(ARA) - For anyone desiring more living space, decks offer an easy, attractive and
cost- effective solution. They connect indoor space to the outdoors, integrate home
and landscape, make use of damp or rough terrain and even add an element of class and
craftsmanship to the home.
A ground level deck may be the simplest way to expand outdoors. Attached to the house
or freestanding, decks remain one of the fastest ways to create usable space. Shallow
pools, tubs and planters work well when set into a deck, or it may be a good place to
drop in that hot tub or attach a gazebo.
Like any expansion project, decks require careful planning. Think about its intended
use, environment and style when deciding placement, size and design. The novice do-it-yourselfer,
with a little expert assistance, a solid plan and a helping hand, is more than qualified
for the job. Measuring carefully and having a little patience will ensure the job gets
done right the first time.
Start by evaluating quality decking material that suits your tastes. There is
a wide range of choices, but perhaps the most popular natural material is western red
cedar -- and for good reason, according to the experts.
"Natural qualities of western red make it an excellent choice," says Peter Lang, general
manager of the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association. "It's stable, yet resilient, lightweight
and naturally durable without the need for chemical treatment. Better yet, it stays
cool on hot summer days, unlike some plastic or wood composite products. "
Lang says the natural compounds in the wood specifically resist rot and mildew, and
release the fragrance unique to western red cedar.
Let's assume the choice is western red cedar. It comes in a range of patterns and sizes
and can be selected to suit personal tastes and durability needs. As for color, western
red cedar boards range from light amber to deep honey brown.
Now, it's time to remember a few basic tips that can make or literally break the project.
Space deck boards apart to allow proper water drainage, because decks that dry quickly
will last longer. Moisture and debris may collect where joints occur over joists, so
make sure to leave a drainage space -- about 1/8 inch -- between the ends of boards.
Hot-dipped galvanized, aluminum and stainless steel nails are all corrosion-resistant
and make good fasteners. Double hot-dipped galvanized screws can also be used. Electro-plated
nails are not recommended, and avoid stainless steel screws. Blind fastening systems
create a fastener-free deck surface. In all cases, the fasteners should be long enough
to penetrate support and structural components by about 1 1/2 inches.
Protecting The Deck
Before the summer barbeque begins, there remains one last critical step. Apply
a protective finish soon after deck construction to prevent surface degradation. Water-repellant
preservatives and semi- transparent stains are the best choices to capture and retain
the beauty of the wood. Choose from a broad spectrum of colors.
"Western red is quite versatile and accepts a variety of stains and coatings to create
the particular look the homeowner wants," says Lang.
For the best results, be sure to select a finish that contains water-repellent fungicide
and mildewcide, and protection against ultraviolet light. Each type of finish will come
with specific instructions, so always follow the guidelines from the finish manufacturer.
In general, apply a finish when the moisture content has stabilized at the level that
will prevail during the life of the wood. Lightly scuff smooth cedar with sandpaper
prior to applying the finish.
Proper maintenance practices for cedar decks include allowing proper water drainage;
sweeping the surface to remove loose dirt, leaves, pine-needles and other debris; and
moving planters, benches and other deck accessories from time to time to permit the
deck to dry thoroughly. Depending on the finish used and the climate, a deck may need
cleaning and refinishing every two to five years.
Decks provide beauty and increased value to any home -- not to mention an ideal space
for entertaining and relaxing. For more information about deck construction and maintenance,
talk with an expert at a home improvement store or visit the Western Red Cedar Lumber
Association Web site at www.realcedar.org.
Note: This article was submitted by a second party and the contents are subject to