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Backyard Decisions: Do You Need a Deck?

Backyard Decisions: Do You Need a Deck?

Backyard Deck
Adding a backyard deck is a great way to increase your living space and add value to your home. It creates an extra venue for outdoor dining, parties and socials, or simply relaxing with family and friends.

A deck requires a little more maintenance, but bonus points are awarded for nicer views, under-deck shading, and potentially direct access to your main floor and kitchen. It can also be raised to compensate for uneven ground (check your local building codes to see if you need a permit for construction). On the other hand, a patio has no weight restrictions so you can easily add a hot tub or outdoor fireplace. And if privacy is an issue, your trees and fencing can keep your ground-level deck a voyeur-free zone.​

How Much Space Will You Need?

Once you’ve decided it’s a deck that best meets your needs, you must determine just how big those needs are i.e. the amount of space you require. Consider the number of people in your family, and the headcount of a typical social gathering. This will impact the size of table (or tables) and conversation seating you’ll want to have on your deck.

Try to visualize your furniture placement (chairs, couches, end tables etc.) and the space needed to around them. Items that require a lot of space (BBQ, hot tub) should be mapped out first. The ultimate goal is to come up with a square footage figure you can plan around. Drawing up a rough blueprint can be a great help here. ​

Determining Height & Access Points

When considering a raised deck, the key question is height, and planning how to best use the under-deck space. A fully raised deck presents an opportunity to create a patio or other living space under the deck, but you’ll need to factor that into the building plans.

A slightly raised deck can offer storage space, but you’ll need to incorporate outdoor flooring and/or weed control into your construction. Access points are also part of the equation. A slightly raised deck may only require a few steps, but a fully raised deck will require space enough for a stairwell and landing. ​

Popular Types of Outdoor Decking

Now that you’ve got a square footage estimate, you can figure material choices into the equation to determine what it will cost to build a deck. Ease of installation, weather resistance, material lifespan are all factors to consider. The $ symbols noted below are for material estimates only i.e. they do not include installation.

The Perks of Pressure-Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood is still the most popular choice for decking—and for good reason. It's affordable, easy to work with, and treated to resist rot and fungus. It does tend to split and warp over time, however, so routine maintenance is necessary. An annual power wash is also required, and if you want to keep your deck looking new (some prefer a weathered look) you’ll need to reapply stain or wood preservative every two to three years.

Go Natural with Cedar Decking

Deck purists insist cedar is the best and only choice. Its rich colour and natural look can really turn your backyard into a beautiful, rustic retreat. But beauty comes with a price, as cedar can cost from 1.5 to 2 times more than pressure-treated wood. However, the higher price point also buys you piece-of-mind: cedar is chemical and preservative-free because the inherent oils and tannins offer strong resistance to rot, decay and insects.

You’ll need to apply a water-repellent wood preservative, and a stain to maintain the wood’s natural colour. A good power wash and finishing coat every few years is also advised.


Composite Decking and its Advantages

A mixture of plastic and wood fibre, composite decking is quickly becoming the go-to choice for many homeowners. Here’s how it works: the wood fibre component provides the necessary strength, and the plastic material protects the wood against moisture. The result is a great-looking deck that closely resembles real wood, requires little maintenance, and can withstand even the harshest of climates. No painting, staining or sealing is required. Pressure-treated lumber is used for the support structure to provide strength, though steel can be used on larger decks for added longevity.

Deckorators Decking: Voyage & Trailhead

Deckorators offers unique decking through the Voyage and Trailhead lines, providing an experience like no other. The Voyage line is mineral-based, delivering best in-class traction. Trailhead is a scratch resistant plastic-based material, with a natural wood look and feel. Both aren’t afraid of getting a little wet as they are suitable around pools or hot tubs and are great to be used as a dock.
composite deck around hot tub
composite deck with dining table

PVC Decking: Low Maintenance & Eco-Friendly

Unlike composite decking, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) decking contains no wood. It’s made in whole or part of recycled materials, which means your PVC deck will also be 100% recyclable. Easy to clean and maintain, PVC is also lighter than other decking materials, though unlike composite it can’t be routed, ripped or bent during construction. PVC decking does not require staining, sanding or painting. A wide variety of colours are available, along with enhanced real-wood looks. Capped PVC decking adds an extra protective layer to withstand numerous perils like stains, scratches, mold, mildew, insects, cupping and cracking.

DIY Project or Professional Installation? Here’s How to Decide

To build or not to build. It’s the DIY question that crosses the mind of many homeowners. If you’re handy and have the right tools you could do the project over a few weekends and shave as much as 50% off the final price tag. But remember, a seasoned installer will know all the tricks and pitfalls, typically ending in a professional job done in half the time or less. . Talk to a contractor or Home Hardware professional to discuss the following DIY factors:
  • Tools required re: cost of buying vs. renting
  • Buying materials yourself to save on contractor materials markup
  • Contractor builds the structure, while you lay the decking
  • Best options for deck stairs and deck railings

Don’t Forget – You’ll Need a Permit

If your deck is 24 inches above grade or attached to the house, you’ll need a building permit. Failure to obtain one could result in fines, back property taxes, and even the removal of your deck. Contact your local building department for bylaw and permitting requirements. Special drawings and approvals may be required, and everything from size to location on your site may be dictated by local bylaws. A professional deck contractor, landscape architect, architect or architectural technologist can help guide you through the process.

Red Tape Tip
Permits and approvals take time. Complete these administrative tasks early to avoid running up your costs and timelines.

DIY Deck Tools and Materials

Deck Features & Accessories

Finishing your deck with features such as railings, stair and lighting will complement the appearance and safety of your deck. Here are some options to consider.

Fashionable and Functional Deck Railings

As your deck’s most visible feature, the right deck railing can really enhance the overall design. Which style suits your deck best: a traditional look with pressure-treated wood, or vinyl for a more contemporary feel.

Aluminum railings with glass panels also create an attractive modern look. Your deck railing is also a safety feature so again, check your local building codes or consult with a contractor with respect to height, baluster spacing etc. ​
Glass railings
glass railing

Step onto Your Dream Deck with These Stair Options

The height of your deck will determine your stair options. For a slightly raised deck one or two strategically placed stair stringers or a wraparound box step will suffice. Higher raised decks will require a landing and taller stairs, typically made from 2 x 12 stringers spaced about 12 to 16 inches apart. Stair stringers are available in many sizes in both pressure treated wood and metal. As with railings, be sure to check building codes first.​

Add Skirting for Flare

Consider a deck skirting package to bring a clean and finished look to your backyard deck. Lattice is a popular choice as it allows for proper ventilation to prevent mold growth, while still shielding your storage area from prying eyes. Most packages allow the skirting to be lifted for easy access. Boards can also be used for skirting but remember to include a door. ​

Let There Be Light

The right outdoor lighting can enhance the appearance, safety and security of your deck, while extending your entertainment hours long into the evening. String lights add overhead ambience and are easy to install, while pendant lights can focus on a specific dining or conversation area. Rope lighting wraps easily around railings and deck posts for an attractive look. Lanterns bring mood lighting to dining and seating areas, while dot lights or fairy lights are ideal for florals, centrepieces, vases and bowls. LED lights are a great green lighting option, using more than 75% less power than incandescent bulbs. Solar lighting is also a good eco-friendly option and requires no outdoor wiring.​

Safety Gates for Kids & Pets

A safety gate is essential if small children and/or pets have access to your deck. Pressure-mounted units are the most practical choice, allowing for quick and easy installation and removal. Some models also include hardware kits for more permanent mounting. You can also choose from wood, plastic and metal material to best suit the appearance of your deck. ​

The Finishing Touch: To Paint or Stain?

Finishing your new wooden deck will enhance its appearance, protect it from the elements and prolong its lifespan. Exterior paint and wood stain differ in terms of appearance, application, durability, maintenance, and cost. Here’s a few things to consider:

Stain Pros:
  • Offers a more natural look
  • Solid-coloured stains that look like paint are an option
  • More budget-friendly
  • Easier to apply
  • Does not require wood preservative and primer
  • Easy to convert to paint later on
Paint Pros:
  • Offers many colour options
  • Hides cracks and creates a refined look
  • Oil-based paints protect against moisture
  • Latex paints protect against UV-Fading

Maintenance Factors for Long-Lasting Decking

Wooden decks require more maintenance (and cost) than composite or vinyl decks. Some do’s and don’ts apply to all, while others are specific to wood. Here’s a few tips to help keep your deck looking its best throughout the seasons:

All Decks:
  • Redirect downspouts and dryer vents away from deck
  • Regularly sweep away standing water, leaves and other debris to avoid mold and mildew
  • Use woven vs. rubber-backed rugs
  • Unclog gaps in boards
  • Ensure proper under-deck ventilation
  • Clean regularly with a pressure washer or gentle scrub brush, mild soap and water

Wooden Decks:
  • Do a thorough annual cleaning using a deck-cleaning solution
  • Take care using a pressure washer as it can strip paint and gouge wood
  • Cover nearby plants if using cleaners and sealers
  • Avoid chlorine bleach as it will strip wood of its natural colour
  • Sand your deck with 80-grit sandpaper before applying sealer
  • Reseal your deck every few years to prevent cracking, cupping and warping
  • Inspect periodically for splinters, loose nails and rotting boards and replace where needed
Now that you have a better idea of everything you’ll want to consider in the design of your dream deck, it’s time to put pencil to paper. Once you’ve decided which installation route you want to take, come and visit your local Home Hardware Building Centre or Home Building Centre to start making your dream deck a reality. Your staycation awaits.
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