Building a Boardwalk

The best way to build a boardwalk


I'd like to run a grade-level walkway from my house to an outbuilding. I'm thinking about using composite decking on its surface, but what is the best way to frame it?
—Mark Tylkowski, Aurora, Nebr.


Tom Silva replies: This is a simple project you can even build in sections as you have time. To begin, remove any sod from the path, and dig down an extra couple of inches. Fill in this area up to grade with well-tamped gravel to provide drainage. Then lay preservative-­treated 2x4s on edge like railroad tracks on either side of the walkway. Stagger the joints between the ends of the rails—you don't want the joint on one side to line up with the joint on the other—then connect the rails with ­metal gusset angles or 18-inch-long 2x4s that overlap the inside face of each joint. Because compos ite decking is not as stiff as wood, you may also need to put a 2x4 or two between the rails to provide adequate support across the width of your walkway. Just follow the manufacturer's specs for joist spacing. ­Also, don't let the decking hang over the outer rails more than an inch or so.
To keep the boardwalk from shifting, brace the rail's inside edge by driving a few wood or metal stakes into the ground. Now screw the decking to the rails with a 1?8-inch space between deck boards for debris and ­water to go through.


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