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Hiring a Decking contractor

pros, cons, and questions to ask

First: the Pros and Cons of doing it yourself

Pros
  • Justify the tools for your workshop
  • Learning experience
  • Full Control
  • Flexibility as you have new ideas
  • Less out of pocket

 

Cons
  • Time involved
  • Extra costs overruns
  • Injury Risk
  • Lots of learning

 

the big advantage of hiring a good contractor is they have the tools and knowledge to complete the job quickly and efficiently.  Many times a good DIY starts a project and many unanticipated issues arise.   Some questions to ask, and know yourself are as follows. This is not an exhaustive list

Which Wood Where

There are two primary woods used in deck projects.The first is the supporting framework while the second is the decking surface (that you will walk on). The supporting wood is not visible and the primary concern is for rot or lack thereof. The best wood for this is pressure treated lumber - available at any home improvement store.

Pressure treated wood is cheap, easy to work with, but may have poisons. Use care in leaving a lot of sawdust in your grass for animals and plants sake. Pressure treated wood is also frequently wet, which may dull blades quickly. Don't spend a lot of time touching PT as the chemicals may absorb through your skin.

The second issue is the decking surface. Wood choices include any of our various Brazilian Hardwoods. The 1x6 boards are actually 3/4 inch think and about 5 1/2 inches wide.  Brazilian Hardwood is sold in various lengths (up to 18’), widths, and thicknesses to allow maximum design flexibility with no additional costs.

Fasteners how to keep it all together

The only correct answer to this question is stainless steel. Your local hardware store will tell you that teflon coated or ACQ compliant deck screws are sufficient. The reason coated screws may not last as long is that beneath the coating is a standard steel screw. If you scratch or mar the coating, the metal of the screw is exposed and you'll rust.  Rust on Brazilian hardwood will cause staining.  Soon you have streaks or spots on your deck.  Stainless Steel will match the life of your Brazilian wood.  You are spending the money for Brazilian hardwoods so match them with high quality fasteners.

Hidden Fastener Clips are often chosen by customers who don’t want to see the heads of the screws in the face of their deck boards. To use these, the boards must be kerfed (grooved) on the sides so that the clips can be inserted into the boards.

Ipe Clip Extreme is another effective hidden fastening product made of stainless steel covered with plastic to blend in with the wood color. The Ipe Clip Extreme is installed by driving a screw through the hole in the clip at a 45 degree angle and through the board thereby holding the board from moving as the board shrinks slightly. Most installers find it easier to pre-drill a hole in the board so that they can drive the screw more easily.

Aluminum Deck Clip ™ are preferred by some installers because pre-drilling is not necessary. These deck clips are durable and hold well but the boards may shift as they shrink because the screws are not driven down through the board. The screws are driven straight down through the clips between the boards. Using All Weather Sub Floor Adhesive solves this problem.

The absolute worst thing anyone can tell you is that Brazilian decking will be attached with nails.  A contractor who talks nails may not be familiar with Brazilian Hardwoods.

 

Finishing with Finish

There are many ways to finish a deck and one way is to not put a finish on it. Brazilian Hardwoods are naturally insect and rot resistant so no finisher is necessary.  Be aware no finish will allow your deck to turn silver gray.   I you do not want your Brazilian wood to silver with time you need to put a finisher with UV protection.

There are many products available and we carry what we feel is the best.  Application details of Finisher products are available in the HowTo section of the menu.  In a summary, you clean the deck once installed, coat the deck with finisher insuring you do not leave any puddling.  If you have ever stained wood then you know how to apply finisher.  If you have no expertise, you can still apply finisher.

 

Maintenance

A well built deck should last you a long time with little structural maintenance. If you have "finished" (Use a UV Inhibiting Finisher) the deck you may need to touch it up or re-apply a coat each year.

Issues to ask your contractor about:

1) Who do I call if there are problems?
2) How should I handle any screws that pop out?
3) If boards start to squeak in the future, what should I do?

Permits

You or your contractor need to check 3 places before you start to build:

1) Your Home Owners Association (they may want to see your plans)
2) The local City Hall to get a builders permit (if required in your area). Also be sure to check out the rules about your property lines and where you can build structures.
3) The utility company to come mark your in-ground lines (if they are near the project)

Do not assume anything. Ultimately the homeowner is responsible.

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