Ground-Level Deck Build

July 6, 2016


A no-nonsense approach to efficient deck building


Prep the space, pour the footings

  • Step 1: Remove the concrete pad 
  • Holes are marked with orange paint and laid out 10-12 in diameter
  • Dig holes with a spud bar and a post hole digger, to below the frost line
  • 40 lbs to 60 lbs of dry concrete mix is added to the bottom of each hole, and a half gallon of water added to that.
  • Mix concrete with post hole diggers, let cure overnight.


Establish the height and outside perimeter

  • Use a builders level to establish post heights
  • 2x8 treated lumber is used for the floor framing and nailed to align flush with the top of the posts to establish a perimeter frame and central beam.
  • Temporarily nail the ledger to the house, lag screws will be added later for extra support.
  • Fill and tamp the holes with dirt, not concrete.


Under-deck treatment

  • Lay landscape fabric under the deck to prevent plant growth below.
  • Dig a sloping trench for downspout from roof gutter, if applicable.
  • Fill the floor frame with 2x8s spaced 16 inches on center.
  • Add joist hangers at each end of each joist


Beef up the structure

  • Add 3/8 inch lag screws with washers to each rim/post connection and to the ledger/house connection.
  • Cut the stair stringers (7 inch rise, 16 inch run)  
  • Add a lower level stair made with ground contact lumber supported by five more posts.
  • Scribe and cut (3) 2x6s for the lower tread. The tread envelops the side of the deck


Cover the deck with 5/4 x 6 in premium-treated wood, beginning with the border. 

  • Use a router to round-over the ripped edges
  • Install entire perimeter border
  •  Cut decking to stagger the layout. Each course consists of a long board and a short one. Reverse the pattern for each course.
  • Because decking has a lot of moisture when purchased. they will shrink. Install them, tight to allow for shrinkage.
  •  A built-in bench acts as a safety rail for the back of the deck.
  •  The deck surface is sanded with an orbital sander and stained with appropriate outdoor deck stain.


Craig Heffernan owns Heffernan Construction Company in Eerie, PA