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How to Build an Outdoor Deck Around a Tree?

Monday, January 15, 2024

Trees can provide you with cool shade on a hot day. The sound of the wind blowing the leaves can make you forget your worries. But only trees aren’t enough to make you enjoy the outdoors better. A proper outdoor deck allows you to gather on the deck and chat with your family. So, when you have a tree in your yard, how do we build a deck around it?

Why Build a Deck Around a Tree?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting on a porch surrounded by tall trees. You’ll know why building a tree deck is a good idea. Many appraisers will say that big trees make a house worth more. Your friends and neighbors will be jealous of your new deck with big trees that stick straight up into the sky. They may have to put up shade sails to stay cool on hot summer days, but you get the shade for free.

Removing a large tree may also be too expensive. Instead of spending your money elsewhere, why not use it to build a deck that you will love? A deck around a big tree will bring you more joy than you can imagine.


Things to Consider Before Building a Deck Around a Tree

Building a deck around a tree requires a lot of advance planning. First, you should talk to a qualified arborist in your area who has experience evaluating trees. When building a deck around a tree, you should consult with a professional about the following:

  • Is the tree in good condition?
  • How close are the deck support piers to the trunk?
  • How much does the tree grow in diameter each year?
  • What should be done to keep the tree healthy over time?

Types of Trees

There are a wide variety of tree species, and some can be difficult to grow. The type of tree that grows on your new deck doesn’t seem to matter. For example, some evergreens release sap at certain times of the year. The sap drips onto the grass beneath the tree, so you may not have seen this before. But it’s a safe bet that this sticky sap will show up on deck furniture, pillows, boards, and handrails. This sap can cause problems, so check with your landscaper about which evergreen trees you should avoid.

Other types of trees can be equally harmful. Trees such as ginkgo trees, Bradford pears, privet trees, and trees of paradise give off unpleasant odors at certain times of the year.

Some trees leave behind trash. With the slightest breeze, they drop twigs and other things. Now this is not a big deal when it happens on your lawn. But having to sweep or clean your deck a couple of times a week can quickly become tiresome. Ask this question again when you meet with your arborist.


Trees Grow Over Time

Every tree grows and becomes larger in diameter over time. You need to understand how fast trees grow simply because you need to install framing at the bottom of your deck so that you can easily make the hole larger if necessary to accommodate the trunk’s growing girth over time.

You should also be aware of swaying. When the wind is blowing, trees can sway a lot. As long as your deck is 2 or 3 feet taller than the tree, you won’t have a problem. Trees that are low to the ground don’t sway from side to side.

But some trees move and bend more easily, and when it rains, they may hit or rub against a deck that is higher off the ground. Keep tree sway in mind when planning your deck. If you don’t know how to measure it, ask an expert for advice.

Tree Roots

Tree roots are not all the same. You can expect your arborist to discuss this in depth. For example, giant pin oak trees have mostly small roots. Even if a lot of these roots are cut down, the tree survives and grows.

But this is not always the case with beech trees. They have a lot of very sensitive roots, and if you touch too many of them under the drip line, it can cause the tree to die.

It’s a good idea to have a plan for your deck before an arborist comes to look at your trees. Mark the center of each abutment you’ll build to support the posts of your deck by inserting small wooden posts or flags in the ground under the tree. Use chalk or spray paint to mark the width of the piers, usually two feet. Your arborist will let you know immediately if there are any questions.


Long-term Effects on Trees

In most cases, building a deck around a tree will not cause any significant long-term impact. Rainwater can still seep through the cracks in the deck and fall to the ground below. Therefore, care must be taken when using deck cleaners in the future.

Never use chlorine bleach if you are cleaning a deck around a tree. Look at what it says on the cleaning supplies. Stay away from anything that contains sodium hypochlorite, which is the chemical name for chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach can harm trees over time, causing them to slowly die.

Certified organic oxygenated bleach is the best choice for cleaning decks and stairs. Bleach made from oxygen will not harm decks or trees. In fact, it makes the dirt around the tree roots healthier by increasing oxygen.


How to Build a Deck Around a Tree

Building a deck around a tree in your garden is basically the same as any other deck. The only difference is that you will need to do some special framing to build a support frame around the tree. The rest of the steps are the same. Don’t forget that you should never attach the deck frame to the tree. The tree and the new deck should never touch each other.

Materials and Tools

To build this deck, you will need to have some materials and tools on hand. As with any other deck, here is the list:

Anchor bolts
Post bases
Through bolts
Support columns
Beam material
Joist hangers
Structural screws for hangers
Joist material
Decking material
Stair and Handrail material
Special Deck Post hardware and through bolts
Flashing for the ledger board
Shovels, picks, spud bars, and post-hole diggers
Garden hose
Builder’s level, transit, or laser level
Ladders and/or pipe scaffolding
Assorted levels
Hammers, ratchets, sockets, open-end wrenches
Gloves and safety glasses
Knee Pads
Circular, reciprocating, and miter saws
Hand saws
Belt sander
Cordless drills, drivers, and assorted bits
Chalk line
Framing square
Carpenter pencils
Sawhorses or portable workbenches
Job-site table saw

Step 1: Look at the Tree

Review the notes from your meeting with the arborist to make sure you won’t harm the trees. If there are any hazardous areas or places where the arborist told you not to dig, mark the ground with a line. If the arborist told you to cut down some branches, start with the branches that are easily accessible on the ground.

Once the deck is built, you can almost always build steps up to the deck. This will allow you to trim branches that are high up. Don’t reach for branches that could fall and knock you off the ladder.

Step 2: Make a Deck Plan

You should have a deck plan in place before you even meet with your landscaper. Perhaps his suggestions should be changed in one or two areas. The most important part of the plan is how to make a box or octagon shape that grows around the trunk and is easy to change. All joist hangers should be attached with structural screws so that they can be easily removed in a few years when the hole around the tree needs to get bigger. This should be written into the plan.

Having a plan for 20 years from now is a good idea. The long joists 3 or 4 feet away from the tree may be split because as the tree grows they may become beams that support the box that surrounds the tree. It’s easier to add this extra framing now than when the house is still being built.


Step 3: Plan and Prepare Deck Foundation Piers

Build the deck foundation piers the same way you would build a regular deck. Do not fill in the ground under the tree. The arborist will likely tell you this during the inspection.

Step 4: Punching Holes for the Struts

Digging holes for deck piers can be difficult due to the presence of tree roots. It’s easy to cut through roots using a rotary saw with a removable blade. If the saw blade comes in contact with the dirt around the roots, it should not cause any damage to the roots.

To dig through hard soil, you may need to use a rotary hammer drill with a larger flat miniature shovel spade. These tools look like small hand hammers, and the flat spade head can quickly break up large chunks of clay.

Step 5: Measure, Cut and Place Posts

You can use a building level, transit tool, or laser level to determine the height of your support columns. For best results, use 6×6 posts. and cut an L-shape at the top of each post so the deck support beams will fit into the notches. Do not attach the beams to the sides of the posts so that the weight above the deck falls on the two small semicircles of the bolts inserted into the support posts.

To attach support posts to concrete deck piers, always use approved metal post bases. The tops of the struts should be at least 4 inches above the ground.


Step 6: Ledger Boards

The beams that support the deck joists along the side of the house are called ledger boards.

Through bolts, not square head bolts must be used to attach the ledger board to the house. The ledger board should also be properly flashed to prevent water from entering the ledger board and causing damage to the ledger board.

In order for the flashing to cover the front of the ledger boards, the top of the deck joists should have a small 1.5-inch triangular fire cut. Make sure the flashing has a kick so that any water that falls on it will fall to the ground below.

Auxiliary flashing must be installed on the walls of the house before attaching the ledge. This flashing covers the brick or siding of the house to prevent water from entering the beams and walls.

To ensure that the deck does not come away from the house, special metal connectors should also be installed and attached to the deck joists using bolts.

Step 7: Install the Deck’s Framing and Joists

It’s best to install the deck’s exterior framing first and align it. Then install temporary diagonal braces to keep them level while the joists are installed.


Step 8: Build a Frame Around the Tree

A frame must be made around the tree to give it at least five years of growth. You will most likely need to add 2×6 horizontal joists to turn the square box into an octagon. Since most people won’t be standing right next to the tree, the decorative boards can overhang by one to two inches. There’s about 9 to 12 inches of space between their feet and the trunk.

Afterward, this platform can be cut down each year as the tree grows. Be sure to leave at least an inch of space between the trunk and the platform.

The box’s joist hooks should be secured with structural screws. This makes it easy to remove the box and keep adding to it as the tree grows. As mentioned earlier, make sure that the main deck joists are away from the trees so that they will be able to withstand the beams that will make the boxes larger in the future.

Step 9: Install the Deck Boards

Deck boards are easy to install. Read the instructions that came with the decking materials. For a more professional look, cut an irregular shape in the trim boards to match the outside diameter of the trunk.

Use a jigsaw to follow the line you drew on the wood. Again, make sure there is at least an inch of space between the trunk and the trim board. You may need to leave more space between them if you think the tree will sway in strong winds.

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