Cutting timber for the deck

31 Oct

Progress on the deck has been a little slow, but is getting there.

Recently I went to the local hardware store and purchased all the wood I need for the first set of joists and bearers. The idea is that I build something that resembles a hand rail at the front of the deck, then a similar thing at the back and then a frame that sits on top of it. Then I cover everything with decking boards and I’m done. Easy right?

Anyway, when I purchased some of the other materials, I also bought a drop saw. This I knew would make things a lot easier and only cost $87 (Ozito from Bunnings), so was worth the investment. I then went about drawing up plans on how I would actually put all the wood together.

The first thing I needed to do was measure up the lengths of timber needed for the joists (upright supports). Not too difficult because I had the stirrups there already. The first thing I wanted to measure was the corner joist, it makes it easier to then measure out the other lengths needed. I picked a number that seemed about right and used the sitting part of a chair as a height guide. The magic number was 500 (mm).

From there I needed to go up the garden where the slope was the most severe. The next joist would have to be smaller, but I didn’t know how much smaller. For this I approximated heights for the next three joists being lower than the original one. I also assumed that the back fenceline ones would be fairly equal.

Then to measure the bearers – those that ran along the top of the joists. Again, pretty easy because the distance between the joists can be easily measured by using the stirrups as guides. I measured the distance between the stirrups, added 90mm each side (the width of the joists) and then added 10% for wastage. It turned out in the end that adding the 10% was an awesome idea – you can always cut short, but not long.

Based on the above measurements, I worked out exactly how much wood I would need. Now, I went a little too nerdy on this step and mathematically predicted the combinations of each length in respect to the available lengths at the hardware shop. I labelled each joist from 1 to 6 and each bearer a letter from A to E. To be honest, piecing the lengths together to get the most efficient way actually ended up with me saving $40, so the exercise was worth it.

Once I got all the measurement set (ended up with 3 lengths of timber – 1 x 90mm by 90mm for the joists, 2 x 45mm by 90mm for the bearers – all treated pine) I went to the hardware shop and picked up the timber. Then back at my house I set up the drop saw in the garage and started cutting!!

Hi tech stuff, huh? Milk crates for saw horses and a box for a workbench. Meh, it worked, okay!

So anyway, I measured out the 90 by 90 and made the first cut. That was my base joist (3). Then I cut the bearer that would sit on it and bridge to the next joist on the slope (C). The reason I did this was so that I could work out the exact size of the next joist. For this I needed an extra person and my wife helped me out. I sat the joist in the stirrup in the corner and then rested the bearer on top of it. By lifting the opposite end (to the end on the joist) I could makes sure the bearer was 100% level. I used a spirit level sitting on top of the bearer to do this.

When it was level, all I had to do was measure the distance from the bottom of the bearer to the ground inside the stirrup. That gave me the height of the next joist. I then went and cut that joist and continued the process until I had all the joists on the slope done. Then I did the same thing for the other joists.

What I did find was that the ground sloped a lot more than I thought. I also found that the back part I thought was fairly level actually raised up. This meant that I came very close to the full dimensions of the amount of timber I had, but it worked out okay. If you’re a little short on the height for the joists, it’s okay, because my plan was to set them up a little off the ground anyway and the bolts allowed for this.

Once all the timber was cut, I labelled each joist and bearer as mentioned before so I could easily put it all together as required (tab A goes into slot B) and there was no confusion. None of this part of the deck will be seen, it will all be covered by the decking boards so I could write big letters/numbers and not worry. After I labelled everything I put them all sitting in place where they would be eventually fastened to ensure it looked right. I put a chair next to them to assess the final height (keeping in mind that there were still the frame and boards to go on top of the bearers).

Happy with all of that, the next step was to start bolting the joists in place and then attaching the bearers on top. I’m not going to go into the method itself in this post as I will cover it in a lot more detail in the next post. However, suffice to say that I managed two joists bolted in solidly before the light and my body got the better of me.

Next post, finishing the front frame… pictorial style!

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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Decking [COMPLETE]


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