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The Many Advantages of Picture Framing a Deck

The Many Advantages of Picture Framing a Deck
The Many Advantages of Picture Framing a Deck

Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2019
By: Sequoia Supply
Categories: Composite Decking  |  Deck Construction

Modern deck building techniques continue to evolve and improve as builders, designers, and decking manufacturers continue to evolve, grow, seek improvement, and challenge the boundaries. In past years, people were happy with a traditional wood deck where all of the deck boards ran in one direction perpendicular to the underlying joist. A builder would simply let the deck boards run long over the rim joist while installing, then cut all of the deck boards at one time with a circular saw. Done!

This method would always leave the cut ends of the deck boards exposed. As outdoor-living tastes became refined in a growing urban (and Pinterest) environment, this method – albeit fully functional – became largely undesirable and seemingly unsightly to be staring at the ghastly cut end-grain of the decking. To alleviate the perceived ugliness, deck builders began installing a decorative fascia board over the outside rim joist that was flush with the top of the deck, thereby covering the end grain of the deck boards. Great solution, right? Now everyone is happy. Not so much.

bad deck design 

Solving one problem that was merely visual, created a much great problem that was very material and resulted in premature deterioration of decking, the rim joist below, and even the railing posts. Dirt and debris that gathers on every deck throughout the year gets trapped in the gap between the end of the deck boards and the decorative fascia board, sitting on top of the rim joist, and has nowhere to go. Over time, if not power washed out, the debris begins to rot and grow mold and does its damage to the deck structure while making the decking look downright nasty.




A properly-designed deck surface provides solutions to shed the debris. Adequate gapping between the decking boards along their length allows gathered debris to wash off of the surface and fall through the gaps when the deck is hosed off or during rain storms. But what’s the answer for those cut ends over the rim joist?


picture framed deck 

Installing a border deck board around the outside of a deck is known as "picture framing". This technique adds interest to an otherwise ordinary job and can elevate an already-great deck to another level. The most effective and dramatic picture frames come with modern composite decking when a different complimentary board color is used compared to the field deck boards. This method of decking is not particularly difficult to do, but does require some forethought and advance planning.



Picture-framed decks need to be framed somewhat differently than standard decks. Remember the basics:

  1. Deck boards cannot run parallel to their supporting framing. 
  2. The end of every piece of decking needs to be supported by framing. 

Picture-frame boards that run parallel to the joists require blocking between the joists, spaced the same as the joists (usually 16" on center).

In its simplest form, a picture frame can be a single board around the edge of the deck. While this may lack visual impact, it's certainly a more refined look than leaving the ends of the field boards exposed. In most cases a double or triple perimeter board is used for maximum visual impact.




Aesthetics – Quite simply, it just looks better. It’s more visually appealing which should, alone, merit the additional effort required. Picture framing also highlights areas of interest, such as a fire pit or a tree growing up through the deck, and it's great for defining places set aside for a specific use, like seating areas, grilling spaces, and outdoor kitchens. The mitered corners are particularly attractive, especially on the stairs leading up to the deck.

Safety – Having a picture-framed deck adds safety to your deck as well. Yes, it’s true. The picture-frame deck boards call visual attention to stairs and deck edges, especially for the visually impaired (whether that’s a result of bad genetics or too much tequila).

Functionality – Remember, we must shed the debris! Perimeter picture-frame deck boards overlap the outside rim joist and any decorative fascia board. The width of only one picture frame deck board (5-1/2”) will span the thickness of even a double rim joist (3”) plus a decorative fascia board (3/4”), thereby protecting them from any gathering of debris or exposure to the elements. All debris will simply wash away over the edge of the deck and through the gaps between deck boards.

[Source: Deck Magazine. Photos: Trex, Azek, Zuri]

Tagged:Composite Decks, Decks, Deck Building, Deck Design

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