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Building Better Decks: Building codes and materials

By Lawrence Winterburn

This is part 2 of 4 from our series: Building Better Decks

Building codes
Once you have a general plan and budget in mind, you need to determine whether your local building department will allow you to go forward. Whenever applying for a permit, you will need a site survey in which you plot your deck to scale. Don’t stress about exact dimensions—close is good enough, so long as officials can factor in the square footage so that you meet the lot coverage ratio assigned for your property. Most areas use this lot coverage ratio to make sure the entire yard isn’t covered solely by deck.

Next, you must determine what type of material to use. There are hundreds of choices nowadays ranging from man-made materials to exotic hardwoods to patio stones. Of course, as previously mentioned, each of these options come with their own budgetary considerations and construction pros and cons.

When it comes to composites, do your homework before buying. While many products will look good for years, they still require care to ensure it stays looking good and free of mould and other wear and tear. As with any product, read the warranty carefully to determine any exclusions before purchasing any composite product.

Kiln-dried hardwood is a great option with high quality ratings. They can also be pre-stained in a variety of colours and finishes, meaning you won’t have to refinish for five to seven years. For a small premium, some builders will seal up the end grains for added durability.

For those on a budget, pressure-treated wood is a popular choice. Keep in mind, however, that it does not offer the longevity, design or colour flexibility that come with more expensive options.

Many traditional wood decks are coupled with a stone patio, which offers an efficient contrast and permanence to the area. If you have a fairly level area to work with, an interlock patio can give you more space for less money than your typical deck into the design. However, uneven areas that require retaining can be more expensive.

While there are man-made alternatives to stone, they do not typically last as long. You should expect to pay a premium for any natural material, which often needs to be worked by a professional.




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