Heard On the Forums

Editor’s note: In this issue of PDB, we’re running excerpts from our forums in place of letters from readers. That’s not because we didn’t receive any good letters or e-mails — we didn’t receive any at all! We aren’t kidding when we say we want your two cents. E-mail us at prodeck@hanleywood.com or mail letters to Professional Deck Builder, 186 Allen Brook Lane, Williston, VT 05495.

Disintegrating Deck Footings

Posted by: gabas39

I have just discovered a serious problem with a deck built last year. When the snow melted, I could see, to my horror, the concrete footings are disintegrating.

I have no choice but to redo them. What are the possible solutions to my problem? Has anyone had bad concrete in footings?

Posted by: Bob Bulick

If the footings were placed during cold weather and a freeze occurred, you might have just surface spalling. If too much water was used in the concrete, you may have bad footers as your worry.

Posted by: C4 chief

I have seen concrete act like this when not properly mixed. It just crumbles apart. I have eight crews. In the past I’ve caught guys dry-mixing it (pouring water into the hole and swishing it around with the concrete mix). They are no longer around. Concrete needs to be properly mixed and then placed in the forms.

I have also seen where there wasn’t much cement in the premixed bags. The mix was real sandy and did not appear gray. Most guys would not say anything, figuring it must be right since it is a prepackaged product. I made a call to my supplier, and they sent out a rep from the cement company. Turns out it was a bad batch of concrete mix. Apparently, when the concrete is mixed in the factory, no one sees the material as it is mixed and put in the bags. Unless someone brings it to their attention, they never know. I would check below the ground level and see what you find: If you hit it with a hammer and it breaks up easily, then it probably was not mixed right.

Attaching Posts and Beams

Posted by: rgall

What’s your favorite way to attach beams to posts? I am using 4x6 posts and doubled 2x10s for each beam.

Posted by: RobertCDF

My favorite approach is to use Simpson LPC4 or LPC6 post caps, as long as these will meet the uplift requirement.

Posted by: ArtDeck-O

Galvanized bolts and nuts. I like to notch the posts for the beams to provide a solid base, and bolt the beam to the side of the notch.

I don’t recommend any metal plate-style fasteners outside and not under a roof. Every time I pull up a deck with those, the framing has begun to rot. I do use one Simpson product — the 4x4 bases used to attach posts to concrete footers. Speaking of Simpson ... anyone notice the skyrocketing prices? Not too smart in this economy, I’d say.

Big Roots in the Way of a Footer

Posted by: atog254

I’m building a freestanding deck and have hit a major problem with roots from a swamp maple. Is there an alternative to stump grinding out the large roots that will be in the way of the footers? I don’t want to kill the tree, as it offers major shade to the home.

Posted by: Andy Engel

A freestanding deck doesn’t require frost footings. According to the IRC, you need only go down one foot, as long as that brings you to competent soils. I’d dig shallow holes and use block footers.