Spring is quickly approaching and many of you are dreaming about a new deck or porch. Decks can be a fun DIY project if you take your time and understand the basics. The basics start with a good foundation so this article will show you several alternatives to porch and deck footings.
Porch and Deck Footings
Anyone that has used one of these post hole diggers for digging holes for porch, deck or pier footings can tell you that it’s a miserable experience. Not only is it usually impossible to dig the hole unless you’re digging in beach sand but it gets very hard to get down to 4 ft below grade in a small hole because you can’t open the handles wide enough.
So I thought it would be good to quickly review a couple options when it comes to building porch and deck footings for your next new deck or front porch addition. The following are two options we often use when building a new porch or deck.
Over the years people would dig a hole with the post hole digger then insert a cardboard “sono tube” like the one pictured to the right. Typically the base would not be installed. The problem would be if you left the sono tube out in the weather and it rained the hole would sink in and you’d have to start all over. The other problem is the only way to use the base (which is typically required to reduce bearing pressure on the soil) is to dig a very large hole.
Sono tubes are very popular because they are relatively inexpensive and require little in the way of specialized tools or equipment.
Precast Concrete Piers / Footings
Today we’ve got a much better solution! If you already need to dig a large hole to accommodate the large base, then you’re probably already using a large piece of earthwork equipment. If you’re doing that then I say the better solution is to use a precast concrete footing (see the picture below). The precast concrete footings come with a 27″x27″ square base and an overall height of either 48″ or 54″. The beauty here is twofold, one you don’t have to worry about the weather, and two you don’t need a concrete guy! Basically you dig down to the footing depth, level, compact and set the footing. Next all you do is backfill around it and compact it properly.
We use these on all our new homes. They actually are cheaper and much more reliable than the old standby “sono tubes”. I used them for my front farmers porch and my large rear deck of my new home. I haven’t had any settlement problems or other issues. They also come with a threaded insert in the top of the footing that you can put a 1/2″ threaded rod into to use as a shear pin.
So next time you’re putting in footings for a porch, deck or other structure consider using precast concrete footings. Try calling you local precast concrete supplier to see if they carry them. I’m sure you’ll be happy with the results. Also check out this book about Building Decks.
Before you build that new deck or porch this summer be sure to check with your local building officials. Decks and porches must conform to local building codes along with zoning requirements for setbacks from property lines. Each year I hear stories of people building a beautiful new deck or porch and later tearing them down because they haven’t followed the code or zoning. Good luck and enjoy!