Q: What are the best decking materials?
A: Decks require some special materials in order to withstand exposure to the elements, pest damage and the wear-and-tear of feet and food. Here are some options and their benefits and drawbacks:
|Cedar and Redwood||These are some of the more traditional materials for decking. Both have some resistance to rot but will require wood treatment in order to last in wet climates. Both woods are quite soft and subject to some foot traffic damage. These materials are best suited for the decking surfaces and not for the deck structure. In areas like the Pacific Northwest, decks made out of cedar and redwood will only last for about 10 years.|
|Pressure Treated Lumber||Treated lumber is the preferred product for deck structures. It is quite strong and quite resistant to rut and insect damage. "Appearance grade" products are available for deck surfaces and railings.|
|Composite Materials e.g. Trex®||These materials are usually made out of recycled plastics, most are gray in color. They are completely resistant to rot and insect damage. The material can be worked with regular wood working tools but is heavier than regular lumber and not as strong as framing lumber.|
|Regular Framing Lumber||Regular framing lumber such as Hemlock, Fir, Spruce and Pine are not recommended for outdoor deck construction. In outdoor exposure such as decks, this type of material is subject to insect and fungal wood-rot damage and tends to be short lived.|
|Ipe||This is a tropical hardwood product that has a very good resistant to rot and insect damage. Ipe is often used for deck surfaces.|
A: My advice to anyone considering building a deck should visit the Building Department that covers their property. The rules vary from town to town. Our state of New Jersey is heavily regulated when it comes to footing depth, attaching a deck to a home, railings and steps. I have seen non-permitted work that was done properly torn-out just because no permits were issued or work inspected. Start out on the right track with the authorities and they might even prove helpful with advise should you need it.
There are some general rules about permits for deck. Decks that are within 18" of the ground generally don't require permits. Some jurisdiction also have a value threshold and so a structure that has a value bellow a certain fair market value, say $2500.00 don't require permits.
But there is really no need to guess about these issues. Most building departments have very good web sites and information desks. Contrary to popular belief, I have found that building and planing offices are eager to provide information. They often have helpful pre-printed or on-line forms and brochures.
A: I am answering this questions while sitting on my deck. Now don't get me wrong, I have a very nice office and I really don't mind working from my office. But its a beautiful day today and my deck is located in a very nice part of the yard. There is a built in bench on this deck and a picnic table...
Here are a few more features that I have built into my decks:
The best deck features are those that fit your lifestyle, your home and your yard.
A: Most realtors will tell you that a quality deck gets you "good bang for your bucks." Decks are highly rated for return of investment. A deck adds so much extra area to your home at a relatively low price compared to the enclosed areas of your home. Also, a deck takes a chunk of wear and tear outdoors that would normally take place inside your home.
The value of a well designed and well built deck is not only in the deck itself but also in how the deck enhances the rest of the house. For example, it can be used to give a visual connection between the indoor space and the garden. Such a "connection" can be used to enhance the appeal of both spaces.
A: Deck plugs are cylindrical pieces of wood that fill the countersunk holes where screws are holding the decking in place. Plugs are different from dowels as the grain is perpendicular to the diameter as opposed to parallel as dowels are. After the plugs are installed and sanded, the holes are relatively hidden because the wood plugs match the deck wood. Occasionally, plugs are installed with a contrasting wood instead. This application gives an almost marine look (like a ships deck) to the deck but must be precisely aligned because irregular lines really stand out.
A: This refers to the to the EB-TY® Hidden-Deck Fastening SystemsTM . The EB-TY® biscuits fit into kerf cuts that are made into the deck boards (either cut with a plate-joiner tool at joist intersections or continuous kerfs on side of board). A screw is put into each biscuit at 45 degree angle at each intersection of decking and joists.) The EB-TY® biscuit has a spacer keel that keeps the next board at the appropriate location called for (EB-TY keel widths vary to suit the different deck material requirements.) This procedure is repeated until you reach the edge of the deck. The last board is then screwed and plugged.
Photo curtesy of EB-TY® Hidden-Deck Fastening SystemsTM
A: You are building a quality deck with the best decking materials. Do you think rusty spots at each fastening location would look good? Also, stainless steel screws have no reaction with treated lumber as galvanized fasteners do which could cause them to rust out and fail to hold the deck down. You can learn more about stainless steel fasteners by visiting www.swansecure.com
Let me add a couple of other comments about stainless steel screws:
Photo curtesy of EB-TY® Hidden-Deck Fastening SystemsTM
A: The relative ease of building decks results in the construction of some unsafe decks. Decks are somewhat easier to build than houses but like houses they require some basic structural and safety features. Here are a few examples:
The bottom line is that decks tend to be less complicated structures than houses but that does not mean that they can be built without good planing and attention to structural requirements and codes. And there is lots of good help available for such deck projects. Here are some suggestions:
So, with a little extra time to design and plan a deck, you can end up with a very safe and long lasting structure.
In my work as a home inspector I see a great deal of deck damage from barbecues. IOt is quite common to see deck surfaces and adjacent walls with scorch marks and melted vinyl siding. Luckily most of these cases don't end up in fires, but they do cause some expensive damage. For example, when waterproof deck surfaces are damaged in one area it may be necessary to replace at least some of the special plywood underlayment and re-surface the entire deck. And when vinyl siding is damaged in one area finding some matching replacement material can be very difficult.
Another type of damage from BBQs comes from grease and other spills around the BBQ area. Soft woods like western red cedar and redwood can absorb such liquids and the resulting stains are difficult to remove.
So here are some tips that should help in avoiding such problems:
Have a great BBQ!
Hope this finds you doing well, happy New Year!
We had the structural/safety work done on our deck you suggested and then turned to dealing with the peeling paint...
Talked with someone at a good paint store and he recommended stripping it and if the underneath wood was great switching to a stain and if it wasn't then use an oil primer and a floor paint, he said the best thing they had was a floor enamel.
I stripped as much of the deck as have time for this year, the wood isn't good quality, so will return to paint. When I returned to the paint store and buy primer and get paint I was being helped by someone else and asked if this was the best floor paint for use on a deck--he said no and recommended two other options (neither of which they carry), can't find one but the other is actually a synthetic rubber made from hypalon, not what we have the right surface for at all.
So all of this is a long way of asking if you have any recommendations on a paint to use on our deck surface?
(Photo above is of the deck before the structural/safety repairs.)
A: Hello Elizabeth, I will continue to vote against any kind or paint or coating. My experiance shows that the paint will fail even if the wood was in excellant condition and you were able to prepare, prime and paint the wood under ideal conditions.
My suggestion is that you pressure wash the deck. Replace any badly damaged pieces with treated lumber and then stain the deck. You should be able have a medium bodied stain tinted with a color that blends the areas with paint and those without. The stain can penetrate into the wood and will last much longer than paint. The end result will not be perfect but I have seen decks with this type of a treatment that look very nice.
I would not choose a heavy bodied stain - its not much different than paint and will tend to peal and chip like paint.
Q: - Follow-up: Hi George, Read your answer, thanks...
I see on the paint store's website they have a semi-transparent exterior stain that is recommended for siding and fences that can be tinted (presumably could be made purple) but their deck stain is only in 6 factory colors (all more natural tones than purple!), I take it from your response you would recommend an exterior stain (even though not a deck stain) over a floor paint? even considering that the sides and undersides of the boards will still be painted? (I'll replace the boards before I go that far with the stripping--one thing to look down while working with the nasty chemicals, who