Briefly, what is a floating deck?
A floating deck, also known as a ground level or freestanding deck, is a deck that is not attached to any building or structure. It is a standalone structure that is built on top of the ground and is not anchored into the ground like a traditional deck.
This means that it is not connected to the foundation of a house or other building and is not supported by in-ground concrete piers.
Instead, it is supported by preformed concrete blocks, called deck blocks, which are placed on the ground and support the weight of the deck. Floating decks are a popular option for homeowners because they are relatively easy to build and can be placed anywhere on the property, regardless of the terrain. They can be used as a standalone structure or as an addition to an existing patio or outdoor space.
What are the benefits of building a floating deck?
Building a floating deck using deck blocks can be a great alternative to a traditional deck that is attached to a building or anchored into the ground using in-ground concrete piers. Here are some additional points to consider:
Deck blocks are generally less expensive than using in-ground concrete piers. This is because they do not require any digging or excavating, and the materials required are minimal. In addition, you will not need to purchase concrete mix and other supplies needed for in-ground piers.
If you’re building in ground concrete piers, you risk hitting underground services such as water pipes, sewage pipes and electrical cables. Having these repaired by the local council can be extremely costly. By building a floating deck it removes this risk entirely.
Building a floating deck with deck blocks is generally a faster process than using in-ground concrete piers. This is because the blocks are preformed and ready to use, and do not require any curing time like concrete does. In addition, the process of installing the blocks and decking boards is relatively simple and can be done in a few hours, depending on the size of your deck.
Ease of use
Deck blocks are easy to use, even for someone with limited construction experience. They are simple to install and do not require any special tools or equipment. Deck blocks allow you to alter the build slightly as you go, and gives you room for error.
Floating decks may avoid the need for council approval. In general, building a small floating deck in your backyard is considered a minor home improvement project that may not require a permit. However, it is always a good idea to check with your local building department or council to determine if a permit is required.
In some cases, a permit may be required if the deck exceeds a certain size or height, or if it is located in a flood zone or other regulated area. It is important to obtain the necessary permits before starting any construction project to ensure that it is built to code and to avoid any potential fines or legal issues.
To find out if a permit is required for your project, you can contact your local building department or council and provide them with details about the size and location of your proposed deck. They should be able to tell you if a permit is required and provide you with any necessary forms or information.
Because the deck is not fixed to the ground, it's fairly easy to de-assemble and transport compared to a traditional deck. This might come in handy if you're living in a temporary home or moving.
Damage to vegetation
Digging holes and filling them with concrete can damage tree roots and vegetation. If you're building near to existing trees and plants, then avoiding the need for concreted holes can preserve your garden.
Tools & Materials Not Required
A floating deck requires fewer tools and materials than an inground deck. Tools you won’t need include:
Concrete mix: You will need a bag of concrete mix, which can be purchased at a home improvement store or building supply store.
Concrete mixer: Concrete mixers can be expensive and are difficult to maintain. They’re the most effective way to mix concrete on site, but are fairly bulky and difficult to transport/store.
Hoe: A hoe is a long-handled tool with a flat blade that is used to mix the concrete. It is useful for breaking up any clumps of concrete mix and for stirring the mixture.
Wheelbarrow: A wheelbarrow is useful for transporting the concrete from the barrel to the location where it will be used. Although you could argue this is still a very handy tool to have for various tasks.
Trowel: A trowel is a small, flat tool with a pointed end that is used to smooth and finish the surface of the concrete.
Materials (for a floating deck)
As discussed, a floating deck requires minimal materials.
- Deck blocks: TuffBlocks are pre-formed deck blocks that sit under the sub-frame. They’re extremely strong and designed to fit all common joist and post sizes. They raise the deck off the ground, and as they’re made from plastic, they don’t wick water (unlike concrete).
- Framing lumber: This makes up the joists and posts used to create the sub-frame for your deck. For a low profile deck you’ll need to purchase treated timber.
- Decking boards: These are the boards that will make up the surface of your deck. You can use a variety of materials, such as wood, composite, or plastic. Be sure to choose a material that is durable and suited to your needs and budget.
- Fasteners: You will need screws to attach the decking boards to the deck blocks. Choose screws that are appropriate for the material you are using and the size of the screws will depend on the thickness of your decking boards. You’ll also need galvanized nails when attaching your joist hangers.
- Gravel or paver base: You may need to use gravel or sand to level the deck blocks and create a stable base for your deck. It also helps with drainage under your deck to prevent water pooling.
- Joist hangers: These are used to connect the joists to the end joists in a way that is strong and secure. Joist hangers are an important part of a deck's structure because they help to distribute the weight of the deck evenly and provide a strong connection between the joists and the end joists.
Once the concrete piers have been created, the tools required are pretty much the same:
Impact driver: An impact driver is a power tool that is used to drive screws and bolts into wood, metal, and other materials. It is a more powerful and efficient tool than a traditional drill, and is particularly useful for driving long screws and bolts, or for working with dense materials.
Circular saw: You will need a circular saw to cut the decking boards to the desired length and width.
Drop saw (optional): A drop saw, also known as a table saw or chop saw, is a power tool that is used to make precise, straight cuts in wood, metal, and other materials. It is a versatile and essential tool for any workshop or construction site.
One of the main benefits of a drop saw is its ability to make precise, straight cuts with minimal effort. The saw blade is mounted on an arm that is raised and lowered, allowing the user to easily adjust the depth of the cut. The saw table is also adjustable, allowing the user to make angled cuts or to rip long boards into narrower pieces.
Level: A level is essential to ensure that your deck is level and that the deck blocks are properly aligned.
Straight edge: A straight edge is a long, flat tool that is used to ensure that a surface is level and straight. It is a useful tool when building a deck because it helps to ensure that the decking boards are properly aligned and that the deck is level. It’s also used when trimming deck boards along a straight line.
Clamps: The most common clamps you’ll see when building a deck are bar clamps and f-clamps. Clamps are useful for a variety of tasks throughout a build. These include holding lumber in a temporary position before fastening, as well as holding deck boards in place when trimming an edge.
Hammer: You will need a hammer to drive nails into your joist hangers. A palm nailer is a good alternative to this for added speed and efficiency.
Measuring tape: A measuring tape will be needed to measure and mark the decking boards for cutting.
Chalk line: A chalk line can be used to mark straight lines on the decking boards for cutting.
Speed square: A speed square is a useful tool for marking straight lines and for ensuring that your cuts are square.
Safety glasses: It is important to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from debris and dust when using power tools.
Building a fixed deck in a lot of cases is the appropriate option for many building projects. However, a low profile deck not attached to an existing structure provides the option to build a floating deck that has many benefits that we've covered in this article.
It's up to you to assess which route you would like to take, and weigh up the pros and cons of each building method.