It takes lots of planning and consideration to build a deck. From location to construction materials, everything must be precisely calculated to give the best end result possible. An important detail is deciding how the joists will hold into place, with the most popular option being a joist hanger. However, options other than hangers may need to be considered depending on what kind of deck is being built. Alternatives to using metal joist hangers are ledger strips, sliding dovetails or mortising and dowels.
The methods vary depending on whether it is an exterior deck or an interior platform. When it comes to outdoor decks, the only plausible do-it-yourself technique would be to use a ledger strip to support the joists. If the plan is to build an interior platform, then either method of dovetailing or mortising and dowels would leave a more artistic finish to the project.
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4 Ways to Build a Deck Without Joist Hangers
- Ledger strips
- Set posts and joints on beams
- Dovetailing technique
- Mortise and dowel technique
Use Ledger Strips
The most common alternative to using joist hangers is a ledger strip. This technique requires a plank of wood to be secured to the outside wall and to the outside rim of the deck to create "ledges" where the joists would rest for support. The size of the plank must be minimum 2 inches by 6 inches, but the best size for this type of project would be 2 inches by 8 inches. The ledger strip must be able to support the weight of the joists while not tearing out of the wall it has been secured to.
A ledger strip can be secured to an outside wall by using lag screws when securing to wood studs. Lag screws are a popular choice because they bind the pieces tightly together, although the negative side to screws is that they are not malleable under any movement. They often end up snapping because of slight shifts in movement due to exterior weather conditions, but that's seldom an issue when it comes to ledger boards. When securing the ledger strip to a cement foundation, the only option is to use cement lag shields, also known as anchor bolts.
Rest Beams on Posts and Joists on Beams
It's a fairly common deck-building technique to set beams directly on top of posts and screw them in place, then set the joists on the beams and screw those down too. The disadvantage of this method is that it adds height to the deck equal to the width of the joists. It's actually a pretty secure method, though, because the joists are held in place not just by the screws sunken into the beams but by the screws securing the decking boards to the joists. Builders might have to hide the ends of the joists with a fascia, which isn't necessary when joist hangers are used.
Artisanal Joining Techniques
As previously mentioned, sliding dovetails is a method used on interior platforms. It is a more visually appealing method to the joist hanger because of the intricacy needed to complete the work. Dovetailing can be described as two cuts of wood fitting together like puzzle pieces. Once assembled, they cannot be pulled apart and are strong once connected together. This particular method is very time consuming and is not advised for beginners looking to create an interior platform. It is an artisanal style that should be completed by a professional or someone with deep knowledge of the dovetailing method.
Mortise and dowel is another alternative to the joist hanger that goes along the artisanal route. It is primarily used on interior projects and leaves a clean appealing finish. This technique requires the two pieces of wood to fit together like a peg in a hole. The only addition is that the wood is secured with a pin, either metal or wood, to make sure the pieces stay together. As with dovetailing, this is another method best left to a professional due to its difficulty.