Building a Deck For Your Home or Vacation Retreat! - June 1st 2009


Building a Deck For Your Home or Vacation Retreat!


With outdoor living becoming more and more the "norm" at vacation homes, outdoor decks and recreational areas are a great way to provide adequate space with the least amount of inconvenience possible.

Before you start building a deck, the first item to consider is location. Sometimes this doesn't create a problem because you may have all four sides of the home available. But, if not, you'll need to decide what location is the best. The most preferred outdoor living space would be south east exposure to take advantage of the morning and all day sun. If you can wrap the deck around the corner, it will also give you a west view and the sunsets would be a bonus. Keep in mind, if you are in a forested area, the tree shade line will have to be addressed to provide as much sun exposure versus shade and so on. Also, when determining the location, it is important to consider summer and winter vacation periods when determining to ensure optimal usage.

Every new deck requires a solid base and a step away from or down from the main building. What is a "step away from"? Some people may call this a level entry or exit deck surface, with no obstructions when maneuvering in or out. I like to build this type of deck without attaching a ledger to the existing building. A ledger is a structural member fastened to the main building that the joists rest on and project out to the grade beam locations. This would not be my preference. This procedure could affect the level of the deck if the building was to settle.

My preference is to locate treated posts or concrete pilings to the level of the grade beams and locate the deck joists to the required level for level entry at door locations. Using this procedure will allow the main structure to move up or down and not interfere with the deck level.

This application can also be used to accommodate a step down to the appropriate grade beam level if level entry is not feasible. This procedure will not interfere with the main structure in the event of frost heave or unstable ground settling.


Deck Type:

To build a wood-structured deck, the main structural component will normally be wood (grade beams, joists, steps, etc.). Choose pressure treated (certified with stamp on each piece no exceptions) to ensure protection against fungal rot deterioration and bug infestation.

For drip through decks, planks are applied to joists with an opening between the planks to allow water to drip through. You may decide on western red cedar planks, pressure treated (certified) or composite materials. Note: All drip through deck planks must be applied with concealed fasteners to enable future finishing if required.

Western red cedar comes with a major decision: do you finish it with stain or paint, or do you leave it raw? How do you fasten it to the joists? When you stain or paint, you must do all four sides and ends to protect the wood fibers from water penetration. The wood must be no more than 10 per cent moisture content. If water is locked or sealed into the wood fibers under the stain or paint, it will cause blistering or peeling when the heat or the direct sun draws out the moisture. Note: If a clear, semi-transparent stain is used, always select which face will be up in order to have the best looking deck cosmetically when finished. This can be accomplished by marking the ends with an arrow mark in pencil.

Selecting a finish stain or paint is going to be your decision but take it from me the lowest price is not the way to go FOR LONG LASTING QUALITY? and always read the instructions thoroughly. For example do not apply finish in bright sunshine. The second coat goes on after the deck is finished at the time of railing installation.

Western red cedar has Mother Nature's protection against the elements, leaving it to turn a natural grey colour. You should clean this type of patio twice a year with a wood wash, such as my Shell Busey's Home Cleaning Formula, which is available at most building supply or paint stores like Cloverdale Paint. If you must apply a finish, consider a clear penetrating finish like Messmers or a similar finishing product.


Pressure-Treated Decks:

Using pressure-treated deck planks will always be a headache for most homeowners. The homeowner trying to find a finish that will stay on will soon realize there's nothing that will stay on longer than two years. Why? If you recall, I mentioned you must always finish all four sides and ends and the wood must be no more than 10 per cent moisture content. You will not be able to purchase pressure-treated wood with 10 per cent or less moisture content because of the treating process. Therefore, the deck will be put down and finished afterwards. The sun will beat down on the surface, drawing out the moisture, and there goes your finish. Treated decks should be left to dry for one season before considering any type of finish. Note: When you finish a pressure-treated deck, be sure to apply a product that is formulated to be compatible with pressure treated wood products. A pressure-treated wood surface will deteriorate if left unfinished for any long period of time.

To give you a longer lasting maintenance friendly surface my preference would be to go with a composite deck material. Alternative decking material refines traditional decks with a variety of color choices, more design flexibility, and low-maintenance features. Companies like MoistureShield, offer high quality composite decking that are user friendly. They also offer coordinating composite fencing and railing products.


Non-Drip Through Decks:

For a deck that is above a storage area, patio or carport, choose a surface that will provide dry protection underneath. A deck with a solid or closed finish surface should always be used. To prepare the surface, start by applying a 3/4-inch Select Tongue and Groove Fir Plywood Sub-Flooring deck to your joist system. This will prepare the surface for your finishing products. Choices of material for a non drip-through surface are as follows.

Optional non-drip through deck coatings:
a) Vinyl Deck Coverings i.e. Duradek
b) Acrylic Deck Coating
c) Hypalon Deck Coating
d) Ceramic or Slate Tile with membrane
e) Outdoor Carpeting

Note: All plywood structured decks require exterior galvanized edge flashing protection.  It has always been my rule of thumb to apply a water proof coating like acrylic latex on raw fir plywood to protect it until the final seal finish is applied.


Concrete Decks:

Concrete decks can provide an extremely durable surface, as compared to a wood deck and with techniques such as stamping and applying decorative concrete, any look can be created.

Ground level concrete decks give a number of options.
a) Exposed Aggregate Concrete
b) Smooth Finish Concrete
c) Broom Finish Concrete (Non Slip)
d) Stamped Concrete
e) Acid Stained Concrete
f) Epoxy Finish Concrete
g) Acrylic Latex Coated Concrete
h) Acrylic Enhanced Cement Finishes


Remodeling Decks or Restoring Deck Finish


Western Red Cedar & Pressure Treated Decks:

If face is nailed or screwed, nails will require setting below the deck surface using a 4/32 nail set. If screwed down, all screws must be removed and replaced with hot galvanized or stainless steel screws below the surface of the deck, so the wood can be sanded with a drum or belt sander. (This is to protect the sander and belt damage.) Some finishes may be removed by power washing or liquid deck finish strippers "Caution" should be taken when selecting either of these procedures i.e.: proper use of equipment, safety and environmental concerns.


Restoring of Existing Solid Finish Decks


Vinyl Deck Surfaces:

If the surface is solid, with no tears or loose areas, you may want to consider a vinyl deck refurbishing product, such as Ducan Vinyl Overcoat, available through most building supply outlets. If the surface is badly deteriorated due to plywood rotting or delaminating, replace all defected components before having a new Duradek applied by a certified applicator.


Restoring Existing Concrete Decks:

To restore a concrete deck, it must be determined if it's worth the cost and time. If there is more than two hairline cracks in an area of 12 ft by 12 ft (144 square feet) I would not consider repairing the cracks or recoating with a concrete finish coat or any topping compound only to have it crack again and look terrible. It would be best to remove and replace with a new concrete deck over a properly prepared sub-straight with adequate drainage away from home or cottage.

Resurfacing Plywood Dock Floats or Swim Float Surfaces:
1. Powerwash surface removing paint or stain.
2. Sand off any delaminated or deteriorated plywood.
3. Apply exterior all purpose alkyd primer
4. Apply exterior felt type outdoor carpet using All Purpose Weldbond Adhesive.
5. Apply outside edge flashing (aluminum) all around outer edges.
6. Apply three coats (24 hours apart) of acrylic latex deck coating using a 10mm
roller applicator.

Note: Puddle the deck coating on and spread with a roller applicator. This will give a very good non-slip surface ideal for boat docks and swim floats.

Whether you're restoring, expanding, redesigning, or building a new deck for your back yard, always consult with the professionals and most importantly consult with your local municipality or city hall to get the proper building permits.

Shell Busey's AskShell.com Home Services can help you get your deck project "off the ground" with our Shell Busey Home Improvements division. In the lower Mainland, call 604 542 2236 for a free deck estimate.

It's Just that Easy!