Deck Joist Sizing and Spacing

Joists are the repeated structural members that are used to build a deck frame. The minimum size joist to be used in deck construction is not a stand-alone consideration, and is related to the number of footings and beams that will be installed. In general terms, joists spaced 16 inches on center can span 1.5 times in feet their depth in inches. A 2x8 up to 12 feet; 2x10 to 15 feet and 2x12 to 18 feet. The larger the deck, the larger the joists.  In typical deck construction, with a ledger on one side of the joist and beam on the other, the size of the joists is driven by the size of the deck based on the general maximum spans mentioned above.

For conventional guard rail post installation, bolted to the side of the framing, larger framing will provide for more strength in the rails. For upper level decks 2x10 is recommended as the minimum size to use for strong guard post connections. 2x6 joists should only be used on ground-level decks that do not require, and will not provide for, any guards.  Similar to guards, if stairs are to be hung from the side of an upper-level deck, 2x10 as a minimum is recommended, as it will exceed the depth of the first step.

Joist hangers are used to attach the ends of joists to the face of a beam or a ledger board. If you identify a crown in the board you should always install it upwards. The crown will eventually settle after completing construction and should stiffen in the proper position after drying.

The layout term for joists is “On Center” which is the center to center measurement from one joist to the next. Most decks use 16" on center spacing for joists. Most decking is not strong enough to support longer spans than 16". Some builders reduce joist spacing to 12" on center to strengthen the deck frame or to increase maximum allowable joist spans.

Building - Deck Framing