Ground Level Deck Framing Plan Guide

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I meet a lot of homeowners, just like you, who have their hearts set on adding a floating deck to their outdoor space. It’s a perfect spot for entertaining, and the good news is, it’s more budget-friendly than traditional decks. Now, I know the thought of building one from scratch can seem daunting if you’re new to the DIY scene.

But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I’ve put together a comprehensive list of steps and materials to help you effortlessly build a ground-level deck. Let’s turn that dream into a solid, beautiful reality, step by step.

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. 

I’ve heard from many woodworkers who balk at the high prices of some projects, but I can tell you from experience that the deck plans here got are definitely more cost-effective than installing an elevated deck in your garden.

Building a ground level deck cuts out the need for stairs or railings, which not only simplifies the process but also saves you a good chunk of change. And if your budget is really tight, take it from me—opting for pressure-treated lumber is a smart move. It’s a cost-saver that still ensures your deck is durable and ready to enjoy.

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. Some woodworkers use sanders to refinish the decks they have made. 

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. 

As someone who’s been in the thick of both DIY and professional woodworking, I’d recommend going for grooved deck boards when you’re picking out wood for your decking project. If you’re not too familiar with deck plans and want to keep it on the safe side, you can’t go wrong with a classic South American hardwood board. They’re reliable and give that timeless look to your deck.

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. I 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 frame 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. I 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. If you’re wondering how much gravel you’ll need for this project (and any other project you might have), you can easily estimate the material required by using this gravel calculator. It’s a useful tool that eliminates guesswork. 

Some people may not be aware, but the gravel serves an essential function: it provides better drainage for the deck’s foundation.

After all the digging, you may now lay the post bases on the holes. I 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 I’ve got the beams perfectly level, the next step is to fasten the decking joists and anchors to lock in the structure of the platform deck. A little tip before you start screwing in the joist hangers—I always use temporary stretchers to keep those deck beams steady. It’s a simple trick that can save you a lot of hassle and helps ensure everything stays aligned just the way it should.

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, I 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, I 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, I 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 on the deck. 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. 


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. 

Read Next: Can an Outdoor Rug Damage a Wood Deck


I know from experience that not all spaces are the same, which means every ground level deck framing plan will require its own set of materials, tools, and measurements. If you’re not quite seasoned in tackling a DIY project of this nature, I strongly advise taking the time to plan carefully and thoroughly. You’ll want to have all your ducks in a row before you purchase any materials and dive into the actual construction. It’s the best way to avoid unnecessary headaches and wasted resources.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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