A deck is a useful and attractive addition to a home. There are many materials used for deck boards, such as cedar, treated pine or even various composite decking. There are also multiple ways in which deck boards can be fastened to the framing joists. Different fastening methods can greatly enhance the strength and look of a deck.
Nails used to be the most common deck fastening method, but they have lost favor in recent years. Nails are strong, but they are prone to loosening and backing out over time. The nail heads are exposed and can potentially cause cuts or scratches on bare feet if the nail backs out. Some nail heads may also rust over time, despite being galvanized, and cause ugly rust streaks and staining on the surface of the boards. Deck board nail holes should also be drilled prior to using nails; otherwise the wood can split.
Today, most deck boards are fastened using deck screws. There are many varieties of screws, but they are all either galvanized or coated to prevent rust. Deck screws come in many colors, such as tan, red, brown or green to match the color of the deck boards. Some require drilling, but many have dual-pitch threads designed to cleanly start a hole in the deck board without splitting the board. Screws hold deck boards tighter and for a longer duration than nails, as the deck board and joist are held together by the "clamping" action of the screw.
Under-Deck Hidden Fasteners
For those seeking a clean look without nail or screw heads showing on the surface of the deck, a custom under-deck fastening system can be used. In this method, 2-by-2-inch lengths of pressure-treated wood are attached to the sides of the the joists, running parallel with the joist, where the 2-by-2 and the top of the joist are flush. Deck boards are then laid on top of the joists and attached by screw through the 2-by-2 from underneath. The screw is installed upwards, going through the 2-by-2 and into the underside of the deck board. This is best used when using 2-by-6-inch deck boards (rather than 1 1/4-inch decking) to allow the screw enough wood to screw into.
Proprietary Hidden Fasteners
Typically used with composite decking, these hidden fastener systems are designed to provide a smooth look for the decking surface without visible nail or screw holes. While each composite decking company uses their own fastener, most are similar in design. A row of fasteners is screwed first to the joists. Then, the deck board is installed, typically clicking into a locking "claw" or similar protrusion designed to hold the board down. The fasteners also provide the necessary spacing between deck boards, eliminating guesswork about proper spacing. The first and last rows of decking typically have their own unique locking system, also provided in the kit.
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