Our team is made up of expert decking installers with years of experience in outdoor carpentry. With that experience, some of the lingo specific to our industry comes naturally to us, but we realize it might all sound like Greek to you.

We wanted to give you some of the terms we use on a day-to-day basis as Colorado custom deck builders so that you can feel more confident in your communications with us and can understand a little more about the process of building a deck. Also, we hope this new vocabulary gives you the confidence to be as involved as you would like in the decision-making. Let’s start just like we would when building an actual deck…from the ground up.

Practical Decking Terms To Know Before You Build

(JackRPierce / pixabay)

Footings– Just like we need feet to stand upright, distribute our weight, and prevent us from falling, so do decks. Footings are the crucial, bottom-most part of the deck. Made of concrete, they are either fully buried or partially buried into the ground. The type of concrete footing used and the depth at which it is buried for your particular deck will depend on a few different things like safety codes, soil type, and frost line location in the soil.

Piers– Structures typically made of concrete that are cylinder, pyramid, or cone-shaped and sit on top of the footings to provide extra support, aid in weight distribution, and increase the deck’s stability.

Posts– Consider these the legs of the deck. Posts are either 4ft x 4in, 6ft x 6in, or, in some cases, 8ft x 8in, depending on the size of the deck. They are either stuck all the way into the ground at the time the concrete is poured to make the footings or rest on top of a pier anchor that sits between the footing and the post to protect it from moisture in the ground. Whether your deck posts sit “plumb” in the ground inside the footings or slightly elevated with a post anchor depends on what already exists at ground level where the deck is to be built.

Joists– Similar to studs in a wall, joists are parallel rows of wood that will support the flood of the deck. Once this part of the decking project is complete, the structure really starts to take shape, and it’s easier to see how the finished project will look.

Beams/Girders– To give the joists more support, the beams, or girders, run perpendicular to and sit underneath the joists, attaching joists to post.

Ledger– A horizontal beam used to bolt the deck to the house.

Flashing– Strips of any impenetrable material such as vinyl or metal installed over cracks or joints to prevent water from seeping in.

Fascia– Placed around the perimeter of the joists and beams, the fascia’s main purpose is to conceal the understructure (joists, beams, and hardware) with a more pleasant-looking material.

Decking (Planks, Deck Board)– Decking is the material covering the deck’s surface. It’s what you end up walking or sitting on. Here are a few common types of materials to choose from for your Decking:

1) Pressure-treated wood– Available in varying categories and grades such as Premium, Select, and #1 or #2, this type of wood is easy to find, work with, and replace. Maintenance will include sanding, power washing, and staining. Pressure-treated lumber resists rot, decay, and bug infestation better than non-treated lumber.

2) Heartwood Cedar– A bit higher quality and slightly more expensive than pressure-treated woods, heartwood cedar is also easy to work with and is resistant to the elements. It weathers into a gray color over several years and requires maintenance similar to pressure-treated wood.

3) PVC– A bit pricier than pressure-treated or heartwood cedar lumber, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) decking material has a wider range of color and style options than some of its counterparts. It is a lightweight material with little to no upkeep costs. In the decades of its use, PVC decking has improved in looks and quality, and it provides unbeatable protection against Mother Nature.

4) Composite woods– Referring to any group of materials combined to make a new product, this type of decking material has a wide range of variations and pricing. Composite materials can be made using almost all fully recycled materials, making it environmentally-friendly. Depending on the materials used, composite wood is generally low-maintenance, doesn’t need sanding or refinishing, can be scratch-resistant, and comes in many different colors. A high-quality composite material, such as Trex, can last for decades.

Railing– Also referred to as a guardrail, this is the safety barrier and refers to the entire railing system to include rails, balusters, railing posts and caps. Safety codes dictate height and spacing.

Railing Posts– Larger, vertical posts along the railing that support the railing structure.

Balusters– These are the thinner, vertical structures that are spaced between the railing posts. Different building codes can determine the space allowed in between each baluster, but generally, they are spaced no more than 4 inches apart.

Rails– Horizontal units along the entire railing/guardrail system to include the handrail or handhold at the stairs and along the sides of the deck.

Post Cap/Cover– Decorative pieces that cover the top of the railing posts and can be made out of metal, wood, or composite material. They can feature special designs to include glass or lights. Caps/covers have a functional role, too; they protect the top of the post from the elements.

Stairs– Decks typically require a set of steps to get up and down. Here are some decking parts related to stairs.

Tread– The part of the stair that gets stepped on.

Risers– Cover the vertical spaces between steps (are used on some decks but not all).

Stringers– Give support to the treads. The treads get attached to this part.

We hope this list provides you with some helpful-to-know terms when planning your decking project. Knowing some of the lingo can give you a better idea about the process and craftsmanship we put into building a better deck. Also, knowing these terms can help you better understand and communicate with your Denver deck builders as they create the outdoor space of your dreams.


  • Nate Barrett

    As the President of SRI Decks, my greatest satisfaction comes from the immediate sense of fulfillment that our work brings. From the initial design discussions with our customers to the moment we capture the final project in photos, I feel an immense pride in my team for their dedicated efforts. My passion for hands-on work and outdoor projects is matched only by the joy I derive from seeing a delighted customer when we’ve successfully completed a job. Fun Facts: I like hot chocolate in my coffee. I’ve been with SRI for 12 years, prior to ownership. I have a daughter, 3 dogs and a loving girlfriend.

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