Free Deck Plans
Free Deck Plans
Choose from hundreds of permit ready designs. Our deck plans include a detailed framing plan, footing layout, material list and typical details. These plans are free to download as pdf files that can be printed to 1/4" - 1' scale on 11x17 paper.

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Installing Composite Decking

It is very important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing composite decking material. Thermal expansion is always something to be aware of when dealing with plastics. Most climates temperatures fluctuate enough to cause an issue with how the decking is spaced from summer to winter. Composite decking is less stable than wood so it tends to grow and shrink across the length of the boards as it heats and cools. Proper spacing will allow some movement without buckling.

Some composite decking materials are designed to be installed with hidden fasteners. These clip systems generally are screwed into to the deck frame across each joist and fit tightly into a cavity running down the side of the boards. 

We recommend using reverse thread screws when face screwing composite decking to eliminate mushrooming. Mushrooming occurs when a standard bugle head screw pulls some composite material above the surface during installation. The resulting raised bump isn’t very attractive. You can also use a hammer to level the surface.

Hollow decking products will leave open ends that aren’t attractive and can collect dirt, leaves, etc. Most hollow decking products sell end caps that can close the ends. Another method involves installing a racetrack or picture frame pattern perimeter to cover the open ends.

Installing Composite Decking

Composite decking is very expensive. Always plan ahead to reduce wasted material. The field deck in this picture is 24' wide with an additional 6" picture frame border. In this case we are staggering the butt joints every 4'. We added double 2x10 joists to support the seams. An alternative is to use a division board and create 2 decking fields.

Make sure you level both joists to the same height and fasten with 4 screws every 12" to support the composite butt joints.
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Leveling the joists is very important to keep the butt joints at the same height. Be sure to use 2 clips on the double joist when using a hidden fasting system. Make sure to gap the butt joint at least 1/8".
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To install composite decking with a hidden fastening system start at the house by face screwing the first board. Next screw a hidden fastener clip into the groove on top of each joist. Then slide the groove of the next board into the clips and tighten with a rubber mallet.
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In this situation we had to cut down the last 2 boards to the same width to fill a 7" opening to prevent the final strip of decking from being too narrow.
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Notch your composite decking material around rail posts. Make sure to leave at least an 1/8" gap for thermal expansion. In this case we will be using a rail sleeve and base trim that will cover the gaps.

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Comments, Questions and Reviews


Is there any construction adhesive that will hold composite decking in case I can''t use normal fasteners.

posted by tom campbell at 6/4/2015 9:55:02 PM

How can I install a gazebo on my composite deck?

posted by spacemac at 4/13/2015 9:10:25 AM

We are building a composite deck in southern California. We are building over ground and we put black plastic with wood chips. Is this a good idea or would you suggest an alternative solution get for ground coverage?

posted by suzanne at 11/18/2014 5:25:48 AM

Is there a rule of thumb for the minimum width to rip the last board of the field? I have about 2 3/8" remaining, and not sure whether to rip the last 2 boards, or if the 2" board is acceptable both structurally and visually. Any opinions are welcome. Thanks, Dave

posted by DBuck at 9/28/2014 7:30:55 PM

I am considering using composit decking with the boads running perpindicular to the house. If using hiddend fasteners how is the last board attached and what hides the groove on the outside?

posted by rich at 8/26/2014 1:55:43 PM

You will have to change the direction of your framing. Most composite decking brands also offer a radius edge board for perimeters and borders.

posted by mike at 8/27/2014 9:06:29 AM

I am using composite decking with diagonal installation. I want to use hidden fasteners in the installation. Can they be used in this application? Are there any special considerations which I should be aware of? I am a weekend DIYer and not a carpenter. Thanks Rod

posted by the380rod at 4/19/2014 8:56:48 AM

There are hidden decking fasteners that work with 45 degree angles. Many different brands of decking have their own fastener systems.

posted by mike at 4/21/2014 9:20:34 AM

hi there i am building a plastic decking size 130 ins by 160 ins and i have got some decking boards lengh are 112 ins by 6 ins can you tell me how would you size the frame

posted by bigdazpaddy at 3/17/2014 1:47:18 PM

You may want to install the decking diagonally at a 45 degree angle and stagger the seams for the best appearance. Make sure your joists are installed at 12" on center.

posted by mike at 3/18/2014 9:29:48 AM