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Maxwell: Different design details make deck stand out

Quirk Beads on Beam
All these verandah parts are made of construction-grade lumber, but you wouldn’t know it. Chamfer and quirk bead details make the difference. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)

Quirk Beads on Beam

A quirk bead is a circular profile and I find this shape unbeatable for making composite deck beams look better. A composite beam is made of several pieces of standard, 1 1/2-inch thick lumber joined together face-to-face to form a beam. Solid beams are not easy to come by in lumberyards, but you can make any size of beam you want by putting multiple planks together.

The challenge is getting the edges of three or four or five pieces of lumber to come together evenly as one beam, but this is one place where quirk beads can help.

Many deck beams aren’t visible, so adding decorative details doesn’t matter.

Deck beams that are high up because they’re supporting the second floor of a deck are one example of a visible beam that can benefit from the quirk bead treatment. Same goes for a beam holding up a roof that turns an ordinary deck into a verandah.

Besides looking so much nicer, quirk beads make it far less crucial that the edges of boards line up perfectly with each other as lumber comes together with bolts while forming a beam.

Most decks are made of construction-grade lumber and it looks like it. But take those same pieces of construction-grade lumber and rout a detail or two into them and the same wood looks classy and refined. Try it yourself or ask your deck builder to give it a whirl.

Routers make for better decks

If you’re planning to build a deck this year, I’d like to tell you about three simple design details that’ll make your new deck better than average. These don’t necessarily add significantly to the cost, yet they can make your new deck nicer to look at. And it all comes down to a woodworking power tool called a router.

A router is a hand-held tool that makes it easy to apply decorative profiles to the edges of pieces of wood. A router is nothing more than a high-speed electric motor with handles. I can’t think of a legitimate reason routers aren’t used more often to add refinement to decks, but the fact that it hardly ever happens means that your deck will be all the more special.

Rounded Deck Board Overhang

Picture for a moment the overhanging edges of deck boards. This is the lumber you actually walk on, and extending deck boards so they go past the underlying wood frame is standard practice. What’s not standard at all is making this overhanging edge rounded. Two passes with a hand-held router spinning a 3/4î radius roundover turns that square, factory-milled lumber into a semi-circular profile with a 1 1/2î diameter. Talk about a boost to appearances. If you rout only one visual innovation on your new deck, let it be the overhang of deck boards.

Chamfered Post Corners

Most decks have vertical posts somewhere in the design, often as part of a staircase or railing. Routing the corners of these posts to a chamfered profile is a quick way of boosting the refinement of those posts big-time.

Chamfers are angled profiles typically applied along the corners of things, and chamfers add a huge amount of beauty for a very small investment of time. Chamfering is done with a router bit that imparts a 45∫ angle to an otherwise square corner, and chamfers look best when they start and stop a few inches in from where they could begin or end. I always rout chamfers into the corners of deck posts, and they look terrific. Small chamfers can also be applied to the visible edges of deck boards, and also to the edges of 2x4 and 2x6 rafters used in verandah roofs.

Steve Maxwell has routed more deck boards than anyone else he knows. Visit him online at and join 31,000 people who get his newsletter each Saturday.

The angled surface on the corner of this post is called a chamfer. Chamfers look best when they stop and start a distance from the end. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)