an Instructable! You've got my vote.

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Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
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