The Deck: Pouring Concrete and Setting Post Bases

When we left off with the deck we had dug our footing holes and passed our first inspection. After digging 21 holes we were left with a lot of rocks and a ton of dirt piled all in between the holes.

Digging Footing Holes 17

We knew that trying to pour concrete around the mounds of dirt wouldn’t work very well so we cleared all the dirt and rocks from around the deck area.

Pouring Concrete & Setting Posts 1

In the beginning we were counting the number of wheelbarrow loads we moved and then we lost count and gave up. Lets just say it was a whole lot of dirt.

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In fact since we started the deck project we have made quite a mound of dirt and rocks down the side of our property. It’s hard to tell from the picture but this is actually quite a little drop off we’ve been filling in with dirt.

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Back to the deck building; since we knew the size of our holes as well as there locations were a little off after the digging we wanted to mark our post base locations more accurately.

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We used a series of rebar and hot pink string to mark out where out beams should be based on our plans.

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They are a little hard to see here but here they are all set up and ready for the next step.

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We ended up having to do even more digging down when we figured out just how low the tops of the posts in this corner of the deck would be. Originally the posts would have been so small we wouldn’t have even been able to put a post cap on the top.

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We spent most of the day Saturday of the Labor Day weekend cleaning up the ground as well as marking the post locations. On Sunday we were ready to move on so we picked up a concrete mixer from a local rental shop.

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Oh and don’t you worry, we also had just about every digging implement needed, cause you can never have too many.

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Armed with the mixer we started to attack our 100 bag pile of concrete. We went with a basic 60 pound bag of Sakrete since they were lighter, not much lighter, but with this many bags you do whatever you can to make it a little easier.

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We worked on filling the footing holes one beam at a time. At first we started out by filling one hole entirely and then moving on to the next one. We found that by doing this the first hole was almost too dry to put the post base into it while the last was almost too wet. With this first beam we also tried setting a 4×4 to connect all the post bases and make sure all the brackets were aligned.

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When we started the next set of footings we poured one batch of mix (2 bags) in the bottom of each footing and then came back and did another in each until we had each footing filled. Since we could only mix two bags of concrete at a time it did move a little slow but it did work much better than before.

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After doing quite a few bags we figured out the method for mixing the concrete that worked best for us. On the inside of a bucket we marked a line that was the suggested water for two bags of concrete. First we dumped that in the mixer and added the first bag of concrete. We let it mix for just a little bit and then added the second bag. Chris found that using a trowel to break up the center of the concrete while it mixed helped it mix faster and better. Then just after everything seemed to be combined we squirted a little water in the mixer, just enough to clean off the sides a little. This seemed to give us a mix that was not too wet and not too dry.

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To set the post bases Chris cut some 1″ thick boards we had and added a nail for a handle. That gave us the recommended 1″ gap. On our second set of holes we also found that setting in a 4×4 beam didn’t really seam to be necessary in lining up all the post brackets. We just measured from post to post to check locations and then made sure the brackets were square with the lines we strung.

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We just continued to work from hole to hole filling with concrete and setting the post bases. By the time we got to these huge footings filled it was becoming apparent that our original 100 bags of concrete was not going to be enough.

After we got these filled we had to go into town and buy another 25 bags of concrete.

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We ended up having to go back to Home Depot another time get another 10 bags of concrete. Since we were determined to finish in one day we brought out the shop lights so we could finish the last three holes. Hard core deck DIY going on here people.

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While we were at it I couldn’t resist marking one of our extra large footings. I think they were pretty hard earned markings.

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Since we had the routine down it didn’t take us too long and we were actually able to finish up and clean everything up that night.

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When we came out the next morning everything was looking pretty good.

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Both Chris and I were pretty sore after the long days work but we were able to fill all the footings and set all 21 of our post bases all in one day.

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Up next we did a little more ground prep before we started actually building. (Update: check that out here.)

Up until now we have explained how we designed the deck. We have also gotten our permitprepped the ground, and dug our footing holes

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