We get calls from homeowners all the time who find themselves in the unfortunate position of having a “disaster deck.” There are several reasons for the deterioration of their back yard living spaces that we see often.
- One of the most common problems troubled deck owners have is that they did not have a well-thought-out design for their deck to begin with. Often we are victims of the ordinary, and fail to think “outside of the box.” In this case, decks have been historically just that: boxes. Taking the time to really think about how you’d like to use the space, and how to create something that meets those intentions is invaluable. Hiring a professional, experienced designer is even more ideal.
- Another thing I see all the time is deteriorating wood. Unfortunately, wood does have a lifespan, and it will eventually give out on you, particularly if you haven’t been maintaining it properly. To avoid ending up with a rotting deck in your back yard, you will need to either use low-maintenance decking like composite, or you will need to ensure that you are sanding and staining your deck every year. I find that more and more people are choosing the composite, not just because of the low maintenance factor, but also based on the return on investment reflected in the property values.
- Everything begins with the structural footings of your deck, but this is where so many do-it-yourselfers cut corners. Bad idea! We live in a freeze/thaw climate where frost can turn a once-level deck into an amusement park ride in a jiffy. I do not use concrete deck blocks on any project as the deck is almost guaranteed to heave or sink over time. Concrete footings typically need to go a minimum of four feet below grade and be set in a builders tube to minimize frost interference.
- Connecting the deck to the frame or foundation of the house rather than “floating” the deck is always my preference. The reasons are simple. A floating deck means that the structure of the deck does not connect to the house structure. This typically requires a line of footings close to the foundation wall for a support beam. Here’s the problem; footings are meant to sit on “undisturbed soil” which is compacted and will support the footing without sinking. When digging a footing 12” to 24” away from the foundation, the soil in that area is “disturbed soil” due to the excavation required to build the house. These footings are highly susceptible to sinking, which leads to a horrible looking deck.
- Finally, GET THE PERMIT!! Going through the permit process might sound like a nuisance, but consider it to be more like having your big brother over to ensure that everything you are doing is going to be done correctly to protect your family, and your investment. Countless times, my crew and I have found ourselves bracing for impact when we’ve set foot on some well-intentioned labour of love that really was just an accident waiting to happen!