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Hidden Deck Fasteners - Continued

Eb-ty

Clever in its versatile simplicity, the Eb-Ty makes it possible to prepare the decking boards ahead of installation. Your main weapon is a biscuit joiner or slot-cutting router, used to cut a slot in both edges of the deck board at the specific joist spacing. The Eb-Ty connector is a UV-resistant polypropylene biscuit with a 3/32-inch-thick raised auto-spacing tab at its center and an elongated screw-hole in the middle. Because of its thin, low profile, you can use the Eb-Ty with 1x decking material. After inserting the connector in the slot, a #7 stainless-steel finishing screw, driven through the biscuit and board edge at a 45-degree angle, holds the decking in place. You may have to predrill hard lumber species before installing the screws. Each successive board, prepared with mating slots, is tapped into place over the exposed half of the biscuit connector, and the sequence is repeated.

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Designed to take advantage of the biscuit-joiner, the versatile Eb-Ty can be used with softwood, hardwood, and composite lumber of any thickness. Adhesive is recommended to prevent squeaks.

Unlike some of the other connectors mentioned thus far, the Eb-Ty puts the deck board in direct contact with the joist. This manufacturer recommends the additional use of an exterior-grade flooring adhesive in conjunction with their fastener to offset the possibility of squeaks and rattles, apparently a legitimate concern with edge fastening systems.

Butt joints. A single Eb-Ty connector can be installed across a butt joint by cutting the slot in place on the center of the joint. Common biscuits may also be used to align butt joints of slightly differing thickness before installing the Eb-Ty.

I like this system, because you're cutting, rather than punching, the edge slots, ensuring that the lumber won't surprise you later by splitting around the fastener. It also isn't limited for use with softer wood species and thicker profiles. But, it requires the patient focus of a cabinetmaker to make sure that the slots are all properly aligned and cut. And because you have to prepare both edges, you're handling each piece of lumber a lot.

The Eb-Ty is relatively expensive, at 44¢ each, including the stainless screws. You'll need 2.75 fasteners per square foot on 31/2-inch-wide decking over 16-inch on-center framing.


Shadoe Track

Another bottom fastener, the steel Shadoe Track employs a continuous-angle track that is first nailed along the top edge of each joist. The decking is then screwed to it from below. Shadoe Track's profile is relatively flat, with a small, 90-degree bend that registers against the joist's edge. The track fastens to the joist using galvanized spiral or annular-ring nails. Deck boards are installed one at a time and secured with screws by kneeling on the deck board and reaching underneath to drive the screws. If you've got one, a right-angle screwgun will provide an ergonomic advantage here.

It's said that once you acclimate to an upside-down position, the throbbing blood pressure in your head equalizes, but I believe you'll find out for yourself after peering under the decking at your 3000th screw. If you're lucky, you'll be able to work from below, with the aid of a helper or a clamp to hold the board down.

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The shallow profile of the Shadoe Track registers against the edge of the joist. Annular-ring nails fasten the track to the top edge of each joist (above). A right-angle screw gun helps ease the pain of upside-down screwing (left). If you're lucky, you'll be able to work from below.

The manufacturer calls for 9 nails and 52 screws per 8-foot length of track. Shadoe Track is available in 20-gauge galvanized-, beige powder-coat, or stainless-steel, in 4- and 8-foot lengths. Four-foot lengths cost $4 to $5 each; 8-foot track lengths range in price between $7 and $8 each; drill-point screws and annular-ring nails are available at additional cost.


Stealth Decking Fasteners

Deck One's promotional literature claims that the Stealth Decking Fastener installs as fast as traditional nailing. In reality, traditional nailing installs as fast as traditional nailing — clips are somewhat slower. The high-tensile-steel clip is galvanized after it's punched and formed.

After face-nailing the starter board, you hammer the clip's two-way, dual prongs into the leading edge with the aid of a proprietary punch. The Stealth's base is then nailed to the face of the joist, after which you lay the next board in place. You drive the board onto the projecting prongs with a hammer or maul, keeping one foot on the board to prevent it from riding up.

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You have to use a special punch to drive the Stealth Fastener (above). The Stealth nails to the face of the joist, protecting its top edge from damage (top, right). The clip's neck establishes a regular 3/16-inch space between boards. The clip's base has been slightly redesigned for manufacturing efficiency (top, left).

To promote drying, this clip has a pair of tabs that slip under the deck board and elevate it from the top of the joist. Because the base of the clip nails to the face of the joist rather than the top edge, the chance of water penetrating the top of the joist around the nail's shank is eliminated. A face connection also means that you can use a clip on both sides of the same joist at butt joints, eliminating the need to sister lumber on.

Successive boards are driven onto the projecting prongs, using anything from your usual hammer to a ten-pound sledge, depending on the type and density of the deck-lumber you're laying. The prongs on the fastener are short, measuring no more than 7/16 inch. The manufacturer claims that withdrawal due to lumber shrinkage is unheard of. However, I'd still want to make sure that my deck lumber was as dry, and therefore as small as it would ever be in service. Best bet: If using pressure-treated lumber, make sure it's kiln-dried after treatment.

The Stealth is self-gapping, providing a 3/16-inch-wide space between boards. I think this wider gap is a better bet than the 3/32-inch gap imposed by other clips, in the event that wetted deck lumber needs a little room to expand. A self-gapping system, though, can also spell trouble if your decking isn't all of a uniform width, something pressure-treated lumber is notorious for.

Stealth Decking Fasteners cost 24¢ to 26¢ each, and you’ll need an average of two per square foot of 3 1/2-inch-wide decking on 16-inch joist spacing. Add a few extra clips for butt-joints.