Ground Level Deck Framing Plan Guide

measuring wood

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Are you one of the many homeowners who dream of having a floating deck in their outdoor space to entertain visitors? It’s an affordable alternative to standard deck boards, but not all newbie DIYers have the experience to build it. Fortunately for you, our resident woodworkers collated all the steps and materials you’ll need so that you can craft a ground level deck at ease. 

The Perfect Space for Entertaining

You may not know it, but ground-level decks aren’t directly connected to your house. Since you won’t be needing deep or additional footings when building this floating deck, it can be situated anywhere you want in the yard. The platform deck is just a few inches over the ground and doesn’t require stairs and railings, so it’s truly perfect for outdoor get-togethers and parties. 

Cost of Constructing a Floating/Ground Level Deck

Depending on the kind of decking material you’ll choose, the cost of a ground level deck may range from around $4,000 to $5,000 or even higher. 

While some woodworkers may find its high cost disheartening, our team can assure you that these deck plans are cheaper compared to when you install elevated ones in your garden.

And because building a ground level deck doesn’t require you to get stairs or railings installed, you can expect that the money you’ll spend will be lower. Our experts also suggest opting for pressure-treated lumber if you’re on a really tight budget.

modern house with wooden deck

Fortunately, an inexpensive material like pressure-treated decking can cut the entire construction expenses in half. However, it’s also no secret that treated wood has a lot of moisture because of its chemicals. That’s why you cannot forget that its deck structure will need wood refinishing every few years. 

Besides that, don’t forget to check local building codes. Securing a building permit is also one of the necessary costs you’ll need to cover if you intend on constructing a massive ground level deck. 

How to Build a Ground Level Deck: 7 Steps

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

Before plotting your ground level deck framing plan and mapping location outside the house, it’s time to go to your tool storage and nearby hardware to shop for materials. 

When selecting wood to use in your decking, our resident DIYers and professional woodworkers recommend grooved deck boards. If you’re not familiar with deck plans, play it safe and go for a typical South American hardwood board.

Another option you can consider is ground contact wood like pressure-treated lumber. This kind of lumber works best if the ground-level deck frame is approximately less than six inches over the ground.  

carpentry tools

Next, ensure that you have enough angle brackets to attach to the corners of the deck between the beam and joist installation. You’ll be needing several cardboard boxes as well for your new deck. On top of that, remember to include solid decking boards and fascia boards in your wood shopping list. 

For the footings, you can find precast ones in the market. If it’s unavailable, you can make the concrete blocks for the platform deck yourself by mixing. We also advise you to throw in some double joist hangers, positive placement nails, screws, corner plates, and ACQ framing nails in the basket.

Step #1: Measure and Mark the Space

It’s no secret that accurate measurement makes any task faster and easier [1], so the first thing you need to do to build the frame of ground level decks by assembling the rim joists. Through this, the joists will act as a chalk line to guide you on the frame of the platform deck. 

After you lay the beams at the center of the frame, make sure to measure diagonally before you place 2×4 braces over it. Our woodworkers and DIYers suggest adding extra braces to make it easier when you move the rim joists later. 

measuring tools on wooden surface

As soon as the beams and rims are in place, it’s time to mark the footings for the holes later. For a perfect deck line level, make sure to measure them five feet apart. If not, it’ll get in your way when you work on the rim joists. 

Step #2: Construct the Concrete Footing

The next step is to create holes for the footings of your platform deck. This process will include digging holes about 10 to 12 inches deep and pouring at least 2-inch concrete gravel into the ground. Some people may not be aware, but the gravel provides better drainage for the deck’s foundation.

After all the digging, you may now lay the post bases on the holes. We urge you to adjust bases to their lowest height so that you can put them in a lower or higher level later. To make sure that your footing is even enough for the deck beams, use the string level for assessment. Check if the corners are aligned at the right angle. 

Step #3: Secure the Joists and Anchors

Once the beams are perfectly level, get the decking joists and anchors fastened to secure the structure of your platform deck. But before you start to screw the joist hangers in, our team suggests using temporary stretchers to keep the deck beams in place. 

operating a hand drill on wooden frame

And then, insert two 2×6 joists on both corners of your beam. You should fasten it with the right screws and align each edge appropriately. 

Step #4: Attach the Deck

The highlight of building a ground level deck framing plan is undoubtedly getting the decks attached. If the ground contact decking board you have on-hand is 12-inch long, there’s no need to do some additional cutting, especially if you’re planning for 12×12 decks. 

All you need to do is ensure that the decking boards are perfectly aligned before you drill holes and drive screws on the ground contact wood. Hammer some nails into the decking to keep the gaps in the surface consistent. 

At this point, you may start working on the boards to make them of the same sizes. For this, you’ll be needing a circular saw. Just for extra protection, we recommend wearing safety glasses during this process. 

Step #5: Attach the Trims

It won’t add to the functionality, but putting trims in your ground level deck will always be a wise choice. Not only does it elevate the looks, but it also covers the unnecessary edges of the ground contact wood you used. 

house deck

Don’t go gluing the trims just yet until you cut both ends at a 45-degree angle. After they’re in place, our pro woodworkers prefer securing them with finishing nails for extra joint binds. Another alternative you can try is the fascia boards. These materials could fit the beam.  

Step #6: Add Stairs/Elevation to the Deck

Although not mandatory, you can install a few flights of steps into your ground level deck. However, you should decide on how many or high the elevation will be because additional footings may be necessary to accomplish this. If you’re not keen on that, our experts suggest putting stringers from the deck joist with angle brackets.  

Step #7: Fill the Gaps and Smoothen the Surface

After accomplishing the final look of your ground level deck framing plans, you can’t forego the finishing touches. If there are visible gaps in the surface, wood fillers should be the best option to consider. 

Let it dry once you’re done applying. And then, take sandpaper or any sanding machine to smoothen the deck before the actual usage. 

FAQ

How deep should footings be for a ground level deck?

The footings for a ground level deck should at least be 12-inch. This measurement is according to the typical local codes. It has to be deeper than the local frost line so that it can be situated on a stable surface. For the concrete applied on the deck, there are also local standards to follow. 

How many footings do I need for a 12x16 deck?

A 12×16 deck needs at least four footings aligned to the direction of your house. During this procedure, you can support the installation with temporary bracing sized 6×6. From there, you can build the beam over the footers to form the edges of the floating deck frame. 

Conclusion

Not all spaces are created the same, so not every ground level deck framing plan will have the same materials, tools, and measurements. If you’re unfamiliar with building this kind of DIY project, our resident woodworkers highly recommend planning carefully and thoroughly before buying any materials and starting the actual construction. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen and women. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson