How to Install Deck Boards Easily
After you have finished framing the deck, you can install deck boards. This is where your deck will start to look complete. These instructions are moderately easy. A basic deck that’s about 12 x 12 feet and 4 feet off the ground is not easy to make but a beginner can still perform the work with some research and help. Here's how to lay decking.
The things needed are:
Pressure treated boards, cedar boards, or composite decking
Screws rated for outdoor use
If you haven't done so already, purchase the deck boards. There are several types and sizes to choose from. There are pressure treated, cedar, and composite. Typical thickness and width sizes are 2 x 4, 2 x 6, and 5/4 x 6. Typical lengths are 4, 8, 10, 16, and 20 feet. We will assume a 5/4 x 6 pressure treated wood in this example.
There does not seem to be a consensus on which side to install deck boards first. Do you start on the ledger side (at the house wall) first or the header side (at the opposite side of the wall) first? Most instructions will have you do the wall side first. If your wall is irregular, you may do the header side first. We will start on the wall side.
Lay the first piece of decking at the first row and measure the correct length to cut (see Fig 1). The edges of the board should be flushed with the edges of the outer joist. Use a circular saw to cut the first board only because it will be tougher to cut when the board is against the wall. (It will be faster to cut all the boards after they have been added and screwed in).
Add the first board on the first row and screw it in. Using nails to secure the boards will make the work faster but they will pop up in the future. Another advantage for using screws is that it will allow you to replace boards more easily if they are later damaged for some reason. You should drill a pilot hole first to avoid splitting wood.
If it takes more than one board to make a row, stagger the pieces to give the deck a much better and aesthetic look. Shown is an example in Fig 2.
Add the next board and use spacers such as nails to make the gap between boards 1/8 inch apart. There are several type of spacers you can buy in the hardware store but nails will do just fine. Do not make cuts until you have added the rest of the boards. Drill in a pair of deck screws to attach the deck boards to the joist. See the pattern as shown in Fig 3.
When you get about four feet from the end, add boards to see how they fit. Adjust the spacing to make the last board fit. (It would be difficult to cut a long board the long way).
After all the deck boards have been screwed in, use a chalk line to mark the circular saw cut to trim the edges (see Fig 4). The mark must line up so that the final cut will make the boards flush with the outer edge of the outer joist.
After you've added the deckboards to the deck frame (see Fig 5), you can add railings and stairs if required. Some local building codes can allow low decks to be exempt from having any railings and stairs.
Shown in Fig 6 are other possible patterns you can use instead of the standard pattern. Note that the direction of joists will limit the choices.