The trouble is that most pool decks are too difficult or complicated for the weekend carpenter to build. Plus, there are very few attractive pool-deck plans available, and most of those require you to dig and pour dozens of concrete footings. Fortunately, we discovered a better, simpler approach for building a handsome pool deck. Ours, shown here, may look complicated, but we employed a few timesaving techniques that greatly simplified the construction process and, in turn, dramatically reduced the amount of work required to complete this project. And best of all, we didn’t have to dig a single hole.
Step 1: Deck Design
Floating foundations are generally allowed by building codes nationwide, including regions that experience frost heave. However, codes do differ from town to town, so be sure to check with your local building department before starting construction on your pool deck. For this project, we used Dek-Block precast piers ($5 each), which measure 8 in. high x 11 in. square and weigh about 45 pounds. Molded into the top of each are 11⁄2-in.-wide slots and a 31⁄2-in.-square recessed socket. The slots accept 2 x joists, while the socket is used to support a vertical 4 x 4 post. To give you some idea of how much time and trouble we saved using the Dek-Blocks, consider this: It took us less than a day to set all 36 piers and 4 x 4 posts for the perimeter pool deck.
If we had used the traditional posthole method, it would’ve taken at least two days just to dig the three dozen holes and pour the concrete footings. The plans for building this deck are available free of charge from DekBrands, the company that sells Dek-Block piers. We ordered the Splash Deluxe plan, which came with a detailed materials list, cost estimator and instructions. We spent about $2400 for materials to build our deck, which included the pressure-treated lumber, pier blocks, wood sealant, joist hangers and screws. For more information about Dek-Blocks or to order a set of plans, contact DekBrands, P.O. Box 14804, Minneapolis, MN 55414; www.deckplans.com; 800-664- 2705. Plans are available via mail, fax or by downloading them from the Web site.
Step 2: Framing the Floor
Step 3: Setting Piers and Posts
Next, remove the posts and measure down from each line a distance equal to the thickness of the pool coping, plus 11⁄2 in. for the 2 x 6 decking, 51⁄2 in. for the 2 x 6 floor frame and 1⁄2 in. for expansion. Make a mark at this position on each post, and cut them to length. Now you can put the posts back onto the piers, but make sure they’re in their original positions. Repeat this procedure for the next pair of piers and posts. Refer to the plan or use one of the assembled floor-joist frames to position the pier blocks. Once the second pair of posts is cut to size, set them into the piers and place a floor-joist frame on top. Drive 21⁄2-in. deck screws down at an angle through the frame and into the tops of the posts (Photo 4).
Continue to work your way around the pool, setting pier blocks, posts and frames. After installing the 17 assembled frames, measure and cut the last one to fit the remaining space. Complete the pool-deck frame by screwing 2 x 4 diagonal braces to the 4 x 4 posts (Photo 5). The bracing isn’t required if the deck is less than 30 in. high. Now set the pier blocks and posts for the 10 x 18-ft. sun deck. Again, refer to the plans for the exact positioning. The 42 piers are arranged in 11 rows spaced 24 in. on center. Once the posts are cut to size and set in the piers, install the 2 x 6 floor joists. Fasten the joists by screwing down at an angle into the tops of the posts with 21⁄2-in. deck screws.
Step 4: Laying the Deck
Fasten the board to the joists with 21⁄2-in. deck screws. Lay the next board tight against the first one and screw it in place. (When the boards shrink, a 1⁄4-in. gap will appear between them.) Continue installing deck boards in this manner, with the angled end slipped under the coping, until you come to the next floor-joist frame (Photo 6). Lay a deck board in place and mark where it overlaps the joint between the two frames. Cut the board along the line and screw it in place. Trim the next two boards in the same manner, then go back to installing full-length boards again.
Once all the deck boards are fastened down, use a circular saw to trim off their overhanging ends so they’re flush with the perimeter joists. Now move over to the sun deck and start fastening down the 2 x 6 deck boards. Again, butt the boards tightly together and let them run long. Then, snap a chalkline (Photo 7) and trim the boards flush with the joists.
Step 5: Building the Guardrails
Hold each baluster perfectly plumb, then screw it to the 2 x 6 railing and to the floor joist (Photo 9). Set the balusters 4 in. on center, with the beveled ends facing down. The final construction step is to build the stairs that lead from the sun deck down to the ground. To simplify this chore, we used five precut stair stringers ($7 each). Set the bottom ends of the stringers on concrete patio blocks. This will prevent them from sinking into the dirt and wicking up moisture.
Screw the upper ends of the stringers to the floor joints. Create the stair treads by screwing 2 x 12's to the stringers (Photo 10.)