Done Right, Decks Can Be a Great Place for Enjoying the Outdoors
With spring comes, warmer, sunnier, longer days, causing people to think more about spending time outdoors. A deck can be a great place to spend time outside. It can be a great place to share with family and friends. For a lot of people, a deck is as valuable as any other part of their home. Homeowners who want to enjoy a low maintenance addition to their home might consider a deck. According to a survey done by Remodeling Magazine, adding a deck returned 86.7 percent on the original investment.
Once you’ve decided that a deck is what you need, you then need to decide on what material to use. It used to be that your choices were wood, wood and wood. Nowadays there are a variety of materials to choose from and some of them don’t contain any wood. Wood, whether it’s treated pine, smooth cedar or redwood, is still a reasonable and relatively affordable option. Another product that is currently available and gaining popularity is composite decking, which is a combination of wood bi-products and plastic. Also there are some aluminum, vinyl and plastic decking products out there as well. The focus of this blog is going to be wood and composite.
Wood: The biggest advantage that wood has over the other materials currently is cost. Wood is typically the easiest to purchase due to the availability and familiarity of the product. Wood has been the go to product for years. It has been used for generations and if maintained will last for generations to come. Some people prefer the natural appearance of wood even though some of the alternative products have a very natural wood grain look; they are still simulated. The fact that wood needs to have a finish applied allows for some flexibility for changing the appearance of the deck periodically without changing the material. Wood is a higher maintenance product that needs routine cleaning and refinishing. This may consist of a wood protectant, staining, or painting, all of which are time consuming and cost additional money. Molding, cracking and splintering are also problems that are common with wood.
Composite: Composite decking began to show up in the early 1990’s as a product that was intended to be environmentally friendly. It was made from recycled plastic milk cartons and ground up pallets. Since then many of the manufacturers have started using virgin plastic and wood fiber from other sources or some combination of recycled and virgin products. The wood fibers help protect the decking from UV damage and add stability. The plastic fibers help prevent rotting and splitting. Some composite products are manufactured without using any preservatives. This problem has shown up as the wood fibers deteriorate leaving voids in the decking that leads to failure. For that reason, it is important to use brands that are treated with preservatives and anti-fungal chemicals. Composite decking is more durable and weather resistant; it maintains better color retention and requires less maintenance over the life of the deck than wood, normally just washed a couple of times per year. Even though composite decking is more durable, it is not completely immune to scratches, marks, stains and damage so there are some products that can be used to restore, protect and beautify your composite decking. Anything man made can be man improved. The cost for composite decking is more than wood, but normally will pay for the difference in the long run by minimizing maintenance. The structural capacity and tensile strength of composite decking is less than wood and it should not be used as load bearing components such as joists or beams. None the less composite material is very strong and if installed correctly is able to bear the weight of every day usage. Another advantage of the composite product over wood is the recent introduction of the hidden fastener systems available from several of the manufacturers. Most manufacturer’s offer composite post sleeves, railings and balusters that can be added to the completed deck. There are a wide variety of accessories that can enhance your outdoor experience. Cutting and fastening of composite decking is similar to wood, but it is important that it be installed correctly to not void manufacturer’s warranties.
There are a few other products out there that are less popular than composite or wood. They include hollowed profile plastic decking and hollow extruded aluminum. These are the least natural looking, but have some great longevity characteristics. These products also offer hidden fasteners for clean installation.
As you can see, there are optional materials to consider when building a deck. So if you are planning to build a deck, be sure to contact a qualified builder for help with your choices and do your research. A deck, even though it is a large investment is a great way to enjoy the outdoors for years to come. So let your imagination go, consider all those ideas and dreams, build that deck, then get out the grill and enjoy.