Small residential ipe deck installation project 1 – 2 – 345

Deck Framing, Lay-out deck elevations and deck footings


After receiving the building permit, it was time to get to work. The owners had already cleared away old brush and a tree. The first thing we did was to establish elevations with laser levels, lay out the framing structure and related footings. There was an existing foundation from an old deck that had been torn down a long time ago. We wanted our new lay-out to bypass this, so we could simply leave it in the ground rather than wasting time with jackhammers to remove it. The photos aside shows several footing excavations, as well as a utility trench in the foreground. We buried a new water line in this one, and electrical and more water lines in another.


Concrete Footings

When considering footings, I don’t recommend the use of so-called ‘pier blocks’ as structural supports. They are not as substantial as steel-reinforced concrete, and lack strength and connectors that improve your deck’s integrity in case of an earthquake. This may not be a problem in your area, but in and around San Francisco we have to take this condition quite seriously.


The engineering specs called for 24"x24"x24" footings. The pedestal of the footings had to be a minimum of 8" above grade, making them at least 24 inches tall.


When you build forms, make sure you will be able to remove them later. Building inspectors rarely allow wood forms to be left in the ground, nor would you want to.


Coating the wood forms in the ground

Consider coating the inside of the forms with form oil. This will make them easy to remove once the concrete has set. Use care not to get oil on rebar, as that will prevent concrete from bonding to the steel.


There also was a specific rebar design; see drawing detail. Generally all rebar and hardware connectors have to be in place prior to inspection. So-called ‘wet-set’ installation — when brackets etc are set at the same time concrete is poured — is generally not allowed. Depending on your specific design, rebar is often required to be connected to whatever hardware that’s called for, and a ‘wet-set’ procedure makes that very difficult if not impossible.


Please keep in mind that this footing spec was created specifically for the location and conditions of our job site. On some projects this design will be overkill, while on others it may be insufficient.


Steel stakes were added later to keep form from moving. There was a fair amount of concrete to be poured, and we decided against trying to mix it onsite. Instead we arranged for a cement truck and a concrete pumping contractor to fill the excavated footings. I like using a vibrator to get rid of any air pockets in the cement. Be careful to not vibrate the cement too long or all the gravel will sink to the bottom. When calculating how much concrete you will need, add roughly 10% extra to the total you come up with. You don’t want to come up short once the pour is underway! There are some handy calculators to be found online, but double-check the math to make sure it’s right. The day after the pour we stripped the forms and started installing 4×12 beams, plus the ledger board that’s bolted against the wall. More on step by step installing hardwood deck

deck footing excavations and a utility trench

footing excavations and a utility trench in the foreground

ipe deck footing with a special rebar design

deck footing with a special rebar design

deck steel stakes

steel stakes were added later to keep form from moving

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