Who knew you could talk so much about DECKS. This will be a three part series talking about decks and the possibility of converting them into screen-rooms and sun-rooms. I will talk about the options for surfacing, railing, steps, lighting and much more. But you have to have a deck before you even think about making it more. So that is what we will talk about here.
Adding a deck to a house adds great outdoor space to a home allowing room for parties, family get togethers, cookouts, sunbathing and just plain fun. Adding a deck or decks will add value to your home and make it more appealing. Properly built decks are safe and secure.
Most deck failures we hear about or see on TV are caused by decks not being properly attached to the house, poor construction practices or inadequate maintenance. Most deck failures happen because of one of the above and too many people on the deck. Knox County has guidelines for proper deck and railing construction. I have the link to it at the end of this article. If you follow their guidelines as I do, then you will never have to worry about friends or family being hurt on your deck.
When I talk to a potential customer I like to ask a lot of questions so I can best meet their needs. Size, shape and features are all important.
One question I ask is: If you are building a deck now, are you planning on adding to it or covering it at a later date? This answer determines how we will build it. Some will say that they would like to eventually have a screen room or sun room. If that is the case, we will design and build a deck that will support the next phase, such as a screen room. A few years from now we add the screen room on a structure ready for that load. Then in another year or two we can take out the screen and install windows and HVAC.
It is all in the planning. But knowing ahead makes the whole process easier and less expensive to get to the final phase. Pressure treated wood is usually used for the deck structure, but you need to decide on your decking material, railing system and other features you want.
So, you have thought it through and decided what you want to build. Now, talk with the county codes department or your builder to see if a construction permit is required. If so, then county inspectors will be on the site at certain stages of the building process to insure that codes are met. For instance, the county guide gives you the specs as to how many and what kind of fasteners are required to secure a deck to the house.
If you are building a deck and attaching it to a brick wall you must know what is behind the brick to secure to. You cannot secure a deck ledger to a brick wall only. Brick fascia has no load capacity. If there is not a solid 2X10 or 2X12 band behind the brick to fasten to in the area where the deck will go, then you must secure posts in the ground against the wall on a foundation to support the back of the deck.
A deck not fastened properly to the home or supported is a hazard. If no permits are required on your project, then it is up to you and your builder to make sure the deck it built right. So, hire the right guy for the job. Some folks think that anybody can build a deck. The “Chuck in a truck” guy you know or have been introduced to may be a former house framer or from some other trade, but he may not be the guy you want to build your new 14’ by 22’ deck if he does not have the experience.
Here is my test for a deck builder:
How long has he been in business building decks?
Is he licensed and insured? These are both verifiable so call or look them up.
Get references, and call them. Ask for pictures of the decks they've built and if the homeowner would let you come by and see the project
Was he the cheapest bid and by how much? If he is way less I would question it. Bids among experienced builders should not vary more than 10 to 15% for the same deck project.
Do you like them and can you communicate/work well with them?
Do they use a builder’s contract? If so, read it. Most legitimate builders will write down what they are going to do and how they will get paid.
This is a good start on what to consider before you build a deck. If you have an existing deck that has been well maintained it can be resurfaced and/or added to. Your builder will advise you after he has inspected the main structure. There is more to talk about, such as the many types of surfacing materials you can choose from, different sealing products, railing and step systems, accent lighting and more. In the next two articles I will expand upon these topics.
Now, the link to the Knox County Deck Handout is:
This article was written by Jerry Hardwick, General Manager of HB Construction and Supply, LLC. Any errors or misstatements are unintentional and industry direction, standards, and scope continue to change. If you have any questions or comments for the author please contact him at 865-690-0000. Follow us on Facebook at Homebuilders Construction and Supply.
Deck Surfacing Options, really so many?
Last time I talked about the proper deck structure required for safety and stability. In this article I will cover the many options for surfacing your deck, (and there are many). So, here we go.
Wood: SYP, or treated southern yellow pine is usually the specie of choice around here. It comes in a 5/4 board which is usually 5-1/2” wide and an inch thick and can be purchased in lengths up to 20’ and special ordered longer. It is available in several grades. #2 is the least expensive and will have knots and plenty of grain texture. It is the hardest to maintain and may be bowed and curved. It is easily straightened out when installed but over the years will do it’s best to go back like it was. #1 Premium is a better grade and the next step up in price. It is straighter and knots are limited in size and number. The knots are usually not any bigger than a nickel. It is a good choice for mid-budgeted projects. My favorite and the only one HB Construction will use is #1 Premium KDAT, (kiln dried after treatment). It has all the attributes of #1 Premium but is kiln dried after treatment has been applied. It usually will shrink less than all the others and is the truest. It is the most expensive and well worth it. Probably the biggest advantage of natural wood is its real wood look and ability to be stained or painted any color. The biggest dis-advantages are that it has to be maintained periodically, is chemically treated, and is not as kind to bare feet. There are two products that can make life a lot easier. First Sikkens makes a family of stain/sealers that will last years in direct sunlight and will maintain its rich look. Another product I love is called OneTime Wood Sealer. If applied as the company tells you to it is guaranteed for 7 years. I will give you links at the end of this article to check them both out. Another choice is a product generically referred to as Ironwood. It is a South American wood and is beautiful. It is hard, even grained, no knots, can be stained and sealed, and will last almost forever. Yep, it’s expensive but makes the best looking wood deck surface I have ever seen. Stay away from cedar and redwood. They are both very porous and soft woods and require lots of maintenance. Pretty at first, but grey quickly. Redwood is not well suited for the southern climate and all the moisture. Painted, both species will hold moisture and rot.
Composites and Synthetics: There are many companies out there that make these materials. I will call them “manufactured” here. The advantage is that they do not require staining and sealing. You purchase them in a color and texture you like and the only maintenance should be soap and water washings. There are products like Jomax that have cleaners specifically formulated for these products. You may need this if you go longer that six months between cleanings and allow algae, mold or mildew to grow or have trees with low hanging branches. Some products are resistant to these pesky organics but they will grow where leaves and debris are allowed to collect. These products are available in 5/4 sizes like wood, and usually can be ordered in 12’, 16’ and 20’ lengths. They grow and shrink forever. Due to the content of polymers and plastics, the coefficient of expansion and contraction is like wood, but never really stabilizes like wood. You have to be careful with butt-joints, spacings and end cuts that terminate into siding, brick and stone. It is best not to install these products in extreme cold, because when it warms up it may out-grow butt joint and edge spacing allowances. Composites have a sub-structure mostly made up of re-cycled plastics and wood in a polymer binder with a synthetic top and side coating for look and texture. Synthetics are usually a pure polymer, PVC, or other material through and through. The advantage of a synthetic is that it does not show scratches as bad and there is no wood product in it to feed mold and mildew. Now that we have gotten through all the boring techno stuff let’s talk about looks and textures. These products are available in many, almost endless colors and textures. Because all of these are production manufactured the colors are usually very consistent. Some companies will produce boards in a color and then apply a top color, (usually black or a dark color) to create more of a wood grain look. Evergrain makes some great looking products using this method. You can mix colors such as using one color for the main deck and another for boarders that gives the deck a real “wow” factor. (see photos). These decks look rich and expensive, and they are. Composites and synthetics are usually three to four times as expensive as treated SYP but boy, they look incredible. Consider heavy texture. Ever wondered why a Gunite pool coating on concrete is cooler to your feet in summer? Part of the reason is heavy texture. When you are walking on a hot smooth surface your foot is making maximum contact with the surface and you “feel the heat”. Gunite is applied with heavy texture and allows your feet to have less full contact with the surface and thus does not feel as hot. Same with manufactured decking. The heavier the texture the less your feet “feel the heat”. This is especially important here in the south were wearing shoes around the house is a sin.
I have covered the main products used in our area for deck surfacing. But there are more. In the next article I will talk about railing options, steps designs, multi-level applications and lighting. Here are some links to a few sources of wood sealers and decking manufacturers. So do some research. You can call me and I will make some recommendations and can build your deck too.
This article was written by Jerry Hardwick, General Manager of HB Construction and Supply, LLC. Any errors or misstatements are unintentional and industry direction, standards, and scope continue to change. Reproduction of this article is not permissible unless permission is given by the author. If you have any questions or comments for the author please contact him at 865-690-0000 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook at HB Construction and Supply.