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Things to Consider When Building Secure Structures

Posted by: Samuel Hirshfield on July 22, 2015


Whether you’re building a pergola, deck, outdoor shed, gazebo, or any other outdoor structure – careful planning and preparation can go a long way to ensure safety, both during work and after the project is complete.

Here’s a quick run-down of what you should know to keep your structure secure and safe.

Before you start any outdoor structure project, be sure to call 811. This is a free service available across the United States that provides assistance prior to beginning projects that involve digging – connecting you with utility companies to identify the location of pipes, lines or underground cables.


Structures need to be supported by footings, which help to prevent settling and movement by protecting the posts and beams of the structure from rot, frost heave or other issues that can be caused by direct contact with soil.

Movement of ¼ inch or less is acceptable, and expected, but if your footings are dug incorrectly, movements of an inch or more can occur – ultimately causing structural damage.

You will most likely find that your city or town has code regulations on footing size, depth and material. Be sure to check your local building code prior to beginning any project, and obtain a building permit as required.  

It also may be helpful to use a power auger to dig footings. This can make an often tedious and hard job easier and quicker.

Structure Design

There are many factors to take into consideration when determining the design of your structure and needed support beams or floor joists – including type of wood, grade and size of lumber, and load. Beam span maximums are based on a maximum anticipated live load. While 40 pounds is the average live load for a deck, for example, live loads can range upwards from 30 pounds per square foot.

Length and spacing of joists are also important parts of this calculation. The longer the joist, the greater area of the structure the joist supports, and then, the beam supports.

Be sure to check your local building code before beginning construction, obtaining permits and inspections as required. Depending on your situation, you may also need to contact a structural engineer.

When it comes to structural safety, always err on the side of caution!

What have you done to ensure that your outdoor structures are safely and securely built? 

Tags: DIY, building, structures, building secure structures, pergola, deck, outdoor shed, gazebo, footings, structure design, auger, equipment rental, 811, call 811