How to Stagger Deck Boards

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how to stagger deck boards

When building a deck, you will want to make sure it fits your style. 

While it is possible to lay your deck boards completely parallel, this look isn’t for everyone. Most people will want to stagger the boards. 

This means that the cut edges of the deck boards will be in different spots. This is different from having them run parallel and be cut across at the same point. 

Knowing how to stagger deck boards can help you get the best results. This process is not complicated but it requires some planning. 

In this article, we have laid out everything you need to know about staggering deck boards. By following the step-by-step guide, you can get a great final product.

Staggering Deck Boards: Basic Idea

Staggering your deck boards is a relatively simple process. As long as you plan properly, you can get some excellent results. 

The steps involved include: 

  • Measure the deck planks
  • Start at the corner edge
  • Start with a cut piece on the second row
  • Leave spaces

Why Stagger Deck Boards? 

why stagger deck boards

Many people choose to stagger their deck boards because it gives the deck a trendy look. However, it also serves other purposes that are important to the deck’s structural integrity. 

If you run your deck boards completely parallel with cuts in the same spot, this can cause issues. You will end up having weak spots in the deck that will be a problem later on. 

By staggering the boards, you get better strength throughout the whole deck. 

The weight distribution will be better and the deck will hold more people and be safer. Staggering is a great way to get the most out of your deck and feel secure with people on it. 

Measure the Decking

The first thing you will want to do is measure the length of your decking. 

You will then want to compare this to the length of your actual deck. This will give you an idea of how much decking you will need and where you should start. 

If your deck has outcroppings or small areas that need to be filled, take them into consideration. Include them in your total square footage for your decking purchase. 

Start in the Corner 

Start laying down the decking on the corner edge as far from the house as you can. 

You will then work your way to the house as you lay down the rest of the decking. This way, you get the best possible distribution of weight as you finish up. 

Lay down the first row of the decking and nail it to every joist it lays across. You may need to use more than one piece depending on the length of the deck. 

When you get to the edge, cut off a piece of the decking to the edge and save it. 

Start With a Cut Piece

start with a cut piece

On your next row, start by laying down the cut piece first. Then, lay down the next piece as close to the next joist as you can. 

If you have properly laid out your joists, you shouldn’t come across any points where seams can fail. 

However, if you do have to make a seam between pieces where there is no joist, you can use a new piece. This will give you the strength and support you need while still getting the staggered look you want. 

You will need to always be planning ahead as you lay down each piece. This way, you will have a good idea of whether you need to use a nice piece or a cut piece. 

Space Properly 

One thing you need to keep in mind when staggering deck boards is leaving enough space between them

Space between the deck boards will allow them to expand and contract with the heat or cold. This is especially important in wet climates, which can cause the wood to swell. 

Wood deck boards should have a space between them of ⅛” while composite boards should have a 3/16” gap. 

If you don’t leave this gap, you could end up with cracking and bowing. This can greatly reduce the lifespan of your deck as well as its safety and integrity.

Frequently Asked Questions 

faq how to stagger deck boards

Which way should boards run on a deck?

Boards should almost always run parallel to the house. While it is possible to run them perpendicularly, this is not recommended. 

Perpendicular boards don’t have the same structural integrity and will not be as secure. 

What is the spacing between composite deck boards?

Composite deck boards should have at least 3/16” between them. However, you may want to add a little more if you live in a wet or very hot area. 

The more space between boards, the more room they will have to expand with the weather. 

Can you screw down composite decking?

You can screw down composite decking just like you can with normal wood decking. Composite works in the same way as wood, it is just made of a different material. 

One thing you can’t do with composite, though, is use wood glue. 


Staggering deck boards is a great way to get the most strength out of your deck. It also looks great and will add a lot of style to your deck. 

By following the above steps, you can get the best results with your staggered deck boards. 

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Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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