photo credit: Sergei Petrov of Raincoast Builder
Wood decks are marvelously flexible structures that can be designed and built to suit you, your family and the property you live on. They make great additions to homes of all ages and are superb for businesses like pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants that want to create an attractive outdoor room for their customers to enjoy.
Market research shows that the popularity of decking and associated landscape structures is growing in leaps and bounds. Wood decks are now an established part of garden design and add tremendous re-sale value. Anyone who is thinking about building a deck should ensure that the materials used are fit for this purpose and that the builder knows what they are doing as properly built decks will provide years of pleasure. It is absolutely crucial, particularly with a raised deck, that the structure is safe and sound after completion; not new information, but it does merit a timely reminder, and following your local building code should ensure a lifespan of at least 25+ years.
There is a wide range of species of wood, both hardwoods and softwoods, which are highly suitable for decking. Beyond the usual material like Western red cedar, there are a growing number of exotic hardwoods, most of which are sustainably harvested, that offer superior advantages over the traditional wood decking materials. Some possibilities include ipê, cumaru, teak, and garapa. The important factor for wood used out of doors is that it is durable enough to resist fungal decay. Some species of wood have a natural ability to resist decay completely; others have varying degrees of natural durability and may require treatment. Ipê has a Class A fire rating in the US.
Softwoods are used a lot more for decking because they tend to be less costly and easier to work with than hardwoods, however the rich attractive colours and especially the longevity of the exotic hardwoods adds greatly to their appeal. Their impact and abrasion resistant properties are reasons why they are used on commercial projects that have a lot of heavy use. The initial cost outlay is greater than softwoods, but amortized over a lifetime of use makes a hardwood like ipê a canny choice.
The wood should preferably be straight grained and have a moisture content no greater than 20% to reduce the risk of distortion caused when timber with higher moisture levels air dries to the local climate conditions. Wood is a natural product and as your deck timbers weather, small cracks are likely to appear on the surface of the boards. These are caused by the intermittent wetting and drying of the wood and are part of the character of wood. They have no structural effect whatsoever.
Left untreated and exposed to the elements, the deck will fade gradually. Whether your deck is made from a deeply coloured hardwood, such as ipê or the more mellow hues of a softwood species, such as Western Red Cedar, both will fade over time to a pleasant silvery grey. The natural ageing process can be slowed by the annual application of a clear water repellent coating, such as the Oli-Natura Yacht & Teak Oil or Ipê Oil. Keep in mind this is a make-work process requiring, at minimum, an annual re-application.
By far, the majority of wood decks, boardwalks and piers built around the world are surfaced with plain timber boards. While grooved deck boards are often marketed as “anti-slip” there is no evidence to suggest that they perform any better or worse than plain decking. Choice of deck board style is therefore a matter of personal preference. Check with local building codes to determine what the recommended slope for your deck is in order to prevent standing water and allow for surface drainage. Where there is a higher than normal requirement to prevent the risk of slipperiness, for example on ramps or stairs, then deck boards with built-in abrasive strips can be used.
As with all wood projects, on-going care and maintenance cannot be forgotten or ignored:
Regularly clean the deck with a brush to remove dirt.
- Occasionally remove mildew, algae and dirt with a pressure hose or deck cleaning liquid with a stiff brush.
- Check for damaged boards and replace as necessary.
- Apply clear water repellent annually…………if desired not necessary for product performance.
Ipe can be used in a lot of areas, not just decks, check out these cool projects:
[slideshow post_id=”1405″ exclude=”1489″]