Can You Build a Deck Without Footings?

Building a deck can be quite an ordeal, so it is crucial to have everything you need, but what if you want to make the process faster? Could you skip putting in footings?

You can build a small deck without footings, but a large deck will require footings. Small decks that are only a few inches off the ground can sit securely on concrete blocks. However, without the brace-work of footings for a large deck, it will break because of the weight and force applied to it.

Footings are essential in bracing decks, but they are not as necessary for smaller decks because they are smaller. It may surprise you what replaces footings in the building of a smaller deck.

Can You Build A Deck Without Footings?

Decks can be built without footings, but on average, most decks need to be erected with footings if they are at least waist high or higher. A small deck, meaning short and close to the ground, will not require footings.

There are specific circumstances in which concrete may be used in place of footings, but on average, footings will need to be utilized because they will assist in reinforcing the deck to ensure it does not break.

A small deck is one of the exceptions where you will not need footings. A large deck, depending on the overall size of the deck will require stronger footings.

If the deck is a story high, for example, the footings will need to be much stronger than a deck only a few feet off the ground.

What Are Footings, And What Do They Do?

You may be wondering what footings are after discussing that footings are required in most decks. Footings are essential to decks because they will brace the deck from the ground.

To put in footings, you will need to dig holes for them. Footings require a hole below the frost line, which can range from 36 to 48 inches. Most people do not like putting in footings because they are so deep in the ground, but they are essential to a decent, permanent deck.

Why Large Decks Require Footings

Large decks require footings because they add the necessary support for the deck and prevent the deck from falling over. The footings will brace the deck while also keeping it attached to the ground enabling it to stay where it needs to. Without footings, the deck could be knocked over or even blown over, ensuring that the deck does not disappear overnight.

Having footings is also a safety measure. Most building codes will require footings for large decks because it will keep people safe. If a large deck does not have footings, it can break and people can get hurt.

Why Small Decks Do Not Require Footings

Small decks, unlike large ones, do not require footings. There is a key distinction, between the two types of decks, that provides an important explanation for this. Small decks are just mere inches off the ground. The size of a deck refers to the height, not to the surface area. If the deck was much higher than just inches above the ground, it would cause the deck to fly away like the large deck.

When people talk about small decks not needing footings, it is meant that they do not a stabilizer built down to the frost line. Because the concrete will be just under the surface of the concrete if under the surface at all, it is not seen as being a footing; in the case you use gravel, it will assist in not having to dig a hole. This can save on time spent on building the deck.

It is common for people to want a small deck either attached to their house or out in their yard, but small decks don’t have to have footings.

What Small Decks Use Instead Of Footings

Small decks still require some kind of mechanism to ensure they stay where they are supposed to, so what is it? Small decks use concrete blocks and gravel. It is most common for people to use gravel underneath the deck to allow for proper draining. The concrete gives the deck support.

There is another option called helical piles, but they will require special machinery to install. It is common for people building a small deck to use concrete blocks because they are the easiest to install.

Large decks must have footings, but why can they not use concrete blocks and gravel like the small decks? Concrete blocks do not provide the necessary support for the large decks. Large decks are high off the ground, so the concrete blocks would have to be stacked to keep the deck sturdy.

It is key to ensure the space you are using for the small deck is level. The deck will directly reflect the area it is built over, so it is important to make the ground level.

Different Types Of Footings For Your Deck

Five different types of footings can be used depending on your deck and what you will be using it for. For example, the are concrete footings. This is when you dig into the ground and the concrete is poured into the ground. The footing needs to reach below the frost line, so it is a lot of work. This is the best footing for a large deck about one story high, especially if there will be a serious amount of weight on it.

Buried post footings are also very stable because they are dug deep into the ground. These are not as stable as concrete footings, but they are easier to put in.

Precast footings are as strong as concrete footings, but they are already cast, so it is not as much work. These will be dug into the ground as well to add support.

Deck blocks are also another option. These are buried just below the surface, but they are not as permanent or strong as concrete footings.

Helical piles screw into the ground, below the frost line, but they require machinery, so you will be unable to install these by yourself.

Ricky Kesler

With all of the projects I've done over the years, you'd think that I work on my house full-time. But I actually enjoy other things like spending time outdoors and time with my family.

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