A backyard deck has become one of the most used and most enjoyed areas of a home. Drinking a morning cup of coffee or enjoying an evening with family and friends, decks are a perfect place to be outdoors. Probably the most common material used in building a deck is wood. Wood is still a good choice as a building material, however, there are other materials that are easier to take care of and may even last longer than a wood deck.
Homeowners have several types of materials to select from when building a deck. Here are some of the more common types:
Wood: Wood continues to be a very popular choice! It looks great, very natural and it tends to feel “softer” if you walk on it with bare feet. However, basic wood requires more care and attention than other decking materials. If the wood is not treated or stained on a regular basis (at least once a year), it can split, break apart due to mold that develops from snow and water, and/or rot. Splinters become a significant issue. On the plus side, wood decks that are treated so that water beads off it and that is stained should last a long time. Redwood and cedar are two woods that are used to build decks.
Pressure-treated Wood: If you want a wood deck, then using pressure-treated wood may be a better option rather than using regular wood. Pressure-treated wood is wood that has been treated with chemicals approved for use by the federal government. The formula is applied to the wood using pressure in the process. It is safe to work with and to be around, and it lasts a lot longer than regular un-treated wood. There are different kinds of pressure-treated wood:
- Treated wood with water repellant: This type of wood has been treated with water repellant so that water does not settle into the wood.
- Kiln-dried wood after treatment: This type of wood has been dried so that it is not as wet or as heavy as wet treated lumber. The wood may either be stamped ADAT for air-dried after treatment or KDAT (kiln-dried after treatment).
As mentioned above, wood has been the most popular material used to build a deck. In years past, wood was not pressure-treated. As a result, homeowners would need to stain the wood almost every year to keep it from being damaged by the weather. Pressure-treated wood lasts longer, typically at least 15 years.
Composite decking material needs very little, if any, specific treatment such as applying water repellant or staining. This type of decking should not become moldy, split, break, or splinter. Composite decking is very easy to work with and clean! And, it should last a good 20 years or more. Since it is a man-made material, this type of decking comes in lots of colors as well as textures. It does not require painting. Although you can purchase composite decking that looks very much like real wood, composite decking is not a natural material. The composite is made from wood fibers combined with recycled plastic. Since composite decking is so low maintenance, it is more expensive than regular wood.
Those not as popular as composite materials or wood, vinyl is also an option when you are building a deck. Like composite materials, vinyl can look like wood, too. Vinyl material, made from PVC, can be a solid or hollow plank. Need a specific color for your deck? No problem! Vinyl material can be ordered in almost any color. It is also cost effective. The drawback of vinyl decking is that is may crack especially if it is in direct sunlight for long periods of time.
You might not think of aluminum as an option for decking material, but it might be a perfect solution for you. Aluminum is strong, light, and flexible. It is used for all types of decks, including decking around pools and ponds. Deck building kits are available with many coming with interlocking aluminum pieces making building a deck easy. The downside of aluminum decking is the expense. Aluminum decking is the most expensive of all decking material options.
If you want to build a deck yourself, or if you have an expert builder construct your deck, there are several important items you should keep in mind, with the top one being safety. The goal is not only to build a well-designed deck, but one that is safe to use. Here are some tips to keep in mind when building your deck:
- Permits: Almost all towns require that you obtain a building permit to build a deck. The permit will require you to submit a detailed deck plan that includes materials to be used and specific deck measurements. Your permit must be approved before you can start building.
- Footing: Regardless of the type of deck you are building, a deck needs to be solidly built from the ground up. Footings must be designed and installed correctly. Footings need to be the size necessary to hold the deck in place. Size of the deck, the deck design, and the weight of the deck itself are all included in the calculation to determine the size and type of footings that will be needed. Check with your local area building codes to make sure that this part of construction is done correctly.
- Ledgers: If you the deck you are building will be connected to your home, you will need to install ledger boards on your house. These will be used to install decking materials to so that the deck does not fall down. The correct size nuts and bolts are used to attach the deck to the ledger boards. Again, check with local area building codes.
- Railings: Many deck designs require adding railings for safety. Building codes will be different from town-to-town, however common measurements for deck railings include: handrails that are at least 36” high, posts that are less than 6 feet apart, and the opening between railings being less than 4 inches.
Value of a Deck
Is adding a deck to your house worth it financially? The answer is an absolute yes! The amount of return on investment (ROI) depends upon the location of your home, however it is estimated that most homeowners receive, on average, an 80% return. For example, if you spend $10,000 to build a deck, you should receive $8,000 back when you sell your home. This would be for a wood deck. Using more expensive deck materials and/or a more complicated design may results in a less ROI. However, ROI is not the only reason to build a deck. Having an outdoor place to relax and have fun is priceless!