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How to Adjust Deck Plans

Oct 9, 2007
At times homeowners search different sources for deck plans that would work in their yards with some adjustments. Those plans have been designed for specific sites with differences in plan styles, foundations, materials and details reflecting the individual designers' preferences. The variations to be made by homeowners may be influenced by locale, style, needs and cost.

In order to adjust deck plans it is important to think about the deck from the top down. Draw exactly what the decking is to look like from above. Then make the appropriate changes in the substructure working from the joists to the beams.

Next, work down to the posts and footings. It is possible in some instances to change the size or configuration of the deck by simply increasing the length of certain deck members such as beams and joists. However, increasing the length of one member usually means increasing its size or adding extra supports.

Raising the height of a deck often means more than just installing posts that are higher. A deck that is more than 30 or more inches above ground level should have a railing added for safety purposes. If the deck is higher than 3 feet above ground level the perimeter posts will require crossbracing.

If a deck is to be lowered it's always a wise idea to leave a minimum of 6 inches between the wooden deck and the ground. This clearance is mandated for wood that is not treated. Any wood materials set within the 6 inch minimum should either be pressure treated or be naturally decay resistant like redwood or cedar.

Making a deck larger is generally a fairly simple task. Depending upon the deck's shape it is an easy process of increasing the length or number of joists and beams. Where necessary posts and piers must be added to support the new beams. If the deck size is increased along a side that is attached to the house, the length of the ledger board will require an increase in size. Joists can be safely extended over a beam up to a maximum of one quarter of the joist span. This is called cantilevering.

Making a deck smaller is simply the opposite of enlarging one. Shorten or decrease the number of beams and joists. This might mean being able to shorten a ledger board or decreasing the distance between ledger board and beam. Posts and footings might need adjustment as a result.

In order to make an attached deck freestanding it will be necessary to replace the ledger board with a beam of the same length supported by posts. The joists can be cantilevered over the beam as long as the joist span is not exceeded by one quarter.

Making a freestanding deck attached is essentially the opposite of making a deck freestanding. Replace the beam and posts with a ledger of the same length as the beam and fasten it to the house. The ledger needs to be positioned where the beam originally was, not simply at the end of the joists. If the joists extended past the beam on the original deck plan, they will have to be shortened.

There are a number of ways to change a single level deck into a multilevel one. If the distance between levels is to be only one step, thus avoiding a flight of stairs, it can be accomplished by constructing the upper level with joists resting on top of the beams. Joist hangers can then be used for the lower level. With this technique the lower joists are at the same level as the tops of the beams and only the width of the joists below the upper level.

For a greater change in levels, a ledger can be attached along the posts of the higher level so that it can be used to support the lower deck's joists. Steps will have to be added if the difference between levels is more than 8 inches.

If the upper deck will be very small, create multiple levels by building the framing of the deck as though it were for one level, then adding a second layer of joists at right angles on top of the first. This setup offers the advantage of reversing the decking on the 2 levels creating a safer visual separation.

Changing a deck's shape is simplest with square or rectangular decks. Basically all that needs to be done is follow the same rules for enlarging or decreasing a deck's size, adjusting the length and number of joists and beams, increasing their size if necessary and designing a sturdy substructure.

A larger deck can be be built by linking smaller modules together.Build a module or section that attches to the house. Then attach other sections to this basic module using common beams. Decks can be connected at an end joist or rim joist as long as the thickness of the joist is increased to be as strong as the beam.

One way to wrap a deck around a corner is to extend one of the ledgers out past the corner so that it acts as a beam for the rest of the deck. The size of the ledger might have to be increased or double up the extended portion to enable it to support the load. Then simply add new beams and joists according to the decking pattern.

It can be a simpler matter to adjust deck plans if homeowners follow simple but effective construction techniques which will enable them to change the look as well as the functions of decks that they plan to build or decks that they already have.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deck Plans and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
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