How to Make a Picture Frame for a Deck

How to Create a Picture Frame Deck Design

A diagram showing a picture frame deck layout, sometimes called a race track, with deck boards around the outside of the deck in a square

One of the most popular deck board layouts throughout the world is the picture-frame edge deck design. Giving your fresh new deck construction a clean, polished look around the perimeter, picture-frame decking can enhance the overall feel of your outdoor space and showcase your beautiful pressure-treated lumber, hardwood deck planks, or composite decking. You can also choose to shine a spotlight on certain features of your deck such as a fire pit, seating areas, or water fountain!

A light gray deck designed with a black picture frame for a sharp contrast

Aside from adding some detail and character to your home's outdoor space, picture-frame decking can also make your deck a safer space by clearly defining the edges and staircases on your deck. These decking borders can clearly accentuate areas prone to trips and spills keeping family, friends, and guests for years to come.

Building a picture-framed deck isn't very difficult to do, and anyone with a base level of DIY skills can definitely achieve this setup. The one thing that it does require, however, is some light construction planning. Here are the steps, and some pro tips on how to install picture-frame decking for your home.

A brown deck with light brown deck boards around the edge as a picture frame

How to Install a Picture Frame Or Race-Track On Your Deck

First, you'll want to make sure that the deck frame is square. A true square deck frame will ensure parallel sides and 90-degree corners. Choose how many rows of deck boards you'll want to install for your picture-frame, and then plan your deck framing layout. The deck framing and substructure is what will later support your picture-frame.

One way to accommodate a picture-frame is to build a “ladder” for the side joists of your deck. For example, if you want a single row of picture-frame edge decking, you would build a “ladder” out of a few 2x10 pieces of lumber and some 2x10 block pieces. You'll want to have a 4 inch thick 2x10 block piece spaced 16 inches apart nailed between a 2x10 joist on each side. The 4 inch thick deck blocks will essentially act as the rungs of the ladder and will support the picture-frame deck boards that run parallel to the joists below.

A deck with contrasting boards around the outside in a picture frame

Why Use 4 Inch Thick Blocks?

Using 4 inch blocks with a 2x10 on each side will create an assembly that is 7 inches wide. A typical deck board is 5-½ inches wide. If you place the picture-frame decking flush with the outside of framing, you’ll have an 1-½ inches left over to support the deck planks that will terminate at the picture-frame.

Many professional builders overhang their deck framing by 1 inch so that the fascia boards can tuck up underneath their picture-frame deck boards. This creates a clean, great look as well as leaving a little extra room for the hidden fastener that is installed at the end of the board. Some hidden deck fasteners, such as the Camo Edge Clip, will still have enough room for both legs of the fastener to straddle the deck joist, keeping the clip securely in place!

Lastly, after completing your deck board installation, it will be time to mount your new deck railing system. When planning and installing your new deck railing line, pay attention to your deck post layout! Before you lay either the decking or the picture-frame, make sure you’ve installed appropriate blocking to secure your rail posts later on.

A brown deck with slightly darker boards around the edges in a race-track or picture frame design

More Deck Project Resources

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