Picture-Framing a New Composite Deck

Installing a border around the outside of a deck, also known as “picture framing” adds interest to an otherwise ordinary job. Borders also improve safety and set your deck apart from the ordinary decks your neighbors have.


Azek Deck, Hingham

Picture framing makes a deck safer for our clients and their guests by defining its shape and calling attention to stairs and deck edges. You can also use picture framing to highlight areas of interest, such as a fire pit or a tree growing up through the deck. But it takes planning from the design through the finish,


In its simplest form, a picture frame can be a single board around the edge of the deck. One way to differentiate a single-board picture frame is to use a different color, which can be dramatic. Another way is to turn the field board on a diagonal.  Use two colors and the picture frame really pops to life.  Sometimes a single row of picture framing can be lost under the bottom rail. A second or third row of picture framing will add impact and more clearly define the edges of the deck.

Once you know what the deck will look like, your contractor will need to know how it all goes together so it can be priced correctly and the proper amount of each material ordered. Picture framed decks are framed a little differently than standard decks.

There are two basic rules. Deck boards can’t run parallel to their supporting framing, and the end of every piece of decking needs to be supported. Picture-frame boards that run parallel to the joists require BLOCKING between the joists at the edges of the deck for support. The carpenter building the deck will need a plan designed before he starts the project to make sure it ends up as desired. At the corners the carpenter will need to get a little fancier. If the corners are mitered, he will need to install vertical blocking on a 45-degree angle and a waterproof membrane is needed over the blocking.

Azek Deck

Grey Azek Deck, Scituate

In some circumstances, it may be more important to line up the picture framing with a part of the house or a fixed object, again something that should be addressed on the design drawing and included in the framing plan.

All the nails and screws should be 316 stainless if exposed or a matching color screw designed to be used with your composite material. Bright nails should never be used on exterior decking.

Picture framing can be subtle or it can be bold, but don’t underestimate the value of aesthetics. It will take longer to produce a picture-framed deck, so your contractor will charge more.  Upscale clients understand the value of a sharper-looking deck – it’s something different, something their neighbors don’t have. It will set your yard apart from all the rest. But be careful, it’s not the kind of project the average weekend guy can do properly. So always hire a proven professional company that has the ability to produce a set of plans that you can approve before the project starts. You may pay a little more, but you will get so much more in return.

CAT Exteriors specialized in exterior renovation projects (Siding, Roofing, Windows, Doors, & Decks) in Massachusetts South Shore Towns like Hanson, Halifax, Pembroke, Whitman, and Bridgewater (East & West) Ma.

By: Terrance Quinn, CS, CGR, CAPS