Organized outdoor space: Using decks to create a focus for outdoor living projects
Remodelers can transform a dull backyard into an exciting entertainment and play space by designing and installing a new deck. New decking products are easy to install, long-lasting and need little maintenance.
“Decks today are considerably larger and more complex than those of 25 years ago,” says Jim Flickinger of Perennial Wood. “According to the North American Deck and Railing Association, 40 million decks are 20 years old or older, making them prime for replacement.”
Those numbers present a business opportunity for remodelers. Current decks have more decorative features, with multiple decking colors, trellises, pergolas, lighting, post caps and wrought-iron railings.
Real wood enhanced
Consumers often prefer decking that is or looks like wood. Introduced in February 2012, “Perennial Wood decking is real wood that is three times more resistant to the damaging effects of water — like shrinking, swelling, cracking or cupping — than unmodified wood,” says Flickinger.
TruLast Technology, which provides a physical barrier warranted to protect against rot, decay and movement for 25 years, is used to modify the wood without leaving any toxic substances. Perennial Wood has a 25 percent greater surface hardness than unmodified wood. Made from domestic Southern pine processed in the Southeastern U.S., no offshore shipping is used.
Perennial Wood decking comes in 12- and 16-foot lengths in four factory-finished shades: Mahogany, Sierra, Redwood and Cape Cod Gray. The factory finish can be allowed to patina naturally or refinished in another color. Railing posts, balusters, top and bottom rail systems, stair treads and fascia are also available in standard dimensions.
Ecolife Stabilized Weather-Resistant Wood (EL2) from Viance is designed to make wood decks look better for longer.
“Ecolife offers builders and consumers the natural beauty of real wood combined with advanced protection from weathering and improved fastener performance,” says Chris Kollwitz of Viance. “Ecolife’s unique proprietary stabilizer improves the performance of deck surfaces by reducing the cracking, checking and splitting associated with wood in an outdoor environment. During the treating process, the stabilizer in Ecolife is driven deep into the wood to protect all surfaces and to help minimize the weathering effects common to ordinary lumber.”
This helps control the bending, twisting or warping affecting many other treated wood products, making Ecolife particularly desirable for deck framing.
“At a price point that remains 200 to 300 percent less than composite or other decking options, wood decks are more friendly to our environment, last longer, return more value on their investment and offer builders more creative freedom,” Kollwitz notes.
Wood look, no fading
The natural wood look combined with high performance is also offered by capped composites. These decking boards have cores of wood-plastic composite with exterior shells that look like wood. Capped is a good choice for easier cleaning with the most realistic wood looks, notes Edie Kello Wilson of Fiberon.
TimberTech has introduced the Earthwood Evolutions Natural Collection. “Inspired by colors often found in nature the planks come in 12-, 16- and 20-foot lengths in either a square profile or grooved that works well with hidden fasteners,” says Chuck Chura of TimberTech.
“Earthwood Evolutions features a flat grain surface that does not trap dirt in its graining pattern and has a more consistent color to achieve a true natural appearance.”
A worldwide shortage of real tropical hardwoods has spurred interest in manmade hardwood lookalikes like Trex Transcend tropical deck boards, notes Adam Zambanini of Trex. Using 95 percent recycled content, they come in Spiced Rum and Lava Rock colors. The complete Trex Transcend line has seven colors of deck boards in 12-, 16- and 20-foot lengths, with square edged or grooved surfaces offered at the same price.
Fiberon’s most popular decking is Horizon, which is capped on four sides and comes in five multi-colored rich tropical, hardwood looks: Ipe, Rosewood, Greystone, Castle Gray and Tudor Brown. Also available are Fiberon’s Outdoor Flooring PVC, Pro-Tect (capped on three sides) and Professional, which is uncapped. The full line has 17 color options in 12-, 16- and 20-foot lengths, offered in square edge and grooved for use with hidden fasteners.
TimberTech’s new End Cut Paint comes in the same five colors as the Earthwood Evolutions boards: Cedar, Grey, Rosewood, Teak and Walnut. Cut ends of planks that have not been boxed in with fascia can be easily painted to match the boards’ surface, giving the deck a cleaner look.
While the deck itself should look like wood, a steel substructure underneath like Trex Elevations can create a flat decking surface. When the site permits, many consumers are now finishing off the area underneath the deck to get a shaded outdoor area, Zambanini says, noting, “With Trex Elevations, they get longer spans which give more finished area under the deck.”
Trex Rain-Escape goes between deck boards to collect rainwater falling onto the deck, channeling it to a gutter where it can drain to the yard. “Using Trex Rain-Escape with a second story deck lets people build under the deck,” Zambanini says. “They can put an outdoor kitchen there or spend time under the deck when it’s raining.” With a one-story deck three to four feet off the ground, Trex Rain-Escape can be used to create under deck storage.
Lighting, pergolas and railings are popular
Zambanini says 65 percent of top-tier contractors are now putting lighting on decks. After introducing Trex Deck-Lighting in 2011, a line of post cap lights was recently added.
The Western interest in pergolas is moving across the country. “People are putting them in now because of the design aspect,” Zambanini notes. “Many people have vining plants and grow them over pergolas.” As the plants grow, they form a deck “ceiling,” creating shade and a nice environmental effect. Trex pergolas are available as 8-by-8- foot and 8-by-10- foot kits and in custom sizes.
Horizon railing systems from Fiberon offer metal baluster options, acrylic see through panels and color options. The railing comes in 6- and 8-foot lengths in white, black, bronze and brick.
“Horizon Railing is one of the easiest and fastest to install with our patented dagger system,” notes Wilson. Horizon Mission Railing requires only 21 fasteners for each 6- or 8-foot span of railing.
Deck installers working in coastal regions or in areas with high humidity or dramatic temperature swings will benefit from TimberTech’s new 3-inch-long Stainless Steel TOPLoc fasteners. One-half inch longer than conventional fasteners, “the extra length provides additional stability and grip, ensuring the boards are held in place,” says Chura. “TOPLoc’s tri-lobular design reduces compression within the board and the undercut head with its three annular rings helps eliminate undesired mushrooming, spinout and end splitting.” These fasteners come in the same colors as TimberTech’s planks and End Cut paint.
Trex Hideaway Universal fasteners are hidden once installed and come with a pre-set gapping space for easy installation. Designed for use with grooved deckboard, no screws will be visible on top. “Most consumers prefer this for a smooth deck surface,” Zambanini points out.
Fiberon offers Phantom hidden fasteners for a smooth, fastener-free deck surface.
Long term warranties, easy maintenance
You can assure homeowners their new decks will last and be easy to maintain. Twenty- to 25- year scratch, fade and stain warranties for capped composite decking are now common.
“This industry is providing more realistic wood looks that are designed not ever to be stained or painted like wood requires,” Wilson notes.
Chura recommends keeping decks clear of debris. Just soap and water applied with a sponge or hose will clean up typical spills on these new decks, says Zambanini, and cleaning may only be needed once a year.
Talking with homeowners
“Remodelers should consider the homeowners’ lifestyle, their concern for the environment, how the deck will complement the outdoor surroundings and how long homeowners plan to be in their home,” Flickinger says. “All of these factors will influence the type of material specified for a deck.”
During the design process, remodelers should determine consumers’ intended use for the deck. “Is it primarily for entertainment?” Zambanini asks. “Then deck lighting would make a lot of sense. Is it mostly you and your kids and you do a lot of grilling outside? Then you want deckboard with a fade and stain warranty. Do you want more livable space? Then you want a second story deck that’s finished off underneath. Spend enough time upfront with the homeowner finding out what their needs are and then tell them what products are available.”