An outdoor deck with shade.
Handyman Magazine

The outdoor deck is a traditional and practical place to capitalise on our temperate climate and make the most of outdoor living.

Many homeowners like the idea of building a deck if they don’t already have one, but it’s important to think carefully about how the space is going to be used in order to determine how your deck should best be designed.

Decide on the position

As any garden designer will tell you, zoning is the key to a successful backyard and a deck is a feature that never fails to invite people outdoors.

The house and the size of the block are the first elements you need to consider to make a location decision. Even if space is limited, there may be more options than you think.

Adding a door, a walkway or privacy screen may allow a deck to be built where it’s most convenient.

Take in any views on offer and think about the climate. A north-facing deck will get the winter sun as well as summer rays. West-facing decks can be very hot in the afternoon, and even south-facing decks can get midday sun in summer, so factor in shade.

A deck can make good use of an empty corner or difficult location, creating extra outdoor space. Think about unused driveways, over garages, side areas, on a hill or slope, or the front of the house.

A deck can help to create extra outdoor space

Select the right features

Plan what your deck should feature to suit your lifestyle and space.

Serious entertainers will love smart built-in joinery with seating also offering extra storage. Think about including a built-in drinks fridge and integrated barbecue, as well as outdoor speakers and ambient lighting.

Young families should consider features such as wide steps and clear views from the house for maximum child safety. Incorporating play equipment and adequate shade are good options that can also add resale value.

Peace seekers can benefit from even a small side deck as a pleasant spot to spend time outdoors. A quiet corner can also be part of a large deck, with privacy screening and plants plus comfy furniture.

Decide on the size

There are a few basic types of deck that have different qualities and construction techniques.

When designing your deck, think about its intended function and keep it proportional to your house size.

The height and size of your deck are likely to be regulated by your local council, so always check first.

Choose a style of deck

Attached decks often take the form of balconies or verandahs and have one or more sides supported by a ledger that is secured to the house.

A wraparound deck is a type of attached deck that follows part of the perimeter of the house.

Freestanding decks are independent structures that are self-supported on posts and bearers.

Multi-level decking can be either freestanding or attached, and is ideal for large or sloping sites, offering an alternative to major excavation work.

Generally, larger is better but that often means a deck is longer than the boards used to clad it. The usual solution is to butt the ends of the boards together over a joist.

Composite boards are a way around this problem as they are longer than timber. Planet-friendly Ekodeck looks and installs like timber but is made from plantation bamboo and recycled bottles. It comes in lengths of up to 5400mm, is low maintenance and resistant to rot, mould and termites.

Hardwood decking boards like merbau are ideal for the Australian climate

Select the fasteners

To an untrained eye they may all look much the same but a huge amount of research and development goes into fasteners to improve durability and to make laying boards easy and fast.

Choose fixings, including stirrups and nails, that are hot-dipped galvanised, stainless steel or Tufcote finished. And don’t skimp on your fasteners, as you get what you pay for.

Hide screw heads with the Camo Marksman tool that spaces the boards consistently and allows screws to be driven at an angle through the sides of the boards into the joists.

No pre-drilling is needed with Zenith Quickshot 12g decking screws, available in 65 and 50mm lengths. Featuring square drive countersunk heads, they come in stainless steel and Tufcote and are suitable for treated pine and hardwood decking.

Choose the boards

Despite the versatility of composite boards, natural timber is still the more popular choice. The two basic categories are hardwood or treated pine.

Hardwoods such as merbau, spotted gum, blackbutt or forest red are strong, durable choices that withstand extremes of climate well. Prices start at about $5 a metre for 90 x 19mm merbau decking boards.

ACQ treated pine features a greenish tinge that weathers to a light grey-brown, and is very cost effective, starting from about $3 a metre. It is lightweight, making construction and transport easier, and can be stained as desired.

ACQ treated pine decking boards

ACQ treated pine decking boards are cost effective and lightweight, and can be stained as desired

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