Constructing a Deck

As per N.J.A.C. 5:23-2.15(f)1. "Plans drawn to scale, with sufficient clarity & detail dimensions to show the nature & character of the work to be performed."

One of the most likely projects a homeowner will take on is building a deck. You should keep in mind that a deck is rated at a higher pound per square foot (PSF) than the normal house construction is rated.

What does this mean to you? It means that the deck must be constructed in a way to achieve the required PSF rating. Usually that occurs when the proper size and type lumber are used. The spans for this lumber is less than the typical lumber used for house construction. In most cases, it is treated lumber that is used. Cedar and other naturally decay resistant wood are very expensive.

The following is a guide to help you through the steps to apply for a permit and to inform you of some basic construction practices in building a deck. Please be sure to include all of the information shown here so your application is not delayed for lack of information.  

Click here for the forms required to obtain a deck permit approval: print Application for Zoning, UCC folder, Building application, Electric application (if applicable). supply 2 copies of survey with outline of deck drawn on survey. 2 copies of separate detailed drawings of the deck construction as described below.

Permits Required
A building permit requires you to submit two copies of your property survey. The survey should show the location and size of the proposed deck. Note: the deck can be hand drawn on the survey by you. You do not need to hire a professional surveyor.

You will need to fill out a building technical card. Don’t let the name fool you. It is relatively simple to complete. It requires that you list your block and lot number, name, address and brief description of the work. You will sign the card and put the estimated cost of the work.

The plan for your deck should show the locations of all footings and distances between footings.

Plans/Ledger Board
A ledger board is used when the deck will be attached to the house. It is a single piece of lumber that is usually the same size as the proposed floor joist. To this ledger board you will attach the metal hangers that the floor joist will sit into. Include method of attachment to the house.

Girders are the main supports of the deck floor system. They will sit on top of the footings. The girder is usually made by nailing/bolting two pieces of lumber together. You are allowed to cantilever (hand over) the footings at each end not more than two feet. You may need more than one girder depending on what size deck you plan to build. Provide distance between girders (girder span) and any overhangs (max 2 feet).

Plans/Floor Joists
Floor joists for decks should be sized according to their allowable span and lumber species.( i.e. douglas fir, yellow pine, etc). Provide on center spacing, size of joists, distance between girders (span) and method of attachment.

The most commonly used material for decking is the 5/4” x 6” bullnose decking. This will be applied directly to the floor joist and provide adequate support. There are new types of materials on the market today that hold up just as well such as plastic lumber.

The most commonly used guard system is made up of 2” x 2” balusters, top rail, and bottom rail. Guards should not have horizontal balusters. Space between balusters should be so a sphere of 4" diameter cannot fit between them. Generally place 3.5 inches on center apart.

Plans/Stairs & Handrails
Stairs should have a minimum tread depth of 9” and a maximum riser of 8-1/4”. The tread is where you place your foot and the riser is the height between one step and the next. The minimum riser height is 4”. Risers should be solid, but if they are to be open they must not be opened more than 4” as in the guard system. Tread nosing should be a minimum 3/4" and maximum 1 1/4" in depth. All risers must be the same height

Handrails are required when there are three or more risers. Handrails must be graspable. In other words, the circular diameter of the handrail must not be greater than 2” and a minimum of 1-1/4”. This is a round handrail.

You can use another shape other than round but the perimeter dimensions must be at least 4” and not more than 6-1/4”. Example: a 2 x 4 piece of wood will not make the requirements for a handrail because its perimeter dimension is greater than the 6-1/4” maximum.

You must leave your copy of the plans on-site for all inspections. You will require three (3) inspections. The first will be a footing inspection. This will be called in 24 hours in advance and is inspected prior to you pouring your concrete. The second inspection will be a framing inspection. Call this in 24 hours in advance. The third inspection will be a final inspection. At this point the deck should be complete. You do not have to be home for these inspections if you leave access to the area and leave the plans for the inspector. Please keep all pets locked up when you know the inspector will be at your home.