Many homeowners enhance their property by installing decks. They add extra summer living space, and offer an attractive and affordable addition to the home. They also increase the value of the home.

PLANNING AND PREPARATION:

There are several decisions to be made when it comes to deciding what type of deck or fence you will be installing. The deck design can be square, rectangular or irregular, and fence patterns between posts can be irregular. Several building supply stores offer a variety of easy to follow plans, tips and guidelines to help with the construction. The area should  be  cleared  of  all trees,  shrubs,  grass and ground should slope away from the house. Before any construction begins, check with your local Building Department to see if a building permit is required. If so, plans of the deck for size and setbacks on the lot, must be submitted to ensure that they meet municipal building codes. The wood you choose, the style, size, and the contractor  you  select  will establish  the  cost  of  the    job.

TYPES OF WOOD USED

Pressure treated wood is the most common material used for decks and fences in this area. In recent years manufacturers have taken less durable woods, such as spruce, and  treated  them    chemically  so  they   would survive weathering. Some manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on pressure treated lumber. It is a cost effective alternative to cedar, but is not as attractive. Cedar costs approx. 35 % more than pressure treated lumber.

WOOD POSTS OR CONCRETE COLUMNS

Columns are used to support horizontal structural elements such as beams by  transferring  the  loads.  The  failure or lack of columns is one of the main reason why decks begin to sag. It is important that they are correctly sized and securely fastened. Sona tubes filled with concrete are sometimes used as supports for decks, but generally 4×4 wood posts extending 4”0” into the ground encased below in concrete approximately 8” below finished grade are used. Do not expose  concrete  to  surface  because frost   will heave columns during the winter. The easiest way to secure wood posts is by using a poured concrete method. Once the posts have been placed in the holes and lined up, pour the wet concrete into the hole. Wait a day or two before hammering on the posts so that the concrete develops enough strength to keep from cracking.

When building a fence, posts should be also 4 ft. in depth and secure the same as deck posts. Caps are used on fence posts to discourage water from accumulating and running into the post. There are no building code requirements governing the construction of wood fences, but there may be municipal by-laws, so contact your local city hall building department, for any building regulations.

INSTALLING BEAMS AND JOISTS

Think of the deck as a floor structure.  It  has  joists to support the flooring material, and posts to hold the unit up off the ground – slightly elevated or higher. The   beams  are fastened directly on top of the posts which have been cut level and at the right height. The joists are attached on top of the beams, usually at 16″ centers,  and  this  creates  the skeleton or   framework for   the   deck.  Once   the   framing   is   in    position, the   decking   boards   go   down.   There should be a 1/4″ gap between deck boards. The nail pattern should be uniform, and can be marked out by a chalk line. Nails should be galvanized spiral. These nails bury themselves better into the decking surface. This avoids “nail pop” when the  wood  contracts and  expands  with the weather. When the decking has been nailed into place, trim away any excess  lumber.  Check  all dimensions before you begin the  trimming  process. Trim  from  the  house   out,   and   keep   the   saw   away  from  the  deck  edge.  A  deck   or  a fence   should  not  be  secured directly  to a   house.   It   should be  an  independent  structure at least 1″  away. These are added after the deck has been completed.

RAILINGS AND BENCHES

As a rule of thumb, any deck 24″ above finished grade level requires a railing. Railings around the deck must be 42” high above finished decking and if the spindles do not go to the bottom of the deck then there should be no more than a 4” gap between the deck and bottom rail. Spindles can be no greater than 4” apart.

STAIRS

If the deck is more than 12 in. above the ground, stairs must be used to connect the  deck  with  the  ground.  The sides of the stairs are called “stringers” or “carriages” and must be strong enough to carry the heavy load of people  walking  on   them.  Steps  should  have  a rise of 5  to 8 in.and a tread of 9 7/8″.  To  determine  the  number  of  risers, measure the distance from the finished deck surface  to  the  ground.  Divide  the  distance  in  inches   by 6 or 7 and if you get a whole number, that  is  the number of risers you need. If it is an uneven  number,  round it  off to the nearest   whole   number.   If   a   deck   is 48 ” from  the  ground,  you  would  need  eight  risers  of  6  inches.  Hand railings  on  stairs  must  be  between 31 -35 inches. The maximum height for steps is eight inches. The minimum width of a staircase is 2’11”. Many home center stores stock pre-cut  stair  stringers  or  they  can build the entire staircase for you.  This  will  ensure  a perfect   fit  and  eliminates  some of   the   work.

STAINS AND PAINTS

Research done  on  fences  and  decks  that  have  lasted  the test of time were stained every two or three years and lasted much longer than those that were sealed. Sealers are not recommended for horizontal surfaces, but if used they need  to   be   sealed   annually.   There   are  many   types of stains and paints for pressure treated lumber and cedar. Cedar should be treated with a clear or semi-transparent stain to enhance the grain and allow the wood to breath. A stain with even a little  color  will  be  more  effective  against  the sun’s harmful UV rays than a clear stain. For older  decks and fences, water-blasting can  restore  wood  surfaces to their original state.  Even graying  wood regains it’s natural beauty as the  water  opens  up  the  wood   pores.

COST

A pressure treated wood deck costs  about  $10.-$20.  per sq. ft. A 6ft. high pressure treated fence costs approximately $10-$12 per lineal foot.