A custom deck is a nice addition in any backyard. It offers privacy, a place to spend time outside – whether you’re reading a book by yourself or barbecuing for a group of friends. These deck builders give us an idea of what decking materials are best.
But before we get into decks, you have to see this beautiful backyard that features a tigerwood deck completed by Decks R Us!
Why should a homeowner have a deck in their backyard?
Decks R Us: Frank McGillan, owner of Decks R Us, says the outside of your home is an extension of your home. Why not give it the same treatment? Not only that, but it provides a great return on investment. “It returns between 85 and 125 per cent in the first five years,” he says.
Having a deck gives homeowners an excuse to use the outdoors and keep up with the appearance.
“People are embarrassed by their backyards more often than not,” says McGillan, adding that when there’s no reason to go outside and use the backyard, the maintenance often gets neglected.
“Backyards we see that don’t have decks are wheat fields. They just don’t do anything with it because they don’t use it.”
Not a pretty sight, especially if you’re planning on selling your home in the near future!
Vic Porch: Chris Gerald, owner of Vic Porch, is not new to the decking business and agrees with McGillan. “I think it’s become an extension of people’s houses,” he says, adding this is especially true in the downtown core. “Space is limited, you’ve got a 1,500 square foot house and 3 kids.”
Gerald says clients utilize the 3 or 4 nice summer months by putting out nice furniture and spending time outdoors.
“There’s a whole [outdoor furniture] business around it,” he says. “It keeps momentum going.”
Craft-Bilt Materials: Bart Bremmers, general manager at Craft-Bilt Materials, says there are lots of reasons to have a backyard deck. It provides a space for entertaining and allows clients to enjoy the backyard.
“Some people go crazy and make their decks really nice, so it’s like a staycation,” he says.
How does the design process work?
Decks R Us: The first step in the design process is to find out how the deck will be used and by whom. “If the client goes to the cottage, they aren’t going to use the deck that much,” says McGillan.
For clients who plan on spending time at home and whose backyard will be their summer retreat, there’s opportunity to design a deck that will suit the family’s lifestyle.
“You can do just about whatever you want,” says McGillan of the possibilities. “You can put a roof over it, can be out there in the wintertime.”
A deck can even be built with walls on the side for extra privacy.
“You can do a full deck around the pool too,” says McGillan.
“If you can think it, we can build it.”
Vic Porch: First impressions are everything and it’s upon meeting clients that Gerald can start coming up with a design plan. First, he’ll find out about the client’s circumstances. “Do they have kids, are they a retired couple,” he’ll find out.
The conversation moves to how the clients want to use the space. “You sort of get a sense of whether they want high-maintenance, low-maintenance, something that looks expensive or if they’re just looking for basic utility,” he says of these conversations.
Gerald works with the client to build a footprint that will accommodate what they’re looking for. Whether the deck should include lighting and other features depends on how the deck will be used, says Gerald.
Craft-Bilt Materials: Aside from learning how the clients will use their future deck, Bremmers says they’ll also want to find out if there’s a space underneath the deck that’s enclosed, or if the deck will be an open-concept piece.
With regards to design, there’s a decking calculator online that enables you to choose the orientation of the deck boards and the size, which will also determine the shape of the deck.
What types of deck materials are on the market?
Decks R Us: McGillan says these decking materials are common on the market. From lowest to highest in cost:
- Pressure-treated (or sienna wood);
- Cedar deck, which costs 30 per cent more than a pressure-treated deck.
- Composite decking;
“I like tigerwood,” says McMillan. “I’m a huge fan. It lasts 30 years, no bugs will eat it.” From a maintenance standpoint, if it gets dull, it’s just a matter of giving the deck a good cleaning, he says. McGillan also recommends putting ipe oil on the deck every two years to maintain its beauty.
The tigerwood – also dubbed Brazilian hardwood – is durable. “It’s almost so hard that the dogs paws don’t scratch it, it doesn’t dent,” he says. “It’s that dense of a wood.”
McGillan recommends the tigerwood to his clients if it suits their budget since it’s roughly twice the cost of a pressure-treated deck.
Vic Porch: Choosing a decking material depends on what the client is looking for. “You’ve got to like wood or you like plastic.”
Gerald builds a fair amount of wood (or ipe wood) decks in the city because there’s a smaller footprint. “You’re not talking about 500 or 1,000 square foot deck.”
Since clients require smaller decks, they’re opting for a premium material and spending anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 as opposed to a price point of $10,000 and $30,000 based on size.
Pressure-treated wood is a strong viable option for a deck. “You can pretty much put it down and not really have to do anything to it,” says Gerald. “You should be able to get 15 to 20 years out of it if it was installed correctly.”
There’s a common misconception that rain damages decks, but it’s actually the rain mixed with organic debris that causes damage. “Then, if you’ve got a backyard with very little sun and has a fairly heavy tree cover, the droppings on your deck will slime up and turn into organic material,” explains Gerald. “It’s composting itself back into the earth.”
Ipe wood, on the other hand, won’t get mouldy thanks to organic material, nor will it rot or burn.
“It’s tough to work with and expensive, but it’s gorgeous.”
Craft-Bilt Materials: Craft-Bilt works with a very specific type of decking material: aluminum boards that lock together and are painted with a heavy duty powder coat finish with anti-slip grit material, explains Bremmers. “It’s completely bulletproof material when you consider any other option, be it fiberglass, a vinyl membrane, composite,” he says. “All of these have a life span; they will at some point degrade.” Bremmers says aluminum simply lasts forever.
“It doesn’t corrode. It can’t be eaten by bugs,” he says. “Aluminum decking is completely inert.”
Any materials you don’t recommend?
Decks R Us: McGillan says he’s not a big fan of composite decking. “It does have problems with smell, moulding, cracking, lots of that stuff,” he says, adding it’s not easy to replace. “It has a 20, 30-year lifespan on it, but the problem is your frame doesn’t have 30 years on it.”
The frame of a tigerwood deck, on the other hand, will last up to 30 years, says McGillan.
Vic Porch: “I don’t do a lot of cedar decks,” says Gerald. “Cedar isn’t the same quality as it was 20 years ago.” Gerald says it doesn’t have the maturity that it should. Being that it’s a softer wood, it’ll rot sooner.
“Two to three years later, it looks a lot like pressure-treated wood, unless you’re willing to do a lot of maintenance since it fades pretty quickly,” he says.
Craft-Bilt Materials: Bremmers says composite products are often affected by mould and photodegradation. Photodegredation happens when the plastic absorbs the sun’s UV rays, which leads to discolouring and breaks down the plastic.
While aluminum decking is more expensive than composite, it’s expected to last a lifetime longer than its counterpart.
Bremmers also advises that the product has a lifetime warranty.
“No composite or plastic-base material is going to come with a lifetime warranty,” he says.
Customer service is important in any industry. What level of service can you provide?
Decks R Us: McGillan says Decks R Us will go above and beyond. “We do whatever we have to do to make sure the client is happy and the project is done in such a way that it’s a testimonial to us.”
McGillan stresses the importance of maintaining a good reputation, which shows through a happy client and successful completed project.
Vic Porch: Gerald’s work is within a five-mile radius, which makes it easy for him to stop by a year or two later to check on his work. If there’s something loose, he’ll fix it.
“Customers are always welcome to follow-up with me if anything goes wrong,” he says, adding that’s the nature of building an outdoor product. “Stuff will break and we fix it pretty quickly.”
Craft-Bilt Materials: “Typically, once the deck is installed, it’s there for life,” says Bremmers. Craft-Bilt has received claims for paint issues, but they were detected before the boards were installed and they were promptly replaced.
Craft-Bilt is only a supplier of material and will not install it. Bremmers says if you’re hiring a decking contractor to install it for you, you should initiate a warranty claim through them.
“If you’re a DIYer, then you are your own installation warranty,” he says. “It’s your responsibility.”
Follow proper instructions and inspect all boards before they’re installed.
I’m looking for a deck builder. Why should I hire you?
Decks R Us: “We’ve been in business for 37 years,” says McGillan.
He says it’s not uncommon for homeowners to run into issues with contractors who disappear after starting a project, and the fact that they’re difficult to find. Decks R Us has a strong online presence, which speaks to their reputation.
“Contractors know where you live, but you don’t know where they live.”
McGillan says clients can Google Decks R Us – there is no hiding.
“You can find out where I live. There’s no getting deposits and taking off business.”
Vic Porch: Gerald has been in business for 7 years and has a collaborative team that works together with every deck build. “We think outside of the box,” Gerald says of the design process.
More importantly, Gerald understand the need for clients and contractors to be on the same page. If there isn’t a shared vision and styles aren’t compatible, Gerald will not take the job because he doesn’t want to disappoint the client. “Neither one of us is going to be happy,” he says.
Advice for homeowners calling deck builders?
Decks R Us: “Don’t give a deposit. It doesn’t matter who the contractor is,” says McGillan. “You should not have to give a deposit.”
McGillan says if a contractor doesn’t have the money to do the deck for you, you should question why.
“You don’t want to be handing a man who has financial problems money,” he says.
Vic Porch: “Definitely shop around,” says Gerald. “Do research on building practices.” That’s because you may not be able to identify what a good and bad job looks like, he says.
Also, receiving three quotes for a project is ideal, but make sure you’re comparing the same projects. “Don’t ask one to do one thing and another something else,” he says. The quotes should be based on the same products.
Craft-Bilt Materials: “Before dealing with any decking or railing product, you should compare warranties and find out if they have engineering data to support a building permit application,” says Bremmers. Any product manufacturer should be able to provide you with a report on the strength of the decking material and information on how much space between each joist.
Do you love DIY projects? If so, then you may want to consider purchasing materials from Craft-Bilt Materials and building your very own aluminum deck.
Hiring a decking contractor isn’t an easy process. You want to hire someone who’s reliable and responsible. Vic Porch and Decks R Us have reviews and image galleries on their profile pages on our website. Do your research to find a deck builder that’s right for your decking project.