If you build a deck big enough for fifty people, it has to be strong enough for fifty people. When are you ever going to get fifty people on your deck? Weddings and anniversaries, graduations, and of course that open house to celebrate the completion of the new deck! (Ever check online for deck collapse? Weddings and anniversaries, graduations…)
Your deck isn’t really the place for ‘Good Enough’ carpentry. So knowing that the codes require a strong deck for a reason (it’s the cheapest you are legally allowed to build), how do you make sure that your deck will be built to last? Simply put: design it right and then build it right. If you are doing something more complicated than a square deck, get it engineered; cantilevers, multi-level decks, integrated pergolas, all create beautiful and interesting complications. If you’re attaching it to your house and your home has bump outs (cantilevered floor joists), get it engineered. If you’re using a deck plan, make sure that the plans are recent and meet the local codes (the snow is a bigger factor here in Calgary than in San Diego!). Every deck is different and codes are constantly changing. I picked up deck building books for sale at the big box stores, and have reviewed the online plans available from wood producers and their trade organizations; all provide instructions that have been out of practice for decades!
Egbert Jager, BSc PHI
Professional Home Inspector