It’s your favourite spot for lounging around, getting fresh air, eating, and enjoying time with friends and family. Your deck is an extension of your home, provided the weather plays along!
However, unlike other rooms in your house, Mother Nature can have a real impact over time. It has to endure downpours, snowstorms, ice accumulation, freeze-thaw cycles, heat waves, and more. In short, if you want to make the most of your outdoor space and have it last for years to come, it’s important to build and design it to industry standards.
To learn more about just that, we sat down with Kevin Bruneau Paquette, a building contractor and co-host of the popular French-language TV show, “Deck Possible.”
“The key to a successful deck project is acknowledging your limits and being willing to outsource more complicated projects to an expert.”
1. Build on a solid footing
Building your deck on a base supported by screw piles will help to ensure its longevity. This type of anchoring system provides optimal stability. The less the structure moves, the greater its chances of remaining anchored. The ideal depth for the piles is deep in the ground below the frost line (usually 4-6 ft.). According to Bruneau Paquette, a common base we see that should be avoided is elephant foot bases.
2. Choose the right-sized piles
The diameter of your screw piles should be chosen based on the load and the other anchor points. For example, if your plan includes anchoring the deck to your home, the diameter of the piles may be smaller as your home will provide additional lateral support.
If you intend to install stone counters or a hot tub, or if you plan to have many people on your deck on regular basis, choose piles with a larger diameter. Our cold climate means you should opt for galvanized steel piles with freeze-proof sleeves.
3. Use the right equation
The span of the piles depends on the structure. The calculation is simple:
- For a 2 x 6 structure = every 6 ft.
- For a 2 x 8 structure = every 8 ft.
- For a 2 x 10 structure = every 10 ft.
Be sure to install girts every 5 ft. to avoid unpleasant vibrations.
4. Waterproof it
It’s a well-known fact that when it comes to construction, wood and water don’t mesh. Since your deck will be exposed to the elements 24 hours a day, its design needs to take that into account. Bruneau Paquette recommends protecting the wooden structure with a self-adhesive water-proofing product.
5. Opt for the best materials
There are two types of materials that can withstand the test of time when it comes to deck durability:
The first is composite wood. It looks like wood but it’s made of wood fibers, plastic, and various other binding agents. It doesn’t need to be stained, painted, or sanded, and it’s easy to install. Its anti-UV surface prevents any discolouration, and the material is resistant to scratches and stains, ensuring long-term performance. Be sure to waterproof the underlying structure though.
Cedar is also an excellent choice, but it requires more attention, as it needs to be maintained every three years. It’s recommended that you use a specialized stain. In order to apply it, degrease the wood and wait 24 hours before applying a coat of stain.
6. Mix it up
Combining different materials offers a host of advantages. In terms of esthetics, it creates a variety of textures that can make your deck pop.
According to Bruneau Paquette, aluminum handrails and pergolas are also great choices. They’re indestructible, very on‑trend, and don’t require any maintenance.
7. Keep it dry
Obviously, you can’t prevent wet weather from taking a toll on your deck. But you can help keep other sources of moisture and water accumulation away from it – such as pointing dryer vents and gutter pipes away from the deck. These additional sources of water can cause mould and weaken the structure.