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Composite Decking vs. Wood Decking……What is the best Choice?

When it comes to choosing the best deck building materials most people are unsure of the proper choice mostly because they are not aware of the properties of each product.  In this article we will discuss all the pros and cons of each different as well as the cost associated with each.  A good rule of thumb when choosing a brand of products is to stay away from new or unheard of brands as they are just developing their technology and testing their products.

Composite Decking

This composite deck trim is a nice compliment to the natural colors of the western red cedar

Composite materials have become increasingly popular especially with great product improvements over the first generation of to hit the markets.  The first generation was peppered with problems from mold issues to warping boards.  The newer generations are the capped composite products that look amazing and out perform any standard uncapped composite.  A capped composite is always your best choice provided that it’s a reputable manufacturer.  Your reputable manufacturers would be:  TREX, TimberTech & Fiberon

One of the pros of composite decking is that it’s virtually maintenance free.  You don’t have to stain, seal or re-finish your deck every couple years which will save you money or time (it you like to do things yourself) in the long run.  While composite decking is a maintenance free product you still do have to take care of the product.  You should wash it 2-3 times a year with a mild soap to clean forming mold from becoming visible.   It is suggested that uncapped composites should be cleaned more frequently due to the fact that the organic fibers are exposed to the elements.

While composites are mold resistant it doesn’t mean that mold can’t form on them.  Mold can form on any surface if the correct living conditions are met which are a combination of temperature, moisture and food for the spores.  If you wash your deck and remove organic debris from your deck you should have any problems.  Anyone that suggests that composite products are mold free are misleading you and that information is definitely false.

One of the disadvantages that composites have over wood products is that you can’t refinish them.  Take for example you moved your man sized BBQ across the deck gouging the surface.  If it were a wood product you could repair it by sanding out the damaged area and re-staining.  With a composite product you are not able to do that and you would have to replace the damaged area.  Our suggestion is to be cautious when working on your new composite deck.

Another disadvantage to composite decking is the price,  you should expect to pay double the price of a cedar deck in the same style.  However, Angie’s List has reviewed this subject and has determined that on a 14′ x 20′ deck that you would pay $4600 in additional maintenance costs if you used pressure treated wood over the original costs if you had build your deck with a composite product.

 

Wood Decks (Cedar & Pressure Treated)

This cedar fence & deck combo provides an excellent BBQ atmosphere

Wood decks are still a strong competitor in today’s market even though composite is a better product.  Why is that you ask?  Well first of all some people just like the natural look of a wood deck, secondly it’s less expensive (which is usually the deciding factor).

Wood decks do have their advantages as we mentioned above that a wood deck’s surface can be repaired.  Another advantage to using wood (mainly cedar) is that you can stain it to the color that you desire instead of choosing a color that is manufactured into the product.  You could also change the stain color (not very easily mind you) of your deck.

A wood deck is far from maintenance free with repairs, staining & splinters.  Wood when exposed to the elements will twist, cup, warp, crack, splinter and rot…..all of which you would be to tend to every year.  Along with all the regular repairs you will have to re-stain your deck every couple years to try to keep it looking its best.

 

Hopefully this article will help you in you decking material decisions, however you can still contact us to discuss your options or request a quote.

 

DIY Deck Building in Ottawa…..Should I do it Myself?

What do you need to know?

Building a deck is one of the most common DIY projects in Ottawa as we do have such a long and beautiful summer.  So why not build a deck for our families to enjoy.  In order to build a deck to the required Ontario Building Code it takes quite a bit of know how and is not just as simple as buying a few deck boards and creating something.  An improperly built deck can not only result in major structural failure but also cause damage to your home.  We are writing this article because as deck builders in Ottawa we do see major structural mistakes that were made by deck builders or by do it yourself homeowners.

How your deck could structurally fail?

A deck is very much so a structural component usually attached to the house, the most important part of your deck will be the foundation, framing and ledger board.  If either of these elements of your deck were to fail then your deck needs to be totally rebuilt, NO QUESTIONS ASKED!  If a deck fails prematurely due to improper installation of one of the elements you should just rebuild it properly.

The old step. We have the sod removed and the post saddles installed

So what could go wrong with the foundation of the deck you ask?  Well first of all the footings may not be deep enough, your deck footings have to be well below the frost line to avoid vertical shifting.  Next would be the diameter of the concrete piers (or size of the pier base), deck footings are designed so that they can hold the weight of the deck.  The load bearing capacity of the soil is a determining factor as well as the size of the deck.

The deck framing is complete, now just to install the boards

What could go wrong with the frame, it’s just a bit of framing?………..right?  The framing is another key element which the structural integrity of your deck depends on.  Using quality materials and proper fasteners will make a huge difference in the strength of your deck but most important is the way the deck is framed.  The framing is what holds all the important elements of your deck together so it’s important to build your deck strong.  Generally speaking all deck framing is built with pressure treated lumber to to long lasting and on the same note all fasteners are galvanized to pressure treated approved.

The deck posts, beams and ledger. This is the lifeline of the deck

What could go wrong with the ledger board?  Here’s where a lot of people make a wrong turn.  Attaching a deck (or anything for that matter)  has to be done in a way that you aren’t doing more damage than good.  When attaching a deck to your house it’s important that it be attached in a way that is strong an will never move, and that does NOT mean just use a few more nails.  In fact, you should use nails at all……your deck should be bolted to the house.

How could a deck damage my home?

There are a couple ways that a deck could damage your home without you ever really knowing until it’s too late.  The first reason would be because of movement.  If your deck footings weren’t properly done than your deck could be moving vertically which would be damaging your house and possibly loosening the ledger board from the house.  We have seen this happen in the past (it usually takes years to notice it) where a customer wanted their deck replaced and when we went underneath to look the deck was barely attached to the house.  Needless to say we advised them to stay off the deck until it was replaced.  The damage to your house could be severe especially if it’s attached to the foundation, extreme movement of the deck could cause the mounting bolts to shift and crack your foundation.

The second reason why your deck could damage your house could be because of water penetrating into your house.  If your ledger board is not properly installed with flashing, membrane & caulking then if will lead to water getting into your house at some level.  We have noticed when removing old decks that the flashing is not adequate (or in most cases, non-existant) and that the sheathing/studs were rotted and needed some extra work.  We have never seen improper deck flashing cause any major damage however it does happen.

Hope this helps you in your decision!  Please stay tuned as we have many Fence, Deck & Landscaping topics coming to help all Ottawa homeowners.

A view from the upper deck showing the railing and post lights