Adding a deck to your Dutchess County, NY home can add a whole new dimension to your life. It enables you to spend far more time outdoors in the sun than you would otherwise, as now you have somewhere to sit, to cook barbecues, to entertain your friends, or simply to relax with a couple of glasses of wine. Furthermore, your deck can be split level, you could add a pond or a fountain, or you could include a bar. With a little imagination there is no end to the number of possibilities, and it adds a tremendous amount of value and makes your home a much more attractive proposition if you want to sell.
So, having decided to build a deck, what choice of materials do you have? Really, this boils down to either wood or composites.
Rot and Warp Resistant
Bearing in mind that your deck is going to live in the great Hudson Valley outdoors, you want a product that it is going to be as rot resistant and warp resistant as possible, and preferably one that will not fade in our strong summer sunlight. As with most things there are different grades, both of wood and composites, that you can get, so you have a choice of low quality, midrange, and top end.
There are various types of lumber that can be used for decking. Southern pine is widely available and is low cost, but it does have a tendency to warp after a while, and it will need more maintenance than other options. Western red cedar is a middle range wood that looks absolutely lovely with its reddish coloring, and is more durable than pine, although it still has a tendency to rot in very damp conditions. Redwood is another lovely wood, but isn't the most environmentally friendly choice (due to its decreasing availability). At the top end of woods for decking is mahogany. This is an extremely hard wood that is not likely to crack or split and requires very little maintenance as a result. Of course, it is also at the top end for price, but nonetheless well worth considering for a durable deck that will last for years.
Wood decking requires more maintenance than composites. A stain and sealer should be applied every two or three years. A quick way to check if it is time to seal your deck is just to pour a little water on it: if it soaks in straight away then it needs sealing. When cleaning, use a mild detergent and a soft bristle brush, not a pressure washer.
Composites for decking have improved considerably over the years. In times past they warped badly, but have been improved considerably. They are often made of recycled plastics and reclaimed wood and sawdust. Trex decking, for instance, is made of 95% recycled material including plastic bags used to contain paper towels and toilet rolls, plastic shopping bags, and many other plastic household products. Indeed, they say that a 500 square foot deck made by them contains 140,000 recycled plastic bags, and that they save 400 million pounds of plastic and wood from landfills every year, so Trex is totally environmentally friendly. It is also claimed that it will not rot or warp, and resists termites, fading, and mold and mildews.
Composite decking boards can be either hollow or solid, with hollow ones being cheaper, but this also means that they often can hold water which could lead to warping. Solid boards expand and contract more than hollow ones do, but are stronger. Most composite decking options are solid.
Composite decking is low maintenance. Some can warp, fade, and get scratched in the same way as wood - but less often and much later in their life (usually). For a kid friendly touch, theywill not splinter in the way that wood can. Composites can be pressure washed to remove molds and mildew, together with anything deposited by your local friendly birds. If molds have been left for a long time, this can stain the decking, but don’t use bleach to remove it because it is likely to cause fading. Choose a special cleaner made for composite materials.
As with all things, unless you really know what you are doing, building a deck is a job for the professionals. It is far more than knocking a few posts into the ground and nailing some timber on top. A professionally built deck by a contractor who has the expertise can last for decades.