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FOR CONSUMERS -->> Deck and Outdoor Structure Building Materials Guide
Good Choices Make Good Decks

They're comfortable. They can be a private sanctuary or party central. They're as close to home as you can get. And they often return as much money as it costs to buy them.

They are decks - a practical and enjoyable investment for nearly any residence. It's no wonder that they have become so popular, now part of more than 25% of all homes in the United States with a much higher percentage in suburban neighborhoods.

The enjoyment value of a deck, and certainly the financial value when a home is resold, depends largely on the attractiveness of the deck. In turn, the appearance depends on the materials chosen, the workmanship during construction, and the project's maintenance.

Deck materials

There are more decking choices now than ever, including mahogany, composites, and plastics. However, the overwhelmingly preferred choice, based on longevity, ease of installation, availability, natural appearance, and economy, remains pressure-treated wood. Even here there are choices, including a new one that is receiving excellent reviews from early users.

Preserved wood, sold under names such as Wolmanized wood and Outdoor wood, has been used extensively since the mid 1970s. It effectively resists damage from termites and decay. Many manufacturers offer a limited warranty that extends for the lifetime of the purchaser in residential and agricultural applications.

Regardless of treatment, purchasers should be aware of differences in lumber grades. The preservatives make wood last longer, whether that wood is lower grade material with knots and missing corners, or higher grade material with few blemishes. The grade is marked on the wood, and usually noted on the store's price signs. Consider the more expensive, higher grades for visible parts of the deck, and use lower cost, lower grade lumber where beauty is not critical.

Workmanship shows

Preserved wood will last a long time. As a result, good workmanship - or poor workmanship - will also be evident for a long time. Although there is a natural desire to finish a deck quickly so it can be enjoyed as soon as possible, it is best to build carefully and deliberately.

Various books on deck building contain useful tips. Here are a few tips that homeowners see when reading such books:

Before you begin nailing, decide which pieces of wood you want for visible areas and which for hidden understructure.

Separate deck boards to allow for expansion and contraction. If heavy and wet, separate boards no more than 1/16" as some shrinkage will occur. If light and dry, separate them no more than 1/8".

Avoid long spans

Use enough nails - three across a 2x6. Pre-drill nail holes near edges of wood.

Hardware should be hot-dipped galvanized or equally well-protected. See hardware recommendations for details.

Screws take longer to drive than nails, but they hold boards securely, allow for easier removal, and eliminate unsightly indentations from hammer blows.

Tender loving maintenance

Even a deck that is conscientiously built with excellent materials will require some maintenance. If a product says "maintenance-free," be skeptical. Dirt, discoloration, UV rays from sun exposure, and moisture will take their toll on the hardiest of building products.

However, maintenance need not be feared or time-consuming. The use of wood stains and surface water repellents will add significantly to the long-term beauty of a wood deck.

Different types of treated wood may require different maintenance activities. And the numerous choices in coatings may carry different recommendations from their manufacturers. The best guide we've seen to maintaining a wood deck can be found at www.wolmanizedwood.com/paintstain. It offers advice for a variety of treated wood products using a variety of coatings.

By choosing sound materials, building the project carefully, and maintaining it periodically, homeowners will be rewarded for years with a deck they can be proud of.


North American Deck and Railing Association - P.O. Box 829, Quakertown, PA 18951 - Phone: 215.679.4884 - Fax: 888.623.7248

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