Free-standing decks – a great alternative
March 16, 2014
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One of the first considerations an owner-builder needs to make is what type of deck you want to build. Decks come in all shapes and sizes, and functions. Could a free-standing deck be the right one for you.

Free-standing decks can turn difficult to use spots into the best part of your home...

Free-standing decks can turn difficult to use spots into the best part of your home…

What is a free-standing deck?
Free-standing decks are not directly attached to a house or other structure. Typical free-standing decks don’t include a roof, making them perfect for outdoor events. Because they don’t have to interface with any other structures, free-standing decks are also very strong and durable.

An example of how decks can transform a suburban yard

An example of how decks can transform a suburban yard

Free-standing decks are perfect for sloping properties as they can transform the sloping yards into extra living space. They’re also ideal when building around or through existing trees you don’t intend to cut down or relocate.

A simple example of how a free-standing deck can enhance your lifestyle

A simple example of how a free-standing deck can enhance your lifestyle

Turning steep, difficult terrain into the best spot on the block

Turning steep, difficult terrain into the best spot on the block

How free-standing decks are used?
A free-standing deck is your own personal oasis. It’s a perfect place for relaxation and a space that allows you to escape from your worldly troubles. It can be the best place to host parties, entertain guests, or simply enjoy some sun or cool breezes.

A very simple, yet very elegant, free-standing deck

A very simple, yet very elegant, free-standing deck

Free-standing decks can also provide an extraordinary view as they can be positioned much higher than a deck attached to a structure, giving you a better view of the surroundings. This height advantage is one of the main reasons why they’re ideal for sloping properties.

Building your free-standing deck
Free-standing decks are an easy project, even for novices. In fact, they’re a great ‘practice’ project before tacking a deck attached to your home. Concrete embedded posts or stirrups are typically used to support free-standing decks. When building on slopes its best to provide extra length for the posts, ensuring that you don’t come short when you try to level the deck. Also be aware of the need for balustrades in any section of your deck is more than around 900mm (3 ft) above ground level. Your local building code will have specific regulations. If you’re not sure where to start, just go back to our very first decking blog and work your way through the steps!

Convinced? Are there any particular features about free-standing decks that appeal to you? How would you use your free-standing deck?

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Finishing your deck – oil or stain?
June 9, 2013
40

Now that you’re done constructing your deck the only thing left to do is to add the finishing touches.  Both oils and stains have their own distinct advantages. In this post we’ll have a look at both finishing materials.

A good deck can make a house a home...

A good deck can make a house a home. In this example, the deck is oiled without any tint.

Finishing your deck with an oil or stain is an important step to ensure that your deck will last for years. Untreated wood is vulnerable to cracking, fading, and weathering and attack by fungus and other microbes. Treated timber will also dry and crack over time but will not rot assuming the treatment has been performed properly.  Regular application of an oil or stain ensures that decking materials are well protected against the major causes of deterioration.

Decking Oil:
Decking oil is used to protect wood from weathering and UV exposure. Because it soaks into the timber, restoring lost natural oils it significantly reduces the risk of decay. The right oil also greatly enhances the appearance of the deck.

Choosing the right colour
Decking oils vary in terms of colour. Tinted oils provides a richer and darker tone to the wood and are best for lighter shaded wood. Natural (untinted) oils retains the original colour of the wood. Wood valued for its colour is best finished using clear oils because it highlights the deep and rich natural colour of the wood.

Note that you should apply the first coat of oil as soon as practicable after completion. Delaying, even for a few weeks, will cause some permanent discolouration and bleaching of your timbers.

Decking oil application
The method of application depends upon the variety of wood and the type of oil you’re using. In recent years, despite sounding counter-intuitive, some excellent water-based oils have become available. They are very easy to apply and give an excellent finish however, in my experience, need re-coating more frequently than traditional oils.  The trade-off is that they are quick to apply so your annual time commitment is probably equal.

This deck has been stained with a light pigment

This deck has been oiled with a light pigment to give a consistent colour

To get the best results with any oil (or stain) it’s best to experiment by applying the oil on an off-cut from the job to see what the finished effect will be. If you have used a combination of timbers, for example, pine and cedar, make sure you test the oil on both as they will give very different results. You may need to add a tint to the pine and use a clear finish on the cedar.

Go lightly, my friend…
Avoid applying thick coats of oil as the excess oil can attract dust and other particulates. Instead, apply a light coat wait between a week or even a fortnight between coats. This will give the oil time to soak completely into the wood before you apply additional coats.

Wood stains:
Much like decking oil, wood stains also protect wood from weathering, UV rays, and other forms of deterioration. Unlike an oil, stains seal the wood, adding an extra layer of protection against the elements. It is important to understand the difference because you cannot ‘unstain’ timber.

Wood stains are used to permanently alter the colour of the wood. Stains come in a wide variety of penetrating strengths. These strengths allow you to control the depth of colour and tint of the wood.

Wood stain variation
The ability of the stain to penetrate determines the kind of pigmentation it’s able to create. Less penetrating stains provides a solid stain. Less penetrating stains provide the best UV protection but because they don’t penetrate well they fade easily. Deep penetrating stain provides transparent or semi-transparent finish. Deep penetrating stains provide less protection against UV rays but are able to highlight the natural grain and character of timber.

An example of staining. The finish is permanent.

An example of staining. The finish is permanent.

Wood stain maintenance
Wood stain also requires resealing but doesn’t require the same level of maintenance as decking oil. However, your decking is going to be exposed to the weather 24 hours a day and will look tatty if you leave it to long between scheduled maintenance.  You should also be aware that regular re-coating will minimise your ‘prep time’ – the hardest part of any painting process. 

Wood stain application
As with decking oil, it’s best to apply a couple of coats to off-cuts or excess pieces of wood to test the final look of the stain. You should also avoid rebrushing stain that has already been applied as this will often result in annoying changes in colour depth in that spot.  Instead, work consistently in one direction. You should also stain the entire area in one sitting as this will give full colour consistency.

So, there you go!  Both oil and stain have distinct advantages.  For me, the decision usually comes down to the quality of timber used. If the deck is merbau, teak or jarrah for example, I will want to highlight and enhance the natural beauty of those timbers by using a clear oil. If the deck is pine, II will usually choose a solid colour stain in order to get colour consitency and to provide maximum protection.

Now it’s over to you… oil or stain? Which one will you use and why?

If you have any questions or you’d like to share your experience, just scroll down to the comments box below. Thanks for joining me. 

 

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Should you roof your deck?
March 20, 2013
3
A wide span, insulated skillion roof

A wide span, insulated skillion roof

Last time we talked about deck flooring and balustrades. With the flooring and balustrades in place your deck is ready to use.  But one vital question remains – to roof or not to roof?

Installing a roof isn’t just about protecting your deck from the climate. In fact, as long as you’ve properly weatherproofed your deck you can rest assured that it’s safe from nearly anything the weather can throw at it.  A roof allows you to enjoy your deck at any time, rain, hail or shine. A roof can also minimise maintenance if you’ve built near trees – you won’t have to worry about sweeping up the leaves every time you want to use it.

Roofing installation
Sturdy deck roofing can withstand the test of time, saving you from the unnecessary expense and hassle of repairs.

Choosing the right roof pitch
Deck roofing comes in different shapes and sizes, but regardless of the design, the roofing’s ability to effectively drain water depends upon its pitch – the degree of slope..  

Flat deck roofing – called skillion – is easy to install and economical to boot, as you only require a limited number of steel sheets for a full build. It’s also convenient when it comes to maintenance as it supports weight well.

The downside of flat deck roofing is that if the pitch is inadequate rain water will pool leading to potential leakage problems. Water pooling on top of the roof can also create a haven for mosquitoes – the last thing you need if you are out enjoying your new deck!

Read and take note of roof manufacturer specifications.  While some metal roofs need only a one degree slope (1 centimetre per metre) other profiles need a minimum five degrees (5 centimetres per metre). Examples would be a ‘Cliplock’ profile needing only one degree while corrugated profiles must have a minimum of five degrees.  The reality is that any slope can channel water towards the gutters and down spouts helping to eliminate any problems that may come with leakage or standing water. From personal experience, I choose a minimum 2.5 degree pitch for any profile where 1 degree is specified as adequate and definitely 5 degrees or more for corrugated profiles.

Overhangs
Make sure you have enough roof overhang so that water does not run back under the roofing on to your deck  – especially if you have minimum pitch.

Aesthetics
Obviously, you want your deck roof to blend with the house.  However, be aware that pitched roofs, whether they are gable or hip, will be more expensive than a skillion roof.  Both gable and hip are more labour intensive and also require more materials.  A hip roof is the most complex and expensive option.

Insulation
Unless you have a minimum 2.7 metres (9 foot) of clearance under your roof, I strongly recommend you insulate.  If you want to understand how much heat can radiate through a roof in peak summer, take a trip into your home’s roof space! 

If you decide to insulate, consider one of the bonded roofing options.  These are a ‘sandwich’ of roofing and insulation with a finished underside.  The material cost is higher but some of these sheets can span six metres (20 feet) reducing framing and finishing costs.  The bonus is that they look very ‘finished’ once they are up.

Curtains
If you have decided to roof your deck, you should also consider adding clear vinyl roll-up curtains.  In fine weather keep them rolled up out of the way so that you can enjoy the breeze and the view.  But when it rains, or in cold weather, they can transform your deck into a year round, weather independent living space.

Summary:
Roofing your deck will multiply its usability by offering excellent weather protection, especially with side curtains. The roof will also enhance the visual appeal of the deck which, in turn, should increase the value of your home to any intending purchaser.

In our next post we’ll discuss whether to oil or stain your deck.

In the meantime. if you have any questions or suggestions – or simply a comment – just type it below and I’ll respond.

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Deck Flooring and balustrades
January 9, 2013
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Deck seating.

Have you considered building your seating along with your deck?

So far we’ve covered everything from planning right through to your footings and joists. Today we’ll be tackling a challenge involving two important aspects of deck building. It’s time to install your deck flooring and balustrades.

Deck Flooring
This deck members (the floor slats) are installed on top of the deck joist. Aside from simply being the parts you stand on, the members also help to strengthen and stabilize the whole structure.

Selecting the right decking width
One consideration you have to make as an owner-builder is the width  of your decking boards. Boards come in a variety of widths, fromnarrow to quite wide. A number of factors will influence your choice.

Wider board make for an easier installation for the simple fact that you have fewer boards to place. This could save you a lot of time and effort. If you’re on a tight budget then wide board decking could be right for you.

Although narrow boards require more effort for installation and cost more money than wide boards, they also carry with them a number of perks. Narrow boards provide greater structural strength than wide boards. They’re also excellent for achieving intricate flooring designs, giving narrow board decking the edge when it comes to aesthetics.

Flooring installation
The most important thing to remember when installing the deck boards is that the grooved side should always be facing down. The grooves aren’t meant for grip or texture – despite the common misconception.  They allow for better airflow underneath the boards, limiting moisture and mould and algae growth.

Deck balustrades
Depending on the height of your deck you may need to install balustrades. This is one of the major considerations you have to keep in mind when seeking a building permit. Local councils have set standards on fencing and balustrades, so it’s important that you consult with them before building.

Below are some of the things you need to consider when installing balustrades:

Safety
Even a small fall can be dangerous. Balustrades should be strong enough to support the weight of a fully grown person and the spacing of balustrades should be no more than 100mm (four inches) apart to ensure that the balustrading is strong and small children can’t slip through. It’s also important to ensure that the balustrade is of a sufficient height that children can’t easily climb them and that adults can’t topple (tipple?) over them either.

Aesthetics
Balustrades keep your deck safe and at the same time can help give it a stylish look. There are many designs to choose from and nearly as many materials, but timber is still the popular choice thanks to the variety of textures and colours available.

Once your flooring and balustrades are installed your deck is all but finished.

What will you use for flooring, the wider deck board or the narrower ones? What kind of balustrade will you use? Comment below or join our decking group.

Should you roof your deck? Find out in our next post!

 

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