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Does A Deck Need A Ledger Board?

You may have encountered information about a ledger board in your research on how to construct a deck. As a result, you are wondering if your deck will need a ledger board. We talked to deck builders, and this is what we discovered.

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A free-standing deck does not need a ledger board. However, you will need a ledger board to attach a deck beside your home. This ledger board enables the deck to be rigid and stable and to support the required weight. 

This article will provide more information on when to include a ledger board during deck construction and when it is unnecessary. We will also tackle how to choose a ledger board for a deck and how to size a ledger board. So let's dive in.

Backyard Deck and Pergola - Does A Deck Need A Ledger Board

Why Do You Need A Ledger Board?

A well-constructed deck creates a beautiful space where you can host parties or enjoy the weather. It can also increase your property's net worth.

Building a deck requires a reasonable grasp of basic construction rules. In addition, you must abide by the building codes as this will help you avoid accidents, some of which may be fatal.

Check your builder's references to determine whether they have the required experience to build a problem-free deck and give you value for your money.

If the builder does a shoddy job, your house may experience water damage. Consequently, you may incur unnecessary and costly repair costs as you would need to replace windows, doors, and finished flooring.

Moreover, the deck may collapse, resulting in severe injuries and property damage.

You may or may not need to include a ledger board while building a deck. So base your decision on the type of deck under construction.

In addition, get the required building permits if you opt for an attached deck. While most areas are lenient about the construction of a free-standing deck, the regulations are more stringent with attached decks.

But you may still need the local government's authorization to build a free-standing deck that rises above 30 inches from the ground.

Also, the deck will be subject to inspection after construction to ensure compliance with the outlined building codes.

Attached Deck

Wooden deck of family home.

The International Residential Code stipulates that all decks should support at least 50 lbs per square foot.

Of this, 10 lbs comprise the material used to construct the deck, while 40 lbs is an allowance of live weight per square foot, such as people and furniture.

But the house wall is not sufficient to support this weight by itself. For that reason, builders add a ledger board while constructing an attached deck.

The weight distribution is such that the ledger board transfers half of the weight to the adjoining building's framing while the posts, beams, and footings mounted along the deck's outer edge support the other half.

The ledger board allows the deck to borrow its stability from the house since it supports the end of the deck that a builder fastens to the house and redistributes the deck's weight on the house.

In addition, it enhances the deck's structural integrity because it makes it firm and steady.

When your deck can support the intended live load, it becomes a safe spot where you can host outdoor parties or rejuvenate in nature when the weather is favorable.

During its installation, an experienced builder mounts the ledger board on the home's siding and runs it the entire deck length. The builder then hangs deck joists from the ledger board.

Ensure that you seal the ledger board properly and allow drainage to avoid rot damage. If the board rots, it will compromise your deck's structural integrity. The structure may eventually fall away from the house.

Free-standing Deck

Unlike their attached counterparts, free-standing decks do not have to be built next to the house. This allows you to construct the deck in an open space, next to the pool, or in the garden.

Detached decks have footings, beams, and posts for support. Therefore, they do not need the reinforcement a ledger board would offer to enhance the structure's strength.

Also, since these decks often rise to a maximum height of 30 inches, they are relatively stable.  

A free-standing deck reduces the potential for water damage problems and rot in your home. But ensure that the builder installs the deck correctly to avoid sagging or to keep the deck from becoming unlevel.

How To Choose A Ledger Board For A Deck

Deck board made of solid wood in a stack. Construction industry. For construction and finishing works. Sale of building materials.

Your choice of ledger board will determine its suitability in supporting the deck's weight. Thus, the ledger board you choose should be made from good quality material and be able to withstand the elements.

What Wood To Use For A Ledger Board

Generally, ledger boards are made from pressure-treated lumber or wood that is naturally rot-resistant.

The chemical compounds that refine pressure-treated lumber help protect the wood from pest infestation, fungal and bacterial growth, and moisture damage.

Choose straight boards with the least bowing or knots and ensure that the board has no cracks or splits.

Splits and cracks can let in moisture, causing the ledger board to rot. The gaps also make the ledger board susceptible to insect infestation. 

How Do You Size A Ledger Board?

Typically, the ledger board should have the exact dimensions as the rest of the deck joists. It often measures 2×6. But you can use a larger ledger board if it creates a more suitable attachment to the house's framing. 

The length of the ledger board should be at least 3 inches shorter than the deck framing width to ensure that the deck's end joists overlap and hide the ledger's end.

You can keep adjusting the ledger's length as needed to let the deck protrude from the framing. Moreover, you may need to cut some siding to create room for the ledger board.

How Do You Inspect A Deck Ledger Board?

Backyard Deck and Pergola - Does A Deck Need A Ledger Board

It is necessary to inspect the deck to ensure it is safe for use. You want to avoid accidents or making the headlines because of a collapsed deck.

Check For Ledger Flashing

Ledger flashing helps control water leakage, which could result in defective deck connectors and decay. Moisture causes rusting or corrosion of the connectors.

The moisture can also cause the house rim joints that support the ledger to rot, resulting in the ledger board falling off.

Inspect for a metal or plastic lip on the ledger board. If it is absent, you must add it to protect your structure from water damage. 

Choose a corrosion-resistant flashing. Do not use aluminum or galvanized steel flashing since it will corrode when it contacts the pressure-treated wood, making it ineffective.

Apply a layer of acrylic caulk sealant at the bottom edge of the ledger board and around the fasteners to keep the water out. 

This acrylic caulk sealant is easy to use and clean. It gives you value for your money. See it on Amazon.

Inspect The Bolt Connections

The load-carrying capacity of the fasteners you use in deck construction will influence its ability to support the live load and keep it from detaching from the house. 

Nails lack sufficient strength to support the deck. Therefore, it is best to use galvanized carriage bolts with a 1/2-inch diameter.

Check whether the bolts have been used to fasten the ledger board to your home's structure. Further, assess whether the bolts used to secure the ledger board are congruent with pressure-treated lumber and if they have a large head.

Ensure that the bolts extend at least 1/2 inch past the board you attach the ledger. For this reason, rely on the thickness of the ledger board and that of the board you will mount it on to determine the length of the bolt.

Check for Rotting

terrace deck construction - man installing wpc composite decking boards

Although we often refer to pressure-treated wood as moisture-resistant, the wood will eventually rot. If the lumber is free of cracks through which moisture can seep it, the wood on your deck can serve you for about 40 years.

But the wood may rot if water seeps in through a split. So it is necessary to inspect the lumber board for rot frequently. If the ledger is rotten, replace it promptly to keep the deck from collapsing.

Final Thoughts

You participate in keeping your family and friends safe by complying with the stipulated deck building codes. Avoid trying to cut corners to reduce costs or to save time.

Instead, invest in a good quality ledger board and fastening bolts, and allocate adequate time to mount the ledger board for an attached deck correctly.

Also, contact a knowledgeable professional to inspect your deck annually, check for safety issues in the deck's attachment, and assess for rot.

If this article was helpful, please consider skimming through our other posts to learn more about decks.

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