"We all fall down . . . "

Building a deck should not ever be confused with performing brain surgery or doing rocket science. It just not that hard to do it right. There is even a manual, the DCA6-12 put out by the American Wood Council, to tell you step by step how to do it correctly.

So why, on new construction, do I see something like the picture to the right? This wasn't the only problem with the deck, by the way. Flashing details were wrong and the railing was loose, to mention two other problems. 

Still, the beam connection was . . .  unique. I left the resolution up a bit. First, notice that the joists are attached to a 'beam'. The scare quotes are warranted. They are actually attached to a 2x6 that is cut on either end. In other words, the wood holding up the deck is unsupported from below. It's held in place by screws to the outer 2x6. The outer 2x6 is supported by a piece of untreated wood screwed into the column. It is a prescription for failure.

The DCA6 (Design for Code Acceptance 6 -2012) is a prescriptive standard for success. It has two specific means for making this connection so it is safe and endures through the years.

The first is to notch the 6x6 column to allow the beam to bear directly to the column and held in place with 2 1/2-inch through bolts with washers.

The second method is to have the beam bear to the top of the column and use a post cap to secure the assembly together.

Both of those methods are code-approved and have been for years. Which you use depends on the size of your beam and the elevation from the ground.

Sadly, not enough contractors keep up with the changes and continue to build the way Uncle Bob did back in the day. It's not that hard. The design standard is a free download from the AWC site. Every inspector should have the DCA6 on their field computer for fast reference.

For those of you interested in the nitty-gritty details of deck construction, studying the DCA6 is a great place to start. For those who just want to make sure their inspector has done the studying, make sure they have read and understand the standard. It's your family, or your client's family, that is having a party on the deck.