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Attached vs. Detached Decks

One of the most appealing and profitable features you could add to your home would be a deck. People are staying closer to home for entertainment and family events these days, so designing and building a deck could be a good decision for your next remodeling project.

When designing a deck, one of the very first decisions you must consider is if you will build an attached deck or a detached, freestanding deck. Make yourself familiar with the specific challenges for each type of deck design.

The attached deck is connected to the house and is probably the more preferred decking of homeowners. An attached deck allows you to step out straight from the door to your deck.

Key issues in building this type of deck are:

  • Where will the deck be built in relationship to the house? Consider the home’s design, access in and out of the house, the area that is available outside, the grade of the yard, the deck’s height, and the deck’s relationship to existing landscape.
  • How will an attached deck be attached?
  • How will the siding be cut away at the point of attachment?
  • Is there solid house framing at the point of attachment to properly support the deck? Where will the ledger board be attached and where will you need to install flashing?
  • How many footings and posts are needed in supporting the deck and where should they be placed? The bigger the deck, the more footings will be needed.
  • What size beams should be used for spans between posts? Formulas are used to determine sizes and spans.
  • What size joists will be needed? Again, there are formulas to determine the sizes and the spacing; the bigger the deck, the bigger the joists and the closer the space for proper support of the deck.
  • What size will the deck boards be? Should you use 2x4’s or 2x6’s to cover the deck’s surface area?

Some of these very same issues need to be considered in detached decks as well, but the most important in an attached deck is the point of attachment. If considering attaching a deck on a second-story level, structural posts and bracing can create an aesthetic challenge. If you are technically inclined, you can review a 20-page guide for deck construction offered by the American Wood Council (“Prescriptive Residential Deck Construction Guide”), found on their web site.

The detached or freestanding deck is the easiest choice for the less experienced builder. It is exactly what it sounds like: a deck held up by its own supports and is not attached to the house. This type of deck may require a little more work than the attached deck because the house side of the deck will be supported by posts and footings, but this alternative could be worth the extra work when compared to the stress of removing the siding of your house in order to attach the deck. Of course, a freestanding deck can also be built alone in an open area or around an aboveground pool. The size of a detached deck, as well as the height and number of levels will lend to the necessity of railings and stairs as it would for an attached deck.

Adding a deck to your house or landscape will add value and appeal to your house while enhancing your comfort and family entertainment possibilities. Whichever choice you make, above all, consult a professional contractor that can advise you on construction, building permits, and building codes.

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