Deck Blocks Vs Concrete Footings: What’s The Difference?

When building a structure, it's essential to ensure the foundation will be solid. Among the many choices for deck foundations are deck blocks and concrete footings, but some people don't quite understand the difference. We were also curious about this, so we researched this topic, and here's what we discovered.

Both used for foundations of structures, deck blocks and concrete footings have different purposes. Deck blocks are precast foundations that are typically used for supporting deck construction. Concrete footings, on the other hand, are part of the foundation built with reinforced steel bars and poured concrete. 

Learning about the difference between a deck block and concrete footing is important, so you'll know which one you need. Structures with foundations need to be steady and secure. This post will discuss the circumstances when deck blocks or concrete footings should be used. We'll also talk about certain limitations you might face when using deck blocks for your structures.

Deck Blocks Vs. Concrete Footings: What's The Difference?

Comparison between Deck Blocks and Concrete Footings, Deck Blocks Vs Concrete Footings: What's The Difference?

You've got a backyard with lots of space and a family wishing for a deck to spend warm afternoons in. If you're looking into putting up a deck structure for your home, you'll need a solid foundation to handle the deck and everything that goes on top.

A good foundation is needed for any structure to provide support and prolong its life. For many homeowners looking to DIY their own patio, picking the proper foundation for their decks can be confusing.

Some people like to use deck blocks, while others prefer to use concrete footings. Both are great options, but what is the difference between the two?

Deck Blocks

Taking its functionality directly from its name, deck blocks are precast foundations that are used to hold up beams for structural support. They are like Lego blocks that you can use as the base of your structure. Typically, attached decks and floating decks use these deck blocks as the foundation.

Since deck blocks are precast foundations, they are already pre-made, and they can be used as soon as you receive them. It's a great option if you prefer using materials already on hand. These precast building foundations are approved by building codes.

However, deck blocks have limitations where you can use them. These foundations are not suggested in places wherein the soil can have frost heaves. You also cannot use deck blocks in areas with high winds because the blocks might loosen their hold on the ground.

Concrete Footings

Concrete footings are foundation bases that are made onsite using raw materials. Typically, a footing is created by digging a hole, inserting reinforced steel bars, and setting it in concrete.

Simply put, a concrete footing is an important foundational element, and you have to build it from scratch. This is because concrete footings need to be very stable and hold on strongly to the ground even if the soil is a little weak.

Concrete footings support the weight of whatever you put on top of them. This makes them a perfect choice if you are building a structure that needs to bear a heavy load, like a deck or even a house. You can also use them for smaller projects like a single fence post or a wall. 

Depending on the ground you are building in, concrete footings are better if you are building something permanent. It's also highly suggested if your area is prone to frost heaves or if the soil tends to hold a lot of water.

During installation, concrete footings are typically below the frost line to give it the stability and hold that the structure needs.

Why Should I Use Deck Blocks?

Cement deck block foundation installed on the ground

If you're planning to build a deck for your backyard, deck blocks are great options for the deck's foundation. One of the prime benefits of using deck blocks is their affordability. Since they are already premade, you can typically get blocks anywhere from $4 to $6 apiece. 

Deck blocks are also great for DIYers looking to install their decks quickly. These blocks do not require extensive digging, so you'll be able to do this with most work tools at home. Since they are also premade and are not very heavy, one person can generally handle a deck block while working on the project.

These deck blocks are also great if you plan to build a deck of your own design. Most deck blocks also come in different shapes and sizes, so you're sure to find ones that perfectly work with your structure. As for their longevity, deck blocks are resistant to corrosion and don't decay.

Of course, deck blocks are not perfect materials to work with. One of the problems that you might encounter with deck blocks is manufacturing faults. They can also be damaged while being transported, which can affect the deck blocks before you can use them.

Deck blocks also don't have steel in them, so they might be unable to carry a really heavy load. Depending on the project you are working on, your deck blocks should also have enough space to allow the blocks to bear the load.

When Should Concrete Footings Be Used?

Concrete footings and reinforcing rod

Concrete footings are great to use for your deck if you are planning for it to be a permanent addition to the house. This is because concrete footings are primarily geared towards more permanent structures. They can also handle more loads than a deck block, so they are perfect for decks that will have multiple purposes.

Using concrete footings is also great if you want your deck to be very stable. This is particularly important if your place tends to have loose, weak soil where deck blocks can lose their hold.

Concrete footings should also be used for places that experience cold winters because they can withstand the constant expansion and shrinkage of the construction materials as the season changes.

One of the best things about concrete footings is that they can be made with raw materials. This makes them a lot stronger because you can choose the materials you'll be using. However, you'll also need extra helping hands when handling concrete footings. It requires a lot of labor, making the costs slightly more expensive.

Which Should I Choose For My Deck?

Long back deck of new modern home

The most important thing you must know before building a deck is the ground it will be standing on. Both foundations are strong and stable, but this is only enhanced and supported by the ground it is on. 

Frost heaves, loose soil, or areas with soil that tend to retain a lot of water will not benefit from deck blocks. Since deck blocks are premade and are simply placed on the ground, they don't have as much hold as concrete footings.

Deck blocks also don't have reinforced steel bars, and deck blocks are simply dependent on the lateral restraint that is put upon them. This means that deck blocks will need other means of support to hold them in place.

Concrete footings, on the other hand, can be pretty expensive. However, the strength and stability of the foundation from concrete footings cannot be compared. They are known to last for years without any noticeable issues.

However, concrete footings may be unnecessary if the structure is not going to be permanent. If you're going to build permanently installed decks, you should use concrete footings so the deck remains stable even after a long time. 

Similarly, there are other alternative options you can use to support your decks. If you are looking into using these alternatives, make sure to do extensive research and check if they work for the area you will be building in.

Final Thoughts

New deck constructed from a composite decking material

Whatever structure you are building for your home, starting with a good, solid base is always important. Choosing the proper foundation for the deck will ultimately depend on what kind of ground you will build it on. In the end, whatever you choose will undoubtedly help you create a solid and safe deck for your family and guests to enjoy.

Are you looking for more information about building a deck? We have some articles that might be of help:

Tigerwood: Pros & Cons For Decking And Flooring

5 Best Sealers For Your Wood Deck

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