Working solo can be a challenge, especially when setting precast deck piers. The ones I use are 48 inches high and have a ½-inch-diameter female threaded insert cast into the top of the pier, and they're heavy enough that I typically move them around with a backhoe. To connect the piers to the backhoe bucket, I fully thread a ½-inch-diameter eyebolt into the fitting, then connect the eyebolt to ½-inch chain using a shackle and ½-inch safety hook (which has a retractable spring loaded lock). I use a chain that is long enough to secure it to the backhoe bucket.

It’s fairly straightforward to set the pier in place with the help of the backhoe, but positioning the pier and maintaining that exact position while backfilling around the pier can be tricky. The setting jig shown here helps solve that problem. This job was a simple farmer’s porch deck, but I've since used the same technique on larger decks that are higher off the ground.

Rob Rose

To center the insert in the top of the pier to receive the 6x6 post anchor at the exact dimension needed, I removed the eyebolt and installed a length of ½-inch-diameter threaded rod long enough to extend higher than the top of the ledger already attached to the building. Then, taking into account the distance out from the house and the lateral offset from the doubled 2x10 end joists and ¾-inch fascia trim that I planned to use on this particular project, I drilled a 9/16-inch-diameter hole in a 2x4 precisely where the 6x6 anchor should be located. I attached the 2x4 to the top of the ledger and dropped the outboard end over the threaded rod, making adjustments to the pier until the 2x4 was square to the ledger. Then I braced the 2x4 with a 1x4 fastened on the diagonal to both the ledger and the 2x4 with screws, checking with a magnetic torpedo level that the threaded rod was plumb. I left the torpedo level in place to help support the 2x4 jig so that it was level with the ledger, and to make sure the position of the pier didn’t shift as I backfilled.

I duplicated the same technique for the opposite corner of the deck, then stretched a reference line from corner to corner. That made setting the other four piers a breeze.

This article originally appeared in Professional Deck Builder.