In pre-COVID times, one of my largest and most challenging projects was a 2,500-square-foot deck and matching dock system, part of an extensive outdoor living project for a home on Lake Tapps, in Washington. For the deck’s multiple levels across the home’s lakeside elevation, one of the organizing design elements is a pair of stacked, semi-circular balcony-style projections extending from the home’s central turret.

The framing for the second-story curved balcony was straightforward, with 2x12 pressure-treated (PT) hemlock joists cantilevered over the deck’s 6-inch-by-24-inch dropped PT glulam beam. Forming the curve was a simple matter of swinging an arc across the cantilevered joists and cutting them to length. On the third story, however, the curve circles all the way back to the house. Figuring out how to frame this section—an unsupported 4-foot-deep curved cantilever—without installing another support post or interfering with the planned underdeck drainage system was a head-scratcher.

The solution that our engineer devised for this framing problem is my favorite feature on the deck, but one that is hidden from view: a 1,200-pound steel girder hidden inside the third-story deck framing. Fabricated primarily from 2-inch-by-10-inch and 6-inch-by-10-inch rectangular steel tube, the assembly is bolted to the deck framing, the dropped glulam beam, and an existing glulam rim joist inside the house framing.

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