Advice on making deck joists level

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Old 12-14-13, 10:41 AM
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Advice on making deck joists level

First time deck builder here. I leveled the joists at the ledger and attempted to sequence the boards according to size before I installed but I still have a bit of a rollercoaster going on where the joists sit on the beam. Doing some research on the ol' internet I have seen some people use composite shims and other notch the joists of the bigger boards in an effort to get things leveled out.

My question - what is the best way to get the joists level? I'm installing composite decking and the joists are 2x10's spaced 12". Deck is 32' by 10'

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-14-13, 11:45 AM
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Lesson learned for a first timer who probably picked the boards out themselves. All boards are not created equal.....Measure as you pick from the pallet.

I would measure each board, and mark it both for size and crown up. Note that the same board can have multiple measurements across, so measure at the ledger, beam and rim. Arrange from smallest to largest so that you have a consistant gentle rise as you go.

Or you can notch the larger ones with a chisel as you go and before you nail them off.
 
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Old 12-14-13, 12:09 PM
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In addition, after you do your best at shimming and/or notching you will probably find that the tops will still not be perfect. Fix this by checking the entire deck surface (perpendicular to the joists) with a long straightedge to identify the high points, and plane those areas down with a power planer. Composite decking will follow every variation in the surface and unless the framing is perfect it will look like ocean waves when ur done.
 
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Old 12-14-13, 01:16 PM
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Yet another rookie question: best method to notch and shim the joists.

How exactly do you notch a joist? Cut the sides and use a chisel?

When shimming the joists do I add the composite shims from either side until the right height and then cut off the excess? Toenail the joist to keep the shims in place?
 
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Old 12-14-13, 01:59 PM
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IMO you are usually better off notching the top of the beam. We're only talking about no more than 1/4" usually. You can usually just slide the joist to the side, make 2 saw cuts, then chisel. Then slide it back to the side until it drops in the notch. Don't remove too much material at one time. Yes, sliding composite shims from each side and one toenail. If you have composite decking scraps you can also make your own flat shims on a table saw (no taper). Make some 1/8, some 3/16, some 1/4".
 
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Old 12-14-13, 02:43 PM
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I'm blown away by these suggestions.
About the best your going to do with wet pressure treated wood is set the joist even with the top of the ledger when installing the hangers, make sure the boards crown side up.
Planning off any of the wood is going to remove some of the pressure treating and leave it more exposed to rotting.
I've built at least 100 decks at least 1/2 used composite lumber using three different brands.
I've never had a callback, and they all look level.
I've never once planed a joist or added shims anyplace.
If a joist is that curved I'd just set it aside and not use it.
I hand pick every piece of wood.
 
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Old 12-14-13, 03:47 PM
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Joe-they are talking about boards of different thickness, not overly curved. I've regularly run into stacks of 2/8's that vary as much as 1/4" from the set expected width (1/8" either way). The OP is using a ledger and a beam (which the wood sits on) and the widths are all different. Notching the beam is perfectly acceptable to level out the variations in width of the joists. There is not a second set of hangers to level with. Maybe reading the question would help.
 
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Old 12-14-13, 05:29 PM
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Beam and floor joist will shrink as they dry out by as much as 1/4, then what?
 
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Old 12-15-13, 01:18 PM
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Any good deck maintenance program should include an annual "look-see," meaning crawling around underneath, looking (closely) for any members that need attention or adjustment. Fasteners and railing post connections, in particular, often loosen up and should be tightened (or replaced). Any differential joist or beam shrinkage can be corrected by appropriate shimming.

I've never enjoyed inspecting decks built too close to the ground, making underside access difficult--just too hard to get a feel for what's going on down there. I suppose it might be possible to slide a large mirror under and then illuminating things with a bright light from above (after sporadic removal/replacement of deck planks), but I've never done it.
 
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