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All Decked Out

May 18, 2011 02:13PM ● Published by Anonymous

An outdoor deck is one of the most relaxing and family friendly places to chill—and you don’t even have to leave your driveway. As an outdoor living space, an expansive deck can really enhance the quality of life—plus give you that extra room you have always wanted.

When spring arrives to the Chesapeake Region, we’re eager to get outdoors. Around here, it’s “all hands on deck,” whether on our boats…or at our homes. An outdoor deck is one of the most relaxing and family friendly places to chill—and you don’t even have to leave your driveway. As an outdoor living space, an expansive deck can really enhance the quality of life—plus give you that extra room you have always wanted.

New building materials have expanded your options for planning a handsome and durable deck without breaking the bank. Before you sit down and consult with a professional (always a good idea), you’ll want to familiarize yourself with what is currently available.

While exotic hardwood may be one of the more expensive materials used for deck construction, it is important to factor in the expense over time, and not just consider the initial cost. The most common exotic wood being used in our region is called Ipe (also known as Brazilian Walnut or Lapacho). This durable wood comes with a 25-year warranty. It’s good to keep in mind that the variation in the colors of the freshly milled wood will gradually modulate when exposed to sunlight, becoming medium to dark brown. Grown primarily in Brazil and the tropical Americas, Ipe is a material popular with high-end builders. “It has a nice rich wood look, lasts forever and, with the hidden fasteners, it has a nice clean finish,” says Tom Long, who has more than 30 years experience in the construction business.

However, you needn’t feel limited to just one material. For contrast, consider rails made of a different material and texture. Long recommends PVC rails (vinyl) especially in waterfront areas. “They are a great product now with aluminum inserts, as opposed to the wood inserts that can fail within seven years depending on the elements,” he says. A deck built of quality materials lasts longer and that means it will be less likely to need cleaning or replacing. Other possible combinations of flooring and railing include using plastic with composite material, as well as pairing aluminum with plastic.

Building structures that are durable is a key component in terms of going green and respecting the environment. When buying wood, check with your lumber dealer to ensure that the wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This nonprofit organization identifies lumber that has been harvested in a legal, sustainable manner. You can also check to see if the composite or plastics you’re considering are made with recycled materials.

Pressure treated (PT)wood, a material that has been used for decades, has recently undergone a change in its processing in order to reduce its toxicity. It was once infused with chromate copper arsenate (CCA), but because of suspected health risks (the arsenic-derivative content might have been a tipoff), its use was discontinued in 2003. PT lumber is now treated with safer chemicals such as alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) and copper boron azole (CBA). A nonmetallic, carbon-based solution is also now available under various brand names.

But if you have your eye on a lightweight deck, nothing beats aluminum , which comes with a lifetime guarantee. When compared with wood, composite and plastic lumber, aluminum decking is three to four times lighter, yet two to three times stronger. It can be cut with the same saws and carbide-tipped blades used to cut wood. And you might be surprised to find that aluminum decking actually stays cooler in the sun than most other types of decking because of the metal’s superior heat-dissipation properties. Of course it comes in a variety of colors, so you aren’t stuck with glare-inducing shiny silver.

A deck can be more than a cool place to hangout. Think of it as a stepping stone from the inside of your home to the outside. Whatever creative design and layout you chose for your deck, the materials you select will make a major difference in its appearance. So many exciting possibilities!

Carol Mattingly is a freelance writer living in the Edgewater area. She recently contracted and completed the building of a LEED-certified home.

To help you choose the material that is right for you, scan the table below of common types of materials. The list begins with the most economical material and finishes with the most expensive.

Material: Pressure treated pine (PT)
Durability: Very good, can berefinished
Installation: Easy to cut and fasten with nails or screws
Advantage/Disadvantage: Tendency to crack, split, and warp/annual power washing and an application of wood preservative every two or three years/chemically treated to resist rot, fungus and wood-boring bugs/most maintenance/best choice for the undercarriage and posts

Material: Cedar and Construction Heart Redwood
Durability: Good, can be refinished
Installation: Easy to cut and fasten with nails or screws
Advantage/Disadvantage: Contains tannins and oils that make them naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insects /annual power washing and coat of finish every three to four years/needs clear, water-repellent wood preservative and stain or will weather to a silvery gray/soft wood will scratch easily

Material: Exotic Hardwood most common is Ipe (ee-pay)
Durability: Excellent 25-year warranty
Installation: New hidden fasteners makes install easier/no longer need to drill pilot holes
Advantage/Disadvantage: Hard, very durable, and naturally-resistant to rot and insects/weathers to a soft silvery color if not oil based stained and sealed every other year/no chemicals/fire resistant

Material: Composite (wood fibers and recycled plastic)
Durability: Good, but can grow mold
Installation: New hidden fasteners makes install easier/no longer need to drill pilot holes
Advantage/Disadvantage: Extremely weather- and stain-resistant/never needs to be sanded, refinished, or stained/look of wood/variety of colors/mold and mildew can grow/can show signs of decay (wood fiber)

Material: Plastic (100%high density polyethylene)
Durability: Excellent Some have 50 year Warranty
Installation: Welding, bolts and screws/must predrill/use professional installer
Advantage/Disadvantage: Contains no wood fibers/highly resistant to staining and decay, and free of knots, cracks and splinters/durable, low maintenance/available in a variety of colors and textures/resistant to fading, scratching and aging/offer a line of handrails, balusters, fascias, and other decorative trim/mold and mildew can grow in shady, damp areas/known to build up static electricity charge

Material: Aluminum Lifetime Not that simple,
Durability: Lifetime
Installation: Not that simple, Consider a professional installer
Advantage/Disadvantage: Won’t mold, mildew, rot, rust, warp, splinter, crack, or chip/powder-coated finish lasts virtually forever and will not peel or blister/LockDry® Decking stays cooler than wood or concrete/many colors and wood grain colors/fire resistant, environmentally-friendly, non-toxic and lightweight/recyclable/interlocking edges, which create gap-free, watertight decks/can dent and scratch

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