Proper Deck Board Spacing

When you’re figuring out decking the number one concern for most people is what kind of wood to use. But what you may need to focus on first is the spacing between the deck boards. Here’s why these small gaps have a big affect on your deck and tips for getting them just right.

Outdoor Deck

Structural Integrity

Rot – Deck boards that are spaced too tightly together are more likely to trap dirt, debris and moisture, which is the perfect mixture for making rot.

Water Drainage – Adequate gaps are needed for water drainage. Without it rot is more likely, mold can build up easily and slick boards can become hazardous.

More Boards – Decking that is spaced closer together will have more boards. This will add to the overall weight but provide a little more structural integrity.

Safety Concerns

Fire Control – Deck boards that are widely spaced will spread fire more quickly. Wider gaps permit more airflow, which feeds fire, and it also more likely to catch embers.

Falling Through the Cracks – Walking across a deck can prove hazardous if board spacing is too wide. Women’s heels, people’s toes, small paws and more can slip through and cause an injury.

Tools and Tips for Proper Deck Board Spacing

Dry vs. Wet Wood – If your wood is damp during installation place the boards closer together since they’ll shrink once they dry. If wood is completely dry when you nail or screw it down it’s likely to stay that way. Plan accordingly based on how dry your decking is.

Give it Dry Time – If you have the time and a place to keep the wood out of the elements, give it two or three weeks to dry out before installing.

The Sweet Spot – Most people agree that 3/16” is a good gap between boards. Going more than a ¼” may get a little too wide. The width of a nail head is just about right.

Treated Lumber – Usually treated lumber will have some shrinkage so you can butt the boards almost right against each other during installation.

Composites Composite deck boards will have basically no shrinkage so they need to be spaced with gaps from the get go.

Make Space in Moist Areas – If you live where there is a fair amount of moisture in the air the boards will swell. Account for this in the spacing by giving it a little more room between boards.

Make Your Own Jig – A homemade jig can make spacing a lot easier and more uniform across the deck. There are also plenty of jig options if you prefer to buy one.

Spacers – Individual spacers are a simple way to create a good size gaps between boards. Before nailing or screwing boards down, lay out a section putting spacers between each board.

Getting the board spacing right the first time can save you the hassle of having to pull the boards up later, or live with gaps that are too narrow or large in the long run. The tips above will make spacing a snap on your new deck.

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