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How to lay out the deck:once the the ledger board installed against the building that board forms the home-base from which all other deck measurements are made.
With the ledger in place we now explain how to place the accurate location the deck piers, posts, and beams using string, batter boards, and a few other tricks of the trade. This article series describes construction steps in a design-build project for a deck or porch floor.
A layout involves establishing the edges of the proposed deck framing with string lines, then using the string lines to locate the planned foundation holes. The work is not physically challenging, but it is critically important. An accurate layout is much easier to accomplish if you have a helper.
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What are BatterBoards & Why We Use Them?
Batter- boards are temporary attachment points for string lines. They are usually made with 1 x 4s or 2 x 4s, but you can use any scrap lumber available.
Each batter- board consists of a crosspiece mounted on two stakes, which are cut with pointed bottoms and can be driven into the ground. To make the string lines level, the top of the crosspiece must be level with the top of the ledger.
If you are building on a flat site, you can usually use 3-foot-long stakes. On a sloping site, however, the stakes will have to be longer. For a basic rectangular deck, you will need two pairs of batterboards.
We can also use the 6-8-10 triangle shown at page top to be sure that we are projecting our deck sides straight out from the building.
Referencing a high deck - how do we mark the locations for a deck to be high off the ground?
If you are building an elevated deck, it would not be fruitful to attach string lines to the ledger itself. Instead, attach a plumb bob to each outside edge of the ledger and drop it to near ground level. Set up batterboards so that the front edges of the crosspieces are plumb with the front face of the ledger. (In some cases, you can attach the crosspieces directly to the house.)
To account for the end joists that will be attached to the ledger later, measure 1 1/2 inches outside the plumb bob on each side and make a mark. Drive a nail or screw at each mark to attach the layout string lines, which will represent the framed sides of the deck.
Position the batterboards a few feet beyond the edges of the planned deck, drive a screw or nail into the ends of the ledger, and tie a length of string to each screw or nail 1 1/2 inches from the ledger.
The other ends of the string lines will be tied to screws or nails driven into the tops of the crosspieces after the lines are positioned. String lines can be used to mark the perimeter of the deck framing on all sides, or the positions of all foundation holes or a combination of both.
The goal is to position the string lines so that they are perfectly square, then to determine hole locations on the ground using a plumb bob. After the holes have been dug and the footings and piers poured, string lines can also be used to check the alignment of the posts and to position the beam properly.
Use the same approach when you are building a deck that is not just a rectangle. If you are building a deck that wraps around a corner of the house, run a single corner string line out from one of the ledgers. This creates two rectangles, each of which can be checked for square.
If you want to create a deck with mitered corners, begin by establishing a standard rectangular layout. Then measure back from the outside string line an equal distance on both sides and run another string line. Even more complicated decks can be laid out in similar fashion. Try to break the deck down into a series of rectangles, each of which can be checked easily for square.
Run String Lines to Mark Deck Sides
For a rectangular deck, measure 1 1/2 inches out from the ends of the ledger (to allow for the end joists) and run string lines to represent the sides of the deck framing. Set up another string line parallel to the house to represent the center line of the posts, piers, and footings.
Check that the outside string line is the same distance from the ledger on both ends, then set the other two lines as close to square as possible.
Check for Square in the Deck Layout
With a helper, carefully measure the diagonals within the string lines. Adjust the strings as-needed until the two measurements are identical. Drive screws into the tops of the crosspieces where the string lines meet them and tie the strings around the screws.
See DECK LEVEL PLUMB SQUARE-UP
How to Locate the Deck's Foundation or Post Pier Holes
With the string lines squared, measure in from the side strings to find the center of the outside footing holes. The exact distance will depend on your plans, including how far you plan to have the beam overhang the posts.
Drop a plumb bob from the correct location, and then have your helper drive a small stake into the ground. Continue measuring along the string line to find the other hole locations.
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Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
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