Building a deck or small structure doesn't always require a poured foundation. In many areas, you can instead use the footing system to create a sturdy base for your deck. To do this, you install supports to hold up the wood deck. If you create the footing correctly, the deck should be stable and secure. The following are some footing options to consider.

The traditional sonotube method

Sonotubes are the large cardboard tubes used to cast concrete. To create footings from these, you must dig down to the depth required by your local building code (generally below the frost line). You then install a base. This can be a pre-formed base or you can create a base out of tamped down gravel fill. Finally, the tube is inserted into each footing hole. The tops of the tubes are leveled with each other, and then the concrete is poured in and allowed to set. Typically, metal clamps, which the deck supports will attach to, are installed in the top of the concrete before it sets.

Simple precast pier option

Precast concrete piers can save you time and labor, since all you will need to do is dig. Full piers are typically only necessary in areas where deep footings are needed, since they usually measure 3 or 4 feet in height. You will need to dig down to the required depth in your area and level the piers after installation. Precast piers usually have a wide base, so a gravel footing isn't necessary to distribute weight beneath the pier. Once leveled, simply backfill around the pier and begin the deck installation.

Precast pier block option

Pier blocks are better suited to small decks or decks in areas with minimal frost or soil shift. They are less expensive than full precast piers, so they are a viable option if you are on a budget. They come in several design options. The simplest has an opening in the top to insert a wooden deck support beam. There are also versions with metal brackets to allow deck support installation. To install a pier block, you simply dig down to your footing depth. Add several inches of tamped gravel, and then set your pier block on top. Generally, at least a portion of the block is buried to prevent it from shifting. Pier blocks don't have to be leveled since you will insert vertical support beams to hold the deck. Instead, you will cut these beams to level.

Talk to a company like Moose Creek Cement Products 2006 Limited to see the precast options available.