a picture of a multi tier deck with a tree in the middle of it

A wooden deck is a thing of beauty, an excellent way of adding some oomph to your outdoor living area. It expands the living space while serving as a focal point for your outdoors. 

Building it around a tree might seem to complicate the project, but that is not the case. You can work with a floating deck that rests on above-ground piers or underground footings. It just depends on what your permit office wants to see. The tree’s size could influence the deck’s dimensions, the layout of the foundations, and the joist layout as well.

Why Incorporate Surrounding Trees?

A mature tree or two in the spot you plan for the installation can be a blessing in disguise. The plants can serve as natural shade and at the same time, you get to feel good about helping your environment. Furthermore, a deck that encompasses a tree or two looks phenomenal, a presentation that can make people have a deeper appreciation of your outdoor setting.

deck

How To Build Your Deck Around A Tree

Installing a deck is not something that you should brush off as easy and undertake it as a DIY project. We highly recommend that you let the professionals at TNT handle the installation, especially when you have an obstacle, such as a tree, that can impact the construction. Also, this guide explains just one of many different ways to approach the same project. Basically, be careful, use common sense, and always wear safety gear and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using power tools.

Below is a quick guide that shows steps we follow when building a deck that will surround a tree. 

1.   Assess Your Trees

As we layout and plan your deck we will get an idea of where the tree is going to be in relation to the deck space and plan accordingly. This will help us to not only make it easier to frame around but also plan for how it will fit into the decking or any railing obstacles we might encounter.

Most tree species stop growing upwards when they reach a certain point but most every tree keeps growing wider adding rings every year.

On a lot of installs, we will butt the decking boards right up against the tree all the way around and then at the end we carefully take a jigsaw and run it in a circle around the tree with one side of the blade guard up against it so that when you’re done you get an even gap all the way around the tree.

This will also help for future growth so in 10 years if the girth of the tree is grown out and is about to or is already touching the deck boards you can go ahead and use a jigsaw and cut another gap around it.

2.    Plan Your Deck

Be realistic and honest about how you plan to use the deck. Do you want to use it for barbecues or outdoor dining, as a casual entertainment spot for guests, or maybe somewhere to do yoga or coffee in the mornings?

If you have a lower budget, it would be best to consider installing something small with a potential second phase in the future. We believe a smaller deck can help create a more intimate space.

The size will also be determined by the space available. We will advise you accordingly while also considering the slope of your yard and the different support structures needs for the deck.

Permits will also have a huge influence on what you can and can’t do in your particular yard. We will dive into this more in step 4 but things you will have to keep in mind that the permit office will most likely be checking for are things like:

  • Setbacks (this is the amount of space there needs to be in between the deck you want to build and your property line)
  • Caissons (these are holes you dig in the ground with the intent of filling back up with concrete to support the deck using posts)
  • Ledger (this is the attachment point at the house (if applicable). It could look something like a 2×12 laying flat against the house and attached using ledger locks)

3.    Choose Your Timber

The wood to use should be robust enough to serve its purpose for years to come. For the framing lumber, we recommend you go for natural pressure-treated wood with excellent load-bearing strength. You won’t have to make many decisions about the framing as we will be recommending you what’s needed based on your individual decks’ specs.

As for the decking material, it’s up to your budget and your personal choice as to whether you put down something like a natural redwood decking or something easier to maintain like a composite decking material.

4.    Site Plan And Preparations

For the installation process to proceed smoothly, you need a site plan. We shall handle this as well as ensure that you have all the required permits and that everything is done up to code. We have an engineer on staff which greatly speeds up this process and ensures quality control. With the site plans, we will have the blueprints that will keep us on track about the materials needed, measurements for cuts, and any project-specific guidelines. 

We will measure off the house, staking and tying a string along the way, marking out where to place the caissons. We will clear the area and if space provides we will use an auger to dig the holes for the footings that will serve as the piers for the deck. The depth of the holes for the footings will depend on the deck design you pick and the county or region’s building codes. After the holes are dug, an inspector will most likely have to come out and sign off at this point in the project.

Ask us about our pre-visualization services if you really want to plan out your project in great detail.

5.    Setting The Posts

After the inspector signs off on the holes, we will fill them back up with concrete. We will give the concrete time to cure before putting weight on them. During this time we can still move forward by using temporary lumber nailed to the frame to hold it up until the concrete cures. We set the post-to-caisson bracket. Then we will fix pressure-treated 4×4 wooden posts into the brackets, securing them in place with nails to create the deck piers.

6.    Installing The Ledger Board

The ledger board is an essential component when constructing a deck, and it attaches the deck to your house. The connection should be robust, and depending on your house, you may need to first install flashing to prevent water damage. Then attach the ledger board directly to the house’s rim joist or concrete sub-wall.

7.    Framing The Deck

With the ledger installed, you can now attach a joist on either end and a rim joist on the outside of those two and now you’ve got a giant rectangle. You can then proceed to fill the interior with framing at a certain measurement you will get from your permit. A common joist layout example is sixteen inches on center. Make sure all lumber gets installed crown up.

The joists are the support boards that form the deck’s foundation. We will use 2×6, 2×8, 2×10, or 2×12 joists depending on what your deck plans call for. Depending on the building codes in your area, you may need to add extra support in between each joist across the middle of the rectangle.

8.    Framing Around The Tree

Ideally, you placed the tree between two joists and now you just need to put two small two by’s in between the joists hugging the tree. If necessary you may need to add framing at a 45-degree angle in the corners of your newly created square to round the corners and finish creating the frame. 

If the tree isn’t small enough to fit in between two joists then you may need to add double joists in certain areas. This will depend on your particular codes, but an example is to double joists on either side of the tree. Then add double joists spanning those first two doubles creating a rectangle of double material around the tree area. This area would almost certainly need to have posts designed into the plan holding up this heavy area. You will then end up with areas that need small joists and negative spaces around the tree that need to be filled with 45-degree mini joists.

No matter the exact process, we are just trying to create a frame that encompasses the tree and is close enough so that no one accidentally steps in a vulnerable spot.

9.    Laying The Decking

Installing the decking boards can be started from the outermost edge working towards the house or from the house working out depending on your preference. We like to start at the house and move out to get that nice clean line at the house. Based on the decking material you choose we would use a tool to make sure the boards have a tight consistent gap as we secure them down using deck screws.

If you chose to go with hidden fasteners then we let the hardware and the guns set their own gap as we hold the boards tight and snap down the fasteners. We will accurately measure the boards that terminate at the tree frame for snug fit then fasten them down to the tree frame and joists with deck screws or fasteners. We jig around the tree as described earlier to get an even organic gap. When the entire deck floor is laid, we will snap a chalk line along the edges to cut any excess overhang to achieve straight lines before attaching the outer fascia.

10.    Finishing touches

To finish up the deck we would want to add stairs if needed to get down into the yard (if the deck height is above a specific height [see permit]). Also, make sure to add handrail if your deck height is above a certain level as well. To do that you add 4×4’s or similar post material to the perimeter and span those with 2×4’s full of balusters. The full details of a handrail is a mix of what is required (spacing) and what is desired (material type and color).  

pic of a wood deck built in Loveland featuring built in seating and lighting

Wrapping up

To ensure that your new deck lasts a long time, we recommend you coat a wooden deck with a wood preservative or stain to ensure the decking is adequately sealed. Sealing the boards is essential for added protection against mold, moisture, and the sun’s rays.

If you went for a low-maintenance composite deck board option then you can just wash it off with the hose and maybe just a very small amount of dish soap if it gets dirty. 


To learn more about our deck construction services here at TNT please click here. Get in touch with us today if you want to know more about other outdoor hardscaping plans or know more about our services and how we can help transform your home. You can call us at 970-663-2868 or email us at sales@tnthomeimprovements.com

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