After a long winter, there’s nothing better than soaking up the sun in your own oasis. With summer in full swing, now is the time to invest in a deck that allows you to make the most of your outdoor living space.

Before you build, consider the purpose of your outdoor space and the design of your home. This will help determine the size of your deck, materials required, and extra features you may want to consider.

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Dimensions

Determine the anticipated dimensions of your deck taking into consideration how much green space you wish to retain. Families with young children and pets can benefit from a yard to play and run, while those who enjoy spending their summers entertaining might opt for a larger deck with room for patio furniture and appliances.

As a general rule, decks should be longer than they are wide with the long side running parallel to the front or back of the house. Build your deck no bigger than the largest room in your house. A deck too large will overshadow your home while one too tiny might feel cramped.

Ultimately, the height of your deck will depend on your home’s design. As most modern homes are raised the most common style is a mid-elevation deck. However, if your home is situated at ground level, you will need to construct a low-elevation deck. Alternatively, multi-storey homes and split-levels have the option of building a high-elevation deck. While significantly more expensive than the other two options, the advantages of a high-elevation deck may be worth the price tag. The space under the deck (if waterproofed correctly) can be used as an extra living or storage space. If your home is in a particularly scenic area, adding height to your deck means you can stop staring at your neighbour’s walls and start enjoying the view.

Keep in mind that in Edmonton, an uncovered deck over two feet tall will require a permit. Similarly, decks over six feet are considered home additions, so make sure you get the respective permit before building in order to avoid costly changes. For corner lots or front decks, speak with a development officer to ensure you follow additional regulations. In Calgary, all decks over 0.6m in height require a permit. Anything under 0.6m is considered a patio.

Materials

For decades, no one thought twice about using wood to build their deck. Its durability, versatility, and low cost made wood the go-to option, however in recent years competitors have designed some excellent alternatives. While wood maintains the top spot, vinyl, composite, and aluminum decks are gaining popularity. Consider the following factors when choosing your building material.

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Durability

Wood

● With regular maintenance, most wood decks will last up to 10 or 15 years. The primary issue with wood is that it is susceptible to mold, mildew, rot, and splitting. For this reason, redwood and cedar, both of which are rot- and insect-resistant, are the most common types of wood used to build decks. However, cedar is a soft wood that may get scratched up by patio furniture and pet claws. Avoid cedar for low-elevation decks as it is quicker to deteriorate at ground level.

● Pressure-treated wood is also resistant to rotting and insects. It’s more durable than natural wood and many manufacturers offer a limited lifetime warranty on their product. Pick a high-quality product that has been dried out before and after pressure treatment to limit shrinking and twisting.

Vinyl

● Vinyl is ideal for a waterproof deck. With 100% PVC construction, there is no risk of rot, mold, or mildew as the design is entirely made of plastic. You also have the option of adding a vinyl membrane to decks made from other materials to prevent water damage.

● Keep in mind that plastic expands and contracts significantly compared to other building materials. Changes in weather may cause joints to loosen.

Composite

● Composite decks are made of a combination of recycled wood and plastic. Composite is not as strong as wood so this type of deck may sag if not properly supported. Joists should be placed closer together than on a wooden deck.

● Given it contains wood, composite decking is susceptible to mold and mildew. It must be cleaned and sealed regularly. If maintained, a composite deck can last 25 to 30 years.

Aluminum

● Though seldom considered a deck building material, aluminum is easily the strongest and longest-lasting. It stands up to weather extremes, is mold- and mildew-resistant, and won’t crack or warp. What’s more, most aluminum decks have planks with interlocking edges, resulting in a watertight structure. Your aluminum deck will likely outlive your home!

Aesthetics

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Wood

● Wood gives the most natural look with the richest colours. It can be stained to virtually any colour to match the style of your yard. The only downside is that wood decks fade from sun exposure and therefore must be touched up every few years.

Vinyl

● Vinyl manufacturers are constantly innovating to improve the aesthetic appeal of their product. In the past, vinyl was criticized for looking fake. Current designs successfully replicate the look of wood.

● Vinyl can’t be stained but it comes in unlimited colour options. Most products are treated with UV inhibitors to slow the fading process.

Composite

● Composite decking is a low-maintenance alternative to wood. It looks natural and should last for many years without fading. If the colour does fade or you simply want to give your deck a facelift, you can stain or paint it with a product recommended for use on composite decks.

Ecofriendly

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Regardless of the type of material you choose, pick one that is produced locally. The less distance between you and the material, the smaller the impact on the environment.

Wood

Choose wood that has been harvested close to home. Keep in mind that some types of wood are treated with toxic chemicals to give them the same insect- and rot-resistant properties as cedar and redwood.

Vinyl

Many vinyl decking manufacturers offer products made fully or partially from recycled plastic. Using recycled materials eliminates the need to cut down forests.

Composite

Similar to vinyl, composite is made up of recycled materials. Trex builds decking out of 95% recycled wood and plastic film, and Alberta builder Ecofence and Decking is committed to creating great composite decks all while saving the planet. Because this material is nearly impossible to recycle once it has reached the end of its life, purchase a product that is already highly recycled.

Aluminum

While aluminum is a recyclable natural resource, the process of extracting and manufacturing it requires a great deal of energy. For this reason, aluminum is the least environmentally friendly material to use for your deck unless you can find a recycled product.

Traction

Wood, vinyl, and composite decks all have a tendency to become slippery when wet. Opt for a textured finished to your vinyl or composite deck. Aluminum turns slippery when frozen; however, most manufacturers will fit the surface of their product with tiny ribs and/or a powder-coated finish.

For additional traction, consider the following solutions:

● Be sure to clean the deck regularly to remove dirt which can cause slippery surfaces.

● Apply adhesive abrasive strips to the edges of your deck’s steps.

● Treat your deck with an anti-slip spray coating.

● For wooden decks, add white sand to paint to create a textured surface.

Features

Since you’re going to be investing a significant amount of money in constructing your deck, it’s important to design a space that you will want to spend time in once the warm weather hits. Improving the aesthetics of your deck and adding features like heaters and lighting will ensure your outdoor living space is as inviting as the inside of your home.

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Gas Lines and Heaters

Summer days are best spent in good company, so whether that means inviting friends over for a barbecue or chatting around the fire, running a gas line to your deck will make entertaining a breeze.

Tired of always having to keep a spare propane tank on hand in case one runs out in the middle of grilling? By connecting your barbecue to your household gas line, you’ll never have that problem again. Get in touch with a Pro who can make the switch for you.

No matter how hot it gets in Alberta during the day, the temperature tends to drops significantly in the evening. Keep the backyard party going by starting up your gas-powered fire pit. A fire pit is a great centrepiece for any deck and hooking it up to your home’s gas line means you’ll never run out of fuel. Just make sure to insulate the pit with stone or install the pit on a pedestal if your deck is made of wood.

If a fire pit doesn’t appeal to you, you can still maximize the time enjoyed on your deck by investing in a gas heater.

Lighting

Enjoy your deck well through the night and show off all the work you’ve put into it with beautiful outdoor lighting. Here are some ideas to get you started.

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Recessed lights illuminate the steps in a soft glow to prevent trips and falls.

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Use LED strips to light up the edges and railings of your deck.

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Adding a few spotlights to deck plants is a simple way to show off your green thumb while giving the space an earthy, relaxing feel.

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Candles and lanterns are an inexpensive DIY lighting option. If romance is what you’re going for, there’s no better choice.

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Railings don’t just serve as a safety device. They’re also the perfect place to install deck lighting. Post lights or under-rail lights illuminate the space evenly with their warm glow.

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Solar-powered end caps are an energy-efficient way to add elegant lighting to your railing.

Remember to keep the lighting subtle to create an intimate mood and avoid disturbing the neighbours. Setting the lights on a timer will help conserve energy.

Stairs and Railings

Unless your deck is at ground level, you’ll need to construct a stairway. Additionally, decks above 0.6m require a guard rail. Check the railing height requirements to learn how tall your railing must be.

Stairs

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Don’t let the space under your deck go to waste! Store water-resistant objects here or waterproof the area to maximize usage.

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Whether you’re using it as storage space or simply want it out of sight, lattices elegantly block the underside of your deck from view.

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A spiral staircase may seem superfluous, but it can add great curb appeal to homes with a high-elevation deck.

Railings

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Give a classic wooden railing character by designing a geometric pattern between the posts.

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Something as simple as a stylish end cap can improve the overall look of your deck.

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Mixing materials, like wrought iron on a wooden deck, modernizes your yard and breaks up the uniformity of the wood.

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The few months of warm weather we have in Canada should be enjoyed to the fullest with those closest to us. When you build a deck, you’re not only building a structure to house a table and some chairs. You’re building a space in which to share a meal with family, to make new memories with friends, and to appreciate Mother Nature. Let TradePros set you up with professionals who will help bring your dream deck to life!