If your ideal home includes a front porch where you can chat with the neighbors or a back porch where you disappear with a good book and a glass of wine, you’re not alone. A new wood deck provides a warm, handsome connection with the outdoors, adding to a home’s beauty and setting the stage for a world of outdoor activities. According to research by the National Association of Home Builders, 64 percent of single-family homes started in 2015 included a porch, while 23 percent included a deck.
Probably the most difficult decision to make when building a deck or a porch is what type of decking to use. The most basic choices are radius-edged cedar, pressure-treated and composite decking. There is no perfect choice. Each has tradeoffs in terms of cost, maintenance and appearance. Figure out what characteristics are most important to you, then make your selection based on that.
If the natural look of wood is tops on your list, use cedar. The heartwood of the tree is rot resistant. Cedar doesn’t readily absorb moisture which is why cedar decking tends to lie flat and straight. Most carpenters figure a lifespan of 15 to 20 years for cedar deck boards, but it can deteriorate faster when used for ground-level decks and for shaded decks that are slow to dry out.
To retain the color, you have to clean it and reseal it every year or two, and even then it’s a losing battle. Cedar is also soft and when used for stairs or for decks where furniture gets dragged around a lot, the edges in particular can get beat up. Finally, the cost of the cedar is moderate, more than pressure-treated but somewhat less than composite.
If economy and longevity are your bag, go with pressure-treated wood. It’s stainable, hard enough to resist abuse, and many brands carry a lifetime warranty. But beware, not all treated woods are created equal. The standard treated decking usually costs less than cedar. But inexpensive treated wood is often full of moisture and will shrink unevenly and twist when it dries. This is why you may want to buy “choice,” “premium” or “select” treated boards. At about 40 percent more per linear foot, you’ll pay more, but the boards have fewer knots and straighter grain. And, since many of the higher grade choices are kiln-dried both before and after pressure treatment, they have less tendency to warp.
If near-zero maintenance is your goal, buy composite decking. Most is made from recycled plastic and wood chips or sawdust. It’s more expensive than cedar, but once it’s down, it won’t rot, splinter or twist. The color change is even. Since the material is defect free, you can use every inch. Maintenance involves spraying it off with a hose. Some people don’t like the look of the stuff and it’s cold on bare feet. But if you want to relax on your deck instead of work on it, bite the bullet and spend the extra cash.
Keep in mind that Just about any wood, however, can rot if it stays wet long enough. Take the time to examine all the wood carefully to see if any boards are rotten. Unfortunately, most wood rot occurs in places that are hard to see under the decking boards, at the ledger, on the underside of stair treads, and so on. If possible, crawl underneath the deck to make your inspection.
If the rot is less than 1/2 inch deep, the board can probably be left in place. More extensive rot calls for a replacement board. Use a flat pry bar to carefully remove rotten boards. Replace them with rot-resistant wood. If nails or boards are popping up or coming loose, do not pound the old nails down again; remove them and replace them with longer nails, special decking nails, or decking screws.
If any part of your deck stays wet for a day or more after a rainfall, take steps to see that it can dry out. You’ll probably need to use a leaf blower or a broom to sweep away leaves and dirt from between boards or where the deck meets the house. Perhaps a bush or tree limb needs to be trimmed back, or a gutter downspout moved to direct water away from the deck.
Debris between deck boards looks bad and soaks up water, promoting rot. Sweep away the dirt and debris, using a sturdy broom to clear out the debris.
If you will need some advice on which type of wood to choose or some help with repairing your deck or porch contacts us and we will be glad to help.
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