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Midwest Deck Build Part 1

Drilling piers for a DIY deck build

Welcome back to MR Post Frame! I came down here to my parents' place in Missouri to start working on this deck. So, the first step is to get my footings in, and I've encountered a couple of issues. My parents live out in the middle of nowhere, so it's really difficult to get concrete. Secondly, the location of this deck is behind their house, which is a walkout basement. Bringing a concrete truck in here would be quite challenging, and it would only provide about a yard and a half of concrete.

What I've chosen to do is use Midwest Perma-Columns, which are 6x6 precast concrete posts with a 10,000 psi strength and brackets built into the top. I only have five of them. So, what I'm going to do is get this layout sorted out, mark my holes, and then drill them. This porch is going to be about 40 feet long, extending 12 feet out, and it's going to be a second-story deck, with the walkout behind it.

I've got my green line laser set up along the ledger board where I want it, and I've marked where I want the end of my beam to be. I can set up my string line and get everything marked and ready to go.

Concrete brackets install

I figured out that we're about half an inch out of square where this screened-in room (with a hot tub) is located. It's probably half an inch out of square with the house, but that's manageable. I've got my laser set up exactly where I want it, so we'll mark our batter boards, set up our string line, and determine where we want our holes.

We've got all our holes laid out and dug, but the problem is it's so dry that I can't get the last foot of dirt out. It's falling off the auger. So, we're going to wet these down with a water hose to help remove the fine soil. There's a product you can use for sandy ground. It helps grab the fine stuff as you drill, but we just needed to remove the dry soil from these holes.

We added a little water to make the soil sticky, and that solved the problem. Now, I'm going to compact them with my hand compactor and add some gravel as needed to ensure they're level and even.

Porch layout

We're using six by six precast 10,000 psi perma-columns with brackets attached to the top. Rebar runs all the way to the end. We'll set these up against our string line, ensure they're on center at eight-foot intervals, and then surround them with rock instead of dirt.

I'm going to use the Lar 350 laser level to ensure that the bottoms of these holes are within half an inch of each other. We achieve this by adding gravel and compacting it.

Once we've completed setting the perma-columns we attach uplift brackets to them. These brackets will keep the columns secure in the ground, and they're connected to rebar running down to the bottom.

Wet-set bracket

With the first phase completed, we've got all five perma-columns in place. While it was a bit physically demanding, especially without a concrete truck, it worked well for this remote location. For those without easy access to concrete or dealing with sandy ground, these are a good option.

We'll continue with two dry-set brackets for the deck posts, as the deck will have stairs coming down. These Midwest Perma-Column deck brackets will hold the bottom of the stair stringers.

The deck post is set at 40 inches, and we adjusted the hole depth accordingly. Gravel was used to bring the holes to the desired level, ensuring accuracy for the stair stringers.

That concludes step one of this deck build. Midwest Perma-Columns proved to be a great option for this remote location, and I'm pleased with the results. While I typically work with concrete piers and wet-set brackets, these are a solid alternative, especially if you lack access to concrete. For single projects or barndominiums, these columns are reliable.

Moving onto phase two of this project, and in this phase, we'll focus on the framing process. This includes setting up the posts, beams, and installing the joists. To begin, I'll use a laser to determine the required height for the posts and get them cut.

The first step in framing the deck is to get the columns or posts figured out. I'm using 6x6 Midwest Perma-Columns in the ground, and I've determined the height for each one. I found the highest one and then marked the others to indicate how much needs to be added to reach the desired height.

Midwest perma columns

To determine the difference between the side ledger board and the highest pier, which, in my case, is 97 ¾”, I subtracted 5 ½” from it. This is because we are using a post and beam header system, where we'll have posts and a beam across the top. So, 97 ¾” minus 5 ½” becomes the starting height for all of our posts. Once I have these measurements, I can mark and cut all of the columns using sawhorses. Then, we can set them in place, ensure they are plumb, screw them in, and proceed to set up the beam.

With all the posts in place and our first beam cut, we can use forks to lift it into position. This is an extremely helpful method for lifting the beams. While it can be done with a couple of people, it's a bit more challenging and riskier.

Now that the posts are in place, we're ready to install the beam. To bring the beam across, we need to use a dry set on the wall. You'll want to mark the edge of your column. Then, you can insert a stub column, which is a short column to adjust it to the correct height. To determine the height for the stub column, you can use a laser and zero it out on the top of the closest post, then move it over and mark it to get the measurement for the stub column.

Joist runners

With all the posts and beams in position, we can start laying out our joists. We plan to have three different picture frames on the deck, so we need to calculate where we need double joists to provide ample space for attaching the deck boards. Our joists will be hangered on the main ledger board and will rest on the other side with an overhang of about a foot. Since treated lumber dimensions can vary, we've stacked up the joists to minimize these variances. To do this, we clamp them together and plane them to ensure they are perfectly smooth. Joists with larger variances can be set aside and used for blocking.

For this project, we're using joist runners, which are a product introduced by Jared from Tailored Construction in Wisconsin. These runners hook to 2x10 or 2x12 joists, allowing you to run your planks across. Using multiple sets in both directions can significantly ease your decking project. After installing the first section, we added some blocking to ensure everything remains sturdy and continued down.

DIY deck build- planks

However, keep in mind that with treated boards, measurements may not be perfect. If there's any cupping in the boards, there might be some adjustments required as you go along to ensure your floor joists stay straight.

Another crucial aspect is applying joist tape across the tops to protect them from water where the decking will be.

Next, we're preparing to create a picture frame on the deck in three sections. To achieve this, I calculated the length needed for my blocks and then attached these blocks to the joist so they can be placed in position and secured to the other joists.

I also want to mention that the individual who provided the joist runners also gave me small metal plates that I attached to the end of the joists. These are pieces of metal that are painted just short of an inch and a half on each end. They help align the joists with the ledger board and make the installation process much smoother. That wraps up this portion of the deck build. Come back to see us finish up this deck.

Thank you,

MR Post Frame

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