Nailing of deck boards to joists.

These boards are all nailed within the last inch to half inch of the board. Would there have been a better way to do this? Looks like many of them split.

Thanks again,


yeah, they should be pre-drilled at the butt ends.

Screwed, not nailed. Hopefully there are more serious things to worry about. I wouldn’t say anything. (When 2 boards meet at the same joist, there isn’t much room in which to place a fastener.)

If you blunt the point of a nail it will not split the wood as it did in this case.
Screws would have been a better chioce of fastener, they also are less prone to back out creating loose boards.
There are fasteners that allow you to secure the deck boards from underneath then you won’t even see the heads.

Pre-drilled joints would be best practice. How was it performing and what are the implications? How high is the deck from grading? Is it pressure treated wood with an ACQ deck board screws?

I would probably describe it with a pic in my report in particular if it does not feel like it is performing well.

As has already been said, those are square drive screws and not nails, but would like to mention that unless the screw is designed for this purpose, pre-drilling is the only option.
There is a screw that I have used many times and does not split the wood whatsoever in this example and it is this one.

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The decking in the pictures looks like a Wolmanized Product but not sure.
Hope this helps. :):smiley:

Thanks everyone. Your comments are much appreciated! The deck was in good condition. Screws indeed. Pre-drilling would have been the better approach it seems… It is a new deck, performing well at the moment.

Thanks again!


Those are square drive screws, which are toward the expensive side and good for this application. When you bid a deck, you’re often bidding against other contractors who don’t put money for pre-drilling into their bids, since not pre-drilling and living with the resulting splitting is very common.

So… you can bid higher and risk losing the job, or you can pre-drill for free, or you can get the job, sink the screws and not worry about it. It’s not a perfect world…

I have installed many wood decks with “T” clips, where no screws are visible from the top. The first board installed gets screwed from both sides, and the next has a “T” clip nailed to it, which slides under the first board, and screws down from the side, on the other end. This allows the deck board to dry and contract without splitting, because it is screwed down only on one side, but it is securely fastened to the joist. Many boards will shrink as much as a half an inch, and this method allows the boards to increase the gap between them, rather than split up the middle. This is a great method for hot tub decks, where you will definitely be walking around in your bare feet. But as Kenton stated, many people are bidding, and this is a more expensive alternative.

Guys, even when pre-drilling this can still occur…much of it has to do with the moisture content, especially dealing with pressure treated lumber.
PT lumber is a pain to deal with…if its not splitting, its twisting or warping…if a person doesn’t like the results then I suggest a composite material (mold issues with some composites) or do a concrete patio / porch next time.

One also has to consider that you have about 3/4 of an inch at butt ends…not much to work with.

As far as I am concerned, its cosmetic…



Joe F said it best.

Is this what our profession has turned to? So long as the materials were still aligned and the deck constructed of PT lumber, then who really cares.

Will we start to document dimples in the wallboard next?

Sure, as a point of discussion this is useful. Fasteners always makes for fascinating discussion points.

But pointing out this degree of normalcy in a 10 year old deck or WHATEVER is overkill. Maybe we should be concentrating on WHAT REALLY MATTERS, or have we forgotten what that is about.

Sorry to be critical, folks, but you’ve got to be kidding me…

For a new deck I believe it is a flaw in installation and this area should be monitored.:smiley:

Thanks to all for the info provided.

I have to agree with Joe, I likely would not have mentioned this at all.

Neither would I…

I would not have called it out either, but at least I know what caused it and some might be interested in knowing also.
There is no harm in having these discussions.
That is how we all learn, from the causes and standard installation procedures, then on the speak softly side of the inspection, one is able to explain to clients what the causes are and not necessarily have to find it’s way into the reports.
Some clients are apt to question you on things of that nature.
Be prepared to answer intelligently.

Not a defect in my book but a poor installation like all other things we see from various inspectors that share their photos. :):smiley:

WIth decks I am much more concerned with proper footing, proper ledger board attachment and secure railings and steps.

Most decks, around here, are hack jobs anyway.

I agree Will, and those areas are what I carefully looked at. In fact I didn’t mention the deck board nailing to the client at all, but took the extra picture so that I could get some feedback from others here, as I wasn’t sure.
Whether I hear you guys wouldn’t bother mentioning it, or that it’s a poor or typical installation, etc., it’s all great feedback for me and I appreciate it :).


I think some inspector like to write things up to make them feel that they have earned their pay…as I have said earlier…PT is a pain to work with…I dont care if you
predrill, blunt the heads, use special screws…its going to happen.
I have installed over a hundred decks using different methods, materials, and fasteners… writing stuff like that up is showing your being nit picky as well as GC’s thinking you don’t know what your talking about.

What are you going to write up…“Installer failed to properly install deck boards (which they didn’t) which thereby will result in (fill in the blank); recommend that all deck boards be replaced and properly fastened to ensure that deck boards do not split”…please.

If my client said something to me about it then I would simply point that any time you screw or nail something that close to the butt joints (which you have to in regards to where the joist are) is likely to split over time if not during installation.

Many times an inspector can create problems that are not there.



No offense intended, Jeff. But please look at it from the client’s and the inspector’s viewpoint.

I do a lot of work in a very high-rent area (Chicago’s north shore area). People pay a lot for houses and for decks, and the builder’s and contractors charge alot (they call it the “North Shore Premium”).

So when the work is done in a shoddy manner, the client’s have a right to be informed of the fact, and the inspector has a duty to report it.

I constantly see ledger boards that are “attached” through brick veneer (just plain wrong) and no footings (wrong again) and no flashing of the ledger boards (again, wrong). Certianly, I must call these things out, if for no other reason that I will get sued if something goes wrong and especially if someone gets hurt.

And I do get derided by contractors and builders. They explain “This is how everybody does it” or “Hey, it’s code”. I just tell them, and the client, that the work was not done to “best practices” and show them the documentation to back me up.

And there are methods to install PT deck planking without splitting it. I have also built some decks, inclduing one for myself. Sure, it takes more time and costs more (and I understand that many times the homeowner is not willing to pay for these extra costs) but I have always believed that anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Just my opinion.

No offense taken Will, it just that the more a person becomes familiar with a product (and or components) the better they can fully evaluate and inform their client as what is normal and what isn’t. Yes, shoddy work and code violations are one thing… but understanding the pros and cons of certain materials is another.

Concrete will crack (given)
Yellow pine will split (given)
Drywall in new construction is likely to have a crack or nail pop here and there (moisture content of framing)
Solid wood floors (nailed down) will expand and contract and possibly creek (given)
Caulking never last 30 - 50 years as stated by manufacturer, it will separate (given)
Interior doors will bind slightly over a period of time (given)
Decking boards (and top caps) will split, warp and twist to some degree.
Again, much of it has to do with the moisture content in the material when installed.
I hand cull my decking material and pay attention to the moisture content but even then it can still happen depending on wx and humidity conditions when its installed.
I have installed decking board where upon the moisture content was high (owner supplied the material), I set the board tight as possible knowing that within 6 months there would be gaps in every board, and yes, predrilled and screwed…sure enough gaps were 1/4 inch and butt joints were split (usually at the outer bandjoist).

My point is that an inspector needs to differentiate between what is truly a cosmetic issue and what isn’t. Let me say that best practices and industry standards are not necessarily the same. Most builders (not all) do things by code AND within industry standard (which I have a problem with at times… especially with track builders) however I am looking at whether its an safety issue or something that will effect the habitability of the home…if its not then it stays out off the Summary Page.

And finally, when a homeowners purchases a 3000 sf home for $60 per sq. ft. what do they expect to get…the Biltmore?

There is an old saying / principle among builders & remodeler’s…

Your high end customers who are willing to pay more often pick the latter two,
most people want the first two but are willing to pay the latter for the time it takes to achieve the middle. :slight_smile: