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Expert Tips on Floating Decks: Are They a Good Idea?

April 7, 2023

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Is a floating deck a good idea? Homeowners are right to ask this question! A floating deck isn’t the same as one attached to the home. It also doesn’t have footers like other deck designs and is typically smaller than a custom-made deck.

In turn, a homeowner might review the positives and negatives of a floating deck. Then, they can decide if it’s right for their property. This information can also give you lots to discuss with a deck builder or contractor near you.

is a floating deck a good idea

What Is a Floating Deck Design?

To understand if a floating deck is a good idea, you need first to understand its design! Simply put, a floating deck doesn’t attach to a home as do traditional decks, as said. Also, a floating deck isn’t anchored into the ground with concrete piers.

Instead, a contractor installs specialty blocks during the deck construction process. These blocks hold the deck just above the ground, keeping it level and even.

Is a Floating Deck A Good Idea?

Advantages of a floating deck

There are many advantages to a floating deck, including:

  • Since a floating deck doesn’t attach to a structure, there is less risk of damage to your home.
  • Floating decks are often more affordable than other structures, as there is less construction needed for their installation. Also, a contractor doesn’t need concrete mixes and other materials for a floating deck.
  • Less construction for a floating deck installation also means you can start enjoying your deck sooner than if you choose another design.
  • When a contractor installs a deck with concrete piers, there is a risk of hitting buried pipes or other features. On the other hand, a floating deck eliminates this risk.
  • In many cases, a contractor doesn’t need a permit for a floating deck. This is because they don’t attach to a structure or include buried concrete piers, as said.
  • Floating decks are often easier to construct over uneven or sloping ground.
  • Since a floating deck sits so close to the ground, it’s an excellent choice for anyone who might struggle with stairs.
  • A homeowner can also relocate most floating decks! Since they don’t attach to a house or need buried piers, it’s typically easy to remove and relocate the deck as needed.

Disadvantages of a floating deck

While floating decks offer space for relaxing and entertaining and are affordable to install, they have some drawbacks. The first is that there is a rare chance of a deck getting torn off its blocks during severe storms.

Also, shifting soil can allow the deck to sink or sag in various areas. However, a property owner can usually fix this issue by adjusting the gravel under the deck blocks. Additionally, without a concrete pad under it, weeds can grow under a floating deck. Adding a weed barrier and gravel can help reduce this issue for your deck.

Lastly, note that a floating deck might not offer as much of a return on your investment as an attached deck. Some potential homebuyers might appreciate attached decks more than something freestanding. This doesn’t mean that a floating deck won’t add value to your home. However, it’s vital you keep this in mind if you’re adding a deck specifically to increase property values.

Logistics of a Floating Deck

Does a Floating Deck Need Footings?

The quick answer is no, a floating deck doesn’t require footings poured into the ground. Instead, they use specialty concrete deck blocks that sit on the ground. These blocks, which look like large Lego pieces, have notches along their surface.

To create a floating deck, a contractor typically levels the ground and then installs a weed barrier. Next, they might add gravel to keep soil from shifting. Then, your contractor pushes those blocks into the ground, ensuring they’re secure.

Next, they wedge deck boards into those notches. Once they install those foundation boards, they can attach flooring and other pieces, building the deck from the ground up. All of this is done without concrete footings and other pieces.

Will a Floating Deck Move?

Deck blocks used for floating decks are heavy and typically remain secure. Their notches are also deep enough to keep deck boards in place. In turn, a floating deck is often safe and secure even without poured footings. They are not likely to shift or otherwise come out from under you.

That being said, a property owner can still take apart the deck and move it if desired. Since deck blocks are not attached to a house or poured into the ground, they are movable! However, when put in place and if a contractor constructs the deck properly, they should remain secure.

new floating deck

How Much Weight Can a Floating Deck Hold?

Generally speaking, a floating deck can hold 50 pounds per square foot, or PSF. In turn, you can do some simple math to see how much weight your deck might hold. Measure the length and then width of the deck and multiply those numbers together to get its square footage.

For example, if your deck is 10 feet long and 15 feet wide, you would multiply 10x15. Your deck is then 150 square feet.

Next, multiply that square footage by 50, for how many pounds it holds per square foot. So, for a 150 square foot deck, you would multiply 150x50, which is 7500. In turn, your 10x15 deck should manage 7500 pounds.

However, note that these are just general guidelines and only apply to a well-built deck! Used deck boards, too few blocks, and other poor-quality materials can mean a weaker deck. Also, remember that the deck is weakest in the middle, where it supports most of its own weight.

If you’re thinking of adding a hot tub, fire feature, or other heavy detail to the deck, err on the side of caution. Add more blocks to support those deck boards as needed. Additionally, remember that your PSF weight calculations refer to how much weight the deck can hold in total, not how much it can hold along any one area!

Building a Floating Deck

How do you build a free-floating deck?

Your best choice for building a floating deck is to hire a professional! A trained and experienced contractor ensures a strong installation that lasts.

However, if you want to attempt this project on your own, here are some step-by-step instructions to consider:

  1. First decide if you want to remove some topsoil to create the deck to your desired height. If so, call your city’s building department so they can check for and mark buried pipes and other features. This ensures you avoid damage and physical injury during digging!
  2. Clear the ground where you want to place the deck. This means digging to remove some soil height, as said. If you don’t want to dig a pit for the deck, remove all grass, weeds, rocks, and other debris.
  3. Rake the exposed soil and then tamp it down so it’s level and even. If you don’t have a soil tamper, use your feet or the back of a shovel.
  4. Put down a weed barrier and then cover this with gravel if desired. These simple steps keep the ground under your deck clear of weeds and other growth.
  5. Set your deck blocks ensuring that they are no more than 10 feet apart from the middle of each block. Check that the corner blocks form a square. Also, add more blocks if you’ll be installing heavy features to the deck such as a fire pit.
  6. Ensure the blocks are level by resting a deck board across their top. Adjust any blocks as needed.
  7. To build the deck boards, use pressure-treated 2x8 boards and cut them to size, usually ten feet long. Once in place, you can cut more boards for the outer frame and drill them into place.

How far off the ground should a floating deck be?

Homeowners should decide for themselves the height of their floating deck. However, keep in mind that anything taller than 30 inches usually requires a permit. Also, many areas require decks at that height to have added stairs and railings for safety.

Additionally, consider safety and convenience when planning your deck’s height. The taller the deck, the harder it is to access! If you’ll be moving furniture onto and off the deck regularly, keep it low to the ground. Moreover, a lower deck means less risk of injury if you should fall off it.

On the other hand, some property owners might prefer a taller deck that gives them a better view of the yard. Taller decks can also command more attention and break up the look of your lawn. They also allow for more air circulation under the deck itself, for less risk of water damage.

How do you build a floating deck over grass?

You can build a deck over grass but it’s vital that you protect the wood against moisture damage. One trick is to set down landscape fabric or a weed barrier and cover it with gravel. Two, you can set down flat patio pavers or bricks along the area where you’ll install the deck.

Additionally, if you have the skill and budget, you can create a concrete pad for your floating deck. A concrete pad keeps it protected against moisture damage and provides a level surface for its installation. However, ensure you check with your city’s building department before pouring concrete. Some areas might dictate its thickness and other details before you can install the pad.

adding gravel under a floating deck

Do I need gravel under my floating deck?

The short answer is no, you don’t necessarily need gravel under a floating deck. However, there are many good reasons to consider adding gravel before a deck installation. First, it helps to control grass and weed growth under the deck, as said. Second, it can help level out uneven or sloping ground so your deck doesn’t start to sag.

Also, note that it’s easy to adjust gravel if you notice your deck blocks are not properly aligned. You can take away a few handfuls to lower a block or add a small amount to lift it. This makes deck installation far easier than if you simply placed it on exposed dirt.

The Difference Between a Freestanding and a Floating Deck

In brief, a freestanding and float deck are typically the same thing! Floating decks are called freestanding because they’re not attached to a home. Also, they’re without concrete footings but simply sit on concrete blocks. As such, they’re freestanding and just “float” over the ground.

However, note that some people might mistakenly refer to decks attached to concrete footings as freestanding or floating. Others might confuse elevated decks with a floating deck. In turn, it’s vital you discuss all details with a contractor if you’re hiring someone to install your deck.

Does a Floating Deck Add Value to a Home?

Adding a deck is typically considered one of the best ways to add value to your home! Potential homebuyers appreciate just about any project that expands their living space. Also, a deck provides a safe, secure spot for relaxing and entertaining. They also break up the look of overly large lawns.

In fact, you might see your home’s value increase by about 65% of your deck installation costs. In other words, your home might increase $650 in value for every $1000 you spend on your deck. In addition, you get to enjoy a stunning deck for as long as you own your home!

With this in mind, talk to a property appraiser if you’re thinking of adding a deck to increase property values. They can offer expert advice on what buyers might expect in your neighborhood. They can also suggest the best deck size and material for ensuring maximum return on your investment.

The Deck Builders of Kansas City is happy to help answer the question, is a floating deck a good idea? Hopefully we’ve given you lots of things to consider for your property! Also, if you’re in the area, don’t hesitate to call our deck builders. We can design and install a stunning deck on your property. We also offer expert repairs for existing decks, including rebuilding, sealing, and more.


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