When the nights are balmy and the days long and warm, there’s nothing more relaxing than lazing an undercover deck transforms the backyard into an outdoor retreat that can be enjoyed year round, connecting the indoors with the garden.
If you want to build a deck, take time to do some research, to find the size and style that suits your home and choose a material aligned to your budget and lifestyle. Be sure to check building codes and bushfire zone regulations for your area, too. Timber was once the only material used for decks but these days there is a range of composite, resin, metal and cement products that look smart and modern, and they need little maintenance.
Unless you have other shady spots, you’re going to need a roof to shade the deck in summer, so factor this into the construction costs. Make the deck more inviting by styling with bright cushions on the furniture, outdoor rugs and potted plants. Buy some self-watering pots, and use a double saucer for big plants if you have timber decking, as water leaks stain the wood.
People choose timber decking because it’s a natural product with a warm, traditional ambience. It comes in a range of widths, and is a good choice if you enjoy going barefoot in summer, as it stays cooler than many other materials. It’s also good in wet climates and for pool areas because, although it absorbs some water, it does not get too slippery.
Timber’s biggest downfall is that it weathers when exposed to the elements and needs sealing, usually yearly, depending on its exposure to sun and rain. Sealers enhance the natural colour and stop timber splitting, cracking and rotting. Decking products can only be used on seasoned timber, as unseasoned hardwoods containing tannins need to be treated to remove these before sealing.
Timber decks are not as suitable for fire-prone areas and can be attacked by termites and borers, although hardwoods are more resistant. When you are shopping around, ask about the source of the timber, to check on sustainability. The tropical hardwoods are mostly felled in South-East Asian rainforests. Here are some options to consider.
For a non-fuss, practical and modern finish, consider composite, polyurethane resin, aluminium and cement fibre decking, as they keep their good looks with just an occasional sweep and mop. Fibre cement and aluminium are the best choice for fire-prone areas, and any wood composite that has a fire-retardant coating. Some have a Bushfire Attack Level rating of up to BAL-40.
There are some manmade decking boards that are made from recycled materials, which add to their ‘green’ credentials, but most of them are more expensive than timber.
One advantage of manmade boards is that they resist stains, mildew and scratches, and do not splinter or rot. Some products stay cool and are anti-slip. Many have finishes that resemble timber, such as the quality resin and composite products, which look reasonably authentic and are less likely to fade than cheaper versions.
Most manmade decking is easy to lay, as all the boards are straight and the same length.
Most types are manufactured with a groove along the side and are fixed with a clip or similar concealed fastening system, which saves on labour costs as installation is relatively quick.
Some aluminium products can be laid flush, so there are no gaps between the boards, which can be useful when you want to use the area beneath a raised deck for storage.
Composite, pine or merbau modular decking is widely available. The prefabricated, modular project kits include a base frame, deck panels and fixings that you use a drill to assemble. Some of the systems have interlocking deck tiles that snap into place, and these can transform an existing concrete patio or balcony.
Cleaning & resurfacing
While hardwood timber decking can be left to weather to a natural grey, it’s usually oiled to protect it, and to show off the beautiful colour and grain of the timber. To clean the boards, pressure wash them or use a hard broom and water jet, then allow to dry before sealing. For decks that are very weathered, use a specialist wood cleaner to brighten the timber before re-coating. Marks on the boards may need sanding to erase them.
Transparent coatings show off the natural timber characteristics, or you can stain them to a more intense colour. After our experience of a lurid burgundy pine deck, we now follow the product instructions carefully, and stir the can well before applying. Use the brush or roller recommended by the manufacturer for the best result. Choose either an oil-based or water-based formula, and stick to that type of product for the life of the deck. If you want to change, you have to strip the timber back to bare wood and start again. Oil-based coatings penetrate the wood better. They also give the timber a ‘wet’ look and are more durable. Water-based coatings are environmentally friendly, have less odour and dry more quickly.
Also read: A GUIDE TO OUTDOOR DECORS.