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Old 05-13-2013, 03:27 PM   #1
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


Hi folks,

Long time lurker, first time poster here so please be gentle. I would appreciate any and all feedback though!

I'm planning a very shallow but relatively wide deck at the back of my house, approximately 9' wide by 3' deep. My goal is to provide a landing at the back door, a staircase down about 3.5 feet to a patio, and a horizontal walkway between the two. We don't have a lot of space, so my goal is to build a deck that's as small as possible while still accomplishing my goal, which is primarily to avoid having a staircase in the middle of the patio. I've attached a really basic drawing that should hopefully provide a visual idea of what I mean. FYI, the black line at the left is a fence and the property line. To the right of the house is a mutual driveway that must be kept clear.

My issue here is that the deck I want to build seems to be too small for any of the typical sizing charts to be useful. It seems pretty clear that I should use 2x8's for beams and joists, and 4x4 posts. I'll also be using 5/4x6 PT deck boards. However, it gets tricky when I get into laying out the posts, beams and joists.

If I run the joists perpendicular to the house then they will only be 36" long and I'll use say 8 (at 12" OC) of them, and a huge number of joist hangers relative to the size of the deck. Alternatively I could run the joists parallel to the house, but here I'm also stumped - normally one would do a couple of perpendicular beams with posts at either end, but with a span of only 36" I'm wondering if I can get away with just a single post supporting two or three small beams.

Mostly I just can't decide on a design that would simple and cost-effective. I don't want to end of overbuilding because the charts don't consider a 3' long deck, but at the same time I'm leery of assuming that I can get away with fewer posts.

Any thoughts?
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Old 05-13-2013, 03:33 PM   #2
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


Sorry, it looks like you need to get used to the idea of the numerous short joists...... so can you go ahead and consider a deck wider than 3'?

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Old 05-13-2013, 03:38 PM   #3
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


That wouldn't be so bad I guess, more annoying than anything else.

The problem is that I only have a limited space, so more space for the deck just means less for the patio. I need to keep the patio as it will be a backup parking spot in case our neighbor ever stops letting us park in the mutual driveway.
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Old 05-13-2013, 03:57 PM   #4
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


Welcome to the Forum!

I'd recommend first off editing your profile to include your location. Many times answers to questions are location based.

When it comes to deck I always recommend that you download and review the American Wood Council's "Prescriptive Residential Wood Deck Construction Guide." This is based upon the code requirements of the 2009 International Residential Code, which may or may not apply to your area. A call to your building department can provide you with this fact.

Any code comments I make or reference are based upon the 2009 IRC, which may or may not apply to your location. Check with the building department.

I recommend use 6x6 wood columns as they are less likely to twist. Due to your height about ground lateral bracing should be required at each column.

You may want to consider making your walkway a little wider. Reason being I do not know how your building official would interpret this (from 2009 IRC):

R311.3 Floors and landings at exterior doors. There shall be a landing or floor on each side of each exterior door. The width of each landing shall not be less than the door served. Every landing shall have a minimum dimension of 36 inches (914 mm) measured in the direction of travel. Exterior landings shall be permitted to have a slope not to exceed 1/4 unit vertical in 12 units horizontal (2-percent).

Exception: Exterior balconies less than 60 square feet (5.6 m2) and only accessible from a door are permitted to have a landing less than 36 inches (914 mm) measured in the direction of travel.

I cannot say for certain they would interpret this to be 36" to the guards and railing or merely 36" for the floor.

I would run the joists perpendicular to the house. to run them parallel you'd need to have beams every so often to support the joists which cannot be hung from hangers under the 2009 IRC.

R502.2.2.2 Alternate deck ledger connections. Deck ledger connections not conforming to Table R502.2.2.1 shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice. Girders supporting deck joists shall not be supported on deck ledgers or band joists.

Check the Deck guide and I think you'll find that you may use smaller joists. It will also give you the span between columns for your beam, as well as how to size your beam.

Hope this helps! Post back with any questions.
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:17 PM   #5
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


Thanks Gary. As my profile now shows, I'm in Toronto, Ontario, Canada so the Ontario Building Code applies. From what I've seen it's very similar to the IRC. I am not doing this with a permit as I want to avoid any troubles from previous work that was not done by me... However I would obviously like this to meet or exceed minimum code.

I have seen language that says "2x8 joists are required for wood railing support", so thought it best to upsize everything from 2x6 to 2x8 just to be safe. The guide doesn't seem to list 2x6 as an option for joists - am I missing something? It would be much simpler if I could use 2x6's for the ledger, joists and beams.

I don't see any issue with using 6x6 posts. It also looks like 3x 8" piers to support the beam would be okay, sound right?

I see what you mean about the landing issue. Just to be safe I could add a few inches such that the distance from door to railing is 36".
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:23 PM   #6
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In the interest of full disclosure, here's a picture of the mess I'm dealing with... the deck is to be attached to a mudroom which is a closed-in porch supported by large concrete piers. I will be putting up housewrap and siding where you now see OSB, but the space behind that is a cold zone with a dirt floor.

The space where the ledger board will go is about 7 inches high, from the door threshold to the top of the concrete piers. In other words, a 2x8 ledger board and would have to be notched to fit around the piers, but a 2x6 would fit fine. The old deck was made with 2x6's, and was a rotted mess of a job.
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:24 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by jcoop_to View Post
The guide doesn't seem to list 2x6 as an option for joists - am I missing something?
oppps, nope you are correct .... I usually design by numbers not the guide. for prescriptive use the 2x8 at 24" o.c.

I my area we typically use 10" diameter piers for attachment of standoff post base metal connectors.

Good luck!
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:24 PM   #8
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


I would not be concerned with overhanging the patio. In fact, I think you will appreciate an eight or ten foot overhang on hot summer days. Besides, there will be many times I guarantee you will regret not having enough room to sit out on your deck in a chair if you build it so narrow.

Sorry........... Just saw your photo. Didn't realize it was so low to the ground.
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:41 PM   #9
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I would not be concerned with overhanging the patio. In fact, I think you will appreciate an eight or ten foot overhang on hot summer days. Besides, there will be many times I guarantee you will regret not having enough room to sit out on your deck in a chair if you build it so narrow.

Sorry........... Just saw your photo. Didn't realize it was so low to the ground.
No worries! Unfortunately I live on a tight urban lot. As it is, the patio itself will only be about 12 feet deep!
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Old 05-13-2013, 09:36 PM   #10
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


Have you thought about just putting landing by the door and then having the stairs go down parallel to the house? Since the deck space isn't going to be usable for anything anyway, building, and that we would free up even more patio space.
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Old 05-14-2013, 07:36 AM   #11
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Have you thought about just putting landing by the door and then having the stairs go down parallel to the house? Since the deck space isn't going to be usable for anything anyway, building, and that we would free up even more patio space.
That was the initial plan, but I decided to go with this design because a) I would prefer to hide the area below the siding, b) I think parallel stairs wouldn't look as good, and c) you would have to make a turn at the bottom of the stairs anyway.
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Old 05-14-2013, 08:04 AM   #12
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


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Originally Posted by jcoop_to View Post

I'm planning a very shallow but relatively wide deck at the back of my house, approximately 9' wide by 3' deep. My goal is to provide a landing at the back door, a staircase down about 3.5 feet to a patio
My steps out of back patio door we made the "stoop" 34" deep. You want to do a deck 36" deep? Like others have said there will not be much room to do anything much on it.

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Old 05-14-2013, 11:11 AM   #13
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My steps out of back patio door we made the "stoop" 34" deep. You want to do a deck 36" deep? Like others have said there will not be much room to do anything much on it.
I know, but not sure what other options I have. We have a large (10 person) rectangular extension table, and the idea was to have a single space that could actually fit 10 people. Also, the fact that I would like to cover up the part of the wall below the siding forces my hand a little.

I updated the diagram to include the surrounding area. FYI, the property is 17' 10" wide from the west fence to the half way point of the mutual driveway. Our lot is 120' deep, but if I ever want to use the rear parking then I can't build a big deck.
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Old 05-14-2013, 12:27 PM   #14
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Deck Design - Shallow Deck/Balcony


For what its worth, the steps in the picture above are not secured to the house in anyway or to the ground. They are basically a large rectangular box built out of PT 2x8 on the ground, then another smaller rectanglular box built also out of PT 2x8. The smaller rectangular box was then secured on top of the larger one. Then the composite treads and the skirting was added.

I estimate the total weight of the setup with 2x8s, skirting, treads and screws to be over 350 lbs.

Possible that you can do a sort of "stage" instead of a deck per se.

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Old 05-14-2013, 12:41 PM   #15
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How wide is the Mutual driveway and do you have legal rights to half of it?

If you do have legal rights to it then your neighbor could never stop you from parking there and then I would say just build a deck over your whole patio.

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