Freestanding Deck

Building a freestanding deck and dealing with voles

On this audio podcast, the Handyguys discuss Brian’s free-standing deck and Paul’s vole problems.

How to Build Freestanding Decks

How to build a freestanding deck
A freestanding deck will have an additional beam near the house and no ledger board. Free-standing was chosen here due to only a small area next to the deck with no cantilever.

There are several advantages to building a deck freestanding, not attached to your house, and few disadvantages. In the podcast, we discuss a few points to consider when deciding to build freestanding or not.

Potential for deck failure

The most common point of failure of a deck is the connection to your house. Building a freestanding deck eliminates this potential problem connection.

Deck water damage

When building a deck attached to your house, a board, called a ledger board, is attached to the the house to hold up one side of the deck. This board needs to be flashed properly to prevent water from entering the house

House structure

A ledger board can’t be attached to some types of house construction. You shouldn’t attach a ledger board to a section of house that is not supported by foundation (called a cantilever). This includes bay windows, bump-outs, fireplace or chimney chases. Deck ledger boards shouldn’t be attached to some types of building materials like stucco, SIPs, i-joists or veneers without special considerations. Sometimes, you just want you deck somewhere away from your house, such as next to an above ground pool or spa.

Deck Fasteners When Building a Freestanding Deck

Some types of fasteners, nails, lags, bolts, hardware, hangars, etc will react poorly with some types of pressure treated lumber. The hardware can fail in just a few years. When building freestanding, you are not relying on hardware to hold up one end of the deck.


Some codes may require the ledger to be bolted through the house’s rim joist. Sometimes its not possible to gain access to this area due to a finished basement or tight crawl space.

Deck Costs

The cost of building a freestanding deck may be a wash, or only slightly more expensive. A freestanding deck will require additional footings, an additional beam and additional bracing. When attaching to the house you will need the ledger board, joist hangers and flashing materials. In Handyguy Brian’s case, four additional footers and posts were needed and one additional beam.

Deck Codes

When building any deck, you should check with your code enforcement officials to determine if a freestanding deck is allowed. Most jurisdictions it is allowed but you should check first.

Deck Performance

“Does it wiggle?” Handyguy Brian’s freestanding deck is still under construction. The framing inspection passed, the deck boards are going down and the cross bracing is installed. There is virtually zero movement of the deck which is about 16’x27′. When the deck boards are installed it will be even more solid.

Check out Brian’s completed freestanding Deck here:


Voles and building a freestanding deck

Paul had a pesky lawn problem this winter. When the snow cover thawed one winter day, Paul noticed that he had a maze of tunnels all over his yard. It look like he had a mole problem. Or was it a vole? Listen to the podcast for details.

13 thoughts on “Building a freestanding deck and dealing with voles

  1. Having a free standing deck may also eliminate the some code or inspection requirements. A free standing deck may be considered a separate structure that is not a building even if it’s only a few inches away from the house. This then may eliminate the need for some permits but check with your local ordinances!

    1. Possibly – In Handyguy Brian’s situation there was a permit needed and three inspections (footers, framing and final). A freestanding deck is a permanent structure and in Brians case required all the same inspections an attached deck required. The only difference was there was no inspection of the house attachment method (because it didn’t exist)

    1. Thanks! I like the faux stone columns on the deck in your video. I was going to do something similar but I wanted them to align with the posts below and continue the stone to the footing. That would have require a lot more $$$ as well as different engineering of the substructure. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  2. I had hoped you would go into more detail on the voles in the article, but I suppose there’s nothing wrong with an excuse to listen to the podcast when I have the time. I’ve been talking to people about voles and other pests a lot lately. Burrowing little things can create bad water pathways to the house foundation, which is my personal business. I look forward to learning something new I can pass on to other people.

  3. Greetings from Idaho! I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.

    I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .

    . Anyhow, wonderful blog!

  4. My husband is outside now cleaning our Ipe deck, and will oil it this week, weather permitting. Haven’t you found the deck to be VERY hot during summer?

  5. Just wondering, were the footings by the house placed at the level of the footings of the foundation. I think the code requires any footing closer than 5 feet to be at the level of the footing of the foundation. How did you get around that?


    1. The code in the area where the deck was built required footings to be at 48″ deep and in undisturbed soil as I recall. This just happened to be at a similar depth to the house’s footings, perhaps even below. The holes were inspected and signed off on before concrete was poured. I would check with, and follow, local code inspectors requirements. The requirements can even vary from township to township.

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