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Deck Building Houston Terminology

Emerson/November 2nd, 2023. Deck Building 101 Houston- Terms You Need to Know


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Today, our deck builders in Houston at Emerson Home Exterior Enhancements will share with you the anatomy of a deck and the terminology you should know. Rather you are a do-it-yourself carpenter or have hired a deck builder in Houston, you’ll want to know these terms to communicate with them better.

For starters, every deck has two significant components the substructure and the surface. The deck substructure is the frame and structural support for the deck surface. The structural support consists of many pieces. Including:

• Footings

• Support posts

• Beams

• Bridging/blocking

• Joists

• Hardware

• Ledger board

• Flashing

• Decking

• Railing posts

• Railing

• Stairs

The Decks substructure is the framework underneath the boards and provides the structural support your deck needs to be safe and secure. Different layouts have variations in substructure construction. Most deck components are constructed of wood (pressure treated, cedar, or Ipe) as they are not susceptible to moisture and insects. However, we strongly suggest doing annual inspections to make sure these components do not have wood rot or decay. Before we explain the importance of all these structural members, you need to understand loads.

Understanding Loads

The load is expressed in pounds per square foot (psf), with a dead load and a live load. The dead load is the supporting structure, surface decking, and railing. Since different types of wood decks (pressure treated, western red cedar, and Ipe) have different weights, you will want to use the entities that match the kind of lumber you select. The live load is the people and items you intend to place on the deck, such as furniture, grills, planters, etc. Engineers have settled on the dead load being 50 psf. If you want to figure out the maximum load capacity to know what can safely be put on the deck you have in mind, start by calculating the total area of the deck and multiply it by 50. Let me give you an example.

250 sqft X 50 psf = 12,5000 lbs.

Generally, even a small deck can handle the live load you intend to use it for. But if you want to place a hot tub or pool on the deck, you will want to consult a structural engineer. So now let us explain the parts of your deck’s substructure.

Deck Substructure Glossary

Footing: The Footings provide a solid foundation to help spread a load of your deck over a greater surface area. Typically, the best type of footing is a concrete pillar poured into a hole you dig in the ground. Deck builders in Houston use an 18”-24” since we seldom face freezing temperatures, but installing the bottom of your footing below the freeze line (five inches) will prevent the concrete from shifting should the ground freeze as it did in 2021.

Support Posts: As the name suggests, the support post supports the frame. Designing a rooftop deck or double-deckers (taller than 8’) may require bracing to keep the support posts from buckling under the load. Always check the building code to ensure you adhere to our local code requirements.

Beams, also called girders, are deck components that support the deck’s frame. Beams are installed alongside the rim joists (joists at the perimeter) or below the joists to support the deck’s structure. For larger decks, more beams could be installed intermittently for extra support.

Joists: These are one of the most critical pieces of your deck as they support the flooring of your deck. Joists are made out of wood and installed between beams and are typically spaced at 16” on center but can be moved to 12” for a sturdier build and added support.

The number of joists on your deck will depend on the size of your deck and how the deck boards are arranged on the surface. For example, deck patterns, such as a herringbone pattern, will require specific joist spacing and blocking to support the intricate design.

Blocking / Bridging: Blocking is a small block of wood installed between the joists to give it added support and to prevent the deck from twisting or the joist from moving over time. Blocking should be installed about every four to six feet between joists. Always ensure joists and blocking are levels and in a place across the tops. If your deck is built four feet off the ground, you make an X with wood between the joist that is custom cut and placed every four to six feet apart. It will look similar to an hourglass and give you the best support.

Hardware: This includes the fasteners, joist hangers, and decking screws that secure your deck components to one another. Using the proper fasteners is essential for your deck’s structural integrity. The joist hangers keep the joist in place so the joints remain in place when the wood expands and contracts.

Ledger Board: This is the piece of wood that secures the deck to your house. Over time, potential issues such as wood rot or loose fasteners can cause your deck to pull away from your home, putting its structural integrity at risk. For this reason, we recommend having a deck builder in Houston come out once a year to conduct an annual inspection.

Flashing: This stainless-steel sheet fits over the ledger to cover the gap between the ledger board and your home. Flashing helps protect the ledger board and channels water and moisture away from your home. For added protection against water damage, you can apply deck joist flashing tape to the top of your ledger board and the posts.

Deck joist flashing tape: Wood decks built in Houston need as much help as possible during the rainy season, so we recommend using joist flashing tape to protect your substructure from moisture, mold, mildew, and rot. We recommend Timber Tech.


Deck Surface: This part of your deck where all the fun and entertainment happen. This can be as customized as you wish so that you get the look and feel you want to achieve. The surface also includes the stairs and railing. Like substructures, the surface requires fasteners for stability and strength and to enhance its look.

Railing: A railing system will be required if your deck is more than 30” off the ground. A railing system includes the top rail, bottom rail, and infill (the section between the top and bottom rails) installed between the posts. Material options for your rails and infills vary, allowing you to customize the look of your railing for a unique deck perimeter.

Railing Posts: Depending on installation best practices, railing posts are typically made of 4” x 4” wood posts securely fastened to the frame or deck surface. Depending on the style of your deck railing, wood posts can be covered by decorative composite or vinyl sleeves that give it a clean finish and help prevent moisture damage. Or you can opt for sleek aluminum posts, which are narrower, giving you a more minimalist look.

Stairs: The height and shape of your deck are important to your deck design. Depending on the height of your wood deck will determine how many steps you need. Sometimes, that’s only one other time. On the other hand, it may be a flight of stairs. Before deciding on which stairs to use, check with your local building codes to ensure your stairs meet compliance.


Need Deck Building in Houston?


We are standing by to serve all your deck building needs in Houston, Katy, and the surrounding area. For a free estimate, please give us a call today at (281) 545-7740 or visit us online to schedule your free consultation with our trusted and reliable

deck-building Houston pros by visiting us online.

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