Here at RenoCompare we strive to bring you the best and most inspiring deck ideas and photos to help you compare the market and plan the right deck for your home. However when comparing the options it is wise to know the answers to the most common and frequently asked decking questions before making your shortlist…read on to become a deck expert! And click here for more deck and gazebo ideas.
Whether decking shrinks or swells depends on the material used to build the deck. Wood that isn’t pressure treated will definitely expand and contract when wet. When it dries, the wood will shrink. These cycles will eventually cause wood decking to warp and crack. This is even true of cedar decking and redwood decking as it ages.
Composite decking such as Trex decking and PVC such as Azek decking doesn’t absorb moisture, so swelling and shrinking are not problems with these materials.
Let’s take these issues in order. First, composite decking contains wood, either sawdust or ground wood fiber. That material can absorb liquids such as oil, and the result can be a stain. Even top brands like Trex decking can stain if oil, paint, juice or other liquids aren’t quickly cleaned up.
Composite decking typically fades slightly, if at all, in the first season. After that, the color becomes stable. PVC products such as Azek decking are also prone to fading, though the industry is working to improve UV protection in its products to reduce or eliminate fading.
Finally, composite decking such as Trex will scratch if heavy objects such as furniture are dragged across it. Even sharp pet claws and sand can cause scratching. However, the scratches are typically superficial, and with time, they blend. To prevent scratches, pick up deck furniture when moving it, and broom loose dirt off the decking regularly to prevent abrasions to the composite decking.
All wood decks need to be sealed in order to ensure long-lasting good looks and performance. Cedar decks need to be sealed despite the fact that cedar has natural water-resistant properties. To seal a cedar deck, use a clear sealer or a stain that contains sealer. Cedar decks need to be stained or sealed at least every three years, though most deck professionals recommend that you power wash and seal your deck each year to prevent rotting, splintering and cracking of the boards. It’s a small price to pay for maintaining a large investment in the value and enjoyment of your home.
Some decking is waterproof. For example, Azec decking is made from PVC plastic, so is completely waterproof. Composite decking from Trex and other top brands is waterproof too because it is approximately 50 percent plastic.
Your deck is turning green and getting slippery because of algae growing on it. The algae must be removed before slippery decking is no longer a problem. You can find algae remover at your local home improvement store. The best products contain oxygen bleach which is an alternative to chlorine bleach that is safe for people, pets and the environment. Follow the instructions carefully on the cleaning product you select. In most cases, you apply the algae cleaner and use a stiff broom or brush to scrub off the algae. The surface is then power washed, and green, slippery decking is no longer a problem. You can keep decking from turning green and getting slick by cleaning it on a regular basis, especially in areas of the deck that are shaded and therefore more conducive to the growth of algae.
Both decking oil and stain offer excellent protection for your deck. Deck oil prevents moisture absorption and rot and protects the wood against fading caused by the sun. In addition, decking oil can be tinted to give you the color you prefer. Decking oil won’t peel. Deck stain offers much the same protection as oil, and it is available in many colors too. Choose a deep-penetrating stain for the longest-lasting protection.
Decking varies in how hot it gets based on what it’s made from and its color. Aluminum decking is the coolest of the common decking materials. Composite decks get hotter than aluminum. For example, Trex decks get fairly hot in direct sunlight, and the darker the color is, the hotter it will get. PVC decks like Azek decking also can get hot in the sun, and might be uncomfortably warm to bare feet or to pets.
Animals are sometimes attracted to decks, seeking shelter beneath them. Decks have been known to attract mice, rabbits, possums, skunks and the occasional raccoon or snake. They don’t attract rats or bats, and while squirrels may scurry around under a deck, they prefer to nest in trees. If you’re concerned that there may be animals under your deck, an animal control company in your area should be able to determine if they are there and remove them if necessary. You might also try a liquid or granular product designed to get rid of animals under the deck and to keep them from coming back. These products can be found online and at garden centers and home improvement stores. Traps are available too.
Any wood deck can rot, though cedar decks and pressure treated decks resist rotting better than untreated, soft pine decking. To help prevent rot, seal your deck on a regular basis. In the harshest climates, including those with very sunny weather, even cedar decking might have to be sealed yearly to prevent dry rot. Composite decking such as Trex decking is very resistant to rot because of the high plastic content. You’ll pay more for composite decking or PVC decking, but it requires less maintenance and will give you more years of service, in most cases.
In most communities, a building permit is required to build a deck. The main reason is to ensure the safety of anyone who uses the structure. There have been many unfortunate instances in which decks, stairs or railings that were built with poor design or materials have collapsed, causing injury or death. Most commonly in such cases, the required deck permit was not obtained. When a deck building permit isn’t obtained and something goes wrong, the homeowner is subject to civil and criminal penalties. It makes sense to obtain planning permission from the local building department, so the deck can be inspected as a means of protecting you and others.
The primary requirements are a design that is safe and practical, high-quality materials such as cedar, composite or PVC, and skilled craftsmanship to build the deck properly. In most communities, a deck building permit is needed to ensure proper design, materials and construction.
Most decks do not need a slope since the boards are separated, allowing moisture to drain between them. Some deck builders slope their decks very slightly, perhaps ½” over 10 or 12 feet. The deck pitch should not be noticeable or so steep that it becomes a safety hazard.
If you’re building a deck in which the boards are butted to one another with no gaps, deck slope is more important. If the sides are enclosed too, such decks need ventilation. If moist air accumulates beneath a wood structure, it will hasten rot. Enclosed decks without gaps between boards, a rare combination, should be vented both on the side and on the deck itself.
In most communities, building requirements demand that ground level decks need footings and posts. This is done for the deck’s long-term stability and to help ensure that it is level and won’t settle. Your building code department will have the details.
Whether or not decks have to have railings is usually determined by how far off the ground they sit. While the exact height varies among community building codes, decks less than two feet off the ground usually do not need railings while those with more elevation typically do. Keep in mind that if your deck needs a railing, spindles will also be required along with properly built stairs and stair railings, if stairs are part of the design.
Decks increase home value and are therefore a good investment, especially when the deck is attractively designed to blend with the home’s architecture and it is properly built for safety and performance. Wood decks have ROI that is quite high. Composite decks and PVC decks have slightly lower ROI because they cost more to build in the first place.
Statistics gathered from real estate agents show that decks add value to the house, and up to 80 percent of the cost of a deck can be recouped at sale, if the deck is well-maintained. In short, decks have good ROI.
Screws/Nails: Decking screws and decking nails are the two most common types of fasteners used in deck construction. Nails are less expensive and easier to install. The advantages of deck screws are that they hold tighter and longer than nails. Most deck screws are coated too in order to prevent corrosion.
Joists: Deck joists are the boards, usually two-inch dimensional lumber that is 8 to 12 inches wide, that the decking material is fastened to. Joists are attached to the structure with the narrow side up, and the deck boards are nailed or screwed to them.
Tiles/boards: The surface of the deck—the part you walk on—is usually constructed from boards, but deck tiles are coming into vogue too. Deck boards vary in width from a few inches up to 12 or more. They are usually made of wood, but wood composite, PVC and aluminum boards are also widely used. Deck tiles can be wood, but most often composite materials are used.
Footings: Footings are concrete deposits poured several feet below the ground surface, and they serve as a stable place for deck posts to rest on. Where frost is a problem, footings must be poured below the local “frost line” to ensure that frost won’t cause the posts to rise and fall leading to deck damage. Footing size varies, but is usually at least 8 inches cubed.
Sheets: Deck sheets are sheets of composite or PVC material used to cover a deck. They come in various sizes and are typically wider than standard decking boards.