Clients have varied reasons for wanting to close-in the area below a newly built deck with skirting, including keeping out the varmints, using the area for storage and perhaps they feel leaving it open looks unfinished.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to get it done — the manner of which it is achieved is usually based upon esthetics, but the added costs to the deck project can sometimes be a factor.
Deck skirting is broken down into three main possibilities: horizontal boards, vertical planks or lattice.
In my experience, it is the horizontal board that is most often chosen. The boards used to create the boxed-in look are the same as the riser of a traditional staircase. As such, using these boards can produce a wonderfully lineal effect of continuous horizontal lines surrounding the perimeter of the deck. The riser of a stair is usually 71/2 inches high, the same width as a two-by-eight. Therefore, a deck skirted with lumber is easily achieved.
Most composite manufacturers also offer two-by-eight boards of the same width for that very reason — stair risers and deck fascia.
To install horizontal boards along the perimeter of the deck, it is first necessary to create a framed support structure in line with the vertical face of the deck top’s vertical face of the framework, whereby vertical "studs" are positioned roughly every 24 inches upon which the boards can be fastened. Starting from high to low, each row is completed until the skirt reaches the ground. On occasion, it is sometimes necessary to adapt the lowest row(s) of the boards to follow the grade and/or uneven surface of the ground.
Another way to close-in the lower portion of the deck is with vertical planks. The most popular boards are one-by-six fence boards. If the deck has been fitted with fascia to deck-top level, the top horizontal nailer is already available below the bottom edge of the fascia, the 11/2 inch of exposed deck-top framing and joisting. To introduce the bottom nailer, an additional framework is created along the ground-level perimeter of the deck’s footprint. Once in place, the vertical fence boards are cut to the proper length and are affixed to the nailers, top and bottom. These planks can be fastened adjacent to each other — equidistant gaps can offer a different look.
When installing lattice below the deck, both top and bottom nailers, as well as vertical support studs, are required in the desired dimensions of each lattice section. For proper optics, it is optimal to create lattice sections that follow the same spacing as the railing above. In most cases, I’ve created the illusion that the railing posts continue all the way to the ground, and the lattice nailers are inset so each of the lattice panels appear to sink into each section. I highly recommend avoiding wooden lattice — it will deteriorate very quickly. The introduction of plastic lattice in recent years not only affords a host of colour options, but a durability throughout the seasons.
No matter the skirting option chosen, variations built into the skirting framework can provide access through gates, or hidden panels — an inconspicuous panel can be held in place using Velcro, no one would ever no it’s there.
The decks on my property remain open below deck surface, which is an option also chosen by many of my deck clients. Not closing in the perimeter below-deck level offers easy access to deck jacks for adjustments when needed. And for the large deck that surrounds my oval above-ground pool, the pump and filter are conveniently located directly below, unfettered by deck skirting and the need for a gate. But that’s the beauty of deck skirting — it can be introduced or removed any time, independently from the deck itself. And that’s the most favourable option of all.