Installing the Deck Boards

This part is where you will start seeing all your hard work and preparation come to fruition.

Before you install the deck boards, make sure you plan and layout the boards properly. Look at each piece and try to put the most attractive pieces in the high-visibility areas. Also, look at each side of each board to see which side you want exposed.

Do not use boards that are badly bowed.

Start installing the deck boards from the wall outwards. Start with good straight pieces of board nearest to the wall as these will serve as a guide fort he rest of the other pieces. If they are crooked it will affect the final look. Leave a gap between the first course and the wall, so that water can drain down the wall.

Also start the deck boards flush with the outside edge of one of the outer joists, let them “run wild” at the other end. You will be cutting the ‘wild’ end after you’ve installed all the deck boards (discussed in next chapter).

Make sure that the boards are long enough to span the entire width of the deck. If the deck is too wide, you will need to install two pieces (try not to use any board over 14 feet long as these will definitely bow). These pieces must always join directly over the center of a joist, to provide a nailing surface for each piece.

Tip: Never join all the courses over the same joist, as it will look like a big suture running down the deck. Stagger the joints so that every other course joins over the same joists.

Finishing nails

Use double HDG 16d nails as finishing nails. You can also use stainless steel and aluminum nails if you can find them. Avoid nails that rust, like electroplated nails.

Unless you’re using redwood, use three nails in a 2 x 8 and two nails in 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 boards, at each point where the board crosses a joist.

On 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 redwood boards one nail per joist can be used.

Alternate these nails from one side of the board to the other. This method counters any minor tendency to cup or pull. Two nails are used for boards 8” or wider. All nails should penetrate 1 1/2” into the joists.

Remember to leave a gap between each course of deck boards to allow water to drain off the deck. Use a a flat carpenter’s pencil or the shank of a 16d nail between the boards as they are applied, leaving an adequate gap of 1/8 – 1/4”.

Tip: Use a smooth-headed hammer and try not to scar the wood (though the first few rains will probably draw out most of the dents).