An outdoor deck is a useful and entertaining addition to any home. Decks are commonly made from timber and can either be attached to your house or freestanding. An attached deck with bi-fold doors is a great way to extend the living area of your house. Freestanding decks can be used for a gazebo or to surround a pool or outdoor spa.
When designing your deck, it is a good idea to consult with a landscaping professional. In the planning stages, you should consider what it is to be used for, how large it should be, where it will go, privacy and your budget. Your deck should fit with the style of your home. You also need to consider council regulations and a professional will be able to help you with this.
The ideal deck will be in a north-facing direction as it will be shaded in summer and sunny in winter. However, if you are unable to take advantage of a north-facing aspect, the use of outdoor heaters and shade structures will help make your deck comfortable. If privacy is an issue, erecting a screen will ensure that your neighbours cannot see onto your decking area.
Railings are very important, both from a safety and aesthetic perspective. Your local council will have regulations on the height of your railings and the gaps between rails but as a general guideline, your railing should be a minimum of one metre high. If you are opting for balustrading or stainless steel wires, ensure that they are spaced closely enough together that young children cannot fall through. Reinforced glass is also a safe and stylish option.
When building a deck, the timber that you use is vital. You have a choice between hardwood and softwood. Hardwood is becoming increasingly popular and is naturally durable. However, make sure that your hardwood is graded and dried according to Australian standards. Improperly dried hardwood will warp or shrink.
Softwood can be used in any situation as long as it has been treated properly. Some common softwoods are radiata or hoop pine and is commonly available from most timber sellers. Whatever timber you decide to use, it must be resistant to the elements and also against termites.
The final consideration is the painting of the deck. Decking oils, stains and paints are available. Painting your deck will keep it in good condition and protect it from the weather. Oils, stains and paints have different maintenance levels so choose one that will meet your needs. Paint can last for up to ten years while oils usually need re-applying every six to eighteen months. Stains last from anywhere between two to four years.
Materials will typically be the major cost element of any decking project, with hardwood timbers at the top end of the scale closely followed by composites, with softwoods the most cost effective. Labour is the other major factor for your project, which most decking installers will include in any quote. An ongoing cost to bear in mind for any timber decking is maintenance, including sealing, sanding and oiling.
Whether freestanding or attached, a deck will add value to the home. Careful planning before you build the deck will ensure that this value is maximised and that you and your family will enjoy your deck for many years to come. For decking design ideas see our decking photos.
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