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Deck Building Basics

A deck is more than just a place to barbecue. It's an enhancement to your lifestyle that adds value to your home. A well-designed deck can easily be a home’s most attractive feature. A deck can expand the possibility of enjoying your yard by opening it up and creating more space for dining and entertaining. Building a new deck or replacing an older one will prove to be an excellent investment.

Decking Materials:

Decks can be built out of a variety of materials, which fall into several main categories:

  • Wood with natural rot resistance
  • Wood chemically treated for rot resistance
  • Synthetic materials made to resemble wood

Type of Lumber




Naturally Rot Resistant Wood


  • Handsome, structurally strong woods
  • Resistant to dry rot
  • Easier to work with than treated wood
  • Soft, easy to dent and mark up
  • Use good and better grades of wood for longevity

Refinish occasionally to prevent damage from moisture, sun, and insects

Treated Lumber

Spruce treated with chemical preservatives

  • Less expensive than natural woods
  • Artificially resistant to decay (check chemicals used to avoid hazards to health or environment)
  • Look for a label that indicates the wood is kiln dried

Refinish occasionally to prevent damage from moisture, sun, and insects

Synthetic Lumbers

Wood Polymer or Composite

  • Trex and Timbertech are made from waste wood and recycled and virgin plastic. They resemble wood in appearance

Synthetic lumber is relatively maintenance free, other than occasional washing

Maintenance Free Composite Decking

There are two main types of composite decks available: Trex and Timbertech. This solid profile decking emulates the shape of real wood lumber but also has more expansion and contraction properties because of its mass. The material comes in a variety of colours.

The benefits of composite decking:

  • Will not rot or deteriorate due to harsh weather.
  • Contains no toxic chemicals or preservatives.
  • Low maintenance, never requiring staining, weathering, or sealing.
  • Resists heating and fading.
  • Safe, slip-resistant when wet.
  • Doesn't sliver and splinter, which makes it comfortable to walk on.

Always Use Wood for Structural Support

No matter what you choose to top your deck with, real wood must be used for the structural support of your deck. Pressure-treated wood is the strongest. Synthetic materials don’t have the strength or flexibility needed for structural support. When planning your deck, keep in mind that naturally rot-resistant wood can be used in combination with treated or synthetic lumber. Treated lumber is generally cheapest and synthetic lumber the most expensive of the three types of building material.


To finish off your deck, and for added safety, you have a variety of railing selections. Your deck railing can match perfectly with your deck or you can select solid, or open railing in a variety of materials:

Wood or Composite: Either or these can be built to match your decking material, in a variety of styles.

Aluminum: Aluminum is used to make very sturdy, weather-resistant, and attractive railings. Aluminum railing systems offer a great alternative to wood and are available in several baked-on enamel paint colors. Plain or decorative pickets can be used, or glass panels are a popular choice with this system.

Glass: If you're looking for a railing that is beautiful and offers unobstructed views, tempered glass panels are well worth considering. It is constructed using glass panels that are set between aluminum posts, tied together with a supporting top rail. To provide proper support and wind resistance, the glass needs to be the proper thickness for a given square footage of area, exposed edges must be ground smooth, and the glass must be tempered. Topless rail systems are now available and offer completely unobstructed views.

Louvers: Louvered panels set into a wooden framework can create a railing that offers additional privacy and wind blocking. You can use the louvers alone or combine them with wood or other materials in alternating panels to vary the overall look of the finished railing.

Siding: Wood siding, either matching or contrasting with what's on your house, offers yet another alternative, especially if you're looking for maximum privacy or wind-blocking characteristics. You can use the siding alone or combine it with a top or middle section of lattice, louvers, metal rods or other materials.


Deck Finishing

If you've just finished up planning a beautiful deck in your backyard, complete with an intricate railing that encompasses it, yet there still seems to be some little detail that's missing - it could be those plain old 4x4 posts. So to give your project that perfect finishing touch, consider topping things off with some post caps:

Wooden caps: These come in a wide variety of styles from simple to ornate. Most caps are made from cedar, but pressure-treated wood caps are also available.

Plastic Caps: The least expensive of the post-cap options, these come in paintable or colours such as black, khaki, redwood and white.

Copper caps: These are made by forming a copper sheet over the top of a wooden cap, again most commonly in the pyramid shape. The copper may cover the entire top of the wood cap, or it may be a small copper piece that sits on top of the wood, so that both the copper and the wood are exposed on top. The copper can be sealed with a spray lacquer to maintain its shine, or allowed to weather naturally.

Composite materials: The growth in popularity of decking materials such as Trex and other composites has brought about an increase in the number of railing components and accessories in the same material. You can now find posts, pickets, rails and other parts that can be used alone or in conjunction with wood to create beautiful, low-maintenance railings to match any type of deck.


Preserving and Protecting Your Wooden Deck

There are a variety of products you can use to coat your deck, from clear wood finishes to translucent to semi-transparent to solid-color stains. The type of product you choose will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of protection you desire and how much you want to see the natural grain of the wood. You must protect both natural wood decks, and pressure-treated decks.

When staining your deck, be careful not to apply too much of the product. You don't want to get surface film on the wood when what you're really going for is penetration. Also, be sure to keep a wet edge so you don't get unsightly lap marks. Apply stain in the proper weather conditions. Avoid applying the product in direct sunlight, and be sure there is no chance of rain for the next 24 hours.

Always follow manufacturer's instructions as listed on the label and product literature. When in doubt on any deck care maintenance, call the paint store from which you bought the product or call the manufacturer's toll-free number, usually listed on the can.

3 Types of Staining:

Clearcoat:  Basically what it says. A water-based one will dry perfectly clear, and an oil-based one will have a bit of an amber glow to it. They typically contain waterproofing and sometimes a preservative. A clear finish is a single coat product that will have to be re-applied approximately every 3 years. This is a good option if you do not want any colour, or you can’t decide on a colour. A semi-transparent or solid stain will cover this type of stain.

Semi-Transparent: This product offers longer protection through the addition of pigment but the wood grain will still be visible. It is a penetrating product as well, usually oil-based, and a single coat will cover and protect. There are many colours to choose from with this type of product. Please note that you cannot switch to a lighter colour or a clearcoat after staining a dark colour unless you totally strip the original product off. This product will have to be re-applied every 3 – 5 years.

Solid Stain: This product offers the most pigment and also the most protection. It is a totally opaque product that looks like a flat paint when applied. It does penetrate the wood, unlike paint, and will wear away instead of chipping and flaking like paint if applied properly. It is usually a 2-coat product, the first coat acting as the primer, and the second coat is the topcoat. Most often it is a water-based product. The product should last 5 – 8 years before re-application.

The MOST important steps: Your deck must be CLEAN and DRY before applying any stain product or it will not perform as it should. Also, ensure you are using the correct type of brushes and clean-up products for your type of stain. Your local building supply store will be able to provide you with samples, and answer any questions.


For Maintenance Free Decks:

Build a Composite Deck with Metal Railing

Please Contact Us for your building requirements:

big city developments inc.
(403) 612-8220
FAX (403) 278-1122

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