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Deck Building/Care

 There are many styles of decks and patios. From simple traditional structures to the more sophisticated, Hays Home Improvement builds them all. In addition to conventional wood, more and more projects are utilizing newer maintenance-free composites. Let us develop your ideas into working plans that are attractive, functional and affordable.

 Wood - All wood used on the decks must be decay resistant These woods include:

  • Redwood
  • Pressure-treated wood
  • Cedar
  • Cypress

     Redwood is perhaps the most attractive wood to use, especially in exposed areas such as the decking and railing. It is decay resistant, dimensionally stable, and straight. It resists warping, checking, and cupping and is strong for its light weight. It comes in several grades. A construction common, which contains some sapwood, is ideal for the deck boards. The all-heart grades, which are more expensive, are used for luxury decks.

     Pressure-treated wood is also commonly used. It is local evergreen treated to resist decay and is often green. If budget is a concern, you may want to use a pressure-treated frame with redwood or cedar deck and railings.

     Cedar due to its aesthetic appeal, exceptional beauty, versatility and longevity is the most popular of these woods for deck building.  Cedar brings an exceptional all-natural look, durability and character to outdoor spaces. 

     Deck joists are usually 2 x 6, 2 x 8, 2 x 10, or 2 x 12 stock. The decking boards are usually 1 x 6 or 2 x 6.  

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                    Permit and Codes

     In most areas, some sort of permit is required before you begin to build a deck. If the deck is not attached to the house, or if you live in a rural area, you may not need a permit. Before you start, check this out. It is never advisable to build without a permit where one is required.

     The permit office will probably require a set of plans. These need not be elaborate. The plans will specify the following:

Location of deck

  They will want to be sure you are far enough away from neighboring property lines, utility easements, and gas, water, and sewer lines.

Space between railing pickets

  Often the pickets can be placed with no more than a 4’ space between them.

Railing heights 
  A Lithe deck that is close to the ground, within, say, 30”, no railing may be required. If one is required, a minimum railing height of 32” - 42” is required
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Foundation piers

  The local codes will regulate the size, spacing, number, and method of construction of your piers. They will also regulate the depth of your pier hole, depending on the frost line in the area.

Decking  
  The plans will specify the size of deck boards and the type of wood used.

Posts 
  The plans will specify the size of the posts.

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                                                Design

     There is much to say about the design of a deck. My intention in this section is not to provide you with a thorough deck design but rather with a few parameters of designs to consider. This is not to understate the importance of design. How well you are pleased with your deck and how much you will enjoy using it will depend on the design more than on construction. What follows are some key things to consider at this crucial stage. Your answers to these questions will largely dictate your design requirements.

  1. At what time of day during each season of the year does the deck get sun and shade?
  2. How much privacy will the deck give you from neighbors? Will this change when the trees lose their leaves?
  3. What will be the deck’s access from the house? To the yard?
  4. How large should it be? And how much yard must be sacrificed?
  5. How should the railings be designed? With planters? With seats?
  6. Where should the stairs be placed?
  7. Are there any utility lines overhead or below?
  8. Should the deck be covered?
  9. What will be placed on the deck? Bar-B-Q? Swing? Chairs and tables?
  10. Will the deck block the light coming in any windows of the house?
  11. How will the deck affect the rooms of the house?
  12. How are the views?
  13. How much money do you plan to spend?

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                Caring For Your Deck

     When the warm weather hits, people head for their decks. There are more than 30 million decks in the United States, and millions more being built every single year. Wood decks require a little TLC every year Wood decks can be a center of relaxation and comfort for their owners. A place where they can while away the afternoon or weekend in peace. A place where they can set up deck chairs or a table and sip drinks as the day lazily passes, or munch on barbecue fresh from the grill. In order to provide years of necessary comfort, wood decks require you do a little care and maintenance each year.

Check for damaged boards (once a year)
    
The boards that make up the surface of your deck and steps are subject to all kinds of stress and usage. Over time, they will wear out or rot. If you don't check for and replace damaged boards each year, you could be setting yourself or your family up for an injury. Examine the surface boards of your deck. Look for signs of stress, like excessive curling, cracking, rotting, or severed boards. Any you find will need to be replaced.


Check structural supports for signs of insect or animal damage (twice a year)

     
The structural supports keep your deck up and in place. Underneath the surface of the deck, where the structural supports are located, is a perfect place for insects to flourish and animals to take up residence. Problem is, they can damage or destroy the supports, which can make your deck unusable. Inspect your deck's structural supports. Visually inspect the area underneath your deck with the aid of a high-power flashlight. Look for any signs of animal or insect damage, like chewed supports, cobwebs, brittle wood, etc. If you find any signs of insects or insect damage, schedule a visit from a pest-control expert. If the damage appears to be animal related, consider adding lattice or some other barrier around the edges of your deck to keep critters out from under it.


Check for popped nails, loose screws, and bolts on decks (once a year)

    
 Nails, screws, and bolts hold your deck together. If they come loose or pop out (a consistent problem with nails), then the deck boards could come loose or the deck itself could partially collapse. Inspect all the nails, screws, and bolts that hold your deck together. You will need to tighten any that are loose or that have popped out. Wearing work gloves is recommended.


Clean your deck (once a year)

     Dirt, grime, mildew, or mold can build up your deck over the course of the year. Not only can they diminish the look of your deck, they can also make it slippery and, in the case of mold and mildew, damage your deck. Visually inspect your deck. Look for dirt, grime, mildew, and mold. Even if none are readily visible, you should still wash your deck. A power-washer is an easy way to remove the dirt and grime. However, for mold and mildew, or if you don't have a power-washer, use warm, soapy water and a scrub brush. Thoroughly scrub the surface of the deck. Make sure you remove all mold and mildew you find. Rinse the deck. Use a water hose to wash away the soap and water along with any loosened dirt, grime, mold, or mildew.

Re-seal or re-stain your deck (every 2-5 years)
      One of the biggest ravages your deck can face is moisture. In order to keep your deck in good shape for years to come, you need to re-seal or re-stain it often.

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               Do Composite Decks Have 
          Advantages Over Wood Decks?

     Homeowners who want an enjoyable, low maintenance deck that adds value to their home might want to consider adding a composite deck. According to a recent survey done by Remodeling Magazine, adding a deck returned 86.7 percent on the original investment. Since 2000, sales of synthetic decking materials have doubled (198%) and the sales trends are expected to continue at about 23% annually until at least 2009.

     The cost of composite lumber or decking materials is anywhere from 2 to 5 times that of pressure treated lumber. A big difference, but, the main reason composite lumber is doing so well, is that annual maintenance is reduced or eliminated - an important consideration. The second reason is the look of the materials is really getting good.

     Also known as wood-plastic composites, composite decking is made from recycled wood and plastic as an environmentally friendly option that is growing in popularity. Advantages like durability, color retention and reduced maintenance have increased the replacement of natural wood. Composite decking doesn't require painting and staining. The only maintenance that needs to be done to composite decks is to wash it about one or two times a year to avoid mildew and mold build-up.

     In addition to being environmentally friendly because of its use of recycled wood fibers and plastics, composite decking doesn't contain wood preservatives. This avoids the issues of arsenic and other heavy metals found in pressure-treated wood. Without any wood preservatives, composite decks are resistant to decay fungi and insects.

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     Currently there are more than 50 manufactures of composite decking, and more are on the rise due to technological improvements in composites and the popularity it has among consumers and retailers.
 
All manufactures claim the same benefits of composite decking:

  • Will not rot or deteriorate due to harsh weather.
  • Contains no toxic chemicals or preservatives.
  • Low maintenance, never requiring staining, weathering, or sealing.
  • Resists heating and fading. 
  • Safe, slip-resistant when wet.
  • Doesn't sliver and splinter, which make it comfortable for bare feet to wald on.

   Although different brands have the same benefits, what makes them different are the choices of colors and textures available. Many manufacturers are offering complete composite decking systems that include rails, posts and balusters to add to the elegance of your deck. 

    Composite decking is not a perfect system. Composite decks tend to weather by 10 percent within a three-month period, which is normal considering that composite decks have wood fibers. So when choosing a composite deck, make sure to look at decks that have been exposed to the sun for at least a year to determine if you like the appearance. Because composite decking is weaker than wood, it still needs to be held up by treated wood joist and beams to avoid sagging or drooping.

      Having a new deck is a large investment to a home. It is a good idea to do the research into composite decking. As a homeowner, you want composite decking to be what you pay for, low-maintenance, environmentally friendly, of good quality, fade resistant, and doesn't warp or splinter. Check out  the “Consumer’s Report” article about decks on-line.

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Pros

*       It won't warp or split or crack

*       Maintenance is reduced to sweeping and spraying

*       It is easily worked with standard tools

*       Every piece is quality controlled so less waste during the building phase

*       Colors can be matched to your home and won't fade like a wood deck

*       Some include recycled materials so are more environmentally friendly

Cons

*       It's 2-5 times more expensive then pressure treated lumber

*       It's much heavier than wood

*       Some of it can't span as far as wood so requires smaller joist spacing

*       Special fasteners are usually required
 Extreme temperatures can increase flexibility

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