Build a Deck in your Backyard

Eastview Homes loves designing and building big wooden decks that can ‘command’ a backyard property.  Just add a sliding glass door, a BBQ, kids and a dog . . .

bid wooden built to command the backyard

Building a backyard deck is a gratifying project for any aspiring home handymen, and although it seems like a straightforward task, there’s a lot that can go wrong.  There are between eight to ten stages where knowledge and expertise are required to create professional-quality results.  Without counting the act of designing the deck in the first place, or selecting the lumber, picking it up or having it delivered, a wooden deck is built in eight simple steps.

The deck seen in these photos is nearly complete.  But three days earlier the work started with the team digging holes for the posts before placing rigid cardboard tubes in the ground and filling these with cement.  The tops of these these tubes were leveled, then left to dry.  When the cement was dry, the posts were drilled and post anchors were affixed to the tops of the cement support pillars.  A horizontal metal bracket was added to the side of the house – visible in the photo below.

Next the upright beams were inserted into the anchors and all alignments were carefully double-checked. With the upright beams in place, the next task is to place the rim joists and angle brackets level with the steel shelf bracket now affixed to the wall of the house. This is followed by adding the inner joists.  Once we add fasteners to all the joists, all that remains is the last step of adding the deck boards across the joists in straight lines.

And of course there are the deck’s wooden sides, the railings and the finish. Plus two staircases (one step down) at either side, and they will need hand rails . . .  One thing about home renovations and residential contracting is how there’s always more work to do, and even more work that could be done on every project. At Eastview Homes we are all about the extra touches.  The mark of true professionals is how much more work they’ll do to make everything perfect after completing the required task.

Plan and Build a Backyard Deck that Compliments Residential Property

Our favourite part of the job is the very first step, imagining the home extension and drafting plans to make it real.  There are many things we consider when designing a wooden deck, and the foremost considerations, after budget, include the size and shape of the lot, and the path of the sun. As you can see in the photo below the (north facing) deck extends far enough away from the house to get full sun all-day long. The wind is also a factor, and if the deck has an exposed face then a tall wooden wall may be added to block the breeze. The same is true for noisy neighbours and we’ve had to revisit projects to add walls for privacy. And finally the view; the house seen below needs this raised platform to properly preside over the play activities that will certainly happen on the property.

back deck off big house in the suburbs

What is the best wood for decks in Canada?

The three most common choices when it comes to wood for decks are redwood, cedar and pressure-treated wood that can be made of various types of wood species.  Redwood and cedar are both naturally insect and rot resistant and have a natural look, but each has its own inherent issues and the price of the material is usually the biggest determining factor.

Eastview Homes makes decks using the material that best suits the property, and that includes plastic resin and composites.  The most common choice is pressure-treated lumber SprucePineFir abbreviated SPF.  Despite all the exotic and synthetic competition, this ubiquitous green-tinted wood is still the number one choice for deck material sold today, across Canada.  In the photos from this job, the deck planks are fir and will be left untreated – the wood will soon acquire a natural green patina that is very attractive.

lumber for decks is pressure treated pine or spruce

How Much Does a Wood Deck Cost?

The general consensus at Eastview Homes is that the average homeowner spends about $7,500 to build a 200 to 500 square foot deck, with smaller decks costing as little as $2,400.  The material cost to build a deck in wood, composite or plastic is about the same, $36 per square foot, including materials.  Exotic woods can double or triple the price depending on their availability.

How Much Space Do We Leave Between Wooden Deck Boards?

Spacing the planks is more than an aesthetic choice.  In the photo below, you can see the planks are placed tight beside each other. Whether to leave a gap between pressure treated wood deck boards depends on how dry the wood is, and what the wooden planks are liable to do on their own, over time.

Leave Gap: If the pressure treated wood has been kiln dried after treatment (KDAT), we leave a 1/8” gap (the thickness of an 8-penny nail) between the boards when attaching them to the joists, since the wood will expand slightly over time.

No Gap: If the pressure treated wood hasn’t been dried and is still wet with preservative, as is the case seen above, then we butt the deck boards together when attaching them since the wood will shrink when it dries.

Wooden decks can store and hide an enormous amount of toys and recreational gear, but let’s remember this is wet storage.  Creating dry storage means providing a dry bottom and a waterproof barrier between the decking boards above and the space below. Under-the-deck drainage systems are often plastic channels which we attach under or between the deck joists. The channels tilt toward the front or side of your deck where water drains either at the edge of your deck or into a gutter.

How Long will a Wooden Deck Last?

The question might be asked more practically as, how long will my wooden deck continue to look good?  Decades-old wooden decks look droopy and their slope makes them seem unsafe, but its their appearance that leads to their removal or upgrade long before anything breaks or rots away so as to be dangerous.  There is something quaint about an wooden deck, but after time the structure could actually detract from the value of the home as it becomes more of a problem and less of an amenity.  However, with some care and maintenance, a pressure treated wooden deck like the one pictured in this blog post can last 15 to 20 years, and a cedar or natural resin-wood deck will last much longer.