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How to Install a Floating Deck

May 29, 2024

Floating decks are one of the types of decks that are built on the ground and it is not attached to any housing structure. For this reason, they are also known as freestanding decks, and floating decks are easier to build than standard decks. On the other hand, if the floating deck is no more than 30 inches above the ground, a building permit is not required.

Building a floating deck is relatively simple. It does not require a foundation and can be installed directly on the ground. Or it can be placed on a bed of gravel. Because a floating deck is usually low in height, it also doesn’t require the installation of deck railings or steps.

Floating decks usually don’t require a building permit, though. However, before starting your deck project, check with your local building department to avoid unnecessary hassles. Some areas may have special building codes. Therefore, it is necessary to obtain a permit from your local government before beginning your outdoor deck project.

Floating Decks

Floating decks are easy to build and do not take long. If you have help and have all your tools ready first thing in the morning, you can have your floating deck up before dark. We recommend that you use low-maintenance composite decking boards with matching hidden fasteners. Composite decking can be installed anywhere in your yard and can be assembled quickly.

If you choose the composite decking material, you can use the hidden fasteners and add a step to the floating deck. This may still take a couple of hours to complete. Most decks are attached to the house, but floating decks don’t need to be. Sometimes you can set up a deck chair at the other end of the yard, in the shade of the garden, and relax.

If the deck is not attached to the house, you don’t have to dig very deep frozen footings. This can save hours of hard work. This is especially true in wooded or rocky areas where it is difficult to dig foundations. You can simply bury simple deck footings in the ground.



We designed our floating deck to be easy to build. If you know how to cut boards and set screws, you can build it too. All you need is a circular saw and a drill as power tools. Of course, a sawmill is also useful.

When it comes to the choice of decking material, we recommend that you use strong, durable, low-maintenance composite decking boards. Also, remember to use the hidden fasteners that come with composite decking, which will give your deck a neat, blemish-free appearance.

Of course, you can still use pressure-treated wood and screws. Building a deck with wood is less expensive than composite decking, but it’s important to note that if you choose to build a deck with pressure-treated wood, you’ll need to do regular repair, painting, and sealing work on it.

Here are some things you should know before you start building your floating deck:

  • If the deck is more than 30 inches off the ground, you’ll need a building permit and deck railings.
  • You will also need a building permit if you want to build another type of structure on top of the deck, or if you want to connect the deck to the house.
  • Before digging your deck footings into the ground, call 811 to make sure there aren’t any utilities underground.
  • Also, make sure the deck is at least 4 feet away from the property line.
What is a floating deck|outdoor decking

Tools Required

  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit set
  • Framing square
  • Cordless drill bit set
  • Cordless drill bit set Framing square Hammer
  • Line level
  • Miter saw
  • Safety glasses
  • Miter saw
  • Speed square

Installation Instructions

Step 1: Installing the Beam and Foundation

First, build the foundation quickly and with little digging by laying concrete blocks on top of gravel. Use a level to level from high point to low point.

Then the level needs to be established. Place a mason’s string between the stakes at the high and low points and stretch it. Then, hang the level on the string and move it up and down to make sure it is level.

Step 2: Square up the Beams

To square the beams, measure diagonally and tap one beam forward or backward. Note that the crossbeams on the floating deck are held in place by temporary ties.


Step 3: Installing the Crossbeams

Connect the two posts so they are straight and 9 feet apart.

Place temporary 1×4 stretchers across the ends of the crossbeams so that they hang at the same angle. Then check the angles of the crossbeams to make sure they are straight.

Cut the grass with a shovel to show the location of the gravel pad. Then, move the beams out of the way and cut the sod where the gravel was laid.

Use a string and a level to find the highest and lowest spots. This will give you an idea of how deep to dig and how much gravel to use to level the ground terrace footing blocks.

Tamp the dirt with blocks to create a solid foundation, then lay the stones. Place the blocks, making sure they are level with each other and in all directions. Add dirt or scrape it off if needed.

If you want to stack 4-inch-thick blocks on top of each other, you can glue them together with adhesive or use 8-inch blocks instead. If one side of the site will be more than 2 feet off the ground due to the slope, place it on a 4×4 post instead of a frost base. This will look better and be safer.

Step 4: Attach the Angle

Place the beams across the blocks of the floating deck and align them with each other. Use the same 1×4 stretcher to keep them straight and aligned. If the beams are not flat, put plastic shims between them.

Starting with the joist at the end of each beam, mark where the other joists will be. To prevent composite decking boards from sagging over time, we spaced the 11 joists 12 inches apart. With wood decking, each joist can be spaced 16 inches apart.

Remove the nails holding the boards in place and replace them with metal angles. Nails often crack the boards. Also, this makes it easier to lay the planks. Install one next to each joist point.


Step 5: Cantilever Joists on all Sides

After installing the center and end joists, secure the rim joists. You can use clips or have someone else secure them for you.

Step 6: Add Corner Block Blocking

Place corner blocks between the last two joists to make a strong connection, then nail the rim joists from both sides. Place the two outside joists and the center joist against the metal corners.

The joists should be 10-1/2 inches longer than the beams on one side, but longer than the beams on the other side. When the deck is nearly finished, cut them to exact lengths so as not to tear the last plank.

Attach the planks to the corner blocks with deck screws. To keep the joists straight and the outside joists up, you will need to screw in two rim joists. You will need to remove the second rim joist and reattach it after the joists are trimmed. When you remove the rim joist later, the floor will support the outside joist.

After placing the other joists on the crossbeam, attach them to the crossbeam and rim joist. Add more padding to the outside to make it stronger.

Pick out the center of each joist and place a block between each pair of joists. Make sure the block is 1/2″ from the side of the center mark. Move it from one side to the other so it doesn’t get stuck between the deck planks.


Step 7: Adding Steps

Next, build steps for the floating deck. By using metal angles or 2x4s to suspend stringers from the deck joists, you can eliminate the need for an additional foundation.

Note that the surface of the deck should be no more than 8 inches above the ground you step on. If it’s close, simply level the ground or lay a concrete step. If it’s not close, add another step.

Overhang the stairs by extending the stair crossbeam under the four deck joists. Then, connect the deck joists to the stair stringers with support angles or inexpensive 2×4 dowels.

First, secure the angles or 2×4 wood blocks in place with screws. Then, use nails with higher bending strength to finish the job.

We used 5/4 trim boards. According to the rules, the spacing between the vertical beams of a staircase should not exceed 9 inches. If you are using solid wood, the spacing in between can be 16 inches.

Adding Steps

Step 8: Use Hidden Fasteners

Next, we need to secure the deck using hidden fasteners to give it a neater look. Put the deck planks together. Using hidden fasteners on a floating deck will make the deck look better, but it will take longer to assemble. Once the deck is installed, don’t forget to cut the deck boards so they are flush with the rim joists.

Step 9: Secure the Skirt Boards

Cover the floating deck with skirt boards that match the deck, then screw decorative head screws into the spacers under the surface.


Step 10: Complete the Installation

To complete the look of the floating deck, secure the skirt boards to the sides of the steps with screws. Next, measure, cut, and attach a riser board to the surface of the step.

Set the entire plank aside so that it lines up with the edges of the rim joists. Start with both ends of the plank long. Then, cut them back all at once so that the edges are straight.

Nail four 1/4-inch shims between each pair of planks. After nailing each of the four planks, you should measure the distance from the rim joist and then make any necessary adjustments to the spacing.

Remove the rim joist from the board next to the last board. Then, mark and cut the ends of the joists so that the last deck board lines up with the edge of the rim joist. Place the rim joist back in place and attach the last board.

Nail 1/4-inch spacers cut from treated lumber to the rim joists every 16 inches to prevent water from catching on the joists. Secure the skirt boards with two screws at each gap. Once the skirt board is in place, fasten the trim board to the steps.

On the other hand, we use hidden fasteners to attach the deck boards. You can also use deck screws instead of other types of hidden fasteners. Although it will create a lot of holes, it will save time and money.


Choice of Floating Deck Material

There are many different types of deck trim materials available on the market today. You can choose from a wide range of affordable framing and decking materials for your floating deck:

  • Pressure Treated Lumber. For deck framing and deck boards, this lumber is the cheapest and most durable option.
  • Yellow Pine. Southern yellow pine is a better choice than pressure-treated lumber as far as deck trim materials are concerned. For the most part, this lumber looks better and has fewer knots than regular pressure-treated lumber.
  • Redwood and Cedar. Redwood and cedar are both options for making a deck look better. Although they are considered naturally rot-resistant, they are not as immune as treated wood.
  • Composite decking material: composite decking is made from recycled plastic and wood fibers. It will not rot, warp, or splinter, and does not require regular maintenance and upkeep work.
composite decking boards|floating composite deck

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Floating Deck?

In most cases, building a floating deck does not require a permit and is easy to do. Also, it does not cost much because less material is used. On the other hand, a floating deck may not add as much value to a home as a permanent deck attached to the home.

Will a Floating Deck Make My Home Worth More?

If your floating deck has been carefully designed, it may make your home worth more. However, it is not as valuable as a deck that is permanently attached to your home.

Is a Floating Deck Stable?

A floating deck is safe and stable because it is no more than 30 inches off the ground. Floating decks can even be built on a bed of gravel on the ground.

Related Post

author avatar
Galen Content Writer
Galen is a content creator and decorator with five years of experience designing home decor. In his daily life, Galen is constantly on the lookout for the latest, great examples of house design and further optimizes his solutions. Additionally, he writes articles related to outdoor design, interior design, and architectural decorating materials to help brands build more engaging relationships with their audiences.
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