This post was sponsored by Lowe’s Home Improvement. All of the opinions of the Tropics Composite Deck and other Lowe’s products, are our own.
It has been a long hard winter in western New York. We are well into spring and it was still snowing just last week. So what did we do? We decided to install a deck. 😉 Well, Mike did all of the work and he was out there in snow, sleet, ice, rain and wind. He really couldn’t get a break with the weather, but even with mother nature working against him he got it installed in time for warm temps! Although it was time consuming, the installation process was easy enough for him to do on his own. In this post he’s sharing how to install the Tropics Composite Deck from Lowe’s.
We had to replace the deck because our old wood one was in horrible shape. It was rotted and splintery and even staining and sealing it didn’t make it any better. Plus someone, (not me) chose this orange color that was just terrible. The stairs were just boards and they bowed in the middle…it was just a mess.
We also had a strange problem with the deck, that we believe could be caused by freezing temperatures. When it got very cold the deck made an incredibly loud popping sound. It was so forceful the house shook and it could wake us up from a deep sleep! We’ve researched it and can’t find many answers but you can see this deck was built with no gaps between the boards. So we believe it’s the expansion of the wood in the cold. We are hoping the new deck fixes this issue too!
The existing deck was the perfect size and shape, so we were able to save money by using the same foundation and posts. Installing another wood deck would require more maintenance than we wanted, so we looked into composite decking. We fell in love with the Lowe’s Tropics Composite Deck because it looks so much like real wood, and the Hana Brown color was perfect to go with our home. When we priced it out it was significantly less money than other brands, but it really looked more high end.
Our posts and railings also needed to be replaced, so we chose Fiberon HomeSelect Midnight Black Composite.The post sleeves could go right over our existing posts and they match our black fencing perfectly.
Once we decided on our decking we worked on the layout. Instead of staggering the deck boards, we decided to frame the entire deck and then use center seams. This also helped us with the cost because we were able to order fewer long boards. We worked with someone at the Lowe’s pro desk in the Macedon, NY store. Mike sketched the deck plans and brought them with us, and the pro desk team helped us order all of the right materials.
We ordered all of the supplies in early spring and had about a three week lead time before everything was delivered. They delivered everything on pallets. But then it snowed! So, in the meantime Mike ripped out the old deck and prepared it for the new one. Hes going to take over here and tell you how to install the deck!
How to Install a Lowe’s Composite Deck by Tropics
Remove the old wood or composite deck boards
Start by removing all of the old deck boards(or with your newly built foundation). Try not to damage the joists that the boards are attached to. You need to attach the new deck boards to the old joists, so the fewer holes and chunks taken out of them the better. Once your decking is removed, figure out what needs to be replaced, fixed, or strengthened. This is a great time to make those repairs, add any new joists etc. On our project, I found some fascia boards that needed to be replaced and I also needed to block all the remaining posts, to strengthen them and make them more secure.
Inspect Your Supports and Reinforce Where Needed
Depending on the design of your project, there may be some pre work on the structure that needs to be done. We chose to picture frame our deck with two vertical boards on each end of the deck and added three vertical boards in the middle of the deck. Because the joists are also running vertically, we needed to add some blocking every 16 inches between the joists where the new vertical deck boards would be so they can be attached properly.
Here you see the completed blocking with the first vertical tropics composite deck board attached, measured and notched around the posts.
Install Your Tropics Composite Deck Boards
Next, I attached the two vertical boards and added the two horizontal boards to the front of the deck. I trimmed off the excess for the angled corner. The composite boards being used are the slotted boards, and you can see they are being attached on the outside edge with a screw in clip specifically designed to hold the edge down but stay flat to the edge so a cosmetic fascia board can be attached with no waves. You will see this later.
Here you can see the front of deck horizontal boards being attached.
After picture framing in the deck, I measured approximately how many vertical deck boards in the center will be needed to lay 12 foot boards on each side with minimal cutting. In our case this worked out to be three vertical boards taking into consideration the width of the boards and the spacing between them.
This gives a much cleaner look and much less trimming of the deck boards.
Again, I had to add blocking between the joists, at 16 inch on center, to where the vertical boards were going to be attached. To give a nice straight clean edge on the horizontal deck boards, I used the Kreg “Accu-Cut” track attachment for my circular saw. This gives a perfectly straight cut, which you will want when butting up the vertical boards to the horizontal. You can see how straight in the pic above. *tip: make sure you adjust the height of your circular saw blade so that it only cuts the deck boards and NOT the joists underneath.
Here you will see the VersaClip hidden deck fasteners being installed. You need to make sure the clip is placed correctly so the screw that is attaching the board to the joist, is located in the middle of the joist for strength. Make sure to wear gloves because the clips have pointed edges needed to help grip the boards. After adding hundreds of clips your hands will get pretty beat up without gloves.
Once you have attached the board to all the joists underneath, you will slide and push the next board into the clips at a slight angle until the boards are lined up correctly. Here’s a bonus…This will automatically create the proper drainage spacing between the boards for you. If you are attaching 12 or 16 ft boards, you may need to use a rubber mallet to help it along. Then continue to add the next set of Versaclips and boards etc. We are hoping these gaps in the deck will also fix the deck popping issue.
TIP: I started adding the boards from the front of the deck moving in towards the house. This way if the final board needed to be ripped down, it would not be as noticeable near the house as it would be at the front of the deck.
Tip: When transitioning between two boards on the outside edge of the deck, make the cut at the post. This way when you add the post sleeve and bottom cap, it covers most of the seam, so it looks like one long board and not two.
Here is the second side of horizontal boards being attached.
Install the Fiberon Deck Posts and Rails
Once your decking boards are attached, you can add all the post sleeves, bottom and top caps. Cut the sleeves to give you enough room to add the rails to the proper height. (check your local rail height requirements in your area)
Once the post sleeves are attached you can measure and attach the rails. Do the Bottom rail first, then add the balusters, then the top rail. These Fiberon Composite Deck Railing Kits are very easy to attach. This particular system uses clips that get screwed to the post. Then the ends of the bottom and top rail have a cap that gets placed on each end, and slide over the clips and snap into place. This is so much easier than trying to hold the rail into place and screwing it into the rail, Which never comes out perfect.
Tip 1: to make sure the baluster spacing aligns correctly between the posts, make sure you are cutting the rails equally on each end of the rails, to fit between the posts.
Tip 2: Once your first clips are attached to the posts at the proper height, create a template to use on the remaining posts, so the rest of the rails align exactly with the first. You can do this simply by using a 1 x 1 board and holding it up next to the clips and marking the height of the clips on the board. Then just mark the placement of the clips on the next rails, by using the template on each post.
Install the Stairs
Now if you are lucky, and you have good stairs, you will not need to completely rebuild them like we did. If you have existing runners you can just replace the boards. For the stairs you need to use the Tropics deck boards that are NOT slotted on the sides, so you have a nice rounded edge. In this case you will not have hidden clips to attach them to the deck risers. You will need to have composite deck screws to attach them. They are specifically designed to attach the deck boards with a trap head for minimal “Mushrooming.”
When attaching the treads, make sure to leave an approximate 1/2 inch overhang on each step. Also make sure you leave the same spacing between the boards for proper drainage. Once you attach the stair treads and risers its time for the stair rails. These are attached a little differently than the rest of the railings because there are specific stair railing end brackets you will need. They are angled to properly hold the rail in place. Start with the bottom rail, clamp on to the posts, following the angle of the steps. Mark the angle to cut onto the rail, making sure to keep the same distance on each end for proper baluster placement.
Once the proper angle is cut on the bottom rail, transfer that same angle and baluster spacing to the top rail and cut. Add the end brackets to the rails and place them on the posts in the location to fit. Drill pilot holes where the screws need to attach the bracket to the post and screw into place. Add the balusters, then the top rail and repeat.
The stairs and railing are complete!
Install the Fascia Boards
The last part to complete the project is to add the decorative fascia boards around the outside of the deck to give it a nice clean completed look. Measure and cut to fit the fascia boards to line up flush with the top of the deck boards so as to hide the slots in the boards.
You can also add the optional fascia boards down the sides of the stairs to give it a finished look. On our deck we wanted that look, but keep in mind there are a lot of angles to cut, to get the proper fit and look. But the time it took to measure and cut the angles for these particular stairs was well worth it.
That was a lot of instructions, but if you’re used to doing DIY this deck is going to be fairly easy for you to install. Here are some pictures of it all done!
There is one final stage of the deck installation. We are going to put a wood treatment around the bottom to keep animals out. Instead of lattice we are using the composite deck boards and we will share it with you when its done! I’m so excited to decorate with some farmhouse decor and add some pretty landscaping. Subscribe to our newsletter below to stay updated with all of our projects!
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