Outdoor living areas are more popular than ever today. They can be constructed using a variety of materials—including wood, composite, brick, stone, or concrete—and designed to fit any lifestyle or budget.
Sun decks are usually constructed from pressure treated pine or a rot resistant species like redwood, cedar, or cypress. Composite materials have also become a popular choice for decking. While more expensive than wood, composites require less maintenance and can last longer.
Composite materials are molded from a mixture of cellulose wood fibers and plastic resin. Unlike wood, composite will not warp, splinter, or crack and are more dimensionally stable than natural wood. Since composite decking is not as rigid as wood, floor joints may need to be spaced closer together. Check with the manufacturer of the composite material, and follow their recommendations on joist spacing.
Unlike wood decking, composite material is almost always screwed down, making installation more labor intensive than with nailing. Some composite decking fits together with a tongue and groove joint that allow the fasteners to be hidden.
Since pressure treated wood decking usually arrives still wet with preservative, the boards should be fit tightly together as the wood will shrink when it dries. Unlike composite material, wood expands when wet and contracts when dry. This movement, coupled with harmful UV rays from the sun, can cause wood decking to crack and degrade over time.
Cleaning and Finishing Decks
To protect a wood deck from the effects of sun and rain, apply a water and UV resistant sealer or stain. Before applying the finish, clean the deck thoroughly to remove dirt and mildew then allow to dry. A new wood deck should weather for a full season before finishing with a sealer or stain.
Composite decks aren’t totally maintenance free either. They need to be cleaned periodically to remove dirt and mildew. The color of composite material can change over time, so ask the dealer to see a sample that has weathered outside for several years to get a better idea of what it will look like.
Enclosing a Deck
Building a roof over a deck to protect it from the elements is a good way to increase the enjoyment of your outdoor living space. There’s a lot more to framing a roof structure than you might think, so consult a professional to be sure the design meets local building codes and blends in with the rest of your house.
Screening a porch keeps insects out, but it can also make an outdoor space feel too confined. Motorized retractable screens from Phantom Screens can give you the best of both worlds. The screens roll down at the touch of a button when insects are active and up when you want to experience the great outdoors in all its glory. The screens slide in tracks on each side of the opening and roll up on horizontal rollers that are concealed behind facing boards near the ceiling.
Outdoor kitchens have become increasingly popular in recent years. They can be as simple as a grill and countertop, or include everything from a vent hood and sink to a refrigerator and optional side burners.
There are many types and styles of grills available. While purists prefer the flavor of a charcoal grill, it’s hard to beat the convenience of gas. Not only is gas cleaner, it heats up faster and the cooking temperature is easy to control. Since even the best grills eventually develop problems, make sure to include access for repairs.
Brick pavers can make an attractive patio. Start with several inches of a base material—such as crushed granite, recycled crushed concrete, or coarse sand—to provide for good drainage. Once the base material has been leveled, pack it down using a hand tamp or motorized plate compactor. The pavers are then laid with a fixed border to hold them in place. Finally, sweep sand or a polymer based product into the cracks.
A concrete patio can be made more attractive by scoring a pattern of shallow lines in the surface. Start by marking the lines with a chalk line. Using a straight edge as a guide, cut the lines 1/8” deep with a circular saw and diamond tipped masonry blade. Be sure to wear an approved dust mask, along with eye and hearing protection, when cutting. To dress up a concrete patio even more, apply an oil, latex, or acid stain to the surface.
Other Tips From This Episode
The joints between patio pavers are usually filled with sand, which has a tendency to wash out of the cracks over time. PowerLoc Jointing Sand from Quikrete is a polymer based product that prevents it from washing out or cracking. Simply pour it out and sweep the jointing sand diagonally into the cracks with a push broom. To lock it in place, mist the surface down with water from a sprayer, going over it three times within an hour, and let dry.
The Cordzilla stretch rope from Lehigh is a bungee cord encased in a flexible polypropylene rope, giving it a working strength of up to 400 pounds. Available in 3, 4, and 5-foot lengths, the brightly colored tie downs feature vinyl coated steel hooks with a security clip. Moveable foam rubber pads can be positioned to protect delicate cargo from damage. Cordzilla is available at The Home Depot.
Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Eco-Friendly Mosquito Repellent
To keep mosquitoes away naturally, put celery in a juicer and rub or spray the liquid on your skin. Another natural option that works even better are products made from lemon eucalyptus oil such as Repel plant based insect repellent.
Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® are provided by Ryobi.