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This article series describes critical safe-construction details for decks and porches, including the preparation of footings, piers, and pier-to-post connections for decks, porches, & exterior stairs. Footings and piers are designed to support the weight of a deck through all types of weather and stress.
The following steps demonstrate the use of waxed cardboard tubes, popularly called SonoTubes, for making concrete piers. Extra protection from frost-heaving due to lensing on the sides of concrete piers in very cold climates. Rigid fiber form used in construction to pour and form deck supports, mailbox bases, lamp posts, and more. Quikrete form tubes are distributed at building suppliers including Home Depot & Loews as well as at your local building supplier. Sometimes, in fact usually in most soils, the footings and piers can be poured simultaneously, in which case you can skip this step. If your footings need to be larger than the bottom of the concrete pier and if the footings will need to be inspected by your building official you should begin here. The hole for the footings should be below the frost line, as large as required by code (typically 16 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep for 8-inch-wide piers), and flared.
Some inspectors permit a simple solid 4-inch or 6-inch concrete block placed at the bottom of the hole to serve as a footing that will carry the deck pier. In the three-piered deck photo above you will notice that the piers are close to the breaking edge of a hill. Encountering shallow bedrock may mean that your piers won't meet the depth requirement specified by your building department and local codes. Watch out: if your excavation of the footing and pier hole hits solid rock that is not close to dead flat, you will want to anchor the footing and pier to the rock using re-bar. Photo above showing an excavation for a deck pier, provided courtesy Eric Galow, Galow Construction, a Poughkeepsie, New York contractor.
Make square cuts and cut the tubes long enough so they all extend the same distancea€”at least 2 inchesa€”above the ground. Above Eric Galow is checking the depth of the form tube and the total pier height from base to top. When 6 to 8 inches of dirt have been placed in the hole, tamp the dirt with a piece of wood. If you are pouring footings and piers simultaneously, you need to lift the tubes so that the bottom of each is even with the top of the flared footing section; the tubes can be suspended with braces, as shown in the lower picture. If the batterboards are still in place and you would like to be sure that the tubes are centered and aligned properly, put the string lines back in place. Some builders may set the re-bar first for ease of access, then place the form tube around it.
Watch out: before you pour concrete into the sonno-tubes your local building inspector will probably require reinforcing re-bar in your deck piers and you may also want or even be required to set post anchor bolts into the pier tops as you pour the concrete. Your local building code official may want to inspect your piers before the concrete is poured. Decks are most often built with posts set on top of solid concrete piers, a technique that allows you to use shorter posts, keeps the wood out of the ground, provides for easy repair in the event a post is damaged, and offers a greater margin of error.
There are occasions, however, when it makes sense to set the post itself in the ground in concrete.
The post can be set in a hole that is partially filled with concrete, then topped off with soil or gravel or, for even greater stability, the hole can be filled to the top with concrete. The concrete forming tube with rebar inserted shows reinforcement details at a poured concrete pier at our forensic lab in New York.
Just below this article includes an excerpt adapted from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons. In frost-susceptible soils, all deck or porch posts should sit on concrete piers that extend below the frost depth.

It is also a good idea to use steel post bases to keep the wood out of direct contact with concrete. Where uplift from wind is an issue, use structural post bases that are rated for the necessary uplift loads and connected to the concrete with anchor bolts.
Many of these are adjustable laterally so the footing and anchor bolt do not need to be precisely placed. While 4x4 posts can be used up to about 10 feet in height, depending on loads, tall pressure-treated 4x4s are prone to warping and twisting when they dry. At PIER FOUNDATION PROBLEMS we comment that the concrete pier shown above is cracked and damaged, perhaps from frost. If the pier shown just above was made using steel re-bar reinforcement I don't think we face an imminent collapse of the structure above but if not, that's possible. Continue reading at DECK PIER CONCRETE MIX (how to figure how much concrete you need as well as procedures for mixing concrete and pouring it into the forms) or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below. Try the search box below or CONTACT US by email if you cannot find the answer you need at InspectApedia.
Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. Our recommended books about building & mechanical systems design, inspection, problem diagnosis, and repair, and about indoor environment and IAQ testing, diagnosis, and cleanup are at the InspectAPedia Bookstore. The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Toilet tanks, bathtubs, bidets, showers, sinks, toilets, Toilet tanks, bathtubs, bidets, showers, sinks, toilets, urinals, bathtub or shower enclosures, restroom partitions, soap dishes, napkin rings, toilet bowls, toilet. With Instructables you can share what you make with the world, and tap into an ever-growing community of creative experts. I spent a full week grading, compacting the soil and leveling each block before laying the floor joist. I'd love to know which resources you used on learning the proper techniques for everything you did.
120 square feet (12x10) Of course I would have liked to make it larger, but I had to work with a small budget. We describe using a SonoTube concrete form to pour the concrete piers or footings that will carry deck posts. These tubes may be required by your building code, especially if the local soils are sandy or loose. Under some codes, you may be required to have the footings inspected before making the piers, or you may need to add several inches of gravel to the bottom of each footing before adding concrete. 6922 are ridged fiber building form tubes that eliminate the need to build wood forms required in some applications.
Watch out: because some concrete forming tubes are sold nested one inside of another to save on shipping and storage space, those brands will produce piers of slightly different diameters.
Hillside piers need to have adequate depth and if necessary need to be pinned to bedrock to assure that the whole structure doesn't creep or fall down the hill. The easy solution that your building inspector is likely to approve is the proper pinning of the pier to the rock. Using a power drill and masonry bit, drill the top of the solid rock to accept 4-6" of re-bar to assure that there will be no pier slippage along the sloping rock surface. Measure and cut tubes for each hole individually, as hole depths are likely to inches in diameter and 8 inches deep for 8-inch-wide piers), and flared.
Measure and cut tubes for each hole individually, as hole depths are likely to vary by a few inches. If you have already poured footings and the concrete is still wet, push the tubes an inch or two into the footings. Once a tube is level and plumb, drive two screws through each brace into the side of the tube.

Drop a plumb bob from the line at each of the planned hole locations, and adjust each tube so that the plumb bob is centered. I do this in particular if I'm drilling re-bar holes into solid rock around which a poured-concretre pier will be built. The official will want to confirm that piers were set to the required depth and that the re-bar was installed. Done correctly, this approach produces a more rigid frame, which may be necessary for a freestanding or an elevated deck, and required where earthquakes are common. The contractor excavated to bedrock (he could not get below the frost line) where he then drilled into the rock to insert wired re-bar to pin the pier to the rock surface. Structural connectors were used to connect post to pier, post to girder, and joists to a ledger board that was bolted to the building's rim joist. The deck was relying principally on gravity to keep those girders atop the tall steel posts. The tops of the concrete piers should extend slightly above grade to keep the post ends out of standing water. See that article for more examples of improper, unsafe, or otherwise interesting structural piers.
Don't confuse a cold pour joint often visible in concrete with actual cracking or frost heave damage. The Everflashing product comes in G-185 and Stainless Steel and is intended for use with treated lumber with copper in it.
The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Be sure to have sufficient rebar cut to length, as well as anchor bolts or post bases on hand, as they must be added to the concrete while it is still wet. Be sure that all of your footing and pier measurements and the placement of your forming tubes are based on the center of the measurement point, not one side.
In this deck installation you can't see the sloping rock that we encountered when digging for these piers.
The length will vary depending on whether you are seating the tube into a wet footing or pouring the footing and pier at the same time. Continue with this routine until the hole is filled, checking the tubea€™s position periodically with a level. The earth itself can serve as the form for concrete, or you can set the post in a large cardboard tube.
We took this photograph to provide to the building code inspector who could not be present at the time the piers were poured.
Everflashing produces a variety of specialty flashing products including flashings for use with decks at deck ledgers and deck perimeters.
A Tubes can be cut with a handsaw, but the job will go quicker if you use a reciprocating saw. She has provided background research and text for InspectApedia's articles on deck and porch construction methods & procedures.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order.

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