From providing a setting for outdoor entertaining or simply a spot to soak up a little Vitamin D, an outdoor deck can provide an instant connection between the outdoors and indoors, as well as adding value to your home. So whether you’re considering adding a quiet little nook in your inner-city courtyard or a generously equipped “downtime” space, here is our basic guide to outdoor decks.
What types of decking materials are there?
There is a range of materials suitable for decking, but before building a deck or engaging a specialist to construct one for you, it’s worth considering things like aesthetics, the maintenance required and, of course, your budget. Types of decking materials include:
Popular hardwoods include Blackbutt, Jarrah, Merbau and Spotted Gum. All are highly resilient, extremely durable, and have a natural fire resistance, so they are safe in bushfire-prone areas or for use under an outdoor kitchen or barbecue. Blackbutt is pale brown in colour, Jarrah is rich brown, Merbau warm red-brown and Spotted Gum can range from light browns through to deep red-brown hues. However, you can change the colour of your deck by staining it or oiling it, which will also help protect it from UV rays. Maintenance is as simple as washing it regularly with a bristle brush and a suitable cleaning agent.
This is a more affordable timber option, and it is lightweight, easy to install and typically treated to withstand fungi, decay and termites. Because it is so versatile, you can generally leave it to turn grey with weathering or stain it to suit the look you are trying to achieve. Treated pine needs yearly maintenance to keep it in good condition.
Composite decking is made from a mix of wood fibres and fibre cement or even recycled plastic. It is an environmentally friendly alternative to timber, comes in a variety of timber tones, and often comes with anti-slip properties, so ideal for pool-side decks. In terms of maintenance, it only requires an occasional wash-down.
This typically comes in prefabricated panels and is easy to install and available in a variety of timber choices, including hardwoods and treated pine. It is also ideal for small outdoor spaces like courtyards as it usually doesn’t require the same amount of sub-floor clearance as a self-supporting decking structure. The upkeep will depend on the material you choose.
What should I consider when designing my deck?
In their most basic form, decks consist of a frame of posts, bearers and joists that support the decking boards. The frame can be constructed from treated pine, hardwood or steel. There are various ways to attach the decking material to the joists, including screwing, nailing or even installing hidden deck fasteners for a sleek, uninterrupted look.
When designing your new deck, consider what features you wish it to include for the space available and your lifestyle. It’s much more cost-effective to properly plan and build what you want upfront rather than retro-fitting your deck later with additional inclusions.
Before starting any decking construction, you should also check that your local council will allow this addition to your home and whether there are any restrictions regarding size, height, privacy or materials. Things to consider:
The position of furniture, lighting and your barbecue in the design.
If you are after privacy from neighbours, consider adding planter boxes to plant a hedge or installing a timber-panelled privacy screen.
If you want an outdoor kitchen, consider where the plumbing or gas should be installed before construction starts.
Whether you want free-standing furniture, built-in seating or a combination of the two. Weatherproof timber benches can be multi-purpose — used for seating but also built with a hinged top to create storage for your outdoor cushions.
Take note of where the sun hits the space throughout the day. South-facing decks will typically get summer sunshine, north-facing decks will get the summer and winter sun, and west-facing decks can be very hot in the afternoon.
If you are limited in terms of the aspect of your deck, you can create protection by installing shade sails, adding feature walls, including trees and bushy plants, or installing ceiling fans.
What type of finish you want on your deck. You generally have two options — water or oil-based. Water-based coatings are easy to clean and have fast drying times, while oil-based coatings can offer greater durability and a more traditional look. Most oil decks will also need recoating every year or two.
How much will my deck cost?
With all decks, you will need to consider the cost of decking materials and the cost of labour if you are having it constructed by a professional. Here is a guide to the approximate costs of different decking materials.
Jarrah (85mm wide) costs around $75 per square metre
Merbau (140mm wide) costs about $60 per square metre
Spotted Gum (86mm wide) costs around $105 per square metre
Blackbutt (86mm wide) costs around $88 per square metre
You can expect to pay between $150 and $300 per square metre of treated pine decking.
Depending on the brand, composite decking prices range from $100 to $350 plus per square metre.
Because there are so many variables when it comes to modular decking, the price can vary greatly depending on the type of deck you’re after, the materials required, and the retailer you choose to purchase from.