Laying the Deck

The vast majority of our projects contain synthetic decking. Whatever the brand, we always use a hidden fastener system. Early systems required that you use a screw gun or impact driver to put a screw through a clip that fit into a slot in the deck board — which is how we do it with steel framing. But if the framing is wood, it's much faster to install the clip with a pneumatic nailer.

Tiger Claw. There are any number of hidden-clip systems for fastening synthetic decking on the market, most of which look like they came off the same production line in China. It's important to choose a system that works with the brand of decking you like to use and that's available in your area.

We like the Tiger Claw system because it installs quickly and holds well. When fastening the clips (13) to wood framing, we use the Tiger Claw pneumatic installation gun (14), which is similar to a metal connector nailer.

To avoid having to crawl back and forth across the framing, we put an installer at each end of the deck board, each with his own installation gun. It pays to own at least one installation gun because the tool will pay for itself in a couple of jobs. If you buy enough clips, your sales rep or lumberyard may give you the gun for free. Price: $250. www.deckfastener.com.

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13- Tiger Claw clip

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14-Tiger Claw gun

Camo. The Camo Hidden Deck Fastening System consists of an installation jig (15) and proprietary self-drilling screws that toenail through the edge of the deck board. It's designed to be a whole deck fastening solution, but we find it faster to install the bulk of the deck with a pneumatic tool and clips, and reserve Camo for borders and inlays. We could use starter clips for that application, but they're a special-order item and Camo can be used for many different things.

We drive the screws with an impact driver (a drill/driver would also work). If you look into the gap between boards, you can see the 1/8-inch hole left by the fasteners. The hole will be somewhat visible with light decking and barely visible with dark decking — and far less intrusive than fastening through the face. A built-in spacer automatically gaps the boards. We ground down the spacer on our Camo Marksman Pro so that the gaps from it more closely match those left by the clips.

Given the low cost of this tool, it makes sense to have one, even if you do only a few decks with it per year. For us, it's worth having just for installing inlays and borders. Price: $60. camofasteners.com.

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15-Camo installation jig

FastCap Jig-A-Deck. This tool (16) helps you place face screws in line with the center of the joist and an equal distance in from either edge of 4-inch and 6-inch deck boards. The jig indexes off the joist, and you drive screws through the holes in its face.

There are several reasons this is better than driving screws against the edge of an aluminum square: It makes the screw pattern neat and consistent on every board, you don't wear grooves in the square, and the tool gaps the boards. We ground some material off the spacer so the gaps matched those from our metal deck clips. The simple plastic jig can be had for short money, so if you face-screw boards you might want to buy a few — that way, there's always one around. Price: $20. www.fastcap.com.

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16-Fastcap Jig-A-Deck