I forgot the footings!

Old 07-18-22, 05:29 AM
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Exclamation I forgot the footings!

Don't ask me why, but I thought I'd build a 10x10 deck with no footers at all, just 4 4x4 posts set in packed gravel, sunk beneath the frost line. So I've already dug the holes, tamped some gravel in the bottom, plumbed the posts, set the beams, installed K-braces, and even hung the first few joists so the whole structure is now pretty self-stable, square, and level. Now that this whole framework is erect and sitting in empty holes waiting to be filled with gravel, I've finally started to worry that these skinny little legs don't have enough surface contact with the Earth to resist sinking under the weight of the completed deck I feel like a doofus, but want to know if there's any way to save this project without completely dismantling everything I've already built? If you were me, what would you do?:
1. Take it all apart, install proper footers, and rebuild.
2. Somehow dig beneath the existing posts and install footers under them?
3. Pour concrete in the existing holes, AROUND the posts (sloping the top of the concrete to shed water away from the post)?
4. Leave it how it is. The tamped gravel base will likely resist settling?

I'm obviously hoping #4 is the way to go, saving labor and embarrassment, but please tell me what you think. Thanks in advance for your guidance.
Old 07-18-22, 06:05 AM
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I would do choice #3.
Last year helped friend of mine install a barn extension. Large heavy roof and sides. No floor, just ground. All he did was sink poles deep in the ground with crushed stone and cement.
As long as you're below the frost line I think you'll be OK. Not too much different than a fence post. It's a deck not a room in a house.
Old 07-18-22, 06:30 AM
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I would cut your legs off flush with the ground. Move the deck out of the way. Then construct footers/piers with brackets to accept the 4x4 of your newly built deck. Then move the deck back into position and place it over the new footers.
rufusdoofus voted this post useful.
Old 07-18-22, 07:47 AM
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Norm201: Thanks for your quick reply. The difference I see between a deck and a fence is that a deck has the added variable stress of a very active load (people moving around), and also that these people could get injured in case of failure. No one's going to be walking on my fence, and therefore no one will get hurt if it collapses. Are you confident that the concrete around the posts will adequately protect the deck-goers? (I guess your barn-building friend must be pretty confident.) I'm asking because I really want to know what you think.

Pilot Dane: Thanks for your quick reply. Are you concerned the legs will sink, as I am, or do you have other concerns? Would you mind sharing why you wouldn't just pour concrete around the posts? I'm not challenging your expertise, just want to understand the process better.

Thanks again, y'all
Old 07-18-22, 08:19 AM
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The deck should not see that much stress. It's not like your putting an appliances on it. Unless you palne on putting a hot tub I don't think you should worry. A fence takes a lot more stress than you may think. Wind being the main factor, and frost. Will the header board be attached to the main house structure?
I say this only because you already have the holes dug. Again if you are below frost level and the post are concreted, I don't think you'll have a problem.
I'm not saying what PD is suggesting is wrong. Just that what you have already done should be OK. Does the local codes demand a footer? Did you get permits?
Old 07-18-22, 09:41 AM
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I would be more concerned about the post rotting in the ground. I built in dry soils in the Colorado mountains sinking redwood posts in the ground with concrete around the bottom three feet of the posts. Then later dug them up finding the redwood above the concrete completely rotted. Changed my thinking about burying posts.
Old 07-18-22, 10:02 AM
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All post will rot at ground level. But there are things to delay it that can be done.
Just happened to talk to my friend with the barn attachment. He agrees that a footer for a deck is not necessary. In fact I have never seen a deck built with a footer. Now if it's attached to the house and could be used or made into a room, tyhen yes a footer is a must. But not fao a deck.
Old 07-18-22, 10:17 AM
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Question - what sort of gravel? Is it 'clean' gravel with gaps, or does it have stone dust?

My 2 would be- you've already got the gravel in place, now add sand plus cement or lime to make concrete.
I'd start by adding sand to the gravel, then mix up a very wet mix of lime or cement and pour that into the hole of existing gravel, effectively filling in the gaps between the gravel to create after-the-fact concrete.
I'd actually go a little heavy on the lime, because that tends to be 'sticky' and adhere to everything, AND it helps soak up water.
Old 07-18-22, 10:20 AM
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I like to put a footer [more or less] under the deck posts. That way the bottom of the posts will be above grade and last longer. concreting the posts in will work. I think a lot depends on how long you expect the deck to last.
Old 07-18-22, 11:56 AM
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I do hybrid, for a 48" depth requirement I put in a 12" cement pier with a few pieces of rebar, then set the post on that and fill with dry cement. If the post ever needs to be replaced that dry cement is easy to bust up and only being 36" deep it is relatively easy to get out!

And my 2 cents, I'd install something, your not that far along that it's a PITA but not monumental task and just chalk it up to experience!
Old 07-18-22, 04:54 PM
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I didn't see anywhere you said that the deck is attached to anything, is it free-standing? What kind of soil do you have? Sand? Clay?

In my area (Minnesota) pole sheds are built on posts put into the ground sitting on concrete "cookies" with the cookies below the frost line.

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