Fortress Blog

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Ground Level Decks: It’s all about preparation

What is a ground level deck?

Sometimes referred to as floating or platform decks, ground level decks are a great option if you desire the perfect outdoor oasis, but don’t have the time or space to build a conventional backyard deck. These popular decks can also be free-standing (not attached to the house or any other structure), making them an ideal solution for meandering garden paths or secluded backyard getaways. Perhaps most importantly, since they are typically built at less than 30” above grade, deck railing, deck stairs and building permits are typically not required. With fewer steps in the building process, ground level decks are often easier, quicker and cost-effective to build compared to the standard elevated deck.

Before you break ground and start building, take a look below at some of the most commonly asked questions about constructing your own ground level deck. Like all DIY projects, the success is in the preparation.

Q: Can you lay decking on soil?

A: No, deck boards cannot have direct surface contact. We recommend having structural members in place to sideline the risk of causing premature damage to the deck boards. Fortress® deck boards must be installed with a minimum of 1.5-inches between the ground surface and joists to allow for ventilation and drainage. Having ample breathing room will ensure your deck lasts longer.

Q: How do you prepare the ground under your deck?

A: The key to successfully building a ground level deck lies in the planning. To help keep the installation process simple and painless, follow these easy steps when preparing the ground below your deck.

Step 1. Consider where you’d like to place your ground level deck by first assessing the terrain. Remember, you will need to evaluate the ventilation and drainage below your deck. Does the ground beneath your potential deck slope for water run off or cave in, pooling excess moisture and drainage? Similarly, while it’s good to have some circulation beneath your deck, if the opening is too large, debris can accumulate and may even attract critters. A quick evaluation of terrain and some simple ground preparation will go a long way to ensuring an ideal environment for your deck.

Step 2. Once you’ve selected your ideal deck spot, hammer a peg into the ground for each of the four corners of the deck to help you visualize and measure out the site according to your plan.

Step 3. Since decking is much easier to lay on a level surface, make sure to clear away plants, rocks and weeds. Additionally, dig down to a depth of roughly 2 inches (50 mm) to ensure you’re working with bare soil.

Step 4. Next, place concrete blocks at each of the deck’s level corners, making sure they’re high enough to allow for drainage. If you are still concerned about potential damage to your deck due to its proximity to the ground, there are two popular options to ease your worries. The first is to cover the surface area below your deck with a layer of weed control fabric. This will keep sunlight from reaching the soil and prevent weeds from sprouting up through your deck. The second option is to spread about 1.5 inches (40mm) of gravel over the soil. This keeps moisture away and prevents erosion.

Q: How do you best accessorize ground-level decks?

A: While railings and steps are not typically required by code since the deck is so close the ground, there are still a number of easy ways to make ground-level decks suitable for entertaining and fit your landscaping style. For decks close to the home, consider built-in benches, planters and overhead string lights. For free-standing decks, consider arbors and landscaping near the edges to define your space with natural beauty.

Get Ready to Build

Although the simplicity of ground level decks is what might initially attract you to the project— it’s important to properly prepare a course of action. Once all the preparation is done, look to Fortress Building Products for your ground level deck building materials, including 40 percent lighter composite decking and PVC decking with the highest slip resistance in any climate. Need more support before you build? Check out our video library where we break down product and installation info, or access all of our installation guides in one spot.

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