When entertaining outdoors, you obviously want to create a comfortable setting. A combination of decks and patios don’t have to be elaborate to impress your guests, just well built. Besides they also add property value and expand the functionality of your home.

Green builders favor more patio than deck surfaces because the low-maintenance brick, masonry or stone materials last 50+ years.  Decks, on the other hand, last about 25 years and require more frequent attention.

Having said that, decks can be divine for certain uses. They’re easily built and modified as your family needs change; are multi-function for activities, for example, on top with concealed storage below; and if FSC-certified wood is used your material is a renewable resource.

FSC or Forestry Stewardship Council certified forest products are responsibly grown and logged wood that benefit both people and the environment.

Composite/synthetic/extruded decking materials like Trex have their uses, but none are as cool under foot, can beat a moderate budget, or can display such inherently beautiful grain as natural wood.

Follow these simple steps to get a beautiful wood deck project that will last long term:

1. Build your deck just outside the door, but make it freestanding (do not attach it to your house). That connection stays wet and is notorious for causing rot in both your house and deck.

2. Be a really picky picker – choose or specify wood with few to no knots.  Always choose exterior grade wood. Less knots give less opportunities for running sap. Plus, knot free wood is much more handsome.

3.  Orient each deck board bark-side up. As boards weather, the wood shapes or ‘cups’   according to its grain. A downward-facing cupped board sheds water more easily.

If a boards’  pith (or tree interior) side is upward-facing it is prone to develop ‘shelling’.  Southern pine can shell because it tends to have dense growth rings. Shelling wood looks like a peeling layer of onion and can cause a splinter hazard.

4. Use hidden fasteners or screws. Any exposed hardware weathers faster. If you attach the decking from the top, each screw hole forms a little divot that catches unwanted rain water.  The season’s wetting and drying cycle causes premature wood aging, so the less exposed, the better. Plus, a deck surface with no metal that might catch your bare foot is safer.

5.  Seal and protect the wood with stain. Some decks are replaced due to bad structural supports, but more often decks are replaced because of aesthetic deterioration and/or corrosion of fasteners due to unprotected and warped wood.

Solid (or opaque) finishes last longest but form a coating that might have to be sanded when you refinish it. I personally like semi-transparent and clear finishes. They both wear out sooner but penetrate the wood and usually don’t have to be sanded off to refinish them.
Be aware that decks built before 2004, typically contain arsenic-laden CCA lumber. So, choosing the no-sanding stains for such vintage decks is a real plus.

6.  Use steel stakes for post footings.  Eliminate digging and concrete footings by pounding in a tapered steel stake for each post. They are designed to securely hold a 4 x 4 above the ground, extending the structural life support of your deck framing. Use these stakes when replacing damaged existing 4 x 4 supports – it’s much easier that way.

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Video: Sustainable FSC wood explained

We’d love to see or hear about your deck project here!

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