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Getting The Lay Of The Land

Grade Measurements
Measure down from level
strings to find grade heights

Topography - Taking Grade Measurements
During the initial stages of planning for your gazebo and/or deck, it's important to make a few preliminary grade measurements that help determine the height and slope of the ground in the area where the project is going to be built. Knowing the relative height of the ground to the house will tell you how much vertical room you have to work with when building your structure. Additionally, knowing the slope of the ground will tell you where to distribute excess soil and whether additional grading is need to avoid basement water problems caused by a grade that slopes back toward the house.

To take grade measurements, start at one end of the proposed project and tack a string onto the house at a height that represents the top of the gazebo or deck floor. Stretch the string out to a stake that's driven in the ground a distance away. Using a line level, level the string and then take measurements between the string and the ground along the length of the string every 10 feet or so. Jot the numbers down on a sketch of your yard. Repeat the whole process about every 10 feet over the entire width of your project.

Check Point Check Point - Do you have questions about how to layout your framing, whether joist hangers and metal connectors are needed, and/or how to size lumber to properly build your deck or gazebo? In the Password Area, we've got several on-line calculators to help you answer these questions. Consider getting a password and gain immediate access to detailed information on how to build your deck or gazebo so it's extra strong and looks good too.

In case you're uncertain where the top of the gazebo or deck floor will be, typically the top of the floor is set equal to the underside of the house's doorway threshold - the height of the house's flooring. Using an existing doorway threshold and the siding on the house as extension lines, itís easy to know where to tack in a nail on the house. Of course there are always exceptions to floor height.

Tip Tip: Unless the house's door swings outward and you live in an area that sees snow, do not set the deck floor a few inches below the house's floor height. Other sources recommend this approach as a way of reducing the risk of water infiltration. In fact, the gaps in the decking boards and properly done flashing are the only ways to prevent water infiltration. Slightly dropping the deck height will not help with water infiltration and is dangerous. Many people won't notice the slight change in height and trip at the threshold.

Check Point Check Point - Are you planning on building a bi-level deck or a deck with a hot tub? Both of these types of decks require special framing. Small differences in the way a structure is built can have a huge impact on it's strength. When it comes to heavy hot tub loads and decks at different levels, the general building practices used by first-time builders are not enough. When you get a password, we'll show you how to design and build your deck or gazebo the right way.

The content under the "How-To" menu is a small sampling of all the material covered on BestDeckSite. For immediate access to in-depth information on built-up versus solid timber beams, an on-line Beam Calculator, proper beam support conditions, and decorative beam ideas, as well as, comprehensive coverage of all aspects of gazebo and deck building, get a password and log-in now.

     Support Beam

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