If you're thinking of building a deck, you may be ready to jump in hammer first. But before you begin, you need to know a few things that could affect the integrity of the deck as well as the safety of your family and friends. Here are three things to think about before you begin building so that you choose the right materials, have the construction go smoothly, and be confident the deck will pass building-code requirements.
Type of Wood
Choosing a wood for your new deck should be at the top of your list. And the kind you pick will depend on your budget as well as your aesthetic preferences.
- Cedar wood has a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. To maintain the color, you should clean and reseal every year or two and stain as needed. Cedar decks look incredibly natural, and they are resistant to rot. But they are also very soft, so they tend to get dinged when exposed to heavy traffic. Because they are moisture resistant, they don't twist and split very easily, so they maintain a nice, flat appearance for many years. To extend the life of your cedar deck, do not install it directly on the ground or in the shade. Cedar Decks do better when they are above ground and in the sun.
- Pressure-treated wood is usually treated with chemicals to resist rot and fungus as well as deter bugs that destroy wood. You can stain your deck any shade you like and treat it with a preservative, and this should be done every 2 to 3 years to keep the deck looking fresh. Decks made from pressure-treated wood should also be power washed annually. Be aware that some of the cheaper pressure-treated lumber pieces are more susceptible to twisting, warping, and shrinking. If you stick with wood that's labeled as "choice," "premium," or "treated," you're more likely to get a higher-quality wood that will last a little longer.
- Composite decks are made of a mixture of wood (chips or sawdust) and recycled plastic. They tend to be more expensive than their counterparts, but maintenance is super easy. You can usually stain them after 4 to 6 months, and they can be easily cleaned with the spray of a hose. The biggest advantage of composite decks is their longevity, as they don't rot, break, or warp like other materials.
According to the IRC (International Residential Code), if your deck is more than 30 in. above the ground you'll need to install a rail. And most states have even more specific laws concerning deck building in general, so it's important to familiarize yourself with what is and is not allowed, particularly if you're building solo. For instance, in New York, safety railings have to be at least 42 in. high, and the spaces between the rail posts can't exceed 5 in. Also, your deck cannot go any further than 8 feet from the home and into the back yard.
Whether it's required or not, the right guardrail can add a certain charm to your deck and yard and offer you peace of mind when small visitors or pets are around. There are a number of different styles to choose from that will maximize safety while still allowing deck dwellers to have an unobstructed view of your yard.
One of the most common places for a deck to fail and result in injury is where it attaches to the home. So in order to improve the safety and structural integrity of your deck, it's vital to make sure it's properly secured to your house.
If the surface of the deck is flush with your home's floors, the deck itself needs to attach directly to the floor joists of your home. First, you'll need to remove any siding that's present. Next, you'll connect the ledger board to the floor joists using ½ in. x 4-½ in. galvanized lag bolts in a staggered pattern. Again, your city or locality has building codes that will state the required length between the bolts as well as any other requirements for your deck.
Talk to a company such as Rainier Fencing & Decking to get started.