How to Picture Frame a Deck

My Home Handyman Deck

Written by My Home Handyman

July 14, 2022

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When we think of decks, it is safe to say that most of us picture something with steps and railings. But that is just one of many different deck styles. Another type, known as a picture frame deck, is a bit simpler to construct.

A picture frame deck is named that way due to the frame around the infill deck boards. It gives the deck a nice, finished look all the way around.

Step 1: The Tools for the Job

Any good job starts with the right tools for the job. You will need safety glasses, a power mitre or circular saw, a cordless driver, measuring tape, a carpenter square, a cordless drill, exterior-grade construction screws, and other recommended fasteners. The good news is that most of these items are standard in the carpenter’s workshop. If you don’t have some of these items, it doesn’t hurt to pick them up, as they are valuable items in any workshop. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions; they should have a list of the tools required to perform the installation effectively.

Step 2: Install Blocking

Start by blocking in the picture frame whenever a deck board runs in the same direction as one of the joists; additional joists or blocking will need to be installed to ensure that the existing substructure has the necessary support. It must also be fastened to the deck boards accordingly.

Framing and blocking should be level across the tops of the existing frame members. They should also be attached using exterior-grade screws. It is imperative that you do not use nails instead. Finally, ensure they are installed at 16″ on center at a maximum. Consider installing joist/blocking at 12″ on center to give the entire thing a more rigid feel.

Step 3: Cut the Frame

Now it is time to cut out the boards for the frame. You can use a circular or mitre saw to cut the deck boards. For any notching around rail posts, a fine-tooth jig saw is recommended for greater accuracy.

You must cut each board one at a time and use the proper blade and saw. Make sure that your cuts are at a 45-degree angle. For the individual boards, make sure that you measure and cut to length. Depending on the board, you can use a mitre saw with a sliding compound.

When you make your cuts, make sure to measure twice for accuracy. The last thing you want to do is rush through it all, only to find that you have mismeasured along the way. Patience and measurements are your friends in DIY installations like this.

Step 4: Fastening the Frame

With the pieces to your picture frame cut and ready to go, it is time to fasten everything together. Remember, you don’t want to use nails for this purpose. Go with exterior-grade screws, using a cordless drill and a tap driver bit to help you along the way.

Start by laying the boards out and spacing out your fasteners. Let the picture frame border boards hang roughly ¾” outside the wood ring joist. Depending on the kind of boards you use, you should be left with roughly ¼” of an overhang of the frame border.

For every deck board, you should need roughly three screws. Make sure they are evenly spaced on both sides of the mitre, ensuring that mitres are tight before you begin the fastening process. There is no pre-drilling required; fasten along the mitered edge on each frame side within roughly ½” of the edge.

Finally, it is time to fasten. If you don’t use a rim joist, the border board can be flush to the rim. It can also hang over roughly ¾” depending on whether you use a fascia. Because most standard boards are roughly ½” thick, you should have around ¼” overhang of your frame.

Step 5: Fasten Infill Deck Boards

It is now time to fill in the picture frame. The process is much the same as fastening the picture frame border. Start by laying and securing boards at the perimeter of your deck, measuring the length between the picture frame boards.

Each of your end infill boards will require a pair of screws, both within ½” of the ends. Continue working from the outer edges of the infill boards, fastening no more than ¾” from the edges. With the border in place, the infill should go smoothly and quickly. Be sure to drill the screws just below the surface of the boards; you do not want the head of the screws sticking out above the surface.

Step 6: Keep Your Deck Looking Great

With the boards installed, you have the option of staining or painting the boards any colour that you wish. Just make sure that you choose an option that includes a sealer. That sealant is vital for protecting your deck for the long term.

Depending on which sealant or stain you use, you may have to reapply in the spring and right before winter. This will help to keep the quality of the deck protected, ensuring that it looks its best, doesn’t splinter, and will last a long time to come.

My Home Handyman deck with pergola

Keeping your deck free of debris, spills, and dirt is also essential. You can leave your deck looking its best with a bit of basic cleaning and the right deck cleaner. Make sure to follow manufacturer instructions when using a cleaner, though. Knowing what kind of brush to use is also important because some stiffer brushes can scratch and chip the surface of your boards. With a bit of tender, loving care, you can have the best-looking picture frame deck around.

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