For outdoor loving Australians, a deck is often the first port of call when looking to extend their living and entertaining area into the outdoors.
For many years’ timber has been the go-to material, but is it the best choice?
Wayne Critchley, a builder with over two decades of experience, says that while timber is a popular option, renovators must take into account maintenance and how it reacts to the weather.
Here are Critchley’s top things to consider when you’re thinking about decking for your home.
Maintain, maintain, maintain
A timber deck can last you up to 15 years, but if you are going to get this much life out of you deck it must be looked after. Critchley says that when he is installing a wooden deck for customers he always recommends a consistent maintenance program.
“The deck should be coated all round, and you do this at least once a year to maintain them- otherwise they deteriorate and they rot,” he says.
For decking around pools (especially salt water pools) Critchley recommends that home owners do coat their deck every four to six months.
“Timber decking is really expensive to install, so if you are going to do it, you really must ensure that you look after it,” he says.
For those who don’t have the time or commitment to a rigorous maintenance program, alternative decking materials like fibre-cement and wood plastic composite require little upkeep.
Home owners can now replace their splintered wooden decks with moisture-resistant HardieDeck, which can be customised in almost any colour to tie in with the look of your home.
Battling the elements
While timber decking is often a traditional option, Critchley says that it is often quite reactive to the elements, which can take a toll on its lifespan.
“It’s very important to have good air flow underneath your deck. I always leave a 5mm gap between boards so that it can dry out, if you don’t there is a chance the deck can rot.” Alternatively, decking materials like fibre-cement can be installed close to the ground and are resistant to dampness, allowing for greater landscaping options.
Critchley also says that decks with roof coverage tend to do better in the elements.
“If it doesn’t have a roof over it, you’ve really got to maintain it with lots of sealers etc- I would recommend every 3 or 4 months. Without a roof you would be lucky to get 15 years out of your deck,” he says.
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HardieDeck doesn't rot or splinter as a result of direct sunlight.
The rot sets in
If a deck is not maintained regularly, Critchley says there is a real danger of it rotting and it breaking down, with it needing to be replaced.
“It costs a lot of money to maintain a timber deck. If it’s not looked after it can cost up to $6000 to replace depending on the size and of course you need to find a way to dispose of the old deck,” he says.
Critchley said the type of nails used and the type of timber can also determine the speed at which a wooden deck will rot.
“I screw all my boards down and use galvanised nails. Treated pines and hardwoods tend to do better.”
Critchley also warned about the dangers of a rotting deck.
“People can fall through your deck if it rots. I have heard too many stories of decking falling off houses because it hasn’t been maintained.”
Before adding a deck onto your property, it is important that you research the types of materials and how much maintenance will be required.