Many homeowners enhance their property by installing decks. They add extra summer living space, and offer an attractive and affordable addition to the home. They also increase the value of the home.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION:
There are several decisions to be made when it comes to deciding what type of deck or fence you will be installing. The deck design can be square, rectangular or irregular, and fence patterns between posts can be irregular. Several building supply stores offer a variety of easy to follow plans, tips and guidelines to help with the construction. The area should be cleared of all trees, shrubs, grass and ground should slope away from the house. Before any construction begins, check with your local Building Department to see if a building permit is required. If so, plans of the deck for size and setbacks on the lot, must be submitted to ensure that they meet municipal building codes. The wood you choose, the style, size, and the contractor you select will establish the cost of the job.
TYPES OF WOOD USED
Pressure treated wood is the most common material used for decks and fences in Winnipeg. In recent years manufacturers have taken less durable woods, such as spruce, and treated them chemically so they would survive weathering. Some manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on pressure treated lumber. It is a cost effective alternative to cedar, but is not as attractive. Cedar costs approx. 35 % more than pressure treated lumber.
WOOD POSTS OR CONCRETE COLUMNS
Columns are used to support horizontal structural elements such as beams by transferring the loads. The failure or lack of columns is one of the main reason why decks begin to sag. It is important that they are correctly sized and securely fastened. Sona tubes filled with concrete are sometimes used as supports for decks, but generally 4×4 wood posts extending 4”0” into the ground encased below in concrete approximately 8” below finished grade are used. Do not expose concrete to surface because frost will heave columns during the winter. The easiest way to secure wood posts is by using a poured concrete method. Once the posts have been placed in the holes and lined up, pour the wet concrete into the hole. Wait a day or two before hammering on the posts so that the concrete develops enough strength to keep from cracking.
When building a fence, posts should be also 4 ft. in depth and secure the same as deck posts. Caps are used on fence posts to discourage water from accumulating and running into the post. There are no building code requirements governing the construction of wood fences, but there may be municipal by-laws, so contact your local city hall building department, for any building regulations
INSTALLING BEAMS AND JOISTS
Think of the deck as a floor structure. It has joists to support the flooring material, and posts to hold the unit up off the ground – slightly elevated or higher. The beams are fastened directly on top of the posts which have been cut level and at the right height. The joists are attached on top of the beams, usually at 16″ centers, and this creates the skeleton or framework for the deck. Once the framing is in position, the decking boards go down. There should be a 1/4″ gap between deck boards. The nail pattern should be uniform, and can be marked out by a chalk line. Nails should be galvanized spiral. These nails bury themselves better into the decking surface. This avoids “nail pop” when the wood contracts and expands with the weather. When the decking has been nailed into place, trim away any excess lumber. Check all dimensions before you begin the trimming process. Trim from the house out, and keep the saw away from the deck edge. A deck or a fence should not be secured directly to a house. It should be an independent structure at least 1″ away. These are added after the deck has been completed.
RAILINGS AND BENCHES
As a rule of thumb, any deck 24″ above finished grade level requires a railing. Railings around the deck must be 42” high above finished decking and if the spindles do not go to the bottom of the deck then there should be no more than a 4” gap between the deck and bottom rail. Spindles can be no greater than 4” apart.
If the deck is more than 12 in. above the ground, stairs must be used to connect the deck with the ground. The sides of the stairs are called “stringers” or “carriages” and must be strong enough to carry the heavy load of people walking on them. Steps should have a rise of 5 to 8 in.and a tread of 9 7/8″. To determine the number of risers, measure the distance from the finished deck surface to the ground. Divide the distance in inches by 6 or 7 and if you get a whole number, that is the number of risers you need. If it is an uneven number, round it off to the nearest whole number. If a deck is 48 ” from the ground, you would need eight risers of 6 inches. Hand railings on stairs must be between 31 -35 inches. The maximum height for steps is eight inches. The minimum width of a staircase is 2’11”. Many home center stores stock pre-cut stair stringers or they can build the entire staircase for you. This will ensure a perfect fit and eliminates some of the work.
STAINS AND PAINTS
Research done on fences and decks that have lasted the test of time were stained every two or three years and lasted much longer than those that were sealed. Sealers are not recommended for horizontal surfaces, but if used they need to be sealed annually. There are many types of stains and paints for pressure treated lumber and cedar. Cedar should be treated with a clear or semi-transparent stain to enhance the grain and allow the wood to breath. A stain with even a little color will be more effective against the sun’s harmful UV rays than a clear stain. For older decks and fences, water-blasting can restore wood surfaces to their original state. Even graying wood regains it’s natural beauty as the water opens up the wood pores.