Cost effective use of decking

Hello,
I'm in the process of rebuilding an old deck and will be ready for decking lumber very soon. The deck is 16' X 20' with the 20' dimension running parallel to the house, as the joists run perpendicular to it. There will be two (possibly 3) steps of the same length that go out to the yard. These aren't going to be typical steps built with stringers, but rather more along the lines of two rectangular platforms approximately 20' X 12" stacked one on top of the other thereby creating open steps. The ends where the deck meets the steps will be angled out as well with railings only on the sides of the deck and the angled portion of the steps. Seeing as the deck height is in the range of around 20" + or -, the idea is to have the steps spill out into the yard.
With that in mind, I'm trying to determine the most effective size decking to buy. Unless I've miscalculated, I believe that I'm looking for 320 sq. ft. of decking for the deck itself with another 40 sq. ft. for both steps combined. Add in some waste etc., so I've been looking at 400 sq. ft. in total.
Ideally, I could buy 20' long deck boards in either 1 X 4" or 1 X 6" and cover the entire area without having any butt joints. However, due to both transportation issues and the higher cost of 20' long boards, it seems more likely that I should go with shorter length boards. The question being, what's the best length boards to use? Is there some way to calculate this? I realize that there are all kinds of options with regard to the length of the boards as long as they cover the area in question. For example, if I used 10' long boards, then I would have to stagger the seams somewhat similar to how hardwood flooring is done. I'm just trying to learn the best way to go about doing so.
On a similar note, I've been contemplating using hidden deck fasteners. The ones that I've seen that screw in from the top don't interest me. Most of them drive the screw in at an angle or require either slotted decking or the use of a tool to create the slot. That leaves me wondering how one would go about replacing a deck board should the need arise? I suppose that top driven screws and plugs would do the job in that case without too much cosmetic difference. Then there are the undermount track type. Any feedback on either style would be appreciated.
BTW, I'm also planning on using the Grace Vycor deck protector product. The problem that I've encountered is that most of the places that I've checked either don't carry it or only carry the 9" size. Mail order adds too much shipping to the cost. Does anyone have a source for it in CT?
Thanks in advance for reading this and to those who post a reply to the group.
Peter.
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On 7/25/11 11:44 PM, Peter Bogiatzidis wrote:

If it'll work with the joists use 8' boards, 2x8' + 1x4' == 20'. Stagger the 4' onto the next rows, literally no waste. Maybe? :-)
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Peter Bogiatzidis wrote:

You could use 12' and 8', halving some of each to pread out the butts.
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I just finished nailing (Stanley Bostich Pneumatic; 4" coated nails) the first of a couple dozen 1 x 6 x 8 foot deck boards onto my new 12 x 16 ft deck. I noticed that the 8 ft boards cold be laid end to end to cover six inches by sixteen feet but that, because they were not a consistent length, trimming would be required. Nail them all down, snap a line and trim to the outside edge is the usual route.
But I also noticed that, in my case, if I tacked a two by six to the "center joist" and laid the eight-footers on the joists "butt up" against this raised (one-inch) sister and nailed them all down, I could eliminate the need to trim the decking boards on the left side of the deck - they all lined up nicely w/o any overhanging.
As I surveyed the result, I noticed that the "sister" I'd placed as a guide, with it's top surface level with the decking boards, looked rather nice and divided the deck neatly as well as guiding the installation of the decking on the left side.
So, I decided to incorporate it (the guide 2 by) into the design and, after sister'ing on another joist piece to receive the left edges of the deck boards on the right side of the (16ft-wide) deck with the raised two-by serving again as a guide.
Essentially turning the design into two eight by twelve sections (appearance-wise) and allowing me to best utilize the twenty-odd 1 x 6 x 8 foot deck boards I'd gotten as part of a Cull Lumber bundle at Lowes for 75% of list and finish the deck with cheaper eight-foot deck boards.
I used Cull Lumber to build the entire deck and cull concrete (half- price) to set the piers. I had to cut a couple of 2 x 12's in half to get enough 2 x 6 x 12 joists and one to get one of the 16 ft beams. Looks like I cut about 25% off the cost of materials with the cull lumber purchases only three of the boards could not be used at full- length and will be used for stair treads I suspect.
/ raised "sister" center joist __----__ sister joist
I plan to add two by eights as trim boards raised to the level of the deck boards at the circumference of the deck. I thought this, with the addition of that "raised sister" down the center would improve the appearance and not hurt the structure at all. In fact, as I think about it, this is "standard."
But, I will say that, using 1 x 6 deck boards is a bit of a waste of money as the price difference between them and 2 x 6 lumber is inconsequential relative to the additional amount of wood and strength you get with the latter sized boards.
I built my other deck with two-by decking and have no regrets. This time, the Cull Lumber cost was a more significant factor.
I have a patio door leading out to the deck that was poorly installed by the previous owner and had to be removed and re-framed. It is a brick over frame house and the fool jury-rigged the installation - down to putting the slider opening on the wrong side. We had to flip the frame and door, re-frame the opening and install brick mold and a sill plate over the exposed cut brick (he had replaced a window with a sliding glass patio door cutting the brick with a brick saw left, right and bottom,
When we reset the door as per "standards" to conform to the other window and door openings (as to set-back, brick mold, etc.) it left exposed cut brick at the bottom of the door. Hardly a "proper sill."
I took one of those composite deck boards and ran it (bottom side up) through my planer on a sled elevated a half-inch on one side to create a (triangular) shape (profile?) that would mate neatly to the bottom of the slider frame and slope nicely to the outside. I might have been able to cut up a six-foot wide aluminum door sill to fit to and around the slider, but I hoped this composite sill would serve as well. I'll see. Proud of that jury-rig!
As to the calculation of the number and lengths of boards to purchase, don't forget the labor, or the fact that the boards are seldom true to the nominal dimensions listed and that the cost per square foot varies with the length(s) - not sure of it works out to be costlier to buy longer boards than shorter.
But you should be able to use my approach and plank the thing entirely with ten-footers.
Note that, you need to trim the two boards (or three if you use four- inch wide stock) closest to the house before nailing them down as the saw can't get close enough to the building wall to cut the last few inches of decking. I'm laying those first, establishing the edge, then using a chalk line to establish a cut line for the rest of the boards and trim them all in one fell swoop.
Hope this proves helpful
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