What to Know Before Building a Wooden Deck

Photo: Roger Davies

From small gatherings to a fun vacation, a backyard deck is an important part of any outdoor lifestyle. The decision between using wood or a synthetic material is not only a long-term investment, but often also the first decision. When it comes to factors like cost, maintenance, strength, and durability, wooden decks get high positive results – and with relative ease, they can be a home improvement project. “If you are a skilled handyman, there are plenty of resources to walk you through the steps,” says Charlie Jourdain, president of the California Redwood Association. Sustainability is one of the selling points of wood: it is a renewable resource that is also biodegradable and reduces the environmental impact. “Alternatives can be more expensive and land in a landfill,” says Jourdain. With proper care, a wooden deck can last for decades, making it a great return on investment. Here he offers advice to guide you through the process.

Get help from an expert.If you do decide to hire a professional, find a licensed contractor who specializes in deck construction. “Always get at least three commandments,” says Jourdain. “Ask for references and, if possible, check previous work and background before signing a contract.”

Take long-term costs into account.Wood is a more economical choice than composites, says Jourdain. “With regular maintenance, this material will last for decades,” notes Jourdain. “If the property is sold, there is a higher percentage of the return on investment.”

Take care of yourself.Applying a natural finish extends the durability of the wood and lets the natural grain through. “Decks should be reworked every two to three years,” says Jourdain. An annual cleaning ensures that your garden looks well cared for. “Wet the deck, scrub it with a cleaning solution like Simple Green with a stiff-bristled brush, and rinse it thoroughly,” he says.

Protect the environment.Through the natural process of photosynthesis, wood can draw and store carbon from the atmosphere, which counteracts global warming. “An average-sized wooden deck can store half a ton of carbon,” says Jourdain. “Compared to plastics, it has a much smaller footprint.”

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