Fiberon Expert Answers Top 5 Deck Installation Questions
If you’re a DIYer, and you want a beautiful and durable composite outdoor living space, this blog is for you. When it comes to deck installation, it’s best to get all your questions answered prior to building.
That’s why we sat down with Fiberon expert and code compliance manager Rick Lappin to answer the top 5 deck installation questions. Remember, if you’ve never done deck construction before, you can always reach out to a FiberPRO.
1. How do I set the gaps between boards for the best appearance?
When the visibility and quality of gaps is a factor, there are a few basic guidelines to follow:
- First, follow basic spacing requirements for installing deck boards. Keep ¼” from walls, posts and any permanent structures. Space boards 3/16” side-to-side and follow end-to end gapping requirements indicated by installation temperature. This will vary from 1/32” in hot weather to ¼” in cold weather.
- All decking materials whether wood, composite or metal, will undergo some degree of linear expansion with the changes of weather and season. To compensate for the effects of contraction and expansion, maintain required installation instructions.
- Other tips to ensure the best appearance during installation include the following:
- Keep boards out of direct sunlight. This goes for storage, and when you’re cutting for size. Temperature affects the board gapping during installation, so keep them cool in a garage or storage unit if possible.
- Expansion and contraction of light-colored decking is less affected by temperature swings. Darker colors absorb heat faster, so if you’re concerned with gaps between boards, go with a light colored deck board. Use the shortest boards possible. In fact, it’s best to break up long runs with a “breaker board,” which runs perpendicular to the field direction of your deck boards.
- If you are concerned with expansion and contraction movement of dark colored deck boards, you may choose to use surface fasteners. Fasteners that pierce and secure the board to the joist restrict movement more so than the hidden fastener clips.
2. How do I make my outdoor living space more fire safe?
A common question asked is, “Are the deck boards fire resistant?” The IRC (International Residential Code) building code specifies a test to generate a “Flame Spread Index” (FSI) and a “Smoke Development Index” (SDI). In short, SDI has a maximum allowed of 400, and FSI has a maximum allowed of 200. In both cases the lower the number, the better. Some areas of the country have additional requirements for fire performance, which require additional testing and labeling. If you’ve got questions about Flame Spread Index and Smoke Development Index, or local fire code compliance such as those for Wildland Urban Interface, contact your local FiberPRO.
3. What is the slip-resistance of my decking?
Currently there is no requirement of minimum slip-resistance written into the code. However, there are recommended values for those who risk falling. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) recommends 0.60 as a minimum, and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) identifies 0.50.
A primary reason that there is no minimum requirement in the current building code is that standardized slip-resistance tests that are correctly may produce different results. In use, variables that can affect the risk of falling include:
- Shoe tread and condition
- Stride length
- Speed of stride
- Debris on surface
- Amount of moisture present
Slip resistance testing under ASTM methods conducted by Fiberon on Fiberon manufactured capped decking products met or exceeded the recommendations of OSHA. An average of both dry and wet conditions was used in the testing evaluation and resulted in coefficient of friction (COF) averages of 0.50 or higher. All capped decking products manufactured by Fiberon have a micro-texture pattern in the surface embossing to increase slip resistance.
4. How are guardrails and posts tested?
According to building code, there is a 200-pound minimum load requirement for guardrails, which is typically applied horizontally as if leaning against the guardrail. In actuality however, safety factors increase the loading applied to a minimum of 500-pounds. When you look through the Fiberon gallery, you will find guardrails that exceed these criteria.
Posts are also tested by putting loads on the post in a horizontal fashion. There is no difference between the required performance based on whether the post is secured to concrete, wood, or steel understructures.
5. What’s the difference between handrails and guardrails?
A guardrail is required to prevent falling from a deck surface higher than 30 inches above the ground. Keep in mind; guardrails are required on stair assemblies as well.
Handrails are different. Handrails are only required on stair assemblies that have a minimum of four risers.