While I'm a software engineer by trade, I tackled my deck project build with the same engineering discipline I strive for with software. This was the biggest construction project I have ever tackled and it required quite a lot of research to ensure safety during construction and to end up with a safe result. I did a lot of research on deck code and proper structure. I found the existing deck build would not have passed any code inspection were it to ever be inspected. For me to be successful this meant planning the project, managing the project, and being involved throughout.

I had seen IPE decks during my research and wanted that to be the surface of the deck. I had also researched various underdeck systems to prevent the patio under the deck from getting wet. I selected the Trex Rain Escape system as it seemed to get good reviews and I liked the fact that the joists would also be protected from water exposure.


I initially looked for some deck design software, but I eventually settled on using Visio to draw up the plans for the deck build. The following shows how the plan evolved from start to final plan. I wanted to have a picture frame border around the perimeter of the deck. Once I had the framing structure figured out, I was able to order the wood and underdeck system. I found Thomas Lumber in Cumming had almost everything I needed.

Jigs and Rigs

I had to build quite a few jigs for this project. One of the first ones was a jig to mark where the holes went into the 4x4 IPE posts. IPE is aka iron wood and for a reason, you can't simply nail or screw into it. I used a drill press to make the thru holes that connected the posts to the joists/rim-joists. These posts were still pretty heavy, so I created another jig to help hold the posts in place while positioning and drilling matching holes into the joists. I created yet another jig that allowed me to use my router to cut the square opening in the IPE boards that wrapped around the posts (the image is a sample cut in .24" birch to verify the jig worked properly).
For the spiral stair treads, I had to extend the size of my table saw and create a tapering jig.
A plywood platform served as a jig for drilling the holes for a glued-up spiral tread. It also accommodated a jig for making the rounded edges of the spiral tread.

Structural Design & Development

Code for new deck construction says posts should support 500 lbs when pushing on them outward from the top. To help achieve this, Simpson Strong Tie has a product called DTT2 Deck Tension Tie. It helps tie the base of the post to both the rim joist and another perpendicular joist. For the deck support at 12 ft out from the ledger board, I did a post and beam using two 2x12s for the beam and 6x6 posts notched to receive the beam. In addition, I used two 5-inch Simpson structural screws and one 8-inch Simpson structural screw to attach the rim joist to each joist. Each joist was attached to the beam with Simpson Hurricane ties and joist hangers were used to attach the joists to the ledger board. Structural screws were used instead of nails on all connections.

Demolition and Construction