ARTICLE Joanna Mathers
Decks are especially effective when it comes to opening up our indoor spaces. They provide the perfect place for outdoor entertaining, add extra square metres to a home’s floor space, and offer sun worshippers a spot to soak up the sun year-round. Installing a deck requires a bit of planning and forethought. There are council rules and regulations to be followed, and decisions to be made about the materials, cost, and colour of your deck. If you are considering installing a deck in your home, here are some tips on materials and costs for different options.
How much does it cost to build softwood deck?
Wood is the material that springs to mind when we think of decks and continues to be the most popular decking material. It’s aesthetically pleasing, fits seamlessly into the natural environment, and with regular maintenance can remain attractive for years.
Wooden decks fall into two categories – hardwood and softwood. Each option has its pros and cons, and your choice of wood will be dependent on budget, aesthetics and environmental considerations. Hardwoods are long-lasting and attractive; they are also significantly more expensive than softwood. They are prized for their attractive grains and rich colour, but can split and discolour if not maintained.
Softwoods are cheaper than hardwood, but require more maintenance and aren’t as long-lasting. Radiata pine is the most popular and readily available softwood for decks in Australia. It’s lighter in colour than the hardwoods and needs regular painting or staining. Macrocarpa is another popular softwood which has a fine grain and speckled appearance.
Costs for softwood decking
$300+* per m2, installed
Looking for inspiration? Check out this outdoor entertainers dream Refresh created for $50,000.
How much does eco decking cost?
Eco decking is made from recycled materials, usually wood and plastic combined into a comparatively eco-friendly composite material. The wood provides a natural look and feel to the product, while the plastic component protects the wood from moisture and means the finished product is virtually maintenance-free. Composite decking has been used in the United States for around 30 years, but our high UV levels made the plastic components of earlier composite decking warp. Advances in technology have enabled new composites to be developed, which hold up in Australia’s harsh UV rays.
Installation of composite decking is “not difficult, but different” says Virginia Gibson of Hybrideck. She recommends that builders spend time researching installation techniques before building a composite deck, as it has very different qualities to wood. Hybrideck has instructional materials to help with the installation of their products.
Choices Flooring has a wide range of wooden flooring options, including allergy and eco-friendly options.
Costs for eco decking
$350+* per m2, installed
Looking for inspiration? Check out this deck extension Refresh carried out as part of a $175,000 interior and exterior renovation project.
How much does it cost to build a hardwood deck?
The use of some hardwood in decking has attracted controversy. Illegal logging in rainforests has seen many areas of pristine jungle decimated – so it’s important you investigate any hardwood’s provenance before you make a purchase.
Spotted gum, Merbau and blackbutt are all popular hardwoods for decking use. Spotted gum is appreciated for its attractive markings, grain structure, durability and is a common choice in bushfire prone areas. Many Australians also appreciate that it is a locally grown option.
Merbau, a reddish-coloured hardwood, is an affordable and common option. It is a durable, insect-resistant wood, usually sourced from South East Asia. While Merbau is a great choice for the Australian climate, consumers should be aware that Merbau is known for being illegally sourced from tropical forests. The best way around this is to ask a reputable supplier about the ethical sourcing and certification of Merbau in your area.
The Australian native blackbutt wood is a tough wood that ranges from light brown to golden yellow in colour. When oiling this hardwood, it is a good idea to consult a specialist, as some oils can affect the colouring of this decking. Blackbutt has a tendency to split so it needs to be sealed immediately and frequently thereafter. If you are living in a high bushfire rating area, ask your specialist if this fire-resistant wood will meet your requirements.
Other popular hardwoods include Pacific jarrah and garapa. Both of these beautiful South American woods are ideal for decking. It’s important to choose Pacific jarrah and garapa that is certified sustainable – FSC certification is a good example.
The Forest Steward Council (FSC) provides independent certification of wood worldwide. They are a global, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of responsible forest management.
Their independent certification lets customers know where timber comes from, and helps them make an informed decision.
Bamboo is a relatively new product in the decking market. It is the world’s most renewable plant source, growing to maturity in five to seven years, and the wood is harvested over and over from the same plant. After cutting the bamboo strips are bleached, carbonised and dried, then glued together under pressure, and moulded into a solid piece suitable for decking.
Although bamboo is claimed to be environmentally friendly it is important to check the chemicals used during manufacture, as some are nasty and can produce fumes. Be sure to go to a reputable supplier so you can check out the provenance of the product you choose.
Evoca sales manager, Kent Ramsay says that bamboo has an edge over other wooden products when it comes to the environment. “Basically, it’s great to know that the product you’re using isn’t decimating rainforests,” he explains. “Additionally, bamboo has excellent density and strength.
When looking for bamboo decking, it’s a good idea to check that it has been certified by an independent authority such as FSC to ensure it’s not being grown unsustainably. Wooden decks need proper maintenance. If left uncared for they can become discoloured, slippery and unsafe. A tired deck can be brought back to life pretty easily, however, given a bit of preparation and some elbow grease. If you want to avoid using chemicals on your deck, a mixture of vinegar and water, a scrubbing brush, and some hard scrubbing should remove dirt and mould.
In some instances, it is possible to re-stain a timber deck that has been stained previously. To assess whether this is possible, sprinkle some droplets of water on to the deck and wait a few minutes. If the water is absorbed, a new coat can be applied. If the water remains on the surface, the deck will need to be sanded down first.
The stain or oil should be applied with a bristle brush or foam brush. The stain or oil should be brushed on at the same direction of the wood grain to ensure full coverage. Make sure you wait until the stain or oil is fully dried before applying the subsequent coats, and be sure to read and follow any safety instructions on the packaging before application.
Costs for hardwood decking
$430+* per m2, installed
For more inspiration, check out this hardwood alfresco area by Refresh.
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*Costs are rough estimates and are subject to change. For a fixed-quote accurate to your specific project, please consult your local Refresh Renovations specialist. All Refresh Renovations franchises are independently owned and operated.