Building A Deck: Decking

diy decking composite cedar deck

Once you have your new deck framed, you’ll need to install the decking. There are many products you can use as decking material.

diy deck cedar deckingCedar: Cedar is a naturally rot and insect resistant wood. That’s why you can use it for exterior projects without it needing to be treated like Fir. Decking, railing, fencing and siding are all commonly seen in raw cedar. Cedar will eventually rot over time, especially if it’s in contact with dirt. It’s recommended to treat your cedar with something to make it last even longer. You can use a clear coat sealer if you want to keep the natural look or you can go with a stain. You can still paint cedar but it’s better to use a solid stain as it will soak into wood fibers and protect the wood more effectively. Cedar can be pretty high maintenance as you will have to keep it clean and regularly reseal it.

diy deck composite decking Azek TrexComposite: Composite decking is made up of recycled material and pressed into the shape of a deck board. Most common types of composite decking like Trex or Timbertech have a core of recycled material with a plastic encapsulation. When you cross cut the board you will see a brown or gray material that is made up of plastic, metal and wood and compressed. The outer layer is solid plastic in the color you want. These types of composite decking last a very long time but there is some worry that they will start to break down over time as there is still wood fibers in the core. Azek is a brand that makes a solid PVC decking material. This decking is a bit more expensive but it will last forever. All of  the composite decking is very low maintenance and just needs to be power washed from time to time.

diy deck hardwood decking ipe bambooHardwood: Hardwood decking is getting more and more popular as it gets more affordable. Types of wood like Ipe, Tigerwood and Bamboo are exotic imports that have the same rot and insect resistant qualities as cedar, only stronger. You need to be careful when cutting or sanding something like Ipe because the dust is actually toxic which is why the bugs don’t like it. Some of these woods are also extremely dense which is why water isn’t able to penetrate them and cause rot. These types of hardwood decking have their own beautiful colors and are usually just clear coated to bring them out. These can last a very long time but do need regular maintenance and resealing.

diy deck solid surface membrane gaco deckingWaterproof Membrane: Waterproof membranes are necessary if you have a deck with living space under it but you can use them anywhere. I had a recent customer who had a deck that sat over half of his garage and so the surface had to be a waterproof membrane. There are really two categories of waterproof membrane decks: paint on or vinyl. You can use a product like Gacodeck which is a thick rubbery paint that you roll on in multiple layers. A vinyl decking membrane comes in a big roll that you have to lay out, glue down and heat weld any seams that you have. It takes a good amount of skill and specialized tools so most homeowners don’t do that work themselves. These methods are fairly long lasting and low maintenance.

You will have needed to choose the type of decking you want to use before framing as that will change the way it is framed. Also deciding how our deck boards are going to be installed will determine how the deck is framed as well. Most people install their deck boards straight, but it’s not uncommon to want them to be diagonal. If you are going to do a diagonal deck board, you will need to install your deck joists at 12″ on center instead of 16″ on center. The reason is because installing decking diagonally increases the distance between joists and the boards will span too far, becoming bouncy.

The next thing you’ll want to consider is how you will fasten the deck boards to the framing. There are a few different methods to choose from.

diy deck nailed deckingFace Nailing: Most older wooden decks are face nailed which means they are nailed down through the top of the board and you can see the nail head. The problem with nails is that they are smooth and will eventually get loose and you will wind up with squeaky, unsecured boards. These days it is generally not recommended to use nails to secure your deck boards.


diy deck screwed deckingFace Screwing: Using screws in the same manner as the nails described above is a much better option. The screw will actually bite into the wood and resist loosening in the framing. Make sure you use good exterior screws so they don’t rust or discolor the wood you are using. If you are using a composite material, they have color matched finish screws specifically meant for face screwing the deck boards.

diy deck hidden fasteners trex compositeHidden Fasteners: This is the best option in my opinion. Instead of having screw heads all over the face of your decking, you use a little plastic or metal clip that goes between the boards. You have to make sure you buy ‘grooved’ composite boards as the clips fit into a little groove that is pre-routered into the side of the board. You will have to router this groove into cedar and some hardwoods. I prefer the Trex Hideaway Fasteners no matter what type of decking I’m working with. They are easy to install, automatically space the boards and are hard to see when installed.

There are many decisions to make when it comes to building a deck. Take your time, plan ahead and you should be able to create your dream deck with minimal problems.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. Thanks!

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