I once had a client who had just moved into their mid-century ranch house and wanted a sleek and modern deck that would look like the boards were floating on air, or at the very least had a seamless feel. Getting a beautifully finished look in a deck is always one of the core goals of my contracting work. For years, I have been incredibly particular about spacing my deck screws just right and driving them into the boards to as perfect a depth as possible–if the deck screws are visible, I want them to make as positive a contribution to the overall aesthetic as possible.
This is because, beyond the basic utilitarian concerns, most of my clients want their decks to make an architectural statement. My client with the mid-century home was especially adamant about this, so I ultimately ended up installing a deck that had no visible decks screws because it used hidden fasteners. If you are interested in a smooth and seamless deck, one of the best ways of achieving it is with hidden fasteners. We’ll explain why.
Why Not Just Use Standard Deck Fasteners?
As I just mentioned, the way most of us have built decks is by attaching the boards to the joists below them with a deck screw. Some of us are more careful and fastidious than others when it comes to sinking them in. The general rule of thumb is to sink the head of the screw slightly below flush with the board. This allows more stain to get into the board where the screw sits, gives it as seamless a look as possible, and provides a little leeway, so that if the board contracts the screws won’t be sticking up out of it quite so quickly.
When this is done well, the screws are sunk in so regularly and discreetly that for many, they go unnoticed (at least for a while). When this isn’t done well, either the screw has not been driven in far enough (which is rare), or more frequently, the screw has been driven in too far. This often leads to localized weathering, which translates over time into splintering and even cracking around the screw holes, which does not make for barefoot-friendly decking. However, even doing an excellent job of sinking in screws doesn’t give a deck a perfectly clean feel. You’ll still see the screw heads, and over time, they’ll almost certainly end up sticking above the deck surface. Not only is that unattractive, but it doesn’t result in safe deck flooring, either. To get a truly seamless look, we have to hide the stitching, and the most effective way to do that is by building the deck surface using hidden fasteners.
How Hidden Fasteners Work
Hidden fasteners are typically metal clips that attach to the base of the decking board or are inserted into the groove of a specially-designed grooved board and are then screwed into the decking joist. When grooved boards are used, this kind of construction creates an interlocking deck below the surface, while the surface itself remains smooth and seamless. Functionally speaking, this arrangement of interlocking boards produces a stronger deck, as the additional connections between the boards work to buttress each other. With a system like this, you’ll want to choose a hidden fastener system that is well-designed–good quality hidden fastener systems will stay strong and resist corrosion while being easier to use than cheaper ones.
A Sleek and Modern Aesthetic
One of the qualities of a deck with hidden fasteners is that, by and large, the decking boards are spaced more tightly together. Because there are fewer ground-revealing gaps between the boards, there is also a sense of weightlessness. In the right surroundings, like the second story of a house in the woods, it can feel a bit like walking on a platform suspended effortlessly in the air.
However one describes the feeling, the look that hidden fasteners produce is about as sleek and modern as one is going to get when using boards to create a deck. There are no screw heads to catch the eye, and the deck joists are well hidden from view due to the snug fit of the decking boards. What remains is a flat, textured plane, punctuated by the rhythmic and changing movement of light and shadow.
If you’re looking to give your deck a sleek and modern look, and you want your deck to be a homey outdoor living space, then a hidden fastener system may be just the thing for your project. One of the most functional systems out there is the Hulk fastener system manufactured by Fortress Deck. Designed to be used with their grooved composite decking boards, the T-shaped fasteners are easy to install and durable. While they do take a little more time to install than regular deck screws, I (and my clients) think they’re well worth it. And if you have other projects in the works, take a minute and look around Fortress’ other unique building products like fencing, railing, and ornamental wood ties. They’re all just as durable and well-designed as their hidden deck clips.