Building a deck is a great project, but it takes lots of planning and consideration. 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. The most popular option is 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.
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 to create a "ledge" 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.
The ledger strip can be secured to the outside wall by using screws or nails when securing to wood studs. 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 leaving your deck in bad shape. The most commonly used method to secure the plank are nails. Nails are popular because they are flexible and are more likely to adjust to the changes in climate when the deck begins to shift. Certain pressures applied to deck by a shifting foundation will be better absorbed by the nail and remain stable. When securing the ledger strip to a cement foundation, the only option is to use cement lag shields, also known as anchor bolts.
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
Also known as the tongue and mortise 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.