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    Thread: Deck Building in Alaska

    1. 07-28-2009 03:23 AM #1
      I've got an existing irregular-shaped deck. It's got a covered hot tub enclosure and is roughly 16 x 9. I'd wanted to expand the deck but we had several large birch trees and a dog kennel to contend with. So early this summer - May 9th - I ripped out the dog kennel. Rolling it all up and putting it behind the shed with the soon to be overgrown raspberry bushes.

      Got the wife's approval to take out two birch trees. One of which was the largest birch tree on our property (got another 20 birch trees) and provided massive amounts of shade over that portion of the backyard. After getting some quotes and hemming-and-hawing over whether we actually wanted the trees removed we took the plunge and got both taken down to the stumps.

      Got the necessary tools from my shed - spade and shovel plus some wooden stakes - and I got to laying-out the general shape of the deck addition.

      It’s 14 x 16 and I decided I would use the same construction as the existing deck which is simply 2x6 decking on 2x6 joists on 4x4 beams on adjustable U brackets attached to concrete piers. I started laying out the sixteen holes and had to make several adjustments due to the existing stumps.

      After each work day (Monday through Thursday) I stopped at Lowes down the street from my house on the way home from work. In my courtroom attire I would load up a cart with two 4×4x8 beams plus four 12″x8″x12″ concrete piers and four adjustable U brackets and then stow them carefully in my amazingly versatile Subaru Outback.

      Two days ago (Saturday) I finally had all of the pieces in the backyard and had dug all of the foundation holes for the piers. Using my trusty seven-foot level I was able to line-up the pier height with the existing deck beams. I then went pier by pier adjusting the piers so that they were level with the existing deck supports. After many shovels of dirt and gravel plus tamping the ground down with my handy 10″x10″ metal tamper I lined-up all of the piers and made sure everything was level. Because the new joists will tie into the existing deck, I've got to run the new joists at a 90 degree angle to the existing ones.

      [img]http://www.operator101.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/img_0921.jpg[.img]

      I back-filled all of the piers. Measured and double/tripled checked levels. I then nailed into the beams, through the U brackets, securing the beams. I then checked level again. All was good.

      The following day it had rained nearly 1/2 inch. Again I checked level across all the beams and with the existing deck structure. All was still good. I then ordered the lumber for the joists (2x6x16) and the decking material (2x6x16). It should arrive at my house on Wednesday. I plan on starting work on the joists on Wednesday (provided it stops raining) after work and could possibly have the entire project done by Sunday. More likely it won't be done for another week because I'm rather lazy and would rather go hiking with the dog.


      Modified by fsdks at 10:52 PM 7-27-2009

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    2. Member Kameirocco's Avatar
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      07-28-2009 08:59 AM #2
      looks like it's gonna be a nice size deck, but question, how come to boards aren't going straight across?
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      07-28-2009 09:23 AM #3
      Quote, originally posted by Kameirocco »
      looks like it's gonna be a nice size deck, but question, how come to boards aren't going straight across?

      X2
      also, shouldn't there be piers under the blocks? I dint know the soil conditions in alaska, but in ohio we usually do a 3-4 ft deep concrete pier to prevent settling.

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      07-28-2009 10:33 AM #4
      Quote, originally posted by veedubbin »

      X2
      also, shouldn't there be piers under the blocks? I dint know the soil conditions in alaska, but in ohio we usually do a 3-4 ft deep concrete pier to prevent settling.

      Frost heaves are why you go down so deep. Maybe they have perma-frost in Alaska?


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      07-28-2009 04:14 PM #5
      What's the code in Alaska? I thought they had a huge problem with frost heave.
      http://www.rd.com/18092/article18092.html

    6. 07-28-2009 04:48 PM #6
      No problem with frost heaves in Anchorage.

      If I was in the Lower 48 I'd dig a 3 foot hole for concrete but up here there's no reason here.The frost level at my house is between 6 - 7 feet. As for digging, there's no way it's actually possible to dig 3 feet into my ground given the soil in my neighborhood.

      The beams aren't coming across straight across because (a) 4x4s don't come in 16 foot lengths and, more importantly, (b) there are tree stumps in the way.

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    7. Member chrisyoon's Avatar
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      07-28-2009 06:15 PM #7
      Quote, originally posted by fsdks »
      No problem with frost heaves in Anchorage.

      If I was in the Lower 48 I'd dig a 3 foot hole for concrete but up here there's no reason here.The frost level at my house is between 6 - 7 feet. As for digging, there's no way it's actually possible to dig 3 feet into my ground given the soil in my neighborhood.

      The beams aren't coming across straight across because (a) 4x4s don't come in 16 foot lengths and, more importantly, (b) there are tree stumps in the way.

      I grew up in Anchorage 18+ years, visit annually, and just by looking at your new deck foundation, will bet money that it won't be pretty come next spring... I've helped built several decks, fences, etc, and never had a problem digging a few feet into the ground I'm assuming you're close to the old seward/minnesota lowes judging by your photos (don't think there's that much woodsy areas down the street from tudor), and I grew up in the South Anchorage area (Dimond High, what? ) Anyways, unless you're in that Klatt area where it's all swampy so they spent tons of money digging it all out and replacing it with peat gravel to build those subdivisions, I'm confused why you think you can't dig a proper post, and how those deck piers are not going to move at all. If anything, I remember living in AK that EVERYTHING moves during the winter/spring thaw...

      Guess I'm more curious as to what your line of thinking is... I could be totally wrong, of course, and glad to learn something new everyday. Something tells me, though, that your deck probably wouldn't pass inspection... I'm tempted to call up there to ask a few builder friends what code is really, not to be an ass, but to save you the headache down the road...


    8. 07-28-2009 06:42 PM #8
      chrisyoon - I'm building it exactly the way the existing deck was built and will be the same height. That deck hasn't moved one inch in 5 years. If anything, my deck is better because the piers are closer to one another and the beams are closer to one another than the existing deck.

      The ground is well-settled. I live off Dearmoun b/n Old Seward and the ocean. it's the old Alaska sand and gravel property. As for moving at all, I'd be surprised if it did. My home is 41 years-old with original sheetrock walls that have no cracks. Same thing for my foundation and the concrete pad for my garage - no cracks what so ever. The soil where I'm putting the deck in is 3-6 inches of topsoil, 24-36 inches inches of packed clay, then hard packed clay with large stones. Given the surrounding exposed geology I think that it's pretty close to bedrock after that. I've put in enough trees in my yard to know what's under my feet

      As for an inspection, it's too close to the ground to require any city permits.

      And yes, I understand house foundations are manifestly different from deck footings.


      Modified by fsdks at 2:08 PM 7-28-2009

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      07-28-2009 07:17 PM #9
      Ah, Dearmoun. I had a great friend, who used to live in that area. Beautiful. Man I miss Alaska, esp while enduring my first AZ summer. Sounds like you're good to go then! Glad to be wrong!

    10. 07-28-2009 07:23 PM #10
      Quote, originally posted by fsdks »
      Huge problem with frost heaves in Anchorage.

      Fixed it for you.

      FWIW this is exactly how I built my deck, it's floating unattached to the house and goes up and down about an inch during the year. The traditional built deck by the PO I've got is crap. It's attached to the house with belled sauna tubes that aren't deep enough (I would guess 2-3 ft deep) and are frost jacking out of the ground.


      Modified by cvalentine at 3:25 PM 7-28-2009


    11. 07-28-2009 07:49 PM #11
      Quote, originally posted by cvalentine »

      Fixed it for you.

      FWIW this is exactly how I built my deck, it's floating unattached to the house and goes up and down about an inch during the year. The traditional built deck by the PO I've got is crap. It's attached to the house with belled sauna tubes that aren't deep enough (I would guess 2-3 ft deep) and are frost jacking out of the ground.


      Modified by cvalentine at 3:25 PM 7-28-2009

      Okay, frost heaves are a problem where you live.

      Just not a problem down in my neighborhood or my old neighborhood downtown. God, I miss the homeless drunks passing out on my old patio.

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      07-28-2009 10:03 PM #12
      http://www.muni.org/BSD/Decks.cfm

      When is a Permit Required?

      A permit is required to build a deck if:

      The deck is more than thirty inches in height above finished grade when it is not over a story or basement. The deck still must meet structural code requirements even if a permit is not required.


      What about Zoning?

      Even if your project does not require a permit, it still has to meet the required setbacks from property lines, and other regulations in the zoning code (Title 21).
      Please call 343-8380 to find out if there are any restrictions before you start work.

      Foundation Requirements

      There are several ways to support your deck including sono-tubes, and cantilevering it out from your existing building framing. Each method has its benefits, but you need to gather all of the information before you make that decision. Building Safety staff are glad to answer questions regarding code requirements, and your local building supply source is another good place to look. In Alaska, frost heave is a real concern, and you need to know which system will suit your needs.

      Foundation Requirements
      In general, if your deck requires a permit or is connected to your house (see above), it will require a permanent foundation, such as sono-tubes buried at least 60" in the ground (note that if your soil is susceptible to frost, they may need to be buried deeper). Other systems, such as driven pipe piles, helical piers, and conventional footings are also acceptable.


    13. 07-28-2009 10:14 PM #13
      Agreed. This deck could very well look like poop by next summer. Even if by some miracle it doesn't get twisted by frost heaves, the screws into the joists will be cockeyed because of the way they were laid out. This has DIY what-not-to-do written all over it.
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    14. 07-29-2009 04:02 AM #14
      Quote, originally posted by Double-V »
      Agreed. This deck could very well look like poop by next summer. Even if by some miracle it doesn't get twisted by frost heaves, the screws into the joists will be cockeyed because of the way they were laid out. This has DIY what-not-to-do written all over it.

      This is exactly the same way the existing deck was built. It has now lasted in quite excellent shape for 5 years. I am not concerned.

      As for the screws into the joists being "cockeyed", given that the joists aren't yet connected (and aren't even photographed) I am unclear how you've reached that conclusion. I'm operating here on the assumption that you've built a deck before so for the others who may be wondering, there are NO posts with this build. It is a common deck build. There are BEAMS attached to piers via adjustable U brackets. There are no posts. One uses posts for taller decks. On top of the beams there are joists running perpendicular with 24" on center. On top of the joists is the actual decking material - in this case 2x6x16 decking - running perpendicular to the joists.

      For a variety of reasons I am very familiar with the Municipality of Anchorage's code. While 60" is an admirable goal for digging a post, such depth is physically impossible in my yard. I would most assuredly would use that depth if I was in another part of town - Sand Lake neighborhood springs to mind - but not in mine. Walking not just through my street but the entire neighborhood and the method I'm using to build my deck addition is the manner in which all the other ground level decks are built.


      Modified by fsdks at 11:07 PM 7-28-2009

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      07-29-2009 12:28 PM #15

      The Florida Keys has 8000 homes that have illegal ground floor structures. An extreme case of neighbor following neighbor that went horribly wrong.

      That hot tub weights a ton. Take some pictures under it, along with the electrical connections and the ledger board flashing. People will be better able to tell you about your old deck before you finish the new one.



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      07-29-2009 12:33 PM #16
      Are you sure there are not concrete pillars under the current anchor blocks?

    17. 07-29-2009 01:40 PM #17
      Quote, originally posted by veedubbin »
      Are you sure there are not concrete pillars under the current anchor blocks?

      100% positive. I spoke with the former houseowner who built the existing deck.

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